When visiting a new city, there are different ways to experience the real taste of the place.
One can hop on a taxi, use public transport, or simply enjoy walks and strolls throughout the city.
The way I do it!
Well, for me, cities are best experienced on foot. Exploring not only the well-known paths but also taking that extra step into backstreets and not so popular allies. Here is where the real feel of the city is experienced.
Istanbul Walks and Strolls
If there were a city to which my theory really applies, it is definitely Istanbul.
Having major walking streets full of tourists and locals, not so popular backstreets and neighborhoods, and beautiful parks and gardens, one can always find something valuable and worth admiring.
After all, wandering around is for FREE!! And what’s better than having free stuff to do on your vacation?
1.Old City Stroll:
While moving from Sultan Ahmet Mosque to Hagia Sofia Museum and Topkapı Palace, make sure to pass through the Sultan Ahmet Archeologic Park, with trees and fountains adding to the magnificence of this area.
Sultan Ahmet Archeologic Park
Don’t forget though, to walk through the Sultan Ahmet Square, also known as the Hippodrome.
Located to the north-west side of Sultan Ahmet Mosque, this square has 4 major monuments. The Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Thutmose III, the Walled Obelisk, and the German Fountain.
The German Fountain in the Hippodrome
Note that in the holy month of Ramadan, this square becomes full of locals that gather at the time of Iftar, to enjoy their food together.
Obelisk of Thutmose III at the Hippodrome
Head also to the backstreets behind the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. There, you can visit the Arasta Bazar, where many cultural products are sold. You can also encounter many old houses and beautiful boutique style hotels.
Backstreets of Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Upon finishing the historical tour of the old city, you would probably want to have a rest in the beautiful park of Ottoman Sultans and princesses.
Located near Hagia Sofia Museum, this park is eye candy all through the year. In winter though the trees become totally leafless.
Bird House in Gulhane Park
I love this park especially in April when Istanbul Municipality organizes the Tulip Festival, and the park transforms into a Tulip lover’s paradise.
Gulhane Park During the Tulip Festival
Make sure to grab a corn cob, some chestnuts or even some simit from karts located at the entrance of the park, to enjoy while wandering.
Connecting Istanbul’s Old City to Beyoğlu area, this bridge is the oldest bridge built over the Golden Horn.
Crossing this bridge, you would be overwhelmed by the number of fishermen fishing their lunch or dinner of the day. They use sardines as baits, keeping them in small water cups. Be prepared for the smell of fish though.
Sardines ready to be served as Baits at Galata Bridge
If you are visiting Istanbul with kids, some fishermen would be kind enough to lend your child their fishing rod to take a photo.
A Kind Fisherman Lent My Son His Fishing Rod
The bridge has an underway passage too. It is full of fish restaurants serving a wide variety of seafood. I tried 2 of these restaurants but frankly wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. The food is overpriced.
Upper and Lower Passages of Galata Bridge – Fish Restaurants
Connecting Taksim Square with Galata Tower’s neighborhood, this street is a buzzing pedestrian shopping street.
Full of International brands’ shops, local mini-malls, cafes, and restaurants, this street is a must visit for every tourist.
Istiklal Street is both enjoyable in day time and night. While wandering this street, take a minute to lift your head a little bit and enjoy the architecture of the buildings.
There are many streets branching from Istiklal main street. I advise you to stroll as many as you can, for some hidden gems are present there. Also, a quick visit to the Pera area is a nice addition to your stroll.
One of the Streets branching from Istiklal Street
If you are tired you can hop on the Nostalgic Tram. I have never done that before since it is always super crowded, but I always enjoy it when I hear the Tram honk and watch it pass by. It helps me imagine how people used to live here in the past.
Nostalgic Tram in Istiklal Street
Food can be tasted in various types of restaurants, but you shouldn’t forget to taste street food too. Ranging from Simit to chestnuts and mussels stuffed with rice, I tend to taste them all.
Note that due to the over crowdedness of this street, you should be alert at all times, and keep your valuable things like money and passports in a cross body bag or an undergarment bag, and not in your backpack, because pickpockets take advantage of the crowds.
Crowds of People wandering through Istiklal Street
This is a district in Beyoğlu area. Full of street cafes and small restaurants.
One of many Cafes in Karakoy
The graffitis painted on the walls and the shops’ rolling shutters provide a modern escape from the historical city.
Graffiti on Rolling Shutters in Karakoy
I usually visit in the day time, so I do not know what the area is like at night.
6.Pierre Lotti and Eyup Area:
A visit to Istanbul is never complete without visiting this place and having a look at Istanbul form above.
Located at the north of the Golden Horn, Pierre Lotti Hill is best reached by telefrique. As the cable car ascends up the hill, you will start to get that magnificent view of Istanbul.
Golden Horn as seen from Pierre Lotti Hill
This telefrique is used both by tourists and locals because it does not only reach to tea houses but also to a cemetery. Long waiting lines are expected since only 4 cable cars move up and down the line and each one holds a maximum of 8 people.
Make sure to sit on the seat to the left of the door to have a better view of Istanbul while ascending.
Photos from up the hill are always beautiful. So take your time to enjoy the view and to have as many photos as you like.
Hagia Sofia as seen from Pierre Lotti Hill
Continue up a small stairs and have a teacup in one of the tea houses, then have a walk in the small market, and wander around the houses in that area.
Tea House at Pierre Lotti Hill
When you want to head back to Eyup, you can always use the cable car, but I choose to descend the hill through the cemetery. Although it is a long road made up of stone steps with graves on both sides, but something about the atmosphere there makes me want to go through that way every time.
Istanbul Cats resting in the Cemetery near Pierre Lotti
Eyup is a part of Istanbul where religious Muslim locals live. Shops around the central fountain sell religious books, Islamic outfits, and traditional products. There is also a shopping street where products are of good prices.
7.A Walk along the Bosphorus:
The Bosphorus Strait is a beauty to the eye and relaxation to the soul.
Enjoying the Bosphorus Strait
You can walk along the shore starting from Dolmabahçe Palace area until you reach Ortaköy, or even Arnavutköy and Bebek.
Bosphorus Bridge hanging above the Bosphorus Strait
You will enjoy the view of the sea, the locals having their daily run, and the bridges crossing the strait.
Locals enjoying their Walk near the Bosphorus Strait
That was my list of 7 walks and strolls in Istanbul for a first timer.
If you did not check my List Of 10 Historical visits in Istanbul for a First Timer yet, go ahead and check it now!
Do you feel like I have missed on a good walk in Istanbul? Why not share your experience with me in the comment box below.
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