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Category: Turkey

Travel Guide To Besiktas Neighborhood, Istanbul

On my third visit to Istanbul I’ve stayed in Besiktas on the European side of the city. It’s a great area close to many attractions and museums. It also has…

On my third visit to Istanbul I’ve stayed in Besiktas on the European side of the city. It’s a great area close to many attractions and museums. It also has a nice restaurant and bar scene and there is always something interesting happening here. This travel guide to Besiktas should hopefully help you find unique and interesting things to do in the area;

Attractions

Dolmabahce Palace

One of the most grandiose palaces in the world, Dolmabahce was an administrative center of Ottoman Empire. The palace and the gardens are huge so plan to spend at least 4 hours here. It’s one of the most beautiful attractions in Istanbul, not only because of its beauty and historical significance but an amazing location too. Tickets for Selamlik (official part) and Harem can be bought as one or separately. Common ticket is 40 TL. It’s also possible to book a guided tour.

Dolmabahce palace - travel guide to besiktas

Rainbow stairs

Rainbow stairs became a local phenomena. At first, this was thought to be an act by gay rights groups, however the initiative started by a local resident who wanted to beautify the surroundings. Few days later municipality workers painted them back to grey. This lead to protests after which stairs got their rainbow colors again.

Rainbow stairs Besiktas

Istanbul Modern

If you love art you have to visit this museum! In my opinion it’s one of the best in Europe. The artistic collection is very rich and there are numerous exhibitions of modern art and photography. You’ll be rewarded with some lovely views of the city too, as Istanbul Modern is located by the water. The museum also has a nice cafe where you can snack and grab coffee after your visit.

Istanbul Modern - travel guide to besiktas

 

Parks

Parks in Istanbul are rare and most often small in size like this one called Findikli. Now, some people wouldn’t even call this a park but the only reason I’m recommending it is because of the view. You get some fantastic views of the Asian side and bridges.

Findikli Parki - travel guide to besiktas

Bars

Le Fumoir at Ciragan Palace Kempinski

If you don’t mind to splurge for an amazing view and an atmosphere that will be unforgettable come here. Surroundings are beautiful, at both day and night. Beautiful palace, amazing water scenery and a lit up bridge – what more can you ask for? With an amazing view like this and a great service comes the price though. It’s a luxury brand and definitely not budget friendly but you only live once so why not? After all, Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Address: Çırağan Cad. No:32, Beşiktaş

Joker no 19

I liked this place a lot and have visited it more than once during my last trip to Istanbul. It attracts young and hip crowd and it’s ideal for a night out with friends. There’s a great selection of alcohol especially fancy craft beer. Joker also has an open front kitchen and seafood and sandwiches seem to be the most popular. However, most people come here for drinks and a chit/chat before heading to a club. Oh, and try their potatoes. They are great! 🙂

Address: Sinanpaşa, Beşiktaş Cd. No:19

Beer Hall

Quite similar establishment to Joker no 19. Large interior packed with good music and rich selection of beers and food. They also give a free popcorn. The only downside is that the place is packed and you’ll have a problem finding free seat. It’s worth trying though!

Address: Vişnezade Mh., Süleyman Seba Cd. No:46

Kaset Bistro

This bar has a really warm atmosphere and it’s great for a night of entertainment. You can play table football or enjoy one of their live music nights. Turkish coffee is really good here.

Address: Cihannüma, Barbaros Blv. No:61, Beşiktaş

Food

City Burger

Highly rated place by burger fans. It’s good for groups as it’s set in a small street full of cafes and bars.

Fish market

This place is buzzing with locals and visitors. If you love street life you should put it on your to-do list. Dining here is an interesting experience at night but you can also just look around and feel the vibe of the place.

Where to stay

I’ve stayed in W hotel as part of the World Tourism Forum event. The hotel is very trendy and is quite popular in the neighborhood, but far from budget friendly! Besides fantastic location it has a very modern design, awesome breakfast, gym and you get an Android phone free of charge. You can take it out of your room and use it while sightseeing. It has free internet and unlimited calls. Great idea! If you want to look for something that won’t break the bank head to Booking.com. Don’t forget to check HotelsCombined too as this site will search for the best price across top travel platforms.

This travel guide to Besiktas will be updated regularly so feel free to give your tips in the comments section below.

 

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Safety Travel Tips for Istanbul

Istanbul is huge and just like in every large city you should take precautions regarding your valuables and safety. Here are some safety travel tips for Istanbul that are worth…

Istanbul is huge and just like in every large city you should take precautions regarding your valuables and safety.

Here are some safety travel tips for Istanbul that are worth knowing;

Pickpockets

Quite common, not just in Istanbul but in every other city. Be cautious especially if you’re using a backpack. For example, if you’re in a cafe keep it close to you and not on an opposing chair. It’s very easy to snatch bags like this. Also I advise against carrying a backpack on your back as you’ll likely be unaware that somebody is trailing behind you. This is how my wallet got stolen from me – in my own city nonetheless. Don’t forget to check your bag from time to time to ensure it’s safely closed. Of course the consequences are higher when you’re traveling.

Taxis

Taxis are a universal travel scam. Drivers barely speak English (or pretend they don’t) and even if you give them a card with your address the ride can take longer than the usual. Foreigners are their favorite target group to exploit. Make sure to have enough change, they’ll probably claim they don’t have any in an attempt to get a generous tip. Be wary you don’t get charged with a night rate only because you’re a foreigner. Actually if possible try to avoid taxis altogether. If you’re still keen to test your luck with taxi drivers, make sure to take a taxi from a taxi station rather than hauling one on a street.

Bagdat avenue Istanbul

 

Women travelers

I’ve been to Istanbul three times and I’ve never experienced anything bad, but sometimes Turkish men can interpret friendliness as flirtation, an invitation for much more. If you are traveling solo you should be cautious of the possible signals you might be sending or if you notice someone following you. Ask for help from the nearest person.

Bring a friend with you (if possible a male) – this will discourage men resulting in them approaching you less. There have been stories of women who got raped or molested in small shops, even in the Grand Bazaar.

Mobile phones

Beside bags, mobile phones are another popular item for thief’s shopping cart so take caution.

Traffic

Traffic in Istanbul is crazy. You need to be alert and careful at all time. Regulations are often not even respected, so green light doesn’t necessarily mean you should cross the street.

Dolmus Istanbul

Money

Be especially careful in public transport. Don’t have any valuables on you and just carry things you need for the day. You can always leave money or credit cards in your hotel safe.

Shoe polishers

This is another really famous scam in Istanbul. They drop the brush ‘accidentally’, people let them know and as gratitude they want to shine your shoes free of charge. Most of the times they’ll keep insisting and eventually you’ll give up. What happens next you’ll want to reward them with some coin money but they keep pushing for more. There are many shoe polishers in Istanbul so if you spot one who just dropped his brush, walk away.

simple man

Bar Scams

This is occurring more among guys. “Friendly” stranger will approach you and will try to recommend you a good bar where you can see a Turkish dance. You will order a drink and then a group of good looking girls will join you and order drinks. In the end your bill could be even more than 1000 USD and you won’t be able to leave the place because it’s surrounded by thugs.

Taksim

There are many bad stories surrounding Taksim square but I never had a problem there. You should definitely avoid protests though. Political rallies and demonstrations usually take place in Taksim and they are also a prime target for terrorist attacks.

Taksim square Istanbul

Terrorism

The threat from terrorism in Turkey is high at the moment. Kurdish groups, Islamic State and some other far left organizations will continue to target the state. Tourists are in high risk of an attack. In January 2016, 10 people died in a suicide bombing in Sultanahmet area. If possible tourists should avoid public transport and major touristic sights. This of course won’t be possible if you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time but you could apply some precaution measures (f.e when visiting major tourist sights, make sure to visit very early in the morning when there is a smaller crowd). Terrorists will target large groups as they want to cause pandemonium and spread panic to echo across the world.

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7 Fantastic Walks in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe offers some fantastic opportunities for walking and not just in the countryside and wilderness, but also in its cities rich with culture and history. Not only will you…

Eastern Europe offers some fantastic opportunities for walking and not just in the countryside and wilderness, but also in its cities rich with culture and history. Not only will you explore new places, but walking is also a fun recreational activity suitable for all ages. Here are my picks for the 7 fantastic walks in Eastern Europe:

The Castle District and The Old Town, Prague

Prague is definitely one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and the best way to explore it is to start from the Castle District. The Prague Castle is the seat of the Czech president and it’s one of the most famous attractions in the city. The views from the top are amazing and from here you can get down to the Charles Bridge which is flooded by tourists, musicians and painters. Continuing to the Old Town you’ll see numerous historic buildings including the famous Astronomical Clock.

View from the Charles Bridge Prague

Meteora, Greece

You don’t get to walk in “the middle of the sky” every day. Well, that’s what Meteora basically means in Greek. This complex consists of 24 monasteries located on immense rocks which were split by earthquakes a million of years ago. This place served as a shelter for those people who seeked spiritual isolation, and considering that they had to use ladders and ropes to inhabitate this unfriendly area, it’s pretty amazing to imagine what they’ve done. However, only six remain today and they are part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Walking is definitely the best way to explore Meteora and to enjoy truly breathtaking views and that’s the reason why so many tourist agencies offer interesting hiking tours.

Meteora monasteries

Durmitor and Northern Montenegro

The best way to explore Durmitor national park is to start from Zabljak, which is the highest populated town in the Balkans. 18 glacial lakes also known as the “mountain eyes” add so much to the beauty of this place. The park has more than 200km of marked hiking trails that pass through pine forests and numerous springs. I also suggest a visit to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Pljevlja which is hidden in the woods and has one of the richest art collections in the ex-Yugoslav countries.

Holy Trinity Monastery Pljevlja Montenegro

Old Town, Warsaw

Surely there are more beautiful historic centres in Europe but Warsaw deserves to be a part of this list mainly because of the reconstruction of its urban core after the WW2. It’s just amazing to walk its streets and to imagine that 90% of the city was completely demolished and that exactly looked like this. The historic centre is surrounded by Barbican  – one of the few remaining fortifications in Warsaw. Other prominent tourist attractions in the Old Town include the Royal Castle, St. John’s Cathedral and the Sigismund’s Column.

Old town Warsaw

Eastern Serbia

If you want to escape from civilization Eastern Serbia is a place to go! This hidden gem is famous for its fascinating beauties, waiting to be discovered by more travelers. Picturesque villages located below Stara planina, the highest mountain in eastern Serbia, Zavoj lake with ideal places for camping and interesting geological forms are definitely gonna attract more travelers interested in adventure tourism to this area. For instance, Dry Mountain is a great place for hiking as it offers breathtaking views from the top and it often gathers mountaineers from various parts of the Balkans.

Zavoj lake Serbia

Skocjan Educational Trail, Slovenia

You definitely shouldn’t miss Skocjan Caves once in Slovenia as this place ideally combines beautiful nature and cultural heritage. The underground canyon of Skocjan caves is the largest of its kind in the world and touring this place will make you feel like you’re in an Indiana Jones movie! The most impressive part is walking down the stairs and reaching the bridge inside the cave which is located above the Reka river, some 45 meters above. The cave is surrounded by Skocjan and Betanja villages which are also part of the Skocjan Educational Trail and they are also worth exploring because of the rich cultural heritage and great hiking paths.

Skocjan caves Slovenia

Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul

Walking down this street for the first time will surely never leave your memory. With a never ending flow of people, art galleries, cinemas, libraries, historical patisseries, cafes and restaurants you’ll be like Alice in Wonderland.  The only thing that can interrupt your walk are beautiful historic red trams which are the symbol of the city.  However don’t just walk the Istiklal street, but also explore the alleyways with markets and restaurants.

Istiklal avenue

What’s your most memorable walk?

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Stunning Scenery: Natural Marvels in Turkey

Nature, culture, history, gastronomy … the truth is that Turkey has all the ingredients to make a country the perfect destination for all kinds of travelers. Most visitors limit their…

Nature, culture, history, gastronomy … the truth is that Turkey has all the ingredients to make a country the perfect destination for all kinds of travelers. Most visitors limit their stay to Istanbul or the beach resorts in the Aegean or Mediterranean coast, but it would be a pity to miss out on the natural scenery that dominates other parts of this huge country. Destinations like Cappadocia or Pamukkale are well known to most visitors, but relatively few venture into the landscapes of the Black Sea region or Eastern Turkey. If you’re already about to make your way over on flights to Turkey and ready to explore the lesser-known side of the country, read through the handpicked destinations listed below. They’re a mixture of the popular and of gems you can beat the hordes to.

Here are some of the best natural marvels in Turkey;

Cappadocia

Cappadocia balloons

The eerie landscapes of Cappadocia have fascinated travelers for centuries. This region is one of Turkey’s most visited areas, but its beauty makes it a port of call that you’d regret not making a stop at. Millions of years of exposure to the elements have shaped Cappadocia’s landscapes into something seemingly out of this world. Whether seen from a hot air balloon or from the ground, Cappadocia’s singular rock formations will make you feel as if you had just landed in a different planet.

The towns of Nevsehir and Goreme are the gateways to the region, but it pays to venture a little further and explore villages like Uchisar, Avanos, or Ibrahimpaşa. For a change of scenery, head to the beautiful Ilhara canyon, where the greenery contrasts with Cappadocia’s earthy, otherworldly tones.

Pamukkale

Pamukkale Turkey

If Mother Nature was an artist, it would have surely won many awards for creating Pamukkale. This region is covered in cotton-like white minerals that truly pay homage to its name, as Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. Dozens of cascading hot springs form natural bathing pools, creating a surreal landscape that will make an impression on even the most seasoned travelers. Late summer is the best time to visit this area.

Yedigoller National Park

Yedigoller national park Turkey

Tucked away in the little visited Black Sea region, Yedigoller National Park is a remarkable natural paradise. Yedigoller (which means “Seven Lakes” in Turkish) is every bit as impressive as the mountain landscapes of places like Western Canada or the Alps, but to appreciate the beauty at its best you should visit during the late summer of the spring, when the leaves turn vivid red, orange, and yellow tones. The park is accessible from Bolu, an interesting city known for its hearty cuisine, cool architecture, and hot springs.

Güzelçamlı National Park

Güzelçamlı National Park

Located in Turkey’s Aegean coast and covering nearly 70,000 acres on the Dilek peninsula, Güzelçamlı National Park (also known as Milli Park) is a compulsory stop for nature lovers who want to experience the best of western Turkey. It’s hard to believe that this oasis of peace and quiet is only 15 miles away from Kusadasi, one of the busiest resorts in this part of Turkey. Güzelçamlı is the ideal spot to spend a day hiking, taking pictures, sunbathing in the beaches of the park, exploring gorges and canyons, or enjoying panoramic views over the peninsula and beyond.

To be in Turkey is to be in a captivating country. You can explore the tourist sights and also make the most of the time to see the less touristic ones before the throngs of holidaymakers discover it.

Images by brewbooks, Esther Lee, Serhan Sevim and Nikolay Georgiev used under creative commons license.

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#bunk – A chic place to stay in Istanbul

Since the levels and qualities of services can wildly fluctuate in Istanbul, it might be more difficult than usual to find a decent place to stay, being affordable at the…

Since the levels and qualities of services can wildly fluctuate in Istanbul, it might be more difficult than usual to find a decent place to stay, being affordable at the same time. As this was my second stay in Istanbul, I know how truly hard it is to find not only a high quality hostel, but one that is safe and is situated in a good location in the epicenter of the city.

During my search for that ever elusive hostel, #bunk caught my attention primarily because of its beautiful design and chic spirit. I already liked the place before I have even arrived, and actually fell in love with its charm as soon as I stepped through the door. I received such a warm welcome from its friendly staff and immediately was drawn into the hostels cozy atmosphere.

Short Introduction to #bunk

#bunk is owned by an international team of four coming from England, Germany and Turkey. The brand was formed in 2011 and currently consists of two hostels: one in Beyoğlu and the other set to open next month in Taksim.

The owners are openly enthusiastic about their jobs, which can be seen from the fact that they highly value their guests’ feedback and you will probably be asked to fill in a survey during your stay.

Hostel Areas

I have stayed in the superior 4 bed mixed dorm, but the hostel also has standard twin private, deluxe double bed private and superior 4 bed female dorms.

#bunk hostel 4 bed room

4 bed room

The beds are really cozy and comfortable, and the rooms are designed in white minimalist style with the oriental motifs on the ceiling, which were inspired by mosques. The only drawback is that there is not enough space to spread out your luggage, especially if the room is full.

#bunk hostel marble bathroom

Marble bathroom

#bunk has marble bathrooms that look really luxurious for a hostel, a rooftop terrace and a cozy lounge area where you can chat with other guests or enjoy a cup of coffee with a magazine or newspaper.

#bunk free use of desktop computers

At #bunk you get free use of desktop computers

Free breakfast includes cereal, bread, tomatoes, olives, freshly boiled eggs, cheese with of course butter, spreads, coffee and tea.

#bunk free breakfast

Kitchen area

Location

The location is just perfect! Situated in Sahne sokak, just two minutes from the Istiklal street (Istiklal Caddesi) and few steps from the Nevizade street makes #bunk a great base for exploring the city. Taksim square is within 1km from the hostel.

#bunk location

Staff

My favourite thing about this place are actually people working there who are always smiley, friendly and ready to help. Thank you Pauline, Dunya and Muhammet for your kindness!

So again what you get?

   
24h reception/security key card room access
free secure luggage storage marble bathrooms
free wireless internet bunk beds
free use of desktop computers chill out lounge
free breakfast roof terrace
free fluffy towels cafe
hairdryers/straighteners no curfew
air-conditioning in every room etc.

How to Get There

#bunk is located 25km from the Ataturk airport, and 50km from the Sabiha Gökçen airport. The best way to reach Taksim square from both airports is to use HAVATAS coaches that operate regularly.

For more info and schedules you can check their official website or their Booking profile.

If you are looking for a high quality accommodation with moderate price I suggest you check out #bunk. You will spend your time in a trendy and clean environment, surrounded with friendly people!

Disclaimer

I’ve stayed as a guest of #bunk.

© All photos belong to #bunk brand.

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23 Essential Do’s in Istanbul

“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with the same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is…

“Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with the same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.” – Edmondo De Amicis

Here’s the pick of 23 essential do’s in Istanbul;

1. Befriend Turkish people and see for yourself why they are famous for their hospitality

Turkish people

Photo: quinn.anya on Flickr under CC

 2. Cross the Bosphorus Bridge

Bosphorus Bridge

Photo: http://www.bariskaradeniz.com/ on Flickr under CC

3. Try Turkish specialties

Iskender kebab

İskender kebab

4. And beer

Turkish beer Efes

Photo: erenemre on Flickr under CC

5. Don’t miss the Asian side, especially the Bağdat Avenue

Bagdat avenue Istanbul

Bağdat Avenue

6. Attend a sport match of one of “The Big Three” teams

Galatasary basketball team

The Big Three teams are Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. And all are based in Istanbul.

7. Ride in dolmuş!

Dolmus Istanbul

Because doing it local style is the way to go!

8. Hang out at Taksim square – the heart of modern Istanbul

Taksim square Istanbul

Taksim means ‘division’ and originally it was the point where the main water lines from the Belgrade Forest were collected and laid to this point. Nowadays, Taksim is a favorite meeting point for locals and a location for organizing public events and social gatherings.

9. Combine Simit and Ayran

simit and ayran

Simit is a popular street food, sold everywhere by street vendors.

 10. Stroll along İstiklal Avenue

Istiklal avenue

Beautiful. Vibrant. Cosmopolitan. Sleepless. Visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day.

11. Get on top of Galata tower for spectacular views

view from Galata tower, istanbul

A place to see all Istanbul.

12. Climb the Kamondo stairs

Kamondo stairs

Photo: ahunziker on Flickr under CC

13. Feed the cats. They rule the city.

Istanbul is a city of cats.

14. Feel the history in Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia interior

Istanbul’s most famous monument.
Oh, and if you want to be cured from all your ailments, don’t forget to stick your finger in a hole of the weeping column.

15. Visit the stunning Blue Mosque and listen to the call to prayer in the cortyard

Blue Mosque

Remove your shoes, put on a headscarf and enjoy the beauty around you.

16. Take a ferry trip to the Asian side.

ferry trip to the asian side

Enjoy the great view!

17. Search for the Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern Istanbul

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love”

18. Try your art of bargaining at the Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Explore, drink lots of tea but don’t get carried away. Note that the Grand Bazaar is a typical tourist trap and everything is overpriced here.

19. Have a cup of Türk kahvesi (Turkish coffee) or çay (tea)

Türk kahvesi - Turkish coffee

Check out the tea gardens (çay bahçesis) or coffee houses (kahvehanes).

20. Explore Üsküdar – One of the city’s more conservative suburbs

Uskudar, Istanbul

One of the streets

21. Istanbul is huge, so don’t forget to have a rest

Uskudar. Istanbul

🙂

22. Try tulumba

turkish tulumba

Besides Turkey, this is a popular dessert throughout the Balkans.

23. And if you have some spare time, escape to the Princes’ Islands

Büyükada

Beautiful white homes of Büyükada

All photos are © Eurotribe except where noted. All rights reserved.

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