Visit Istanbul Like a Local
Is it possible to visit Istanbul like a local? Yes, it’s definitely possible! When planning a trip, we usually search the internet to get more information on the destination and its most popular touristic attractions. Most visitors don’t get past the most popular sights, leaving the city almost not discovered at all.
If you landed on this page, it is highly likely that you are looking to plan a trip to the magical regions of Istanbul. But, how much do you think you know about the city and what it offers? Yes, the classics such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapı Imperial Palace shall absolutely be seen as they reflect the history of three different civilizations that left its footprints in Istanbul centuries ago. But would you want to get out of the comfort zone of the touristic center and discover the hidden paths where mainly locals hang out and spend time at?
With this article we will give you an insight on how an Istanbul local spends a week.
Most people choose to reside in the Asian side of Istanbul, as it is calmer and more residential. However, the city’s European side of Istanbul is usually the one that has many headquarters of corporate companies, business centers, and it is more lively and fun, offering many attractions, sights, experiences, workshops, concerts, and events.
A typical Istanbulite crosses the Bosphorus at least twice a week. There are many public transportation options that connect the two continents, such as the metrobus which looks like a regular bus but it has its own special lane, separating it from the traffic jam. Another option is to cross the strait is Marmaray that operates literally under the Bosphorus Strait. Unfortunately, you don’t get to see the deep sea creatures but isn’t it still exciting to know that you are hopping from one continent to the other under the sea?
The most fun transportation though is the ferry. Taking the ferry from one side to the other is a big deal for locals. They usually go to the ferry stop earlier than its scheduled time to be take the best seat. You may opt to sit indoors where you can listen to the buskers playing music. Or you may sit outdoors to enjoy the natural music of the Istanbul atmosphere, the sunshine, and the seagulls flying over your head. You can even feed them by throwing simit, a type of typical Turkish pastry, and drink a cup of hot Turkish tea to warm you up in cold winter days, watching the magnificent scenery.
If you want to experience the beauty of the Bosphorus under the moonlight, opt for a dinner cruise with traditional Turkish shows like a true local.
Have you ever heard of the Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi) legend? The legend goes that there was a princess whose fortune read that she was going to die at an early age. Her father the king, had a tower built on a small island and placed the princess there all by herself, believing this would protect her from the outside dangers. She died, however, she got bit by a snake that was hiding inside the basket of grapes she was eating. Sad story, huh? Nowadays, the locals go to the island to have a fancy, romantic dinner inside the tower’s top floor. If you are on a budget, however, you can get a floor seating across the tower to sip your cup of Turkish tea and enjoy the view.
Being the hump day, Wednesdays have importance among locals. They usually hang outside, have dinner and have drinks with their loved ones, visit an exhibition or a museum, go to a concert or a workshop, or simply stroll along the shore of the Bosphorus.
You can go to the Pera Museum that host the city’s most attractive Anatolian themed exhibition.
Locals also love unique experiences such as Dialogue in the Dark, where you are immersed in a completely dark space to go through the day to day life of a blind person living in Istanbul. Don’t worry about tripping and falling though, a blind guide helps you throughout the experience, and at the end, you sit in the complete darkness to have a heart to heart conversation with your guide, where you can ask them anything you are curious about.
Thursdays are usually calm and cozy. Locals opt to stay at home to get some rest before the crazy Friday night rolls around.
To mimic this calmness, we suggest you check out the Whirling Dervishes show, where the Sufi believers swirl for quite some time, representing everything else that swirls around such as the Sun and the atoms. During the experience, you will turn to yourself and set out on a journey to find yourself deep in your thoughts, enjoying a serene moment that you have probably never had before. After the show, you can also visit the exhibition that locates at the same building, to learn more about Sufism.
It is the big day, thanks God it’s Friday! Everyone is out to spend a good time, get some drinks, catch up with their loved ones and dance the night away. If you are into nightlife, Taksim and Karaköy are the most lively districts on the European side. On the Asian side, you can go to Kadıköy where you can find many bars, pubs, and clubs that locals hang out.
All that drinking and dancing can take its toll on the body. Take this day to go out to the nature, enjoy the fresh air, hike, run, walk, or get other types of physical activities just like locals do. We suggest going to the Xtreme Aventures for a challenging Saturday, or to the Prince Islands for some relaxing at historically famous islands.
What a great time to catch up on some much-needed sleep after a busy week! Locals usually wake up late and have a big, traditional breakfast that lasts a few hours.
We suggest going to any coffee shop along the Bosphorus for the extended breakfast experience. Alternatively, you can try Saade Kahvaltı House located in Sultanahmet district. Ask for Serpme Kahvaltı or Köy Kahvaltısı so that you can taste all the classic dishes and have Turkish tea to go along.
For a budget-friendly option, head to the Kahvaltıcılar Sokağı in the Beşiktaş district, where many cafes specializing in breakfast delicacies are lined by the two sides of a long street.
Now that you are energized after breakfast, head to a museum or a gallery nearby to get your daily culture fix like many locals. We suggest the Madame Tussauds Museum for those looking for some light fun, or the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum for the more serious art-enthusiasts.
The good news is almost all these attractions are included in the Istanbul Tourist Pass. Get your pass and start discovering Istanbul like a true local!
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