Every time I visit this city I realize it is a big, colourful, loud, vibrant, interesting mess. Yes, it is a mess! However I find this mess very attractive!
In Istanbul or Constantinople, as it was used to be called for more than fifteen centuries, there is a mix of historical, architectural and cultural background which derives from Roman, Byzantine, Greek, Latin and Ottoman years. One of the main reasons why I like this city is this multicultural background which you can easily identify just by walking around.
All the action takes place along the streets of the city where you can find almost all you need. There is no way you’d possibly miss the local merchants selling from fruits, nuts and fresh vegetables to seafood, olive soaps, or bread.
Also, you can’t miss the spices’ smell or even the smell of grilled fish and kebab – Turks know a lot about food!
Take a break to admire 'Agia Sofia' & Blue Mosque located just meters away from each other. Focus on Turkish people speaking loudly but so passionately about things you can barley understand - unless you speak Turkish. Keep an eye while crossing the busy streets and take a taxi ride- it can be a unique experience in its own way depending on your taxi driver!
Enjoy a traditional filling Turkish breakfast including plenty of cheese, fresh warm bread, Turkish tea and eggs ‘menemen’. And of course dine on the terrace of Ciragan Palace for one of the most romantic dining scenes and one of the best Bosphorus views.
In other words, don’t lock yourself into a strict itinerary. Don’t make a huge list of palaces and museums that you have to visit. Just be spontaneous. This is the best advice from me!
Jump on a tram. Get lost in small narrow streets around Galata tower. Take a ferry to Princes islands. Take a walk by Bosphorus. Try new flavors and local delicacies. 'Lokma' is the best spot to try Turkish breakfast in the way young local Turkish do. On the other hand if you are a dessert person, head to Halis Bekrizade Efendi - my favourite sweets in Istanbul.
And in the meantime, try to meet some Turkish people who will share with you all the insider info and local tips.
No matter what, don’t allow yourself to get annoyed by traffic jams or super crowded walkways.
It is part of the experience after all – it is no wonder that is so busy, there are more than 14 million people living around Istanbul today and plenty of tourists too.
And if you ask me about souvenirs to bring back home, I would say Turkish pepper - apart from some cool memories of course!