Winterwonderland wasn’t planned when traveling to Istanbul for New Year’s, but it was magical seeing the palm trees and cactus plants covered in snow and the steep streets becoming slides. Snowmen of all kind conquered the streets sitting on pathways in front of a shop, welcoming the guests of a car park or taking a rest on a litter box.
We discovered mainly the European part of Istanbul, namely the Beyoglu neigbourhood. It’s amazing how the character of an area can change within a street so I got the feeling that Galata and Chihangir were more small little neighbourhoods instead of belonging to one – Beyoglu.
Weather can change rapidly and can be extreme during winter. We had it all: Perfect blue sky with wintersun to snowstorm to dark grey sky for the whole day to heavy rain that turned the steep streets into rivers. I would now say: lined rubber boots are the way to go.
Some households still rely on flying carpets for transportation as the city rapidly grew from not even 3 Million in 1980 to more than 15 Million in 2015, but the metro network didn’t grow with it.
Home away from home: Manzara Apartments. First and last view of the day when lying in bed of the apartment “Arif”: The Bosporus. Made me feel real cosmopolitan.
Do not miss the rooftop terrace with an amazing 360 degree view over Istanbul. If you want you can have breakfast prepared by Manzara served at their gallery, it was really tasty. We ate there on our first day. The gallery also sells little gifts from local artists and agricultral cooperations to bring home.
The Turks love to sleep in on weekends which pleased us loads. The best in winter time is to sleep in and then start the day with an extensive breakfast in a cute little café. My two favorite ones were these:
Hipster Breakfast at Dandin Bakery (No:A, Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Kılıç Ali Paşa Mescidi Sk. No:17, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkei; Phone:+90 212 245 3369)
Dogaciyizcom (Kılıçali Paşa Mah.Kasatura sokak No: 16/A Beyoğlu/Cihangir/İstanbul; +90 212 243 8190)
Pretty authentic little Turkish café in a calm sidestreet. When we came there it felt more like visiting friends for brekafast than visiting a café. The ground floor is usually stuffed with a lively student crowd.
Take the Turkish Breakfast with an extra Menemen (scrambled eggs Turkish style) – it is stunning. The whole table is covered with small little bowls from home made fig and rosehip marmelade, honey with honeycomb to eggplant mousse, hommus to different sorts of cheeses and olives.
Other food you should try while in Istanbul:
Salep (warm, runny vanilla custard e.g. at Mado, 186 Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul Beyoğlu); Manti (Turkish tortellini, I love the ones at Dai Pera, Yeni Çarşı Cd. No:54,34433,İstanbul; +90 212 252 8099); Gözleme (try the sweet potato one at Hala Manti, Evliya Çelebi,34433 İstanbul)
Istanbul Modern (Karaköy, Meclis-i Mebusan Cad., 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul; Phone: +90 212 334 7300; closed on Mondays)
I would recommend to buy an Istanbul Card directly at the airport. You can charge the card with money and then access public transport. Driving by cab isn’t expensive, so it’s also a good option. Keep in mind though, traffic in Istanbul can be crazy and it may take three times longer than going with the metro and walk. Here you can find a list of approximate prices for a taxi ride.