Istanbul is where east meets west – a city unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a cosmopolitan city that has hosted many civilisations throughout the ages. I could write pages and pages describing the rich history and beauty of this city.
Traces of the Roman Empire and Ottoman Empire are still felt in the underground cities, the incredible architecture and the waterways of the beautiful Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul is a destination with many different local flavours and unique artisans.
Arnavutköy and Fatih Peninsula in Beşiktaş
My favourite places to visit in Istanbul are Arnavutköy and Fatih Peninsula. The reason why Arnavutköy is so special is that it has preserved the traditional heritage of Istanbul so well. There you have wooden Ottoman mansions, beautiful seafood restaurants and great views of the sea.
The Fatih Peninsula, on the other hand, completely resembles the Istanbul of the past. Many underground cities, the old Byzantin palaces of Sultanahmet, the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, are all located in this one place called Fatih Peninsula.
Photography in Istanbul: Where East Meets West
Some of my best memories in Istanbul are from surprising moments which occur when I go on photography shoots. For example, I’ll never forget meeting a man called Kemal who worked in an old carpentry shop in the Edirnekapı quarter.
He told me that he lost his family many years ago and that he couldn’t find his loved ones in the graves located around the city. His tragic story left a deep mark on me. For me, it’s always those human connections in the city that stay with me.
How to Spend the Perfect 48 Hours in Istanbul
I think for those who have 48 hours to spend in Istanbul they should divide their trip into two parts. Day one should be spent at the European regions of the Anatolian side and the other day at the Fatih Peninsula.
You can reach the Anatolian side by crossing the Bosphorus on a ferry. The best neighbourhoods to explore on the Anatolian side are Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, Çengelköy, Beykoz, Arnavutköy, Beşiktaş, Beykoz Yalı Village and Taksim. Exploring these neighbourhoods would be sufficient for one day.
In the evening, you can get a nice wine in Taksim, delicious fish bread in Yeniköy, and a beautiful cake in Arnavutköy.
On day two – head to the Fatih Peninsula. The first sight on everyone’s bucket list should be the beautiful Hagia Sophia whose name means “holy wisdom”. This domed monument was built as a cathedral in Constantinople in the sixth century A.D. It’s an incredible place!
Next, discover the Süleymaniye Mosque and its quaint back streets. Then head to the Zeyrek neighbourhood which overlooks the Golden Horn.
There are a couple of beautiful Byzantine cisterns to visit and also the little Şeyh Süleyman Mosque. It’s a slightly poorer neighbourhood but it’s very picturesque nonetheless.
For those who are visiting Istanbul for more than 48 hours, I would recommend exploring as many different regions as possible. Underground Cisterns, back streets such as Beykoz Yalı village, palaces and dining places where local people eat.
I recommend getting lost in the city and finding yourself somewhere new. It’s the best way to experience Istanbul: where east meets west!
Cuisine of Istanbul: Where East Meets West
There are many reasons to visit Istanbul but perhaps the most alluring reason is just for the food alone! Did somebody say Turkish coffee and Turkish delight (lokum)? Well, the perfect place to find these two treats is in the Grand Bazaar.
Kebabs are another staple food of Istanbul. The Unkapani Baran is where you go to find Turkish kebabs with deliciously cooked barbeque meat.
If you want to have a drink and gaze at the beauty of Sultanahmet – then Ambassador Hotel or Seven Hills Hotel is your best bet! For another spectacular view, this time of the Bosphorus, go to Zincirlikuyu Mercure Hotel Restaurant.
Of course, no trip to Istanbul is complete without trying Raki. This sweet, anise-flavoured alcoholic drink is popular in Turkey and other countries like Albania. Safa Tavern is the best place in Istanbul to try it!
Tips for your Visit to Istanbul: Where East Meets West
The most important tip when exploring cities (not just Istanbul) is to do some reading on the history. It makes exploring all those traditional neighbourhoods and beautiful old buildings that much more interesting.
There is so much to explore in Istanbul like back streets, hidden neighbourhoods, beautiful pieces of architecture and rooftops that you would need a whole lifetime to see it all!
For me, as a landscape photographer, I try to explore undiscovered parts of the city – hanging out on rooftops waiting for that perfect moment to capture. I recommend you do the same!
You will find me hanging out on the rooftops of a place called Araştırma. When you come here, hunt out the terraces, hotels and restaurants that are not popular because you’ll get immersed in an enormous street.
Overall, stay young at heart and sing along with the tune of the city. There will be people singing on the streets, so join them if you get the chance. Have a great trip in Istanbul: where east meets west!