Note: I now have a much more detailed Istanbul round-up post here.
I recently took a 6-day trip to Istanbul, where I was wow-ed by the new flavours and the food. I could have spent weeks in Istanbul, just eating… and eating… and eating. The history was incredibly fascinating as well. To finally see the Hagia Sophia after reading so much about Byzantine conquest and the intrigues of the Ottoman empire inspires… hagiography. The Bosphorus is a beautiful place, and is a invaluable treasure for Istanbulites.
First up, some general tips:
- Get a SIM card in Turkey (Vodafone sells one for 100 TL == 60 USD). I fortunately had 3G access for 5 days, and could easily map out where I wanted to go. However, I used up all my data within those 5 days -> this works out to about $12-15 USD a day. I found that this internet connection was a price worth paying, but your mileage will vary. (and to be fair, I used a ton of data)
- Get this guide book – Istanbul Eats. I serendipitously bumped into it at the Topkapi palace main gift shop. It is also sold in all major bookstores in Turkey At that point I had followed the Lonely Planet guide to Istanbul, which guided me to so-so and overpriced places. I was not impressed by the 2 meals that Lonely Planet Guidebook guided me to. (I eventually had to make up for this by eating 5 meals a day). The third edition is however, riddled with map errors. Try to get a later edition.
Things I really should have done (Don’t make the same mistake!)
- Get ample luggage space, and PACK THE FRUITS AND NUTS AND TURKISH DELIGHT (LOKUM) IN. Budget multiples of 50TL for this. America is just not a good place for nuts or dried fruits. (and of course, Lokum) You want all that Turkish goodness with you.
- Go for the Istanbul Eats walking tour! Very very important.
- Look at the Istanbul Eats website.
Here are some inspiring eats from Istanbul. By the way, I left most of my food reviews of Istanbul on Foursquare, so you can see more pictures and my precise thoughts if you use foursquare in Istanbul!