This is the ultimate itinerary for second time visitors. During your first visit, you are likely to see the world famous must-see sights of the city in the historical peninsula. Although these are mesmerizing and very important monuments, Istanbul has so much more to offer. Also, istanbulites rarely go to the historical peninsula anymore, unless they have friends visiting or they need to shop at the Grand Bazaar.
So what else are you supposed to see in this city, one of the most beautiful one in the city?
Here is how your three day itinerary would look like:
Fener and Balat neighborhoods, set along the banks of the Golden Horn, were once home predominantly to the Jewish and Greek populations of Istanbul. Now on the verge of change, these historical neighborhoods are charming with their cobble stone streets, wooden houses, synagogues, churches and the famous Phanar Greek Orthodox School. This famous building, built in the 19th century by the famous Ottoman Greek architect Dimadis, was the school to prominent Greek and Bulgarian families of the Ottoman Empire.
Walking through these narrow and colorful streets, you will really feel the history of Istanbul, some houses are impeccably restored while others remain like artifacts from another century. These days it is very common to see a film set in the streets as many movies and commercials are shot here.
If you’re curious about local art we can make a quick stop at the Bal-Art Sanat Evi. Ceramic artist Beyhan Gürsoy makes replicas of the wooden houses of Balat, which can be used as candle hodlers.
We also recommend lunch at Cafe Vodina set inside the Balat Cultural Center. Their mantı (Turkish dumplings) and yaprak sarma (meat and bulgur filling inside vine leaves) are delicious.
Kadıköy & Moda Neighborhoods:
Kadıköy is the main hub on the Anatolian (Asian) side of Istanbul. It is a picturesque market place that has everything from fish market to nuts and dried fruit, old bookstores, traditional and old candy shops, good restaurants, traditional coffee stores and more. It is always busy with loads of people shopping, dining or killing time before seeing a play.
There are also various historical Greek and Armenian churches in the area. If you happen to be there on a Sunday, you can even attend one of the ceremonies. Everyone is welcome. Famous Hagia Euphemia, a Greek noble who became Christian during the Roman era when Christianity was outlawed, has her church here. She was tortured by the Pagan Romans when they found out that she was Christian. Her remains are kept in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy which is on your first day itinerary.
After visiting Kadıköy market place, you will walk towards Moda neighborhood which is residential and a quieter part of town. Her popularity has risen on the past years, thus you will come across many third wave coffee shops, but the neighborhood is still very charming. Sunset in this neighborhood is one of the best since the view is that of the Sea of Marmara and the islands.
Prince Islands are named this way since Byzantine princes used to be exiled in these beautiful islands. That tradition is long forgotten though. Today it is a place where istanbulites have their summer homes and a peaceful getaway from busy Istanbul. No private cars are allowed on the islands, that is what makes them so peaceful.
During this tour, you would visit Büyükada, (‘big island’ in Turkish) where you can either rent a bike and explore the island that way or be lazy and spoil yourself by taking a horse carriage ride. The island has beautiful wooden 19th century houses. If you are feeling up to it, you can also trek up to the highest spot on the island and have lunch there and take the mesmerizing view in.
This day will probably the most relaxing day you have in Istanbul.