Istanbul is located in the perfect place to enjoy a diverse mix of cultures and all the attractions that these cultures provide. Situated right in the middle of Europe and Asia, the country is a melting pot of huge civilisations. Imagine being on one continent, and then in an instant, you are transported to another one via a short boat or taxi ride. Its location makes Istanbul a very unique place to visit that very few other destinations can rival.
Istanbul’s major tourist attractions are the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and perhaps the Bosphorus River. It is possible to set sail on one of the Bosphorus cruise tours and discover this beautiful 30 km stretch of water which connects the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
While these are the attractions everybody knows. What other things could you do in Istanbul other than seeing the Istanbul’s historic centre? Well, I am glad you asked, let me give you some tips on how to explore the lesser known areas of this great city.
Fener & Balat Neighborhoods
Istanbul used to be the capital of Ottoman Empire, a multi-national empire that lasted from the 1300s to the 1900s. Istanbul was at the heart of this huge empire and had a large Jewish and Greek community
Fener (Phanar) was the major district for the Greek settlers who were living in Istanbul from the time of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Balat (Palation) was the place where the Jewish community of the city lived. There are still many synagogues around every corner of the neighbourhood. Both these districts offer architecture and food that has its roots in their respective native countries.
While cruising around the old and complicated streets of Fener & Balat neighbourhoods, it’s recommended to hire a tour guide in Istanbul.
Kadıköy At Istanbul’s Asia Side
Kadıköy is a lovely spot for the locals to shop around. There are old dessert shops, fish markets, pubs and bars of the city. It’s a great area to walk around, observe the local life, and people watch. Modern and traditional lifestyle is blended in this nice district. If you are staying in a hotel at Istanbul’s old city, Kadıköy is accessible by a simple ferry ride only taking half an hour.
Sirkeci & Eminönü Neighborhoods
Sirkeci Train Station used to be where Orient Express train arrived. It’s a special district where you can find some of the oldest Turkish Dessert shops (Especially Turkish Delight). A lot of shops in the area are very good for milky sweets: Hasan Usta, Hafız Mustafa, and Ali Muhittin Hacıbekir are all great sweet and chocolate shops that will surprise you with their fancy creations. Many historic sweet shops that are more than a century old Can be found in Sirkeci area.
Eminönü is known as the transport hub of Old Istanbul: People who want to visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and other famous landmarks, first arrive at this sea-side district via ferry, bus, or car. Eminönü is famous for its vibrant Spice Bazaar (also known as Egyptian Market) and is one of the 10 must-see sights of Istanbul city.
Golden Horn District: Eyüp
Eyüp is a holy place for Muslims due to the famous mosque (among Muslim World) located there which is called Eyyub Sultan Mosque. But Eyyub is not just for religious visits. There is a lovely hill near the mosque that is called Pierre Loti Hill. From here, you can enjoy the great views of Istanbul that are on offer at the top of the hill. A French Poet named Pierre Loti, spend the half of his life around this area and wrote his famous poems whilst looking at this view. Therefore local authorities named this beautiful area after him.
As well as the places listed above there is another very entertaining museum called Miniaturk. Miniaturk plays host to replica versions of many famous landmarks from Turkey. Small miniature models of Mosques, Early Christian Monasteries, Palaces, Temples and Ancient Cities can be found in the museum. Since Turkey’s land had been a cradle of civilizations, you may see what Turkey can offer by taking a tour through this modern museum. While seeing these beautiful places consider joining one of Istanbul guided tours to gain full knowledge and information about these sites.