Exploring the New Istanbul & Its Particularities

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Advisor - Ellie Zade
Curated By

Ellie Zade

  • Türkiye

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Historical

  • Local Culture

  • Sightseeing

City view of Istanbul across a river with white boats and blue red peach black and white colored buildings, green trees, and a white clouds with a blue sky
Curator’s statement

With its constant array of new openings, it could be said that the ancient city of Istanbul has had many rebirths over the years. And just recently, it looks like it has been reborn again with the number of new locations that have been giving another fresh life to this Mediterranean city. Explore Istanbul’s newly opened marvels and see why it is a city to pay close attention to these days.

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Where to stay in Istanbul, Turkey

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Things to do in Istanbul, Turkey

Cobblestone streets in Istanbul with laundry clothes lines lined with blue orange and white buildings with windows

The modern traveler is always looking to dig deeper, to explore the realities of a destination and also delve into the path that is its foundation. That’s the deal with Istanbul too – it’s a beautiful city where history marries contemporaneity, and where you need to explore both historic destinations as well as new ones. Sometimes these are housed all within one space – consider the following options in any order.


Located in a region where the Bosphorus meets with the Golden Horn and Sea of Marmara, Galataport itself offers you an experience where gastronomy meets art and culture. With its collection of shops, museums, restaurants and breweries, Galataport has become Istanbul’s new culinary and cultural hub. It could arguably be the new best spot for you to witness and take in the best view of the Bosphorus. 

Ataturk Cultural Center (Atatürk Kültür Merkezi in Turkish, or AKM): 

After 13 whole years of construction, this shimmering building near Taksim Square has finally opened its doors to its visitors.. AKM has been the center of performing arts since 1960 and has recently been rebuilt and renovated by the son of the original architect, who gave the building a new modern touch while also maintaining the historic essence. Pay a visit to see the building and its entrance, but also buy tickets to further enjoy your evening with the amazing and famous ballet, opera, concert or theater performances.

Antique Shopping in Cihangir (read as Jihangir) District: 

While in Beyoglu, which is close to Istiklal street and Taksim, head down to the Cihangir district to witness artsy spaces and hip cafes, bars and restaurants. More important than that, if you are a fan of antiques then you’ve found your heaven in Cihangir! To really experience Istanbul and Beyoglu off-the-beaten-path, then you’re at the correct location with Cihangir. For all the antique lovers out there, go to Çukurcuma (read as chukur-juma) street while at Cihangir and see the wild variety of antique shops to explore.

Çamlıca Tower (pronounced as “chamlija” tower): 

Take a fabulous Bosphorus ferry ride from the European side to the Anatolian side and visit Istanbul’s tallest tower, which doubles as a telecommunication tower. The tower is 1,200 feet tall – you get to have Istanbul under your feet by observing it from the tallest spot you can. 


One of Istanbul’s hidden gems is the colorful and picturesque district Balat. Although it gets visited by only 1% of tourists, visiting Balat is possibly one of the best things you could do when you are in Istanbul. Be ready to stretch those legs and explore one of the oldest districts of Istanbul, while taking loads of pictures of the colorful buildings you see at every step of your way. Balat is a friendly and welcoming district for you to dive into mix of Jewish, Christian and Muslim culture – you will come across synagogues, churches and mosques all together in the same district. With its colorful wooden buildings and cafes it is easy to spend hours in Balat, so make sure to get there in the morning. Don’t forget your camera! 


Ortakoy, once a district where Turks, Armenians, Greeks and Jews all lived together, is now a neighborhood, right by the Bosphorus where you’ll find a flashy nightlife with the city’s top bars and clubs such as Sortie and Ruby. If you are not into a loud nightlife, then walk to the Ortakoy square and soak up the atmosphere right by the Bosphorus alongside the many waterfront cafes and restaurants that you can enjoy.  You can even take a one-hour boat cruise to see both the European and Asian side with the magnificent buildings and mansions!  

Emirgan Park:

Despite the very busy and noisy appearance of Istanbul, you might be actually surprised to know that there are a number of huge, green spaces where you can rest your mind in peace and quietness among the greenery and beautiful views. One of those places is the Emirgan Park, a 325,000 square meter park that leads back all the way to the Byzantine era. Being a private land for some of the Ottoman Sultans, the park has three beautiful pavilions where you can enjoy a sip of coffee or tea while relaxing. This park is also the spot for the famous annual Tulip festival that takes place in April. So, if you are coming over to Istanbul during April, make sure to put Emirgan on the top of your list to take photos and be mesmerized by endless arrangements of Tulips ( 120 different types). 


You can take one of the most fun and best Bosphorus strolls in the Kuruçeşme (pronounced as kurucheshme) district. The beautiful colorful buildings, mansions and the greenery of the parks with the Bosphorus in the background will not fail to mesmerize you and your soul while taking a relaxing stroll during the day.

Places to eat & drink in Istanbul, Turkey

golden layered baklava pastry with pistachio crumbs on a white plate with a black lining and metal handles

Istanbul is a true treat with a rich variety of Turkish treats as well as international cuisines. Everywhere you look is a chance to try something new and, dare say, spectacular. Enjoy these eats by neighborhood: 


Mind to have a drink by the Bosphorus while in Galataport? Head to The Populist, Istanbul’s first brewery since 1890, where craft beer is brewed in a chic three story-tall space with an unhindered view. If you are tired of walking and just want a tea or coffee break with some delicious desserts, then head to Grandma, to get a taste of some of the best seasonal pastries in Istanbul. If you want to experience some authentic yet fine Turkish cuisine, then reserve a table at Liman Istanbul, a historic place with a modern touch. With its roots heading back to 1947, Liman will deliver you a mix of Turkish and western cuisine alongside exceptional service and atmosphere. 

Ataturk Cultural Center:

From AKM, walk to Istiklal caddesi (Istiklal Street) and try out the delicious local meals offered by the street vendors that you will stumble upon probably on every step of your way! If you’re visiting during the morning or noon, keep an eye for the food carts that sell local snacks like corn on the cob, roasted chestnuts and the famous simit (which is the Turkish version of bagel, covered with sesame seeds). If you really can’t decide on which restaurant or street vendor to purchase from and if you don’t want much adventure with food, then try eating at Munhasir Doner and Kebap, in its menu you can find absolutely delicious Turkish kebabs or try doner, the Turkish version of shawarma or gyros. 


Speaking of historic vibes, how about a lunch or dinner break at one of Istanbul’s best Italian restaurants, only 20 minutes away on foot? At one of Istanbul’s historic locations, with its cobbled grounds and brick stone walls, the newly opened Il Cortile will take you to Italy not only with its delicious offerings, but also with its atmosphere and design. Don’t forget to reserve before you go! 

Çamlıca Tower:

Once done with the observing and photography, a 20 minute car ride will take you to another famous district of the Anatolian side, Moda— the never sleeping hotspot for popular bars, cafes, art and cultural hubs and of course restaurants (what is an Istanbul travel if you don’t stuff yourself with delicious food every step of the way!?). Although you have the chance to try any of the places you see, I recommend you to definitely eat at Çiya Sofrası (pronounced as Chia Sofrasi) if you are looking for local tastes. You will get an authentic taste of delicious foods displayed for you mainly rooting from Turkey’s culinary capital, Gaziantep. What you will taste will definitely take you to a tasteful wonderland of Turkey’s Southeast without really needing to physically travel there. 


If you can’t decide where to eat with the many restaurants and cafes that you’ll see, then head to Forno and try delicious Turkish pide’s (a Turkish flat bread that comes stuffed with a variety of toppings, like cheese, sausage, meat, or spinach) and lahmacun (another famous Turkish food; a round thin piece of dough topped with spiced minced beef and herbs, baked in a stone oven.)


Asking about what you should eat when in Ortakoy? How about a baked stuffed potato, pretty much the size of a human head, loaded with the toppings you like!? There is no better place to eat a kumpir (baked stuffed potato) than Ortakoy where you will find dozens and dozens of stands selling them. Pick your toppings, walk up to the cruise and see if you can take down the beast while enjoying a cruise on the Bosphorus. 


Before going to Emirgan Park, make sure to go to Sütiş (pronounced as sutish) Emirgan for a full Turkish breakfast to feast your eyes with the several organic plates and of course satisfy your stomach with the delicious taste of the foods. Sütiş will offer you an authentic Turkish breakfast that ranges from eggs, to jams, several kinds of breads and pastry, to dairy and charcuterie. With a magnificent view of the Bosphorus and the warm service of the staff, rest assured that you won’t be disappointed by waking up a tad bit early and coming to Emirgan for breakfast before an adventure at the park. 


Walk a few miles up and you’ll see Mandarin Oriental Istanbul, which has newly opened its doors to its guests. The five-star rooms and service aside, the hotel has gained much admiration with its Novikov restaurant. Placed right next to the shoreline, the restaurant offers you a fusion of the Italian, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. Whether it’s before or after your stroll, the casual and calm atmosphere allows you to undergo a sensory serenity with the delicious food you eat alongside the magnificent view. So, in short, make sure to also feed your soul while you have the chance to do so in Istanbul.

Need to Know

Looking for more recommendations in Turkey? Check out my guide on History, Architecture and Fine Dining in Istanbul.

Advisor - Ellie Zade

Travel Advisor

Ellie Zade

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