Welcome to our Focus On series where we will bring you articles on the many wonderful places there are in Turkey. We’ll take a look at everything from tourist areas, culture, food, getting off the beaten track and much more.

The first article in our series on Istanbul was written for Fethiye Times by Ola Khamitsevich

I love Istanbul with all my heart. And if it was legal to marry a city, without hesitation I’d marry Istanbul (or as it called in Greek – the City).

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Photograph by Kübra Memiş

It makes me sad knowing that a lot of visitors end up hanging around Sultanahmet or Taksim. There is so much more to the City! Here you can find everything you want, everything you are interested in! So don’t lock yourself up in touristy areas. It’s time to forget about Sultanahmet! Yes, Hagia Sophia is great but Istanbul is stunning!

Let me be your guide during our discovery trip of the City’s non-touristy neighbourhoods, starting with the, more popular among tourists, European side.

Karaköy

In Turkish Karaköy means “Black village”. Sounds a bit gloomy I know, but trust me there’s nothing gloomy about this neighbourhood. It is bright and colourful with a vibrant atmosphere, thanks to local artists who occupied the, once boring, industrial area and sprayed some of their creative vibes around.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Brightly coloured umbrellas brighten up a street in Karaköy – Photograph by Kübra Memiş

Karaköy has many things to offer: colourful cafes and restaurants with gorgeous decor as well as interesting shops, like The House of Paper, where everything is made out of easy-to-guess-what. So feel comfortable to get lost in Karakoy’s narrow streets during the day time.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
A colourful cafe in Karaköy – Photograph by Kübra Memiş
Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Even the vehicles are bright and cheerful – Photograph by Kübra Memiş

The area is also lively during night hours. After sunset, Karaköy transforms into one of the most popular night spots. Turkish and foreign music stream from every corner.

On hot summer nights, the neighbourhood hosts a street festival where everyone drinks, dances and socialises right on the streets.

Ortaköy

One of the fanciest seaside neighbourhoods with a stunning view from its cafes and restaurants. Don’t forget to visit Ortaköy’s mosque right on the waterfront and its identifying landmark.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
The mosque at Ortaköy – Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

In old times the area was inhabited by the Greeks and, as everything Greek, it was a very expensive place to be. Nowadays Ortaköy isn’t the most lavish area in the city but still quite pricey. Despite this it bustles with people during sunny weekends, so better visit the area on workdays to enjoy a quiet stroll on the shore. If the sea air and Turkish sun make you feel hungry here is something to note: among locals Ortaköy is famous for Kumpir (jacket potato). As for me, they’re the same everywhere but you never know till you try it, right?

Nightlife in Ortaköy is considered to be luxurious.  Anjelique is a waterfront club that has a private jetty for customers. It doesn’t get much fancier than that!

Most of the clubs have a dress code so you do have to say goodbye to good old shorts and T shirts!

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Anjelique – Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

At the beginning of this year, the popularity of Ortaköy decreased as the New Year’s tragic event took place in one of its clubs. But as summer is marching towards us, the area gets more and more crowded. Nothing can beat the courage of Turkish people, in fact, that of people everywhere.

Bebek, Arnavutköy and Emirgan  

These are seaside districts located north of Ortaköy. All have amazingly beautiful sea views and are the best places to enjoy a walk along the shore.  Be aware that on sunny weekends you may see more traffic there than at the Bosphorus. The sea side road that leads to these areas is really narrow and as everyone wants to enjoy fresh air… well, you can imagine.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Photograph by Zeeshan Malick
Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Photograph by Zeeshan Malick

When warm weather finally arrives in Istanbul, Emirgan park plays host to a tulip festival where you can fully enjoy all the colours of spring. There is no entrance fee.

Focus On Istanbul - A non - touristy guide (part one)
Emirgan Park – Photograph by Ola Khamitsevich

So there you go, a brief introduction to must-visit areas on the European side. And those are only seaside districts. Of course, there’s much more than this. It’s one of the biggest cities in the whole world we’re talking about! Let me leave the rest of the City for you, dear visitors, to explore, to discover, to be surprised, to get lost and to be found.

Coming up next: Exploring the Asian side…

Ola is a passionate traveller with almost 10-year experience of backpacking around the world. She loves Middle Eastern culture. Istanbul, in particular, has always fascinated her and even though she lives there no longer, there’s a hope that one day they will be together again. She currently resides in Alexandria, Egypt

Featured photograph by Zeeshan Malick

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