Istanbul Travel Guide

" Everything you need to know before traveling to Istanbul "

Historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul is the largest city of turkey, lying in both Asia and Europe. The city is the center of economy and culture in turkey, offering countless attractions and activities to visitors from all over the world. A combination of fantastic historical sites, amazing landscapes, beautiful beaches, exceptional culture, mouth-watering food, etc., has made the city one of the most visited cities around the world.

  • Local Name İstanbul
  • Country Turkey
  • Population (2020) 15,462,452
  • Time Zone UTC+3 (TRT)
  • Area Code +90 212 (Europe) +90 216 (Asia)
  • Website www.istanbul.gov.tr

Why Visiting Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city with over 2500 years of history with fantastic culture, amazing traditions, eye-catching landscapes, exceptional nightlife, and remarkable landmarks. Therefore, it’s not the city you can easily skip in Turkey. The transcontinental metropolis is a beautiful cultural melting-pot visiting of which is a must! Let’s take a closer look at the major reasons for visiting Istanbul.

The first important point about Istanbul is its history. The metropolis has been the witness of four different empires, including the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), the Byzantine Empire (1261-1453), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). The rich history of Istanbul has attracted so many visitors from all around the world.

Amazing historical sites have made Istanbul a fantastic destination for history lovers. In fact, the city is the center of Roman-era obelisks, Roman-era obelisks, and Ottoman palaces. One of the most famous ones is definitely Ottoman palaces, a masterpiece used to serve as a Byzantine church and then an Ottoman mosque. Besides, the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque is another famous historical attraction in Istanbul, dating back to the 17th-century, famous for its illustrious interior tile decorations. There are many other historical sites and museums attracting countless tourists annually.

The most spectacular feature of Istanbul is Bosporus Strait, dividing the European and Asian sides of the country. Here, you can experience a public boat tour or rent a private boat to enjoy the views of this beautiful metropolis, such as the 15 July Martyrs Bridge and the fishing village of Anadolu Kavağı.

Also, nobody can miss the Turkish food in Istanbul. Among these foods, Karaköy or Kırkpınar Lokantası are worth mentioning. Make sure to try Turkish food in Istanbul as well as other Turkish food since the country is a melting pot of cultures and, therefore, the melting pot of cuisines.

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What to See in Istanbul

  • Rüstem Pasha Mosque
  • Sea Life
  • Spice Market
  • Sulyemaniye Mosque
  • Taksim Square
  • The Hippodrome
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum
  • Vialand
  • Walls of Constantinople
  • Yildiz Park
  • Zeyrek Mosqueww

Best Time to Visit Istanbul

In Istanbul, March to May as well as September to November are the best times for visiting Istanbul since everything is prepared for you to make the most of your trip to this metropolis.

Spring (June - August)

    • Temperature: 16 °C (61 °F) – 28 °C (82 °F)

Features

Summer in Istanbul is hot and humid. However, extreme heat is not something common in Istanbul, and the temperature reaches above 32°C only a few days of the year. Summer is the best time for enjoying the coastal areas and islands as well as a Bosphorus cruise.

Summer (April - September)

  • Temperature: 4 °C (39 °F) – 21 °C (69 °F)

Features

Spring is somehow warm during the day and cool during the night. However, you won’t see much of rain during this season. Spring is the best time for those who are interested in witnessing city awakening and Mother Nature.

Autumn (October - November)

  • Temperature: 8 °C (47 °F) – 24 °C (75 °F)

Features

Generally, autumn in Istanbul is warm, and as the season passes, rains become more frequent. However, you should be prepared for the surprise since one day can be warm and the next day much cooler. It’s one of the best times for visiting Istanbul.

Winter (December - January)

  • Temperature: 3 °C (37 °F) – 11 °C (52 °F)

Features

Winter in Istanbul is generally cold, with rare snowfalls and frequent rainfalls. However, the temperature never drops below freezing. It is the best time for budget travelers and less crowded attractions.

How Long To Stay?

For the first travelers, 5 days of accommodation in Istanbul is considered fair for making the most of your stay in this historical city. However, if you have more time to visit the countryside as well, 10 days to two weeks are ideal. Nevertheless, with the first recommendation, 5 days, you can explore almost all major attractions of the city and enjoy your trip to one of the world’s most historical cities.

Things to do in Istanbul

Turkey is a country filled with things to keep you entertained as you travel, with a great deal of them available in Istanbul. Partying day and night is always a great idea, but since the country and the capital city are full of extraordinary things, it is best to try them first and then head out to have more fun. The heritage sites and cultural areas are some of the top places for spending quality time in Istanbul, and their best options are as follows:

Spend Several Hours Inside the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, a massive and amazing place of worship dating back to the 6th century, is the number one place to see in Istanbul. The structure was originally built as an important place for the orthodox. This beautiful and magnificent design became a mosque later on and during the time of the Ottomans. This marvelous architectural achievement is currently known as the Hagia Sophia museum that will leave you stunned with its beauty and magnificence. If you are short on time and do not know where to go in Istanbul, you have to go to Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a place where you can spend hours seeing the building and its interior designs.

If you have some time after the visit to Hagia Sophia, keep in mind that its location is near other important highlights of the city. Because of this, it is ideal as a starting point for exploration.

Discover the Basilica Cistern Under the City

The amazing design of Istanbul can be seen everywhere, even in the underground Basilica Cistern. It may not sound much, but it is another recommended place to visit. Basilica Cistern collects water into its underground water storage, and it has existed for several centuries. The thing about the Basilica Cistern is that it is not the only one of its kind; it is the largest and the most wonderful. The massive underground areas have spooky air to them, with large columns and even a medusa head! The tunnels are a bit cold and can take several hours to explore, making Basilica Cistern something of a new and exotic experience of ages gone.

Witness the Beautiful Tiles of the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is the best example of how grand and beautiful a mosque can be. It was constructed during the earlier years of the 17th century. This mosque is also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, located in Sultanahmet Square. What makes visiting the Blue Mosque a good experience of Istanbul is the famous tile work of the building, visible even from the outside. What makes visiting Blue Mosque even more interesting is that you will not have to purchase a ticket to enter the building.

When visiting the Blue Mosque, outsiders and non-Muslims are prohibited from entering during prayer times. During the other times of day, you must follow the dress code and respect the Islamic rules of the building.

Climb to the top of the Medieval Galata Tower

One of the top things to do in Istanbul is to climb to the top of Galata Tower to get a view over the older areas of the city. The Galata Tower was originally meant to be a defensive building in the 14th century, with its own barracks and dungeon. What remains of this well-preserved Galata Tower is a famous highlight and tourist site. The Galata Tower offers a great panoramic view over the district. You can take the elevator all the way to the top and catch the view of Istanbul and then head down to the café and restaurant inside the Galata Tower.

See the Prime of Ottoman Architecture in Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is perhaps the best example of Ottoman architecture, as a unique building with the best design of its time. When Topkapi Palace was built, it served as the main building of the Ottoman royal family. The primary purpose was for the residence of Sultan and his wives as well as certain official meetings. Also, Topkapi Palace remained the residence of the Sultan’s wives for four centuries until Dolmabahçe Palace was constructed. There are numerous areas in the Topkapi Palace, with the Haram as the most popular room to explore and witness fine crafts and tile works. You can see almost all the best designs and decorations of the Ottoman era in Topkapi Palace, along with the numerous items that are kept inside the complex.

Walk and Shop in the Modern Istiklal Street

The best place to feel the modernity and contemporary vibe of Istanbul is in the pedestrian Istiklal (independence) street. There are several old structures in Istiklal street, but it is mostly full of new shops, cinemas, and eateries. If you want to shop and buy brands that are not available in the Grand Bazaar, Istiklal street is the place. There are also the cafés and restaurants that make walking and sitting in the Istiklal a possible romantic experience, especially if you are traveling with your significant other.

Go for Even More Shopping at the Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar, also known as the Spice Market or Misir Çarsisi, is the best place to shop for edibles and souvenirs. It is named the Spice Bazaar, but you can also find dried fruits, nuts, and even the famous Turkish delight. If you want to buy sweets or purchase herbs and spices for making the perfect meal, one of the things to do in Istanbul is to shop at the Spice Bazaar.

See the Beauties of Chora Church

Known for its frescos and famous mosaic works, the Chora Church is a highlight of Turkey, especially famous for its ceiling. The Chora Church was originally built in the 4th century, but it had to be reconstructed several times as it was destroyed. The visit is very much worth it as the shape and designs are still as amazing as the originals, if not better. Chora Church is the best place to see some marvelous Byzantine and Greek decorations and interior designs, some of which date as old as the 4th and 5th centuries.

Walk Across Galata Bridge and Catch its Wonderful View

While walking around and exploring the city, a simple thing to do is catch the Galata Bridge view in Istanbul. The Galata Bridge itself connects the old with the new and has nothing extraordinary about it, but it is a good visit in its simplicity. To make it even more memorable, most travelers visit the Galata Bridge during sunset, when it is even more beautiful. The surrounding area of Galata Bridge is also considered a place to try the street food of Turkey.

See What Remains of Constantinople at Hippodrome

For nearly 2000 years, going to the Hippodrome has been a top thing to do in Istanbul! This chariot race track of the Byzantine Empire is now a famous tourist attraction of the city, as a highlight of the city near numerous others. What remains of the ancient race track is just a square and the ancient Obelisk of Theodosius. What is now very enjoyable about the Hippodrome is the surroundings. There are parks and gardens and only small remains of the former glory of Hippodrome to see.

Watch a Whirling Dervishes Ceremony

Among the fun things to do in Istanbul is attending a Whirling Dervish Ceremony or show. This dancing ceremony known as the Whirling Dervish began as a ceremony of Mevlevi order in the 13th century. What you will witness is not actually dance but rather a worshipping ritual of Sufism. In any case, seeing the Whirling Dervish is an attractive part of the culture in Turkey.

Learn About History at Archaeology Museum of Istanbul

Archaeology Museum is a part of the city that holds a great portion of Middle-Eastern history. There are items from several eras, with exhibitions of even Islamic art. Visiting the Archaeology Museum of Istanbul is not seen as a top place to visit by all, which is a mistake. It is both a cultural visit and a learning experience with a large number of things that are exciting even for children.

Photo by momo via Flickr

Photo by yasin turkoglu via Flickr

Visit the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent

The Blue Mosque is the more popular and known mosque of Istanbul, but visiting the Mosque of Suleyman is also a great idea. The Mosque of Suleyman is a few decades older and much more peaceful. Due to its less popularity, you will get a much better feeling from the Mosque of Suleyman as it gets calmer. Other than the fewer visitors, the entire complex of the Mosque of Suleyman is something marvelous to see. More than being a place for worshiping Allah, the Mosque of Suleyman has several other sections like a kitchen!

Experience the Nightlife of Ortakoy

After seeing all the top highlights of the city, it is best to experience the nightlife in Ortakoy. There are lots of places to have fun in Istanbul, but Ortakoy always stands as the best, even among celebrities. Ortakoy is a neighborhood with a lovely texture and buildings, a beautiful mosque, but more importantly, great bars and clubs. For a party and some fun, be sure to go to Ortakoy.

Walk on the Walls of Constantinople

Still standing from the 5th century, the Walls of Constantinople used to serve as the fortifications of the city. It is not the best view of the city from on the Walls of Constantinople, but you will see several amazing neighborhoods as you walk. Walk on the Walls of Constantinople while you still can, as they may not exist forever. What makes them an important part of the city is that they were only breached twice and have always stood firm against their enemies.

Marvel at the Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace was constructed in the 19th century to replace Topkapi Palace as the royal residence of the Sultan. Since it was meant to replace an amazing and magnificent royal building, the Dolmabahçe Palace had to outshine the former royal palace. Another reason for building the Dolmabahçe Palace was to prove that the Ottoman Empire was still standing as strong as ever. The secondary purpose did not achieve its goal, but nevertheless, the Dolmabahçe Palace is a wonderful place to visit.

The decorations, the gilding, and the mix of numerous architectural styles make this place one of the places you must see. Expect the unexpected from Dolmabahçe Palace, as it was built to impress!

Get Scrubbed in a Turkish Bath or Hamam

Going to a Turkish Hamam is both a cultural and traditional experience and a hygienic one. The traditional Hamams of Istanbul can be luxurious and expensive experiences, but there are always some more reasonably priced places as well. It is a great experience to visit a Hamam no matter the price or appearance. Therefore, it is always among the most recommendable things to do in Istanbul. If nothing else, going to a Hamam is like a visit to a historic site of Istanbul.

Try the Traditional Hookah in a Café or Restaurant

Smoking Hookah in Istanbul is one of the things that a lot of people do. It is not something to do over and over again, but having the first experience of smoking Hookah is fun. If nothing else, it is good for taking pictures for your Instagram as one of the traditional experiences of traveling to Turkey.

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Sultan Ahmet Neighborhood

Sultanahmet is the most popular part of Istanbul and is known as the cultural and historical heart of the city in which major attractions of the city can be found. This area is the best for first-time travelers since they can easily reach the attractions. The only disadvantage of the area is that you can’t enjoy the nightlife in this neighborhood since it’s mostly calm.

Grand Bazaar & Bazaar District

If you are into shopping, the Grand Bazaar & Bazaar district area is the best choice for you since you can easily reach the two famous bazaars of Istanbul, including the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Also, this area is not far from the Sultanahmet, in which the main attractions of the city are located.

Galata

If you are a nightlife lover, the Galata district is the best area for you. Enjoying the beautiful buildings, parties, and nightclubs until morning are some of this area’s main features. The major attractions in this area are the Galata Tower as well as the famous Istiklal Street and Galata Bridge. You will not get bored in this area.

Karakoy

If you are a budget traveler, Karkoy is the best choice for you. The area is filled with nice cafes, outdoor terraces, and lovely tiny shops. The Golden Horn is located near this area, and you can take a ferry to reach the Asian part of Istanbul. Also, Karakoy is the best choice for food lovers since there are many Turkish and international restaurants in this area.

Taksim

Taksim is perfect for luxury travelers. However, budget travelers can also find many options to stay in this area. The main feature of Taksim is that Istiklal Avenue is located in this area. This neighborhood is very well connected to the airport as well.

How to Get to Istanbul

By Plane

There are two major airports in Istanbul, including the New Istanbul airport on the European side of the city and Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Kurtkoy on the Asian side. Also, there are some military airports and private airstrips within the province.

New Istanbul Airport

The new airport of Istanbul is located in Tayakadın Terminal Cad. No:1, 34283 Arnavutköy/İstanbul, Turkey, with the code of IST, offering countless domestic and international flights every day.

Sabiha Gokcen Airport

Sabiha Gokcen Airport is located in Sanayi, 34906 Pendik/İstanbul, Turkey, with the code of SAW

By Train

There are two major railway stations in Istanbul, including Haydarpasa Train Station on the Asian side and Sirkeci Train Station on the European side. Both offer specific destinations for travelers.

Haydarpasa Train Station

Haydarpasa Train Station is the busiest railway station in Istanbul located in Rasimpasa Mahallesi, Kadıkoy. The station is the best for those who are traveling from Istanbul to cities and towns in Anatolia. It also has a terminal stop for those arriving from Anatolia. If you need any help, call +90 216 3488020.

Sirkeci Train Station

Sirkeci Train Station is located in Ankara Caddesi Hocapasa, Eminonu, offering domestic and international services to Europe. The international destinations are Belgrade (via Balkan Express), Bucharest (via Bosphorus Express), Budapest (via Trans-Balkan Express), Kischinev (via Prietenia Express), Pythion (via IC 90/91), and Munich (via Istanbul Express). You can call +90 212 5206575 if you need more details.

By Long-Distance Buses

There are six bus stations in Istanbul, including the Greater Istanbul Bus terminal, KAMIL KOC office 143-146 Bus terminal, KAMIL KOC office 98-99 Bus terminal, Bus terminal, and Harem METRO Sancaktepe TESİSLERİ Bus terminal. These stations offer domestic and international destinations.

Greater Istanbul Bus terminal

Greater Istanbul Bus terminal is located about 11.5 km from the city center. Besides the train services, you can find ATM, toilet, luggage storage, kiosk, coffee bar, fast food, exchange office, parking lot, and hotels or hostels.

Location: Altıntepsi Mahallesi , 34035 Bayrampaşa/İstanbul

KAMIL KOC office 143-146 Bus terminal

You need to have 32 minutes of walk to reach the bus terminal from the city center. From the facilities, ATM, toilet, kiosk, coffee bar, fast food, parking lot, and waiting room are worth mentioning

Location: Esenler Otogarı , Istambul

KAMIL KOC office 98-99 Bus terminal

You need only 32 minutes of drive to reach the terminal from the city center. Kiosks, fast food (özkardeşler), and parking lot are the main facilities of this terminal.

Address: Fatih Mah., Fabrika Cad., Hatıra Sk. No:2, 34885 Sancaktepe/İstanbul, Turkey

METRO Sancaktepe TESİSLERİ Bus terminal

METRO Sancaktepe TESİSLERİ Bus terminal is located 30.50 km from the city center, and you need about 37 minutes of drive to reach the terminal. The kiosk, parking lot, and waiting room are the main facilities of the terminal.

Address: Fabrika Cad. , 34885 Sancaktepe

Ferry

Ferries, aka Sehir Hatlari, are the most pleasant means of transportation in Istanbul. There are ten major docks in Istanbul, including Karakoy, Kabatas, Besiktas, and five in Eminonu on the European side as well as Uskudar and Kadikoy on the Asian side.

Get Around In Istanbul

Metro

Metro is very convenient and modern in Istanbul.

LinesRoutes
M1 Line Yenikapı ↔ Atatürk Airport / Kirazlı
 M2 LineYenikapı ↔ Hacıosman
 M3 LineKirazlı ↔ Metrokent–Olimpiyat
 M4 LineKadıköy ↔ Tavşantepe
 M5 LineÜsküdar ↔ Çekmeköy
 M6 LineLevent ↔ Boğaziçi Üniversitesi/Hisarüstü
 M7 LineMecidiyeköy ↔ Mahmutbey

Tram

There are four main tram lines in Istanbul

LinesRoutes
T1Kabatas-Bagcilar Tram Line
T3Kadikoy-Moda Tram Line
T4Topkapi – Mescid-i Selam Tram Line
T5Cibali-Alibeyköy Coach Station Tram Line

Sea Bus

There are sea-bus routes in Istanbul  to the main areas of the city with two lines, including Bostanci-Besiktas and Bostanci-Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Bakirkoy. Also, there are four intercity lines, including  inter city sea-bus lines include Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Armutlu-Bursa, Bostanci-Yenikapi-Cinarcik-Esenkoy, Bostanci-Yenikapi-Marmara Avsa Island and Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Bursa

 

Yellow Shared Taxis

Yellow shared taxis, aka Dolmus, are public buses with fixed and short routes. They are very useful ways of getting around the city. The prices of Dolmus are fixed, and you don’t need to worry about it. Some of the main circular lines are:

  • From Kadikoy to Taksim, Nisantasi, Sisli, Uskudar and Bostanci.
  • From Bostanci to Taksim, Sisli and Pendik.
  • From Uskudar to Kadikoy, Acibadem and Beykoz.
  • From Besiktas to Taksim and Harbiye.
  • From Taksim to Besiktas, Aksaray and Bakirkoy.

Taxi

Taxis in Istanbul are yellow, and they have a taxi sign on the roof, which can be found anywhere in the city. Prices are reasonable compared to the taxis in Europe.

Bus

Buses are the cheapest and most popular means of transportation in Istanbul. However, they are usually overcrowded.

Flight to Istanbul (IST)

Istanbul Food & Drink

Food recommendations of Istanbul are mostly the same as the things you have to eat in Turkey. This is because of the availability and the fine chefs that are all in this city. Whatever you want to eat in this city, you will find it with little difficulty. For a much better experience, try the local and traditional Turkish Cuisine. Better yet, make some friends and eat or drink with the locals as they are hospitable and friendly.

Menemen

Menemen is a healthy, hearty, and delicious Turkish breakfast that can be suitable for ovo-vegetarians who also eat eggs. It is basically an omelet made with eggs, tomatoes, green bell pepper, onions, and olives. There are several other versions of Menemen that are rather spicy with powdered black pepper and other spices. The meat Menemen is also a popular breakfast which is served with sausages or beef. Menemen is a little light. Therefore, it is only considered as a breakfast to eat with some bread.

If you feel in need of a light meal in the evening, Menemen can be ideal for that time of day. The appearance may look like an ordinary scrambled egg dish, but it is far from common or ordinary.

Lahmacun

Lahmacun, AKA Turkish Pizza, is a dough or flatbread that is topped with minced meat and onions. The meat and onion topping on the bread are enough to make it a tasty meal, but add a few drops of lemon or vegetables to make it tastier. When the dough and minced meat are ready, the Lahmacun is baked in an oven and then served while still flat. The best way to eat Lahmacun is to roll it like a sandwich and then eat with hands. Order a local drink with your food and order some pickles as a side dish for your Lahmacun, and you have a tasty meal in Istanbul.

Meze

The Meze was introduced as something to eat all over Turkey as a mix of pickled vegetables and different foods, all in small portions. Know about Meze is that it is not traditionally an appetizer or side dish, but it can be served as both. Originally, Meze is a variety of tasty things to eat with alcohol, and it is something shared all over the Middle East. In any case, having Meze in Istanbul is something you have to do, as the Meze platters of the capital are always richer and better than anywhere else. It can always be a surprise and something new when you order Meze. And it does not matter when or with you order it, it is always tasty and recommended.

Pide

Pide, like Lahmacun, is widely known as another food that is similar to pizza. Pide uses dough that is boat-shaped and holds the ingredients inside during the baking. As for the ingredients, they can include eggs, cheese, spinach, spice, sausages, as well as minced meat and onion of Lahmacun. Pide can also have the same ingredients as pizza, minus the tomato sauce on the dough. Sounds delicious? Wait until you discover the world of all the possible things that can be served along with Pide. The best varieties of Pide can be found all over Istanbul, with several vegetarian versions that do not have any meat or eggs.

Balık Ekmek

Balık Ekmek or Balik Ekmek is the number one street food of Istanbul that any traveler in this city must try. If you remember from earlier, it was mentioned that the area around and below the Galata Bridge offers the best street food. Try Balık Ekmek as the best street food in Turkey; in the best part of the city, to have street foods. Balık Ekmek is made with fried fish and fresh vegetables, and tasty bread. Add a few drops of lemon to Balık Ekmek and have it during the evening, and you will never forget this amazing food experience in Istanbul.

Baklava

Baklava is a part of Turkish-Ottoman Cuisine as a dessert or afternoon snack that goes lovely with some Turkish Tea (Cay). You may have already heard or even tried some Baklava, but the ones in Istanbul are just something else. Baklava has several layers of dough, and these layers are filled with nuts and honey (alternatively syrup). They are so famous, you can find them all over Asia and the Middle East. Try the best Baklava in Istanbul, even if you have already had some in the other parts of Turkey or other countries. Turkish Delight might be the most well-known dessert of this country, but Baklava gets the prize in Istanbul as the best.

Kebap

Kebap needs no introduction if you have already traveled to Asian and Middle-Eastern countries. Since there are numerous versions and types of Kebap, it is just better to say try it all in Istanbul. Kebap dishes of Turkey are all designed for meat lovers. Therefore, if you do not want to overdo it, just try Iskender Kebap and Adana Kebap of Istanbul. Most Kebap dishes are grilled meat on metal skewers that lay on a bed of rice. Tasty Kebap is always served with barbequed vegetables and peppers, which will make your mouth water.

The taste and smell of Kebap are irresistible; do not hesitate to give different types of Turkish Kebap a try.

Döner

Döner is also a kind of Kebap that is famous all over the world. Making and serving a Döner Kebap is different than the other types. Therefore it is mostly seen as street food. Döner is also the perfect combination with alcohol if you are having an alcoholic beverage with your food. Unlike the other Kebaps of Turkey, Döner is mostly chicken meat that is barbequed on a large stack of a vertical metal skewer. The Döner skewer rotates, and as it is cooked with all its juices inside, it is sliced then served as a sandwich with vegetables.

Midye Dolma

Midye Dolma is mostly known as stuffed mussels with spicey rice, pine nuts, and currants. Midye Dolma can only be seen in coastal regions of Turkey, making Istanbul an ideal place to have some. They are mostly considered street food, which is easily found by their amazing smell. When you order Midye Dolma, you will also get a lemon to sprinkle your food with a few drops. The taste is amazing. Therefore, you have to be careful not to eat too much Midye Dolma. Eat until you are half full, and also mind the price. Some places that sell Midye Dolma are a bit expensive. A word of advice: do not underestimate Midye Dolma for its size. It can be quite heavy for some people.

Kahvesi (Turkish Coffee)

Kahvesi or Turkish Coffee is one of the best drinks to have any time of the day in Istanbul. Coffee may have roots in all of Asia, long before it became so popular in Europe, but the Ottoman Turks were the ones who made it so perfect. Kahvesi is just one of the types of Turkish Coffee you can try. As you try your Kahvesi, it is best to talk with the locals about Turkish Coffee and its other versions that can be had in the capital.

Cay (Turkish Tea)

Cay or Çay is the name of the local and traditional Turkish tea found all over Istanbul. Coffee may be the number one drink of the city, but having some Cay is also enjoyable. A cay is so popular in the country that you can almost find it at all the shops and even drink it with the shopkeepers. Having Cay with the locals can even be regarded as a cultural activity, where you get to know the people of the country. Even if you want to drink Cay alone, it is the best alternative to Kahvesi.

Rakı

Rakı is famous as the national alcoholic drink of Turkey, and it is another thing to try in the capital. It is best to have Rakı with a Meze Platter. By having this duo, you are drinking and eating Meze like the locals and the traditional times.

Simit

If you love sweets as much as the Turks, Simit is the local’s favorite, which will soon be your favorite as well. Simit is baked and covered in seeds, usually sesame seeds, among other options. The smell alone is irresistible, and since it is healthy and delicious, it is seen a lot in the morning as locals have them for breakfast. Just buy a Simit as you walk and enjoy the smell and flavor of this lovely snack. Simit is eaten plain, but if you really want something with your bagel, try Cay as the best drink with this snack.

Dondurma

Ice cream is something everyone loves, but wait until your try the Turkish Dondurma. They are a bit stickier and thicker than ordinary ice cream and melt slower than others. What makes Dondurma even more fun is the way the vendors serve them. Some people can get a bit annoyed when Dondurma is being prepared and served; but with a little patience, you will have some of the best Ice Cream of your life in Istanbul.

Mantı

Mantı or Turkish Ravioli are small dumplings filled with minced meat and served with local side dishes. If you compare them with dumplings because of the similar appearance, you are making a big mistake; as Mantı is something unique and exotic. Even if the fillings are not so very different than other dumplings, Mantı is always served with amazing side dishes in Istanbul.

Künefe

Künefe is a sweet dessert with shredded cheese inside it and tastes amazingly well despite sounding a little odd. Kadayif dough and the cheese are mixed and then covered in sweet syrup and dressed with pistachios. Künefe does not have a salty flavor even though it has cheese inside it and may not look as great as it tastes.

Kuru Fasulye

Kuru Fasulye is a bean dish in Turkey made with simple Fasulye beans that have nothing special about them. The rest of the ingredients in the Kuru Fasulye are also not exactly magic. Then why is Kuru Fasulye a recommendation in Istanbul? The only thing that can make Kuru Fasulye amazing is the chef who is making it, and Istanbul has the best!

Ayran

Ayran is a drink in Turkey and most of Asia that you will either love or hate. Ayran is mostly described as a yogurt and salt drink, but there are several traditional versions of it that are beyond just yogurt, water, and salt. In any case, Ayran is the best thing to have with greasy food. And since some of the food recommendations in Istanbul are rather greasy, especially the Kebap and grilled meat dishes, Ayran is a great choice for a drink. Just keep in mind that Ayran can make you a little sleepy, especially if the food is too heavy for you.

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