You know who you are. Seasoned traveller, Canon SLR carrier, street food over Trip Advisor restaurants eater. When you visit somewhere new, organized hotel tours and sightseeing buses aren’t your thing. You don’t want to just be a tourist, you want to get the real feeling of a city. This one-day itinerary will help you explore Istanbul like a local and take you to the hippest spots around that tours would just glide over.
9:00am - Breakfast: Van Kahvaltısı
You’re probably staying in a hostel in Taksim rather than the touristy Old City, so it’s easy to get to the trendy neighborhood of Cihangir. Known for being home to actresses, artists, and a bunch of Frenchies, mingle with the in-crowd at one of the most popular spots for breakfast in the city. Van Kahvaltısı is effortlessly cool with its intimate setting and wooden furniture.
10:00am - Walking around: Cihangir
On the edge of Cihangir and behind Galatasaray High School are tons of antique and vintage shops. Take your time browsing these quaint stores housed in some of the oldest buildings in the area.
11:00am - Coffee Break: Mandabatmaz
Don’t worry, I’m not sending you to buy a Latte or Americano from Starbucks like all the other tourists. When you’re in Istanbul you’ve gotta go local and get the good stuff. Near Galatasaray High School, tucked away on a side street is an authentic coffee shop known for the best Turkish coffee in the city.
12:00pm - Urban exploring: Galata
Keep making your way down Istiklal and take some time in the hippie clothing stores and music shops of Galata. Also download the StreetArt Istanbul app so you can find some of the best street art in the city during your wanderings!
1:30pm - Lunch: Street Food
Head down to the Karakoy pier for a fast favorite of locals, balık ekmek. This fish sandwich is freshly grilled with lettuce, tomato, and onion and stuffed between some heavenly soft bread (it’s cheap too!) Skip the expensive tourist-catered cafe and chill by the Bosphorus with your sandwich while watching the ships go by.
2:00pm - Afternoon exploration: Balat
Balat is a historic residential neighborhood up the Golden Horn. It’s accessible by the Golden Horn ferry and is a photographer’s dream. Old, beautiful buildings now painted bright colors used to accommodate Jews, Armenians and Greeks. These days, it’s an authentic Turkish neighborhood where you see laundry hanging between buildings and kids playing football in the street.
5:00pm - Cafe Time: Karaköy
Take the ferry back to Karaköy and wander around the streets to check out this up and coming port neighborhood’s newest cafes and galleries. Grab a seat outside at Karabatak Cafe (if you can find one!) and relax with tea or a treat.
7:00pm - Sunset: Moda
Grab a few beers from a shop next to the Kadıköy ferry station and head over to Moda Park to sit on the rocks along with all the other students in Istanbul. Munching on sunflower seeds is a must while you wait for the gorgeous sunset.
9:00pm - Dinner: Çiya Sofrası
If you’re up for a nice dinner, this restaurant has quality, authentic Ottoman cuisine and has become one of the most famous spots in the Kadıköy neighborhood. Almost everyone here will be speaking Turkish.
11:00pm - Drinks: Barlar Sokağı
There’s a street in Kadıköy where all the bars are, but no one actually sits in them. The typical attendees are dreadlocked, tattooed students who grab beers and sprawl out on the street for two blocks. It basically turns into a huge chill street party. You won’t see a single tourist here, although foreign students are abundant! It’s the perfect end to a totally off-the-beaten-path day.