If you are looking for an Istanbul holiday with a difference, do your research and you will be rewarded well. When you think of an Istanbul holiday, images of extravagant buildings, decadent mosques, spicy bazaars and the donor kebab come to mind; but while all of this is on offer, there is also much more to discover.
Off the Beaten Track
Taksim is a place you may want to avoid if you do not want to be kept awake all night by busy bars and all night parties, but it is definitely a part of the city you should venture to if you do fancy some excitement. The side streets are full of lively local taverns, and Turkish families and tourists squash onto the rows of tables outside on the streets or climb up to the many rooftop bars that overlook the city.
People flock to the city to see the Topkapi Palace, but unless history is your passion, why not avoid the crowds and the souvenir stalls and head to the Dolmabahce Palace instead? This opulent building is an elegant and stirring as the beautiful Topkapi but there are fewer crowds and a free harem tour too! This place symbolises Turkey's shift from empire to republic, and is a fine display of cultural and architectural fusion. There is also an aviary here with some beautiful peacocks, and the second largest chandelier in the world (after one in Dubai).
One of the best ways to explore Turkish culture is to get yourself invited in for a cup of tea. The Turks' offering of tea is their way of welcoming you into their home or shop and is telling you they want to spend time to chat with you. The Turks are a sociable people and despite any language barrier, love to entertain and engage with visitors.
Although the quintessential Turkish food staples, such as the donor kebab and the baklava, are decadently delicious, do make sure you indulge in some other Turkish delights too. The lentil soups or the saucy iskender kebap are two less common delicacies to try, followed by the rice pudding-like sutlac or sticky ice cream known as dondurma.
When on an Istanbul holiday it is best to explore the city on foot. Taxis can be expensive and slow, as the traffic, especially during rush hour, is chaotic. Buses can also be time consuming, so do as the locals do and walk, take the tram or jump on the subway. The street life is one of the big attractions of this capital city; the tiny streets are just waiting to be explored and you are bound to stumble upon plenty of cool cafes, arty hangouts and eclectic music stores.
Instead of the famous Bosphorus cruises, why not try the daytrip to Prince's Islands instead? This ferry excursion is much cheaper but still provides great views of the city. The islands are car free and you can swim, hike and rent bikes.
Make your Istanbul holiday one to remember and stay away from the tourists to discover a more authentic side to this fabulous city.