My Top 5 Favourite Places In Istanbul

Day 315/365: Some must-see and do while in the city

Istanbul is huge. It’s a 15-million people city. That’s why thinking about the top 5 favourite places is a hard thing to do. But I’m a words hero and, as far as I’m concerned, these 5 places are a must for any traveller going to Istanbul. You have to see and experience these places even if you’re in the city for just one day. Do nothing else, just take an Istanbulkart, Google Map these places and start your Istanbul story straight away.

Spices Bazaar

If you’re going to Istanbul, you’ll probably want to go to the famous Grand Bazaar in the middle of the old city. Don’t. Well, do go and explore, but don’t buy anything. Why? Because the Grand Bazaar has become a touristy spot like no other in the entire city. Prices are ridiculous even for simple stuff like tea, Turkish delight or coffee. If you want to bargain for some clothes, you’re in for the scam of your life. They forget the clothes are fake!

Instead, put the address for the Spices Bazaar on your GPS. It’s not even very far away from the Grand Bazaar, but it’s miles and miles away from it in terms of prices. I was able to buy the same fake wallet for 60% less at the shop near the spices market. Spices, by the way, as well as other foods and things are at half the price here. Just do yourself a favour and come straight here, without even passing through the Grand Bazaar if you know you’re an impulsive buyer.

Dolombache Palace

This is the most beautiful palace I have ever been into. This place is magical. I can now see why sultans lived for so long and why they were viewed as trully powerful individuals. Just walking through the halls of the palace will leave you speechless. The courtyards, the doors that face the sea, the crystal staircase, the ceremonial halls, sultan’s apartments and so on, they will simply amaze you to the point of wanderlust coma.

I had a travellers moment when I stepped into the ceremonial hall, which is right at the end of the tour of the main palace. The place is huge, extremely beautiful and simply grand! The chandelier in the middle of the hall is spectacular, hanging straight from the middle of the ceiling to the very bottom of the room. The columns are gorgeous, the paintings and decorations as well and the entire room is simply spectacular.

Shezade Ceg Kebap

Food is both my pleasure and my pain. My pain because I always overeat and therefore have a thought time staying in shape. I’m never in shape. And my pleasure because I can simply experience an entire culture through its food. Shezade Ceg Kebap is one of those places that will stay with me forever and ever. It’s located in a small local market with some other eateries and it serves just one dish, a meat skewer with some onion salad and a pita. That’s it. But man, does it tastes like heaven on your taste buds!

As soon as it touches your lips and the tongue, the juicy meat melts and turns into almost like a meat sauce. It’s so tender, it can slip off the skewer if you’re not careful enough. Rip some of the soft, thin pita and use it to slide off a piece of meat, then dunk the whole bite into the onions before taking it to your mouth. Sit back, try to relax and enjoy every single bite. You’ll know this is more than a kebab place as soon as you’ll have your first bite.

The place is legendary and has been recommended to me by everybody. And yes, it has lived up to my expectations. Delicious, quite cheap and ideal for lunch and dinner. I paid 25 liras for three meat skewers, pita, onions salad, an ayran drink and water. I was filled and emotional when I was done, realising I’ll never be able to look at shawarma or doner meat in my country as “passable”, let alone “good” or “great” ever again. But it’s the price you’ll have to pay to simply have a food experience that will stay with you forever.

Kadikoy

If there’s one thing I’d do differently for my trip to Istanbul, that would be getting a hotel in Kadikoy, the Asian district of the city. Why? Because this region of the metropolis is 50% cheaper on all services, food, drinks, accommodation and so on. I don’t know how they do it. I even got a full haircut, beard job and massage for 25 liras, which is less than 5 bucks!

Kadikoy is accessible by the ferry and a trip over the water takes 20 minutes and costs only 50 cents US. That’s a steal considering you can live in the district and simply commute when you want to go and visit the main landmarks of the city. The food here is cheaper, the atmosphere is more lively and the people are much more friendly because the flocks of tourists are yet to be a problem in this area of town.

Balkan Locantasi

This gem saved me a ton of money and had me experiencing true local Turkish cooking at its very finest. Located steps away from the Shezade place, Balkan Locantasi is far away from being a fancy restaurant. You’ll not find meat shows like at the Nusr-Et places that Salt Bae so meticulously made famous through Instagram. Nor will you find crystal glasses or gold plates. Instead, you’ll find full meals for less than 3 bucks that will simply blow you away.

By the third day, the server already knew my order. Lentil soup, chickpea side and a main of rather a kofte (Turkish lamb meatballs) or beef with aubergine. For dessert, kunefe, rice pudding or just some ice-cream. All of that for less than $3 is simply insane. And the quality of the food is just phenomenal. Yes, the legendary places are amazing, but if you’re in Istanbul for more than 3–4 days, they become a little expensive and repetitive. This place is a gem. Treat it kindly!

Thank you for your time!

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