Istanbul is one of the most magical cities in the world. Its mixture of old and new, and eastern and western influences gives it a vibrant, mystical atmosphere that is certain to sweep those that visit off their feet and enchant them with beautiful sights and delicious foods.The TripAdvisor voting results have been published recently and Istanbul topped the polls, being named No.1 holiday destination to visit in the world! We think its a perfect time to let you know why, and one person who knows this better than anyone is Guner. Guner is one of our friendly team here at Direct Traveller and having been to Istanbul many times is the perfect person to give those wondering what the Istanbul experience is like some information and advice.
When did you last visit Istanbul?
I last visited Istanbul on the 20th June 2013. I went for 4 nights and had a fabulous time! I go to Istanbul every year because there is always more and more to see each time. I can never get enough. The weather was perfect – I wore t-shirts most of the time and light jumpers in the evenings.
Which hotel did you stay in? What was it like, and would you recommend it to others?
I stayed in Nisantasi (The House Hotel) or ‘The Knightsbridge of London’ as they call it…. It is literally 2 minutes from all the local restaurants/retail shops. It took us about a 30 minute walk to Taksim Square – now this is where you see the city come to life. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such amazing food as I have on this street.
In Nisantasi town there are many boutique shops, so if you’re a shopper like me it’s the perfect location. Of course, there are much better deals for hotels if you want to keep costs down and still be in the heart of the city. In particular, the old city – Sultanahmet area has very good standard hotels .The ones I can recommend are Momento Hotel/Celal Sultan/Art City/Best Western the President. Next time I go I will stay in one of these because they are central to the beautiful historical attractions and the Grand Bazaar.
What was the food like? Would you recommend any restaurants in particular?
I loved the food!!! I couldn’t stop eating- every corner and street had amazing food places. You are spoilt for choice and guaranteed to come back a few kilos heavier!
I loved the Fish restaurants on the Bosphorus. There are mini boats that grill fresh fish on the shore side in Eminonu, which is really famous as this is where you see all the locals fishing. It’s such a great ambience, so buzzy and very lively.
My favourite experience was when I took a boat from the European side to the Asian side and went to a fantastic fish restaurant overlooking the famous Bosphorus bridge. There are local smaller restaurants hidden on the side streets, like Cibalıkapı Balıkçısı (fish restaurant). For deserts, I must say that Konak pastanesi is delicious for something sweet. It is near galata tower in taksim on a terrace. For breakfast one day I went to Guzelcehisar (anadoluhisari.) – it has breathtaking views. Fransiz sokagi near istiklal caddesi is also very nice to visit, with little small cafes/shisha lounges etc.
For evening entertainment, we went to a few snazzy bars and a few local bars.The snazzy ones were: Lebiderya bar terrace bar of Bosphorous, or for something more low key you’ve got the lambo bar outside, which is perfect for a quick drink. We also enjoyed listening to the local live bands that play in the side streets whilst eating dinner / having a drink – that was really nice because you see how the locals live and the lifestyle they have.
What were your favourite attractions/ things to do while there?
My favourite attraction were the Grand Bazaar – it’s like a maze in there through the never ending streets. I think it has over 18 entrances/exits, each full of Turkish ceramics, jewellery, bags, carpets and fashion. Taksim street is also great, as this is the area to be for the buzzy lively diversity of the city. You get to see Istanbul at its best during evenings because it’s so cosmopolitan, and for the historical attractions I loved the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) – the interior is so distinctive and the architecture is faultless.
What do you think makes Istanbul such a special city to visit?
I think what makes Istanbul the perfect city to visit is its diversity in attractions/entertainment/food. You can never get bored – this is my 5th visit to Istanbul and I will definitely be going back again next year because every time you go there is something new to see. It’s cheap to get there and it’s cheap within the destination because it’s Turkish Lira currency. It’s the hot spot destination for shopping and has delicious food! what more could you want.
Lastly, do you have any tips for those thinking of going to Istanbul?
I would suggest to anyone that is interested in going to Istanbul, to GO!!!!! There are really great deals for 2 or 3 night stays where you can do it as part of a tour, ensuring that you make the most of your time there.
The first time I went I did the Mini Stay Istanbul Tour, which included 3 nights stay at a 4 star hotel in the SultanAhmet Area. We had a full day city tour covering the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome and the Grand Bazaar. We also visited a carpet shop and learnt how carpets are made by hand.Then we also visited the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and took a scenic cruise along the European and Asian shores of the Bosphorous.
The tour included all transfers, transportation throughout the tour, an English speaking guide to explain everything we were visiting, entrance fees, 2 breakfasts and 1 lunch, which was perfect because then in the evenings we would go out exploring the local cuisine.