When I initially set out to write this post I wanted to write about all the reasons why you should visit Istanbul ASAP. However after some thought I realised that that was not the direction I wanted this post to go in. Instead, I have decided to write about all the incredible things about one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited as you may only be seeing negative stories in the news.
I cannot talk about loving Istanbul without talking about the cats. Everywhere you go you will see them; sleeping on motorbike seats, wandering inside shops and cafes, even sat with you whilst you play a game of Backgammon.
While the cats are not adopted formally, they are taken care of by everyone, a giant community of cat caring. I loved it. If you love the idea of this why not watch Nine Lives: Cats in Istanbul, a 2017 documentary or follow the amazing Cats of Istanbul Instagram account.
Or known in Turkey as çay. I’ve always been a massive fan of tea, and this was no exception. There is no right or wrong time to drink çay; first thing in the morning, afternoon, with dinner, before bed or 5 minutes after you’ve just drank one. Seriously, so much tea is consumed. No wonder they are the biggest consumer of tea in the world. The tea itself is traditionally served in small tulip-shaped glasses so you can admire the colour of the tea. That is some dedication. Tea is a huge part of Turkish culture, so much so that if you refuse one offered to you it is seen as rude. Oh and whatever you do, do not ask for milk!
Istanbul is ridiculously colourful, from the clothes people wear to the buildings around you. Even the umbrellas above your head.
One part that particularly caught my attention was the rainbow steps in the district of Cihangir. Were they highlighting LGBT issues? Was it something political? Was it just fun? Turns out it was retired forestry engineer Huseyin Cetinel, he spent four days and around £500 transforming the huge staircase from concrete grey, to the beautiful rainbow colours we see today. Saying "I didn’t do it for a group or as a form of activism. I did it to make people smile." No one expected it, and everyone including the locals fell in love with it.
Balat is located on the shore of the Golden Horn and is the traditional Jewish quarter in the Fatih district. This place was not on my list and was not a place I had heard of till a friend came to visit and someone recommended going there. The first thing that caught my attention was its narrow streets.
And that most of the buildings are completely desolate.
I spent 3 hours walking around this completely fascinating part of town that felt miles away from the colourful centre, despite being an easy 15 minute walk along the Golden Horn. One place I would highly recommend stopping at is the The Hobbit House. It’s a tiny cafe and shop, their aim is to give back to those with very little. All money raised is given back to the people of Istanbul and all objects donated are given to children. It is absolutely fascinating and a beautiful place to stop and get a glass of çay.
These were just some of the things about Istanbul that I absolutely loved. I’ve tried to avoid listing all the touristy places as you will find them on any "Things to do in Istanbul" article online. However here are a few of my favourites:
- Princes Island
- Grand Bazaar
- Spice Bazaar
- Topkapi Palace
- The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
- Tarihi Pierre Loti Kahvesi (mainly for the beautiful view of Istanbul)
- If you’re in Istanbul and want to do some work in a place that isn’t a coffee shop, head to the top floor of the SALT Galata