Do & Don’t in Istanbul
Istanbul is a dream destination, it’s located in the edge of Europe where east meets west. Connecting the two continents, the city hides layers of history, culture, colors and scents. The architecture, the food, everything in Istanbul tells a story. The city is busy, fast, never stops, but when you need a break from all this fervid life there is always a nice garden, a small tea house or a mosque where you can seat, breath and relax.
Said that, you’re travelling to Istanbul and you have no idea where to begin. That’s understandable, the city is so massive and it has so much to offer. No worries, here are our list of do and don’t things to do in Istanbul, to get your travel planning started.
Don’t stay in Taksim
Most buildings in Taksim (home to many popular clubs) were constructed before the era of enormous nightclub sound systems, they don’t muffle the party. Istanbul’s night-owl tendencies and lack of noise curfews mean the area doesn’t quiet down till the wee hours. No fun for the weary.
Do visit after dark
While it may be a lousy place to sleep, Taksim is an awesome place to be awake. Turn off Istikal Caddesi onto any side street and you’ll find a handful of taverns to choose from. Nevizade Sokak is the densest of the tavern streets. Families tend to sit streetside at outdoor tables, while the young and agile climb steep flights of stairs to the surrounding rooftop bars. Riddim has cheap drinks and a genius DJ. Mavi Bar is cozy, but never dull.
Don’t bother with the Topkapi crowds
I know people will disagree, but unless you’re a huge history buff, Topkapi Palace isn’t worth the mob and the price. Even in the middle of winter, in a downpour, the crowds feel like Woodstock. What’s more, while the art and architecture are certainly gorgeous, you can see similar pieces in the old buildings and galleries of Istanbul.
Do check out Dolmabahce palace
It has all the opulence of Topkapi, but Dolmabahce (picture above) offers a guide and a free harem tour. It’s the site of Turkey’s transition from empire to republic, from being the center of the civilized world to taking interior design cues from other cultures. The Bosphorus views are fantastic, and there’s an aviary with some pretty goofy peacocks. Also, Dolmabahce has the second largest chandelier in the world (you win again, Dubai).
Don’t think you’re eating Greek
Turkey and Greece have a lot of similarities food-wise, but there are long-running disputes over who invented what. Turks are proud of their cuisine, and to suggest it’s an imitation can cause hurt feelings (or worse, anger). The cheese may taste like feta to you, and the liquor like ouzo, but ask your waiter for the Turkish names and try to remember them.
Do accept a cup of tea
The offering of tea is the traditional Turkish equivalent of “can I add you on Facebook?” When you’re invited into someone’s home or shop for tea, it means, “I like your company, sit and chat with me for a while.” It’s considered rude to turn down food or drink, so unless you have a plane to catch, pull up a chair. One of the loveliest traits of Turkish people is their tireless sociability, even through a language barrier.
Don’t bother with taxis if possible
Traffic in Istanbul is plain ol’ slow, especially during rush hour (picture below). Give the cabs a miss, buses too. If your journey is too far to walk, look into Istanbul’s extensive subway, Metrobus, and tram lines. They’re crowded but speedy.
Do map your route on foot
Istanbul street life is one of the subtlest glories of the city, the narrow alleys, laundry hanging overhead, the sudden slopes and hills. Steep-but-pretty Galata, where many cars fear to tread, is a hub of cool music stores, cafes, and arty residential pockets.
Don’t misunderstand dress codes when visiting mosques
Women queuing at the visitors’ entrance of the Blue Mosque (picture below) are often seen fretfully wrapping their heads in bazaar-bought pashminas to cover up tightly, headscarf-style. Here, it’s not necessary for non-worshipers to cover their hair completely. Some guides will tell you it’s not necessary at all. What’s more important is for your sleeves, neckline, shorts, and skirts to hit a modest length. No tank tops or short shorts, or you’ll be asked to use your new pashmina as a sarong.
Do let worshipers worship
Mosques have specific prayer times, but visitors can choose to pray whenever they visit. This means that while the mosque is open for tourists, worship is still taking place. Try to talk quietly, please don’t use your cell phone, and if you want to snap pictures of people in prayer, at least be discreet about it. Also, be mindful of the separate men’s and women’s sections.
Don’t live off doner and baklava
They’re cheap, ubiquitous, and oh so tasty, but you’d be shortchanging yourself by staying in this food rut. Other common, delicious Turkish foods are saucy iskender kebap, lentil (mercimek) soup, and desserts like rice pudding (sutlac) or sticky ice cream (dondurma). Check out the sweets at a Mado Cafe.
Do try a point-and-choose restaurant
There’s a point-and-choose place on every street in the city. From the window, you’ll see a dozen trays of different foods and a cafeteria-style counter. These restaurants are inexpensive and fresh. Each dish will cost 2-5 lira, and if you go with a friend or two, you can sample and share the whole menu.
Don’t take the Bosphorus cruise
It’s a pretty tour, yes, but a relatively pricey one. The boat has plenty of seating, but the window seats fill up fast. Your 3-hour stopover on the Asian side provides views of the Black Sea and the ruins of a small pre-Ottoman fortress. That leaves another 2 hours and 30 minutes of touts trying to draw you into their seafood shops.
Do take a ferry to the Prince’s Islands
For a better day trip, do what the Istanbullians do and hop a ferry to the Prince’s Islands in the Marmara Sea (picture above). It’s far cheaper than the Bosphorus cruise but still provides views of Istanbul and its southern waterfronts. Once on the islands, you can swim, hike, and rent bikes. Buyukada, the last island on the route, is my favorite for its car-free streets and weathered wooden villas ranging from old-world gorgeous to 70s gaudy.
Where to Stay
Lampa Design Hotel is a popular choice amongst travelers in Istanbul, whether exploring or just passing through. Lampa Design Hotel welcomes you to explore Istanbul from the most ideal location, since the hotel is located in the vibrant neighborhood of Şişli, the city center of Istanbul. This hotel introduces a unique “boutique design hotel” experience with the warmth of the antique gas lamp and industrial minimalist architecture.
Lampa Design Hotel incorporates some of the antique gas lamps from Orhan Utan’s collection within a mixture of industrial modern design, natural wood parquet, marble staircases, cast- in mosaic and generous use of metal hardware. In addition, the art pieces and enchanting facade detail conceived by Architect Selami Çiçek add the finishing touches to this exquisitely devised hotel. All 20 different sized rooms of Lampa Design Hotel are designed with customized furniture, special amenities and the unique art pieces inspired by celebrated artist Fikret Mualla Saygı (1904-1967).
Guestrooms are designed to provide an optimal level of comfort with welcoming decor and some offering convenient amenities. Glass walled bathroom and French balcony detail in every room of Lampa Design Hotel creates a spacious feeling in the rooms. Depending on the seasonal changes their comfortable duvet sets are being changed with special healthy quilts to create the best relaxing environment in the beds. The Lampa Lab is the place where guests can enjoy their delicious breakfast and afternoon coffee, with terrarium designs.