Lately, Istanbul has changed a lot. Yes, it has always been big, fast, spry, nimble and chaotic. And yes, it has always been vitally important to breathe and think in Istanbul’s rhythm. Otherwise, it will throw you out.
Istanbul has become bitter and desperate. Recent terrorist attacks, the attempted military coup, a tourist embargo with a neighboring country stopped tourists from visiting the city. Hotels in Istanbul are now half empty and the souvenirs in small shops are covered with dust. The merchants can only dream of the profits they used to have over the past years.
I could really feel that there is a struggle for every Lira. No, they don’t fight for a client, they only want one’s money. The merchants lie aggressively and when I pointed it out to them they laughed at my face. During this trip to Istanbul, I felt like I was an ATM machine that had to give out banknotes upon every demand.
Of course, not all people from Istanbul act this way. Most of the people who do not work in tourism are friendly and kind. Despite the political and economic situation in the country, they have remained wonderful and helpful.
If you also experienced this attitude as we did and you want to hide from the city here is a guide to a different Istanbul. Let’s enjoy the city’s main sightseeing sites but from a new perspective.
A rooftop overlooking Aghia Sophia
This is probably the most romantic place to enjoy the sunset over Aghia Sophia and the Bosphorus and see the seagulls flying above you. This is also the time when the evening prayer begins and it can be heard from the minarets of the mosques. The wind, loud voices of the seagulls, the prayer make Istanbul sound very different from what you feel in its streets. Isn’t this a perfect place for a picnic?
This rooftop belongs to an abandoned building next to Bonhotel at Sultanahmet 5. You may get to the rooftop through the window in the kitchen of the hotel. To do this you need to kindly ask the hotel manager. You can also buy a bottle of wine in the lobby and ask for elegant wine glasses.
If you also like to meet the city’s culture through exploring its markets, then you should visit Inebolu Market where farmers bring their products. This market is very authentic and lives its own life, as it is rarely visited by tourists.
Opening hours: Sunday 7 am – 5 pm
Address: Küçük Piyale Mahallesi, Toprak Tabya Sokak Kasımpaşa
How to get there: Go to the bus station at Eminönü and take the bust to Toprak Tabya Sokak.
Rooftop above Grand Bazaar
James Bond always chooses the most scenic locations for his adventures. Do you remember his famous motorbike ride on the rooftops of Grand Bazaar? That rooftop is not accessible for visitors but there is another one called Büyük Valide Han.
Pass through the Egyptian Market and ask the local merchants where the secret door is. Pay two Liras to an old man who is guarding the door and enjoy a spectacular view of the old part of Istanbul.
Istanbul is very beautiful when you look at it from the water. The Bosphorus divides it into two parts: the old city with ancient mosques and minarets pointing up into the sky, and the new part with a modern skyline and glass buildings reflecting the sun’s rays onto the water and boats. A public ferry is a great way to explore Istanbul and its surroundings. Just take any one you like and enjoy your day. Then take another and see where it will take you. You can also take a ferry to the Prince Islands from Eminönü ferry docks. During the Byzantine period, princes and other royalty were exiled on the islands. Later, members of the Ottoman Sultan’s family were exiled there as well, so this is why the islands were named Prince.
A great place with great people
My overall stay in Istanbul was very unpleasant, that is why I want to tell you about a great place where you can meet some great and friendly people.
When we had just arrived in Istanbul, we had trouble finding our hotel so we asked a man for help. He was enjoying a conversation and a cup of coffee in a pub on the corner. He left his table and guided us to the front door of the hotel. Later in the evening, we came to the same pub for an evening drink and we met him again. His name is Nuri and he is a manager at the pub. He was very friendly, and told us about Inebolu market and gave directions how to get to the Prince islands.
If you come to Istanbul, just visit Port Shield Gulhane and say «Hi» to him. By the way, this pub has a great selection of beer there, which can rarely be found in Istanbul city center.
The address is: Ebusuud Caddesi No:2 Sultanahmet