Istanbul, five tips by…

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She lives in a district on the Bosphorus, just a bit away from the old town and knows exactly where to have a coffee and where the dolphins swim. Soon she will leave the city altogether, but not before sharing her tips on Istanbul. The five things she will miss most.

Merhaba! My name is Elja and I have lived in Istanbul for two years. Soon I will move back to the Netherlands, but here you will find the five things I will miss most in this beautiful city. My Istanbul tips:

1. Santral Istanbul

Another museum? Really? Yes of course! As a mother of three young kids I like to combine the good with the good-for-kids. And that is  perfectly possible especially in Santral Istanbul. ‘Santral’ like in in ‘Central’. This more than a century old former power station in the corner of the Golden Horn is now a museum on energy. Downstairs you can experiment, but upstairs is even more fun: here the old control room is still as it use to be. You go to the actual powerhouse on a ladder and there you can climb on just everything you see. On the website they have a cool movie of how it looks like. With children playing without parental supervision. Unheard of in Holland but in Turkey still allowed.

After that you can have breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner at one of these very hip restaurants in the museum grounds. Weekend brunches are very popular there. A perfect day out (also without kids). Too bad it is no longer allowed to drink beer or wine here, a recent change. But still, it is a wonderful place. Both inside and outside.

2. Breakfast in the Istanbul Modern

I have not visited all museums in Istanbul, but the Istanbul Modern is one of my favorites. Beautiful modern art, great exhibitions and the place itself is a sight for sore eyes because of the industrial look and feel. Even the staircase and the ceiling are works of art to be contemplated. But there is more…! Locals know that Istanbul Modern is the best place in town to have breakfast outside with one of the best views ever. Eating a delicious Turkish breakfast with a view of the Golden Horn and the Topkapı Palace, what more can you ask for. If you get there at 10.00 sharp, the terrace will most likely be almost full already, but it is worth the wait, also for lunch. Afiyet Olsun!

P.S.What only locals know is that you can have bad luck. The museum borders on a pier for cruise ships and they sometimes berth just in front of the museum. Bit of a pity if you happen to celebrate your wedding as often happens here. But the art collection nor the breakfast is any less for it.

5. Karaköy

Of course you have tot take pictures and instagrams of the  Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque in the background. The best way to do that is from the pier in Karaköy  When you are at the beginning of the famous Galata Bridge on the opposite site of the old town, then simply take the underground pedestrian walkway and make sure you end up on the left side from the bridge. Walk to the water and behold! Many renown photographers use this beautiful view with the local tourists on the foreground in their famous shots. But the right-hand sight of the bridge is also worth exploring because you find many hans here ( see below), a famous fish market and more. A dream spot for photographers.

Ready taking pics? Take the boat to the Asian site and back. With a public transportation ticket (Istanbul Kart), for sale in most tabacconist’s for a few lira’s you can travel endlessly up and down the Bosphorus or the golden Horn.

The best and most fun form of transport in Istanbul. And it’s cheap!

Istanbul is much more than the area around the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazar and the Hagia Sophia (although very beautiful!) You get to know her best by getting of the beaten track and just walking around and enjoying a cup of Turkish tea. I hope you will enjoy it  just as much as I do!

On friday and saturdaynight Ortaköy is the most important entertainment district. Here you will find the famous nightclub of Turkey: Reina. A must for clubbers! Tip: make a reservation for diner in one of Reina’s restaurants (choose the 9:30 p.m. sitting), then you are guaranteed a good place on the dance floor later that night. Not cheap, but a real experience. Turkish people appreciate luxury.

4. Hans

One of the most special things in the old town are the hans. That is plural: 1 han, 2 hans. Somtimes the are also called caravanserai. Hans are the old traders’ stopping places for instance on the silk route, used when they were doing business in Constantinople. They consist of gallery’s around courtyards, sometimes even with a mosque.

The goods were stored on the ground floor, while the traders slept upstairs. Every han had its own specialty: gold trade, diplomats, fur, spices, etc. In fact the Grand Bazar is nothing more than a collections of hans. And if you look around in the area you see more. Often they are in poor condition  – and so beautiful as a result – but they are still being used by craftsmen and traders.

Tip: hans are open to the public, so you can just walk around, respectfully. Take the staircase and look around on the gallery. Just make sure it is safe because some floor are not very reliable.

You can find a lot on them online, but the best thing is to hire a good tour guide to tell you about the history, the daily use and the craftsmen in their day. And of course to take you to the hans you would otherwise not be able to find. I can recommend suggest my favorite guide Mehmet Tetik. He is great. I visited the hans with him, and half of Istanbul for that matter during the past two years. He certainly enriched my time here and made me understand the city much better.

3. Ortaköy

I live in Ortaköy, a district on the Bosphorus, at some distance of the old town and therefor less known by tourists. In the heart of Ortaköy, on the water you find the most beautiful and recently renovated mosque in Istanbul, one of the nicest kilim (rug) shops, a Starbucks with view over the Bosphorus (climb to the top floor and have a coffee in front of the French windows)  many good restaurants and the best place to just sit on a bench  and enjoy the waterfront.

I have seen dolphins swimming there, so who knows? I love the Turkish tapas and fish in the restaurant with the tree growing through its roof in case you are wondering.

The good thing about Ortaköy is that although it is touristy it is mostly Turkish tourists wandering about. That is different from old town (Eminönü) which is heaving with foreign tourists. There is a boat from Eminönu (old town) to Ortaköy only once every afternoon , but tram and bus will take you there too.

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