What I loved about Istanbul was the lively atmosphere everywhere and at all times. Streets full of food stands, bazars, always a breeze from the Bosporus and very friendly people made my visit nice and memorable.
Exploring the neighborhoods
We stayed in Kadıköy on the Asian side of the city, which I really recommend. It is less styled and more alternative than Beyoğlu for example. The food market of this neighborhood takes place throughout the day and is amazing. Fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, tea, fresh herbs and spices, honey, nuts and Turkish specialties. You will also find a lot of good restaurants there and it is definitely worth to spend a night in this area even though when you are staying on the European side. Start with dinner and end up in one of the numerous bars.
If you plan to visit the European side what you should do, take the ferry to Beşiktaş. It is located on the European shore of Bosporus and home of world known luxury brands and some hipster shops as well as of a popular market district. The fish market for example is legendary, but since I am a Vegetarian, it was not my priority and I arrived too late.
If you like to walk, you can walk to Taksim Meydanı and then you are in Beyoğlu, a neighborhood which is home to many shops, cafés, restaurants and cool hotels. Take the İstiklal Caddesi street, one of Istanbuls main shopping streets to the Galata Tower and continue walking on the Serdar-ı Ekrem street. This is a cute cobble stone road which food and flea markets and side alleys are worth a detour.
Continue walking to the port quarter Karaköy where you finally arrive at the Galata Köprüsü – the Galata Bridge. This bridge offers amazing views and is the connection between Beyoğlu and Eminönü. There are fishermen all day and because of the views, I definitely recommend to walk and take some photos.
Eminönü is home of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Topkapı Palace, the Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar) and the Kapalı Çarşı (Big Bazaar). Because of these amazing places, a visit to Eminönü is mandatory. Ferries bring you from Kadıköy and also from Beyoğlu to Eminönü.
Back on Asian side, above Kadıköy, there is Üsküdar. This neighborhood is not famous, but super nice for a walk on the Bosporus. People use to go swimming, sunbathing and taking boat trips there. If you are in Istanbul, a trip to Üsküdar should be on your list.
From Asia to Europe and back
To move between the different neighborhoods of Istanbul, take the ferries. There are also taxis, trains, tram ways and busses, but it is very relaxing on the ferry and always a great activity itself. I enjoyed every minute of a ferry ride. After you arrive at your destination, tram ways are great, if a walk would be too long. Buy an Istanbul Card when you arrive in the city. You can reload it again and again and it is valid for all public transport options including the ferries.
Istanbul is a great city and the neighborhoods are different regarding architecture, people and things to do. That’s why I think, you should stay at least for 4 to 5 full days to have enough time to enjoy the life between Asia and Europe.