With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul is the only city in the world that straddles two continents. While iconic sights like the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar are essential to any Istanbul visit, there’s still plenty more to be discovered in this magical city. From sightseeing and dining options to local experiences, these are some of our tips and favourite places to go if you want to experience Istanbul, Turkey like a local.
One of the most appetising cuisines in the world, Turkish food is rich in taste and diverse in origin. Nowhere else in the country beats Istanbul for experiencing all of the diverse cuisines on offer!
Commonly eaten for breakfast, menemen is similar to scrambled eggs. It’s made of eggs, green capsicum, tomatoes, pepper, onion and plenty of olive oil! For a heartier meal, you can also add meats to the dish.
This classic Turkish dish is one that we are all familiar with. The Doner Kebap comes in many different forms, including the durum, a doner wrapped in lavas bread and the iskender kebap, which is a doner on a bed of pide bread with yoghurt, tomato sauce and butter.
Typically made with either beef or lamb mince, icli kofte literally translates to stuffed meatballs. Made with a delicious crispy bulgur shell and stuffed with seasoned mince meat, onions, parsley and pine nuts, kofte is a standard Turkish dish you don’t want to miss!
There are many varieties of kebap on offer in Istanbul, including the cag kebap, which is a horizontally stacked kebab of lamb. Usually, this is served with a side of flatbread and tastes great when dipped in ezme!
You’ve probably had baklava before, but it’s definitely not comparable to the baklava you’ll have in Istanbul! A sweet dish made from filo pastry, baklava comes stuffed with nuts and dried fruits and is held together with syrup or honey.
Also known as Turkish Tea, Cay is a strong black tea that comes served in small glass cups. It’s often served with a small sugar cube on the side, and is definitely worth trying even if you’re not a tea drinker!
Kahvesi, or Turkish coffee, has been an integral part of Turkish culture for hundreds of years. The coffee beans are ground very finely before being brought to the boil. The coffee is served black in a small cup with the grounds remaining in the drink.
Escape the chaos of the popular city sites and get to know Istanbul like the locals do.
Rather than visiting the busy Grand Bazaar, make a trip to the Spice Bazaar and the local markets surrounding it.
For a truly authentic Turkish experience, be sure to make time to visit a Hammam; Turkish bath.
Take a boat ride from the European side of Istanbul to Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city. Here, you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants and minimal tourists.
Embrace the magic that is Istanbul’s many mosques. Be sure to visit popular mosques such as the Blue Mosque, The Magnificent Mosque and Hagia Sofia early in the morning, to avoid big crowds.
The Golden Horn in Istanbul is a horn-shaped fjord on the European side of Istanbul. Along the Golden Horn is two neighbourhoods worth visiting; Fener and Balat. Both areas are filled with historic wooden mansions, churches and synagogues that date back to the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
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