Istanbul, the vibrant city situated in the heart of Turkey that boasts a melting pot of culture, history, food and architecture. A city where Asia and Europe is separated by the Bosporus Strait and that you can explore to in less than 20 minutes. A city that I believe is best explored, seen and experienced by foot. Istanbul is the biggest city between Europe and Asia – so if you’re planning on visiting (after covid-19 of course), I suggest you grab a cuppa and continue reading… and invest in a pair of comfy walking shoes because I KNOW that you’re going to need it. I remember the first day of exploring around the city, we had walked for over 15km. It didn’t feel that way because you tend to fall in love with the beauty and the charm of the city and everything else just fades. You develope a sense of serenity through the fast paced vibe that Istanbul holds. Even though we walked alot, we would venture out to a specific destination with the tram and that was our primary source of transportation when in Istanbul. I only drove in a cab once when in Istanbul and that was the ride from Istanbul Airport to the hotel and then we used the hotel shuttle the day we checked out to Sabiha Gökçen airport when coming home. I loved the convenience of the tram, especially seeing that I was on a budget. The tram operated from 06:00am to midnight and let me add that I felt completely safe being out that late at night. To be honest, I always felt safe in Istanbul. I stayed in the European side of Istanbul. I have to say that the vibe in the European side is so different to the Asian side. One day we took the Bosphorus cruise to the Asian side of Istanbul and wandered the streets of Kadıköy. I found the Asian side to have much more of a “homely” feel to it whereas the European side was alot more fast paced and buzzing with people. Even though the streets were always packed with people – if you feel like you needed a little bit of time out, there are many gardens, benches and even mosques that you can just sit and catch you breath for a second. Nothing beats just sitting in the garden of one of the many mosques around the city and just listening to the athaan/adhan أَذَان (call to prayer), regardless of your faith. We visited Turkey at the start of Spring, so we had a few days where it would drizzle. On those days where we would experience light showers, we would wander down a road looking for coverage and stumble unto little gems like we did on the day we visited Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque) for the first time. In the area is a small passage way that leads to Arasta Bazaar and the Musaic Museum. Such little discoveries is why I suggest exploring Istanbul by foot and not missing out on really experiencing the city because you would never discover the gems of the city from a car window. I believe that if you can read, you can navigate the street of Istanbul. I’m not gonna lie, language barriers is a real problem – but luckily for us, the maps at all of the tourist locations scattered around the city was in English as well. It was also very easy to read and understand. If you do get lost along the way, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as getting lost in a foreign country. Okay maybe that is not for everybody but to put your mind at ease, you will definitely find someone that can speak English. Now while Istanbul might be home to majority muslim residents, there’s a modern side to the people of Istanbul as well. Young urbanites would embrace the nightlife culture and this would see the streets bustling till the wee hours of the night/morning.One of my favourite spots to have strolled was Istikal Avenue. It is one of the busiest pedestrian walkways that stretches 1.4km and that you can spot the Instagram-worthy red streetcar. Istikal Avenue has everything from boutiques, nightclubs, cinemas and cafés. In my opinion, I really don’t feel like you need a tour guide to discover the vibrant city of Istanbul. It is one of the easiest cities to navigate and get around without needing to fork out extra cash for a tour guide.
If you want some more tips for the traveler on a budget when visiting Istanbul, read my post over here.