Experience Istanbul Like a Local: Things to Do Off the Beaten Path
Istanbul is a city that’s full of history, culture, and adventure. If you’re looking to experience the city like a local, there are a few must-see activities that you won’t want to miss. From exploring hidden neighborhoods to indulging in local cuisine, here are five off-the-beaten-path experiences that will give you a unique and authentic taste of Istanbul.
Visit the Kadikoy Market on the Asian Side.
While the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market are popular tourist destinations, the Kadikoy Market on the Asian side of Istanbul offers a more local experience. Here, you can find fresh produce, seafood, and spices, as well as clothing and household items. Take a stroll through the market and sample some of the local street food, like simit (a circular bread covered in sesame seeds) or kokoreç (grilled lamb intestines). Don’t forget to haggle with the vendors for the best prices!
Take a Ferry to the Princes’ Islands.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul by taking a ferry to the Princes’ Islands. These nine islands in the Sea of Marmara are car-free and offer a peaceful retreat from the city. Rent a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage to explore the islands and visit historic landmarks like the Hagia Yorgi Monastery and the Aya Triada Greek Orthodox Church. Don’t forget to try some of the local seafood at one of the island’s many restaurants.
Explore the Fener and Balat Neighborhoods.
For a glimpse into Istanbul’s rich history and culture, head to the Fener and Balat neighborhoods. These areas are known for their colorful houses, narrow streets, and historic landmarks like the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Chora Church. Take a walking tour to learn about the area’s Jewish, Greek, and Armenian communities and sample some of the delicious local cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Balat Street Art and take some Instagram-worthy photos.
Visit the Chora Church and Museum.
The Chora Church, also known as the Kariye Museum, is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in Byzantine art and architecture. Located in the Edirnekapi neighborhood, this 11th-century church is famous for its stunning mosaics and frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The museum also houses a collection of Ottoman-era ceramics and textiles. Be sure to book a guided tour to fully appreciate the history and significance of this beautiful landmark.
Take a Sunset Stroll Along the Bosphorus.
While many tourists flock to the popular tourist spots in Istanbul, locals know that one of the best ways to experience the city is by taking a sunset stroll along the Bosphorus. This strait separates Europe and Asia and offers stunning views of the city’s skyline and historic landmarks. Start at the Ortakoy neighborhood and walk towards the Bosphorus Bridge, stopping at cafes and restaurants along the way to enjoy traditional Turkish cuisine. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking sunset views.