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For the end of 2013 and a colorful start of 2014, we decided to spend 5 days in Istanbul. Having been there before, we went further than the touristic places and explored the city as it is meant to be explored. We re-experienced the city’s dramatic street food scenery, ranging from mussels, to wet burgers (yes), kumpir, “lahmbaajune” and kokoreç (pronounced kokorech, from Balkan and Anatolian origin, it’s mainly the lamb’s intestines, cooked. It sounds horrible but it is really delicious, especially if you’re a spicy lover).

 

If you’ve been a Breadonbutter reader since its start, I had already written about a weekend in Istanbul and its street food a year ago (click here for images). But this time, I’m offering you a full guide for 5 days in the most significant city in History. Vibrant, crowded, and exotic.
First and foremost, choose your hotel. Istanbul is evolving as a trendy and very design-oriented city. We chose the Raven Suites Istanbul on booking.com and it turned out to be a delight. The staff is really friendly and the interior of the suites -that can easily pass for your own little furnished apartment during your stay- are furnished with carefully chosen items that make them unique. Here are some pictures.

Now for Day 1:

Raven Suites is situated next to Istiklal Street and we had just arrived on Saturday morning. So after checking the rooms, settling our bags and changing, we headed for Istiklal. We had a walk through all of it, had stuffed mussels in one of the perpendicular streets next to a place called ‘Champion’ (you can ask anyone there, they’ll guide you), all the way to Taksim, where we grabbed a wet burger and took a taxi to NiÅ›antaÅ›e (pronounced Nishantashe) where we sat in one of the street cafes for a delicious glass of wine. While you are there, do not miss the ‘City’s’ Mall food court.
Stuffed Mussels
City’s Food Court – Nisantase

At night, ‘Istanbul Modern’, a traditional Turkish food with a modern twist fusion restaurant right on the Bosphorus, is the ideal dinner destination for your first day.

 

Day 2:
After grabbing a “Simit” from one of the ‘Simit Sarayi’ branches that you can spot anywhere, head to Sultanahmet for touristic places, if you havent’t been yet. You just have to visit Agia Sofia and see Topkapi’s view. And make sure you grab your bag of Castana (chestnuts) to go with your takeaway tea.
Next, head to the Grand Bazaar and get lost in it, bargain, have fun, then ask your way to a restaurant called ‘Hamdi’, who serves one of the best lahm baajun ever made. Spicy lovers, it’ll make your day.
Your late afternoon can be a walk from Istiklal Street to the Galata Tower, visiting shops and buying cute souvenirs, and end with a drink and wine tasting at ‘Sensus’, facing the Galata Tower.
The Galata Tower
Sensus

On your way back, a delicious Sahlab from ‘Mado’ on Istiklal would be a perfect warm end of the night.

 

Day 3:
For the best breakfast experience, grab a cab and let him take you to ‘Sutis Emirgan’ on the second Bosphorus bridge. Make sure you get your order of “burek”.

After breakfast, head to Ortakoye by bus or by taxi (watch the insane traffic if it’s a Sunday), catch the Bosphorus boat ride, then sit back in one of the cafes and order a mixed Kumpir (i.e. a potato stuffed with all the possible toppings you have ever known).

Istanbul’s skyline viewed from the boat
Kumpir and Efes beer

At night, you can have a drink at the ‘360’ bar right on Istiklal Street and enjoy the spectacular view. If you can make it an early drink and watch the sunset, it would be better.

View from ‘360’

For dinner, you can either grab mussels again or spot a place called ‘Saray’ and order a delicious “Iskandar Kebab”, which is kebab served on yogurt and bread.

Day 4:
‘Gram’ is one of the cutest places we’ve been for breakfast. You just have to look it up and try their menu of sweet and salty items and enjoy their interior. Below are some pictures of the place.

 

During the day, just walk around, explore the shops and the food and discover the city, for at night, a mini trip to the Asian side would be great, especially if you have Turkish friends who can guide you there. We had a literally giant kebab at ‘S&K;’, Asian side. I will let the picture explain it.

 

Day 5:
On day 5, I would advise you to retrace your favorites spots and places and go through them all one more time before you leave.
During this trip, I learnt the importance of perspective. The thing is, you should always look at things through different perspectives every time. And you will see that this world, no matter how much you think you know it, is full of surprises.
To finish this in a fun note, here’s an entertaining video I made of Istanbul. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
//www.youtube.com/get_player