- Where the Locals Go
Where the locals go: Istanbul
Sevcan Celik fulfilled a lifelong dream when she moved to Istanbul. Raised on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey, she relocated to the famously transcontinental city in 2009 to pursue a master’s degree and couldn’t be happier about the decision. “When I feel depressed, crossing the bridge is enough. When I want to celebrate, I can find an event that suits my mood easily,” she says. “Why would I leave Istanbul and go somewhere else?”
When she’s not working as a digital marketing manager for a real estate company, Sevcan scours her city for exceptional eats and experiences, then shares her finds with the world by blogging for Spotted by Locals. Here are a few of Sevcan’s favorite things about the rich cultural crossroads she’s proud to call home.
Istanbul Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them to is Ortaköy, an old fishing village where you can now find many little shops and restaurants in addition to one of Istanbul’s most famous mosques and a great view of the Bosphorus strait.
Summer is the best time to visit my city because the weather is nice, many traditional places are open, and you can have fun outside by taking a ferry tour of all the visitor hot spots.
You can see my city best from the top of the Hagia Sophia. The massive sixth-century structure, which first served as a Christian basilica and later as an imperial mosque, is now a museum.
Locals know to skip the Sultanahmet District and check out Kadıköy Square instead.
The Eminönü Grand Bazaar is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs, such as traditional kitchen equipment, spices, and handmade artisanal goods. The market is truly the heart of Istanbul and the focal point of an incredibly rich history.
In the past, notable people like composer Franz Liszt, mystery writer Agatha Christie (who wrote Murder on the Orient Express from an Istanbul hotel room), and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is Topkapı Palace Museum because when the Ottoman Empire ended in 1923, it became the newly created Republic of Turkey’s very first museum.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Taksim Square, the best pedestrian street in Istanbul. Located in the Beyoğlu district, the square is where you’ll find shops, restaurants, little bazaars, street music, and food vendors. It’s all a big collection of several cultures together in one place.
For a fancy night out, I go to Nuteras or Nardis Jazz Club.
The best outdoor market in my city is Salı Pazari.
Privato Cafe is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Kızılkayalar is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Spotted by Locals.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I go to Beşiktaş for inexpensive but incredibly tasty seafood.
To escape the crowds, I go to Yeniköy Kahvesi, a Turkish-style coffeehouse where you can eat, drink, or simply read a book for hours without interruption. This lesser known place is a bit far from the city center, but you can get there using public transportation.
The dish that represents my city best is manti (Turkish ravioli), and black tea or ayran—a yogurt beverage mixed with salt—is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Casita and Cafe Nar, respectively.
Roxy is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out MiniMüzikhol.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swimming Race could only happen in my city. Each July, thousands of athletes from Turkey and well beyond get together in Istanbul to cross from the Asian to the European side of the Bosphorus to experience the strait’s exquisite beauty.
In the spring you should feast on our seasonal produce, such as asparagus, fava beans, green onions, sour green plums, loquats, mulberries, and strawberries. Spring also means fish season, so be sure to sample the red gurnard, red mullet, swordfish, turbot, and sea bass.
In the summer you should visit the Prince Islands.
In the fall you should discover the city’s rich (and safe) street culture on foot while the weather is cool. Must-visit neighborhoods include Cihangir, Tophane, Galatasary, and Karaköy.
In the winter you should make sure to bring warm clothes and bundle up while you’re exploring.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Istanbul Toy Museum. The unique attraction was founded by poet Sunay Akin and established with toys that were collected at auctions and antique shops in more than 40 countries over a period of 20 years.
The best book about my city is Living in İstanbul by Kenizé Mourad because it’s a good way for travelers to learn about Istanbul’s thousand-and-one delights before they come to experience it for themselves.