There is so much more to see in Istanbul than just the main sites of Sultanahmet. Just across the Galata Bridge are some of the cities most interesting sites, colourful landmarks and a vibrant and exciting atmosphere of both tourists and locals alike. And it’s a great introduction to a more local Istanbul.
Welcome to Beyoglu.
Istiklal Street – by day.
The number one thing to do in Beyoglu is walk up famous Istiklal Street to Taksim Square. Stretching over 1.4km, it’s visited by an estimated 3 million people per day. You could take the old trams that run up the street but that would be missing all the fun. So much life surrounds you as you walk down the street – there truly is all walks of life represented. If you get bored of people watching, there are all kinds of shops along the street, from big name brands to small ice cream and sweet shops.
Head off down one of the back streets and you’ll find peace, quiet and a lot of coffee shops, teahouses and restaurants.
Istiklal Street – by night.
Nighttime is when the street and surrounds really come to life. There’s such a great atmosphere. And if the crush of people gets too much, just pop down one of the side alleys where you’ll find a restaurant or bar to relax in for a while.
There are also a couple of streets of Istiklal Street, famously lined with ‘meyhane’ restaurants – meaning places you can drink and eat food. Pick your alcohol of choice (raki – because you’re in Turkey) and some food to compliment and you have the making of a fun night!
At the end of Istiklal St (or beginning – depending on where you start) is Taksim Square. The name of the square might sound familiar – there have been a few big protests in the square over the years, the most recent in 2013. The protests are the exception, most days things are peaceful and Taksim Square is a great place to meet friends or people watch. Night or day, whenever we visited, it was always busy with a large mix of locals and tourists.
You can see the Galata tower from almost anywhere in Istanbul. You can climb to the top for views across Istanbul. It was a bit overpriced in our opinion, but you can’t argue that the views were spectacular.
Views across to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
The arty and colourful side of Istanbul.
There was a surprising amount of street art in the area, especially in the back streets of Istiklal Street.
Last but not least – the Dolmabahçe Palace.
When the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, wanted a more modern place to live than the Topaki Palace, he had a new palace built between 1843 and 1856. The resulting Dolmabahçe palace was home to six sultans and when Ataturk came to power, it became the presidential summer residence. Atatürk sadly also died here on November 10, 1938.
Entrance to the palace is available only through a palace run tour and photographs aren’t allowed. So you’ll have to trust us, it was a stunning building inside.
Where to stay in Istanbul?
If you are thinking of staying in Istanbul, we can’t recommend staying in Beyoglu enough. From Beyoglu you can easily get to the tourist sites by day – Sultanahmet is a quick journey by either tram (the quick way) or ferry (the romantic way). Both are cheap. And at night, the best restaurants, bars, coffee and tea houses are all nearby. With a mix of locals as well as tourists, it’s a great place to stay in Istanbul.