Although 8 hours may seem short, we managed to cover a whole lot of Istanbul. Here’s the perfect guide to eating the best local food and exploring the key sights and sounds. If you ever have a lay over, here’s how you can literally, conquer Istanbul!
Updated: 16 July 2019
Istanbul is one of the most breath-taking cities you can visit. Not only is it rich in culture and history, it has some of the best food in the world! While the country is not known for vegetarian food, their hummus, mezzes (appetizers) and baba gonush more than make up for it.
We recommend visiting Istanbul in the summers. The peak tourist seasons are May-August when millions visit the city from abroad. The weather is amazing and the city is full of life.
A city of 15 million people that spans two continents, Istanbul really has something for everyone. There is so much to see, visit, and eat that we could never possibly compile everything in a single article. However, if you find your self in Istanbul over a weekend or on a stop-over, there are a couple of things you should definitely see and try!
Make your first stop at Taksim Square, probably the most famous district in Istanbul. With tons of hotels, restaurants and cafes on every corner, Taksim is vibrant and full of life!
Walk through the labyrinth of alleys and explore the heart of this grand city. Maybe grab some smoked chestnuts or try the famous Turkish ice cream called Dondurma as the mischievous vendors play silly games with you!
If you get tired of doing that, simply stroll along Istiklal street and listen to the numerous street musicians on Taksim. You can enjoy anything from Turkish classics to Jazz and Hip hop. Taksim is the perfect place to spend a few hours as you people-watch, eat and enjoy the city.
Vegefied Tip: Make sure to visit the Independence monument. It is one of the oldest monuments in turkey and a definite heritage site.
Once you’re done spending time in Taksim, try to check out the other icon of the city – The Bhosphorus.
The Bhosphorus is a narrow sea strait that forms a natural barrier between Asia and Europe. In old times, the Bhosphorus gave Istanbul a natural dominance over the rich sea trade between Europe and Asia. Today, this water body is as busy as ever, with merchant ships, yachts and sea taxis cross-crossing 24/7.
You can explore the legendary Golden Horn, admire the beautiful hills of the city or marvel at the silhouette of the many ancient minarets across the horizon.
Vegefied Tip: If you want to have a bit more fun and have a bigger budget, try to take a private yacht over the Bosphorus. It is a more intimate experience that you will never forget.
Hagia Sophia is an ancient monument not to be missed. What was once a Greek Orthodox Church, it was turned into a Mosque during the Ottoman rule and is now a heritage museum.
Once, the largest building in the world, it is the most important Byzantine structure in the city with a history spanning almost 1,500 years. The ancient mosaic work is still visible inside and the medieval corridors will take you back in time!
While not required, it is better to visit the building in modest clothes, which means no shorts for both men and women.
Vegefied Tip: If you have more time, visit the adjacent Blue mosque and the carpet museum nearby!
When in Taksim, make sure to walk to the end of the square and try Patosis. This is a little fast food joint, where you can grab a quick on-the-go bite.
If you’re a potato lover, you will instantly fall in love with this place. They serve pippin’ hot baked potatoes with an endless choice of toppings!
Located on the famed Istiklal street, Butimar Cafe is another great place to spend a few hours. Try their Sheesha or their famous “nargile” (middle eastern tobacco pipe). If you are not into smoking, you can try their delicious cakes and pastries with a pomegranate tea, limonata or a simple coffee!
Located in Sisli, just north of Taksim Square, Healin Foods has a hipster vibe and is thronged with students and tourists all day long. They specialise in a ‘Healthy’ menu and you will be able to find loads of vegetarian and even vegan options.
We tired their decadent gluten free peanut butter and banana pancakes, which was basically a restructured protein shake – both healthy and filling.
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