If you don’t want to feel like a tourist, there are many local things to do in Istanbul. Here are some tips if you want to join the people of Istanbul and feel part of the city during your stay.
- 1. Play Backgammon in a Local Tea Shop
- 2. Listen to Your Turkish Coffee Fortune
- 3. Fish at Bosphorus
- 4. Feed Street Cats
- 5. Negotiate with Sellers
- 6. Join Turkish Paper Marbling (Ebru) Class in Istanbul
- 7. Chill Out on Caddebostan Shore
- 8. Go For a Tripe-Soup
- 9. Tour the Historic Streets of Kuzguncuk!
- 10. Visit the Antique Shops in Cihangir and Cukurcuma!
- 11. Visit the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar!
- 12. Walk Along the Coastline Route Between Arnavutköy and Bebek!
- 13. Long Seaside Walk in Florya!
- 14. Visit Gülhane Park!
- 15. Hike and Picnic in Belgrade Forest!
- 16. Fishing at Galata Bridge and Watching the View!
- 17. Visit Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum!
- 18. Visit Fenerbahce Park!
- 19. Spend Time in the Social Facility on the Hill of Çamlıca!
- 20. Visit Yıldız Park for the View!
1. Play Backgammon in a Local Tea Shop
Backgammon is a pleasant game that promotes friendship and community. It’s one of the oldest games in the world and is popular in Istanbul with people of all ages. If you prefer, you can just sit and watch old people playing backgammon. If one of them turns their backgammon board to you, they’re inviting you to play. But beware, they might ‘Mars’ you. ‘Mars’ means to convincingly beat you.
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2. Listen to Your Turkish Coffee Fortune
After drinking Turkish coffee fortune-telling is a must. Turkish coffee is a great way to end a beautiful meal you’ll find fortune tellers in many cafes.
3. Fish at Bosphorus
From September to June you’ll see fishermen on the Istanbul shore. To fish, you’ll need a fishing rod, a deck chair, and a bucket. If you don’t know how to cast a line or how to fish, don’t worry; just ask one of the fishermen for help. “Rastgele!” (Good Luck!)
4. Feed Street Cats
There are cats almost everywhere in Istanbul. In Cihangir, Balat, Kadıköy, and Moda, you’ll find huge numbers of street cats. If you want to feed them, you can buy cat food at the big markets and in places selling animal food. You just leave it out for them in cat food containers you’ll see around the city.
5. Negotiate with Sellers
Think before you shake hands! Could you get it cheaper? Bartering with street vendors is quite normal in Istanbul. Try bartering when buying tomatoes from local markets or carpets from the Grand Bazaar.
6. Join Turkish Paper Marbling (Ebru) Class in Istanbul
You can learn the art of ebru, which has an important place among Turkish crafts. You can create your own artwork by attending a traditional craft course. There are many places to learn about the art of marbling.
7. Chill Out on Caddebostan Shore
A relaxing place to visit at any time of the day. You’ll see people walking in the first light of the morning or sitting on the grass until late at night drinking tea and having snacks. Caddebostan Shore, on the Anatolian side, is an ideal place to chill out. You can just spend the day chatting with people around you.
8. Go For a Tripe-Soup
For locals, many evenings end at the tripe soup offal restaurant. You’ll come across all kinds of people in these places, which are open until the first light of the morning. To get rid of the tiredness, you can eat tripe soup with plenty of vinegar and garlic.
9. Tour the Historic Streets of Kuzguncuk!
Kuzguncuk is one of the most important regions in Istanbul. The colourful streets full of historical houses are fascinating and there are many boutique cafes and shops among them. Spending time strolling around here will transport you to another world.
10. Visit the Antique Shops in Cihangir and Cukurcuma!
How can you explore the history and culture of a region? By visiting its antique shops. Antique shops are a great way to see and feel the tradition, culture and history of a region. The Cihangir and Çukurcuma regions in Beyoğlu are full of antique shops and a walk through the streets is highly recommended. And there are plenty of coffee shops where you can take the weight off your feet and grab a drink.
11. Visit the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar!
The places where commercial life in Istanbul began. In the past, covered bazaars were very popular, and with nearly 4,000 shops, these are still two of the most visited places in Istanbul. Even if you don’t buy anything, the authentic sights and smells of the bazaars offer an experience you won’t forget.
Istanbul connects Asia and Europe via the strait bridges. There are currently 3 major Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul and you can enjoy beautiful views of the city by taking long walks on the hiking routes close to the beach. One of the most popular hikes is the Arnavutköy – Bebek walking route.
13. Long Seaside Walk in Florya!
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Florya is a region with a very long coastline and boasts a stunning route with restaurants on one side of you and the sea on the other. You can take a long walk or cycle and the memory of this beautiful place will make for an unforgettable souvenir. There is also a forest called Florya Atatürk Forest where you can get close to nature.
14. Visit Gülhane Park!
Gülhane Park is considered an important place, especially for its historic features. The park is located in the centre of Fatih and is easy to reach using public transport. Time spent in this historic urban park is always a pleasure.
15. Hike and Picnic in Belgrade Forest!
Belgrade Forest is a stunning place to visit and very popular with people living in Istanbul, especially at weekends. For a quiet time in the Belgrade Forest, we suggest visiting on weekdays. It’s a beautiful place for long nature walks and offers many tranquil places to enjoy a picnic.
16. Fishing at Galata Bridge and Watching the View!
At Galata Bridge, you’ll see lots of people fishing. It’s a relaxing and enjoyable way to while away time and anyone is welcome to fish here. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have delicious fresh fish for your dinner!
17. Visit Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum!
There are many museums to visit in Istanbul but a lot of them charge an entrance fee. Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum is one you can visit for free. This museum is the former house of the famous Turkish storyteller Sait Faik Abasıyanık which was converted into a museum some time ago. Here you can learn all about the life of the famous author.
18. Visit Fenerbahce Park!
If you’re on the Asian side of Istanbul and looking for a pleasant time at no cost, Fenerbahce Park is a great choice. This expansive park is one of the most popular places you can visit for free but can get very crowded at times.
19. Spend Time in the Social Facility on the Hill of Çamlıca!
There is a social facility built by the municipality on Çamlıca Hill where you can spend time for free. This shaded facility under the trees has lots of tables and benches where you can sit and enjoy a snack or a picnic.
20. Visit Yıldız Park for the View!
Yıldız Park, located by the sea, is an ideal place for you to enjoy the green and blue of nature at the same time. After a long walk here you’ll have earned yourself a sip of tea from your thermos.
These are the most enjoyable things in Istanbul which are free of charge. You can review our other articles for more activities or tours available in Istanbul.