Istanbul, Turkey, is one of those cities you hear about and immediately add to your travel bucket list. As the largest city proper in Turkey and the fourth largest in the world, not to mention the only bi-continental metropolis – bisected by the Bosphorus strait, with one half of the city in Asia and the other in Europe – Istanbul history makes for very lively discovery. Now you can savour the flavours that make your taste buds tingle or mosey about the hidden treasures of ancient streets on a guided tour with Istanbul Urban Adventures.
Istanbul’s dynamic history owes something to both Asia and Europe; it was the final destination for passengers aboard the illustrious Orient Express and also served as a capital during both the Roman and Ottoman Empires, when it was known as Constantinople. Today, though, against an impressive background of grandiose historical architecture, modern art and fashion also flourish.
This contrast is brought to life on a guided tour of Old and New Istanbul – more than just a sightseeing visit, you delve right into back streets and hidden cafes, where you can sip traditional Turkish coffee while having your fortune told. One of your first stops is an area called Beyoğlu. Locals say that you haven’t seen the true Istanbul until you’ve been here – a hip neighbourhood with the latest in Turkish fashion and trendy restaurants, art galleries and nightclubs. You also visit the historic İstiklâl Caddesi (Independence Avenue), a popular pedestrian boulevard and key reason why Istanbul is sometimes referred to as the Paris of the East.
After you’ve found out what your future holds, we suggest you grab a bite to eat. What better way is there to encounter the gastronomy of a foreign city than to eat with a local family? With Urban Adventures’ Home Cooked Istanbul Tour, your guide will stroll with you from your hotel through the streets of Sultanahmet to the home of a local family. The Turkish people are known for their warm-heartedness and hospitality, two qualities will have the chance to experience firsthand. After all, did you know that a stranger at one’s doorstep is considered ‘God’s guest’ for at least three days? Over dinner, you delight in traditional Turkish dishes like lamb kebabs and pilav (a flavourful rice dish). You might be able to identify the mixed origins of Turkish cuisine, a modern version of Ottoman cooking, which has its roots in the exotic marriage of Central Asian, Balkan and Middle Eastern food traditions. Fruit, vegetables and meat combine to make warm-weather dishes all the more fulfilling and light during a sizzling summer, while hearty soups are often served as the main course during winter.
Typical of any large city, especially the largest one in Turkey, are the treasures hidden around almost every corner. That’s why Urban Adventures offers a four-hour tour through Hidden Istanbul. Your expert guide will show you where to find the best coffee, taste an authentic Turkish delight and navigate the bustling Spice Market. Shopaholics rest assured: did you know that the world’s first mall originated in Istanbul? The Grand Bazaar is exactly what the name suggests – nearly 4,000 shops with an astounding array of goods for sale.
Although the impression left behind by Istanbul’s unique geography, history, architecture and gastronomy will be an enduring one, once you reach home, you will certainly also want to return to Istanbul and refresh each memory. Turks gave the Dutch their first tulips and you can expect the same degree of warmth when you travel there too. We promise: you won’t be disappointed.