What to do in Istanbul in three days
(Five things you cannot miss…)
There are certain things nobody should miss when they first set a foot in Istanbul. Everyone must visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia or the Topkapi Palace. It is also a well-known suggestion to get lost around the alleys of the Grand Bazaar or walk around Beyoğlu. But certain musts are sometimes ignored. Here are five things you can’t miss from Istanbul, letting alone the famous ones.
What to do in Istanbul
One of the best things to do
If there is a tradition well taken in Istanbul’s culture this could be it. There is something inherently exotic about sharing a nargile pipe while sipping a glass of Turkish tea or coffee. Choose an old Hookah bar, a local one, not originally aimed for tourists; thus guaranteeing a better quality and stronger flavor as well and a much more relaxed atmosphere (you will see prices improving on your favor as well). The choice is wide and stimulating. A nargile can be filled with a variety of tobacco and then piped through water or even juice. I went for a tobacco scented with mix of apple and mint: Delicious.
Galata Tower: second pick
Walk all the way from the New Mosque up to the Galata Tower, this will be your goal. Slowly stroll over the Galata bridge, taking the time to watch the infinite line of fishermen catching their lunch… or their next bait. Keep yourself going up until you reach the Tower. The road might prove uphill and tiring. Yet, don’t give up. And when you cannot take another single step, just take a deep breath, then a deeper one and simply think that going down will be easier… oh, so much easier!
Once on top, choose a bar, sit and reward yourself with a glass of beer. Chill for a while watching passers-by. Such an easy way to get a glimpse of the authentic inhabitant of this city: trendy, funny, striving to belong to a more modern Europe.
Endless line of rods.
Three, getting lost in cups of tea
Take a self-guided tour around one of the many districts of the city. Anywhere you decide to go, be sure it will always be crowded and animated.
Get lost, enjoy the wanderlust of being a part of Istanbul, indulge in this selfish pleasure and take it as a personal gift you have earned.
My choice was Beşiktaş… Order a glass of apple tea, or two. If you are in the mood, instead, have a dinner with the national dish, Iskender.
Make the most of the atmosphere, breathe it like a local. Don’t fear the crowds, you can’t avoid them in Istanbul, they are part of its geography.
Afterwards, go beyond the tour of the sacred buildings
Get up early and head to the Sultanahmet district. Take a seat somewhere between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and just stay there, read a book, take pictures, or just admire what surrounds you. Let the magic of the place enchant you and the hours go by…
The prayer call from the Blue Mosque will surprise you. The reply coming from the minarets of Hagia Sophia will be mesmerizing. The call of the muezzins is a dance, a duel-like conversation of charm and mystery. A tear might grow fat in your eye, or two. Or not.
When it ends, enjoy the vacuum left, quickly filled with the routine noises of the city. You might even want to do it again.
Talk with the locals. Get to know the people from this city. They are open to tell you everything about their history and their culture.
Don’t limit yourself to live an exclusive romance between you and your guide-book. Get a lover, let it be the city itself. Get your nose out of those pages. Open up, talk, walk, ask, smile. People from Istanbul love their city and telling stories about it. They are often smiling and helpful.
A unique opportunity to reach the real heart of Istanbul: eat local, walk local, do local, be local…
Don’t miss this chance, but don’t miss it anywhere! That’s the best way to travel.
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