Istanbul Travel Guide
Colonized for centuries by non-muslim minorities and foreign traders, the district of Beyoglu (pronounced be-yoh-LU and formerly known as Pera), across the Golden Horn Strait from the historic center, has always been the cosmopolitan heart of Istanbul.
A much more manageable affair than the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market (a.k.a. the Egyptian Bazaar) is the place to find caviar and saffron, honeycombs and coffee, plus fun souvenirs like prayer beads.
Not only does Istanbul’s chicest set live in the Nisantisi neighborhood in Istanbul, they shop there too.
Also known as the Egyptian or Gypsy Bazaar, this covered market’s main attraction isn’t, sadly, the eponymous spices (no, that’s not real saffron at an unbelievably low price—it’s safflower, which isn’t the same thing at all).
Located in the Beyoğlu district, this artisan shop sells handmade candles in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Translating to “pearl candle,” Sedef Mum uses patented production methods and European candle-making traditions to ensure quality, one-of-a-kind products.
Better known as the Blue Mosque—for the 20,000 blue tiles that line its domed ceiling—this 17th-century architectural masterpiece is Turkey’s crown jewel.
Time your visit with the sunset—and the evening call to prayer. That’s when young locals file in for cocktails, like fresh-ginger–and–muddled-lime mojitos, and jockey for steel stools on the open-air terrace overlooking the city’s two coastlines and the Bosporus strait in between.
This is not a luxury spa—don’t expect aromatherapy or an oxygen facial—but it’s a perfectly serviceable salon for basic freshening-up if you’re in need of a shampoo, blow-dry, shave, or manicure.
The rapidly gentrifying side streets between Cihangir and İstiklâl Caddesi are lined with shops selling antiques, furniture, and weird-but-wonderful junk.
For a peaceful place to get right with God—or to get away from the PA system—prayer rooms, called masjids, are available throughout the airport (5 a.m.–11 p.m.). Men and women pray separately (and in modest clothing—no shorts or bare arms).
Towards the south end of the city’s main commercial drag, Istiklal Caddesi, Robinson Crusoe bookshop often teems with intellectuals, expatriates, and tourists, who come for the high-end English language books.
What Lies Beneath: Eighty-two feet below Istanbul is a 450-foot-long, 213-foot-wide former royal reservoir.
A pious, conservative district populated mostly by migrants from Anatolia (like Wasilla, but warmer), Üsküdar is positively hopping in the evenings; on summer nights, the boardwalk here is an Islamic Coney Island.
Set in a lavish 19th-century mansion overlooking the Golden Horn, the privately funded museum stages exhibitions such as a show of Kutahya pottery and Orientalist portraits from the late Ottoman era.