Had enough of Sultanahmet? Need a break from the carpet sellers* and mediocre food? Maybe you should consider heading out of Sultanahmet and visiting one of the many unique neighbourhoods scattered all over the city of Istanbul.
We made it a point to check out a few of these neighbourhoods and we enjoyed each one of them immensely…here are our three favorites:
The home of Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, the Galata Tower, and quite possibly your accommodations (that’s where we stayed!), Beyoglu is as close to the polar opposite of Sultanahmet as you can come in Istanbul. With a vibrant night-life – it’s not even busy until at least 9pm – and some of the best food on offer in the city, this is a part of the city you should visit at least once!
Our favorite things to do in Beyoglu include riding the Tunel (the second oldest subway in the world – and the best way to get up the hill), climbing to the top of Galata Tower for stunning views of the city, walking along the modern and trendy Istiklal street, eating at Durumzade (Anthony Bourdain wasn’t lying), and people watching in Taksim Square.
Logistics: the easiest, cheapest, and probably most fun way to get to Beyoglu from Sultanahmet is to walk across the Galata Bridge and then take the Tunel up the hill. It drops you off at the bottom of Istiklal Street, and from there it is about a 20 minute walk (plus more for the crowds) to Taksim. The Galata tower (you can’t miss it – it’s huge!) is open everyday (10TL).
Known best for it’s beautiful waterfront mosque, Ortakoy is a nice change from the mayhem of much of the rest of Istanbul. This neighbourhood, located right in front of the massive Bosphorous Bridge, has a distinct relaxed feel to it. Oh, and did we mention huge baked potatoes? These amazing creations, called Kumpir, are the specialty of the neighbourhood – in fact, there’s a whole street dedicated just to selling them. You can get them with almost limitless combinations of toppings (from potato salad to cut up hot dogs and everything in between).
Ortakoy is a great place to wander around for a couple of hours, and if you get bored, you can always make the short walk to Dolmabache Palace for a lesson in opulence!
Logistics: Although it’s located on the water, Ortakoy does not seem to be serviced by any sort of frequent ferry travel. Instead, it is probably best to take the ferry to Uskudar and then take the ferry to Besiktas. From there it is about a 15 minute walk along the main road (past Dolmabache Palace and Galatasaray University) until you reach Ortakoy.
If you fancy hitting up two continents in a day, there is no better place than Kadikoy to fulfill that dream. Plus it is an amazing part of town. Located on the Asian side of the city, Kadikoy is home to a fantastic bazaar and some of the best food in town. Also, if you are in town on a Tuesday or Saturday you can head over for the famous Tuesday Market – home to over 4000 stalls!
If you want some of the best food in the city, you could not have picked a better place. Fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and great little restaurants abound in the bazaar – and all at noticeably lower prices than on the European sides. We got a plate of Hamsi (Black Sea anchovies – which were amazing as we were there during their season), a couple fried mussel sandwiches (mussels are called ‘midye’ in Turkish) and a couple of beers for less than 20 TL – an absolute bargain!
Logistics: Getting to Kadikoy is simple – you can take a ferry from just about anywhere! Finding the bazaar and market can be a little harder. The bazaar is to the right of the main road (if your back is facing the water) about 4 minutes walk up. The market has moved to a new location – it is about 3km from the port. A taxi or bus 8A are your best bet – just ask a local if you get lost, everyone is friendly!
So there you have it, three MORE places to add to your already growing list of what to see and do in Istanbul!
Have you ever visited one of these neighbourhoods or one we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!
*Note: We lied, you can’t actually get away from the carpet sellers…