There is nowhere else like it. In a sprawling metropolis of 15 million residents, the bazaar vendors and traffic gridlock are ever present. But all fade into the background against the majestic beauty of a city that has stood the test of time and is once again one of the great cities in the world.
There is a lot to see and do in Istanbul, you can spend months here and still have not discovered everything. A merging point of east and west, both geographically and culturally. You can start the day at a museum, do some shopping, take a cruise on the Bosporus, eat wonderful food, experience a hamam (Turkish bath) and still have time to relax and drink tea, play backgammon or just go out and spend time with the locals in the evening. All in the one day.
In tourist and non-tourist areas, the locals are friendly and relaxed. Everything around you is bustling and busy, but there is a relaxed vibe. People are simply doing their day-to-day activities and are happy to welcome you to share some of it. Easy to navigate and get around on foot, or on the extensive metro and tram systems, you can walk from Sultanahmet to Taksim districts easily if you have the time, taking in all the sights along the way, both old and new. Everywhere you step, you are walking with such a strong sense of historic significance in every step you take.
Of course, it is better to use the services of a guide when visiting the historical places and museums in Istanbul. Without a guide, you can walk out of places thinking maybe you missed noticing something fantastic, or just saw what was listed in the guidebook or audio tour. Also, at times there is just too much choice. Too many restaurants, too many shops, too many options, and you just don’t know what to choose or aren’t sure you made the best choice. Having a local give you suggestions, recommendations or share personal experiences is a choice that you will be glad you made.
How else can you end up in the middle of the Bosporus on a boat watching Republic Day fireworks, or get the last ticket to a sold-out Sufi dance performance or eat great food where the locals eat. A great guide, that’s how!