Unique things to do in İstanbul
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Travel like a local
Continent-straddling Istanbul offers a range of things to do on both the European and Asian sides. On Istanbul’s European side, expect to find the postcard names: the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia, and more crowds to go with it. On the other side of the Bosphorus (just a short ferry ride away), you’ll find neighborhoods such as Kadikoy where many locals come for Turkish pizza, stuffed mussels, and more. Skip the traditional tours and activities for a local’s perspective of Istanbul with Airbnb Experiences.
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Your guide to İstanbul
What do locals eat in Istanbul?
Ask many locals what to eat, and they’ll likely point you to Turkish street food and lokantas, which are cafeteria-style spots located all over the city that serve up beloved staples. Here is a quick guide on what to order. And just remember no matter the circumstance, there’s always time for a Turkish coffee.
Also known as the Turkish breakfast, this morning ritual typically consists of cheeses, breads, and jams served with Turkish coffee or tea. Get to know the customs of the meal on a traditional Turkish breakfast tour in neighborhoods such as Beyoğlu.
You can’t miss these kebab shops, which are sprinkled throughout the city. Vertical rotisseries spin as chefs shave off your choice of lamb, beef, or chicken. Nowadays, you can get döners as traditional street food, but many restaurants are serving more high-end takes on the classic.
These stuffed mussels are prepared right before your eyes in places such as the historic Kadikoy Carsisi, a market that teems with shops and vendors selling some of the city’s best food including lokum (Turkish delight), coffee, fresh fruit and vegetables, among many other goods.
A sesame crusted, circular bread mostly eaten as a breakfast food. There are records that suggest this crisp goes back as far as the 16th century, something you can learn more about on a food tour.
This flatbread is typically served with minced meat, parsley, and no more than a few other simple ingredients. It’s something you can learn to make in cooking classes, or choose from menus across the city.
Originally from the town of Mersin, located in the south of Turkey, this is one of the most traditional Turkish street foods. Spicy meats are rolled up into thin breads and make this a perfect on-the-go snack or meal.
What are the most unique things to do in Istanbul?
Take a day trip to Princes’ Islands
For a truly idyllic afternoon, visit this archipelago on the Sea of Marmara. On the mostly car-free islands, you’ll see plenty of old world charm. Head out with a local, who can take you to see some of the best sights, along with hidden gems, on bike rides and more.
Do a Bosphorus cruise in style
Board a luxury yacht for a ride along the Bosphorus to see the famed Rumelihisarı (Rumeli Castle), Ciragan Palace, and Beylerbeyi Palace, among other sights. You can sip on your choice of tea or wine, and listen to music as you cruise.