Merve B. is an Urban Explorer, Wellness Guru, Music Lover and Fellow Foodie. She loves to travel and enjoys experiencing the destinations she’s visiting as a local by discovering what the city has to offer in an authentic way. Her perspective for Istanbul is therefore unique and her recommendations from her own city will help you enjoy it just like the locals do: authentic yet contemporary...

Born and raised in Ankara, I moved to Istanbul in 2008 and have called this amazing city my home ever since. Istanbul is one of the most awe-inspiring cities, influenced by many empires that once ruled it. Over centuries, Greeks, Romans and Venetians took turns before the Ottoman Empire arrived. This was not a random choice… Its prime location connecting two continents and breathtaking natural beauty have always made Istanbul a main attraction.

All these civilizations in Istanbul’s history have given it an everlasting cultural diversity, making it home to many from all around Turkey as well as other countries. Today, more than 80% of residents are not originally from Istanbul, which adds even more spice and flavor to the city. Like any other great city, Istanbul beautifully combines architecture, art, music and delicious food. What makes it unique are the people -- they are the warmest and most hospitable folks you can ever come across. Discovering Istanbul, you will truly feel like you are at a home away from home.

Useful tips

Let’s start with some summer-focused insider tips. Being a city for all seasons, another guide for fall and winter is required, so stay tuned for cooler weather recommendations...

  • You can visit Istanbul all year round, however April to October are when the city has the most to offer.

  • If you want to explore the city in one go, make sure you spend at least 7 nights.

  • Although the city is spread on both European and Asian continents and is well connected with two bridges as well as sea transportation, I highly recommend you stay on the European side, since it’s more convenient and closer to the main attractions.

Where to stay

  • The Stay Bosphorus Hotel, Ortakoy

  • Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Ortakoy

  • Soho House Hotel, Beyoglu

  • Tomtom Suites, Beyoglu

  • W Hotel, Akaretler

  • Les Ottomans, Kurucesme

Where to play

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Top attractions:

  • Blue Mosque

  • Galata Tower

  • Hagia Sophia

  • Pera Museum

  • Sakip Sabanci Museum

  • Istanbul Modern Art Museum - Don’t miss the MSA Restaurant in the museum to taste some luxury food at an affordable price, cooked and served by the students of Turkey’s first culinary school

  • Grand Bazaar

  • Misir Carsisi - Spice Bazaar

Hagia Sophia

Top neighborhoods:

  • Karakoy - Hipster vibes with lots of laid-back cafes, bars and restaurants

  • Bebek and Ortakoy - Take a walk by the sea and enjoy the cafes and cool local stores

  • Arnavutkoy - Vibrant neighbourhood usually full of young people hanging out in the evenings

  • Beyoglu - Old city center of Istanbul with historical architecture, local shops, cafes and restaurants

Top brands and stores:

  • Manu, Nisantasi - Handmade leather bags from Turkey now sold all around the world

  • Misela, Beyoglu - Bespoke and customizable bags by a young Turkish designer

  • Bey Karakoy - Contemporary Turkish designers mix

  • Souq Karakoy/Kanyon Mall - More contemporary Turkish designers mix

  • Selamlique, Bebek - Best Turkish delights and Turkish coffee with a modern touch

  • Rumisu, available online and in Souq - Ethically produced silk scarves and shirts with authentic illustrations

Where to eat


  • Mangerie, Bebek - Enjoy the Best Bosphorus view with delicious world cuisine food; mostly popular for breakfast and lunch

  • Banyan, Ortaköy - Asian Fusion and delicious cocktails by the Bosphorus

  • Bi Nevi Deli, Etiler - Casual and simple vegan cafe

  • Voi Central, Etiler - Healthy coffee shop with vegan food and dessert options in a laid back backyard

  • Murver Restaurant, Karakoy - Traditional Turkish cuisine with a modern touch by a famous chef, with an extensive wine selection and signature cocktails

  • Delicatessen, Nisantasi - Best casual cafe in town by the owners of Mangerie

  • Zipkin, Arnavutkoy - Seafood and traditional Turkish mezze restaurant with a sea view

  • Uskumru, Beykoz - Seafood and traditional Turkish mezze restaurant on the Asian side. The restaurant offers boats for the guests coming from the European side. Call to reserve a table and a 10-minute boat ride on the Bosphorus.

  • Sanda Tiryaki Ocakbaşı, Arnavutkoy - Traditional Turkish kebab restaurant on top of a hill looking over the Bosphorus


  • Backbar, Etiler - Vibrant open air bar with live music on Thursday and weekends. Start your evening with dinner at the restaurant and continue at the bar till late.

  • Lucca, Bebek - Istanbul’s most popular high energy bar, small and cozy night club with local DJs and a cool crowd

  • Alexandra Cocktail Bar, Arnavutkoy - Popular cocktail bar with a rooftop

  • Bomontiada, Bomonti - Old beer factory transformed into an open air meeting point with restaurants and a live music performance venue called Babylon. They host open air concerts occasionally. It’s worth checking their Instagram.

  • Klein Garten, Beyoglu - Best venue for live performances of local and global DJs. Check their Instagram for a weekly line up.

Enjoy my city, ICBRKRs! And be sure to connect with me in the ICBRKR app if you're in town.


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