My City Celebrates: Aysegul’s Istanbul

This year, inspired by our ever-popular “I Heart My City”

series on Intelligent Travel, we’re reveling in the holiday season by asking our readers to share their favorite ways to celebrate in their cities. Today’s city-lover is Aysegul Surenkok, who shows us what Christmas is like in Istanbul.

What to share the things that make your city special?

We’ve put together a festively-themed fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, and we’d love to hear your responses. So cut and paste the list, fill in your answers, and e-mail us your picks at intelligenttravel@ngs.org.

(Please include links and photos if possible). We’ll be featuring your “My City Celebrates” posts through the New Year, click here for a list of cities we’ve featured so far. Happy Holidays!

My City Celebrates: Istanbul

When I need a dose of holiday cheer, I always head to Kuledibi Mahallesi and stroll around its back streets, shop for niche items, and climb the Galata Tower for a vast view. Or I head for the Bebek Coast for a lovely parade or take the ferry to Adalar (the Princes’ Islands).

The best place to grab a cup of cocoa is the Ara Café on Istiklal Street–their Mexican-style hot cocoa tastes like real chocolate in liquid form.

If you want to find great sledding you have to head to Kartepe, the nearest mountain for skiiing, or Kartalkaya.

Strap on your skates–more likely your rollerblades in Istanbul–at Sahilyolu (Coastline) by the Asian Bosphorus and enjoy the view of the Princes’ Islands.

For a classic holiday photo op, be sure to check out the historical monuments in Sultanahmet. Or for a more unique experience, treat yourself to a hammam (Turkish Bath) session in Cemberlitaş Hammam or Galatasaray Hammam. They are known as a meeting hub for the ladies to select a ‘bride’ for their sons, as well as for their architectural and historical significance.

A great place to take the kids during the season is Mohini, which features workshops and activities for kids.

For all of your gift-giving shopping in one store, check out the Grand Bazaar.

Beyoğlu

has the best markets. Be sure to pick up something authentic, maybe an old music plaque or an encyclopedic book on Istanbul for a culture-minded friend.

No holiday meal in my city is complete without baklava or katmer.

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My favorite holiday tradition in my city is to take the ferry

and do a Bosphorus tour after a long Turkish-style brunch.

Locals know to avoid the throngs at posh nightclubs for celebratory events and find the real magic at meyhanes (taverns) or local neighborhood bars like Mavra or Lucca.

The best part about my city during the holiday season is the vivid street life of its artisan neighborhoods such as Eminönü, Sirkeci and Taksim, as they prepare for the holiday season.

Photo: novon via Flickr

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