Turkey, and Istanbul especially, has been in the news lately – and not for the good reasons. But I love Istanbul, and after my first brief visit to Istanbul this summer, I decided that I have to come back. A week just wasn’t enough. I fell in love with the city and returned there just a couple of months later and spent almost three weeks exploring the city. Here are reasons why I fell in love with Istanbul.
1. A Mix of Cultures
Istanbul’s unique location between Asia and Europe, colorful history and inhabitants with different backgrounds, make this city so special. It’s a true melting pot of cultures.
2. Interesting Sights
Istanbul is full of interesting sights. There are beautiful mosques like the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. You can climb to the Galata Tower which gives you a 360-degree view of the city. Or visit the Basilica Cistern, the incredible underground cistern.
Istanbul is located between two continents: Asia and Europe. The city is surrounded by water, full of steep hills and breathtaking views.
4. Visit Two Continents
You can take cross the Bosphorus river by ferry and visit both European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
5. The Cats of Istanbul
Cats are everywhere in Istanbul, and I mean EVERYWHERE. If you stop on the street and look around, you’ll probably see at least five cats around you. I love cats, so being surrounded by cats all the time is just perfect. They are technically stray cats, but people still care about them and feed them. Also, many shops and restaurants have their resident cats.
6. Restaurants and Cafes
The streets are filled with cafes and restaurants. There are so many options to choose from, and the food is fantastic.
Turkish food is not just kebabs, and it’s actually surprisingly easy to travel there as a vegan. You can get healthy vegetarian meals everywhere. My personal favorite is a lentil soup; it’s delicious! Also, check out the street food options: grilled corn, chestnuts, simit (sesame bread) and pomegranate juice! And try meat-free Çiğ köfte made of bulgur wheat and spices.
8. The Turkish Bath
When in Turkey, you have to go to the Turkish bath, also known as a hammam. I experienced hammam for the first time in Gedikpasa Hamami. It’s not a luxurious hammam, but more like an everyday hammam for locals. So if you want an authentic experience without a bunch of other tourists, head there. After the scrub, foam and wash, you’ll feel like a new person!
The sunsets in Istanbul are something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. The best place to watch the sunset is the Galata Tower so make sure to be there at the right time!
10. Beautiful Mosques
There are beautiful mosques everywhere. The most famous ones are the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.
Istanbul is a budget-friendly destination. You can get a bed in a dorm for as low as 5€. And I paid only 20€ for a very modern, centrally located Airbnb apartment. The food and transportation are also cheap, so if you are looking for a budget-friendly destination, head to Istanbul!
The history of Istanbul is so interesting. Did you know that Istanbul has been the capital of the Ottoman, Latin, Byzantine and Roman empires?
13. The Vibrant Nightlife
There are so many bars and restaurants, and always something happening. Make sure to check out Kamu Coffee & Drink which is a lovely local bar where they make nice cocktails. If you make it there, ask for a cocktail called “An emergency state, ” and you’ll get a delicious drink! It’s not on the menu, but I heard about it from a local girl.
From ancient sites to modern buildings, the city is full of great architecture.
15. Turkish Hospitality
Ever heard about Turkish hospitality? Well, it’s true, and you have to travel there to experience it by yourself. Turkish tea is offered as a sign of hospitality so prepare to drink this a lot!
16. A Photographer’s Dream Destination
The city is full of great photo opportunities. Breathtaking views, beautiful sunsets, water, mosques…
You can find everything in Istanbul. Try the famous shopping street, Istiklal Street, starting from Taksim Square or head to Cevahir shopping mall in Sisli. It’s one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, and it’s centrally located, only two metro stops away from Taksim. If you want something more traditional, go to the Grand Bazaar which is one of the oldest covered markets in the world.