Istanbul Bosporus

Istanbul: Our Highlights

How We Ate Our Way Through Istanbul 

Last week we flew out to Istanbul for 4 nights for a food extravaganza! We have visited Istanbul a couple of times before and so this time it wasn't about sightseeing but purely trying to find the best food that the city has to offer! 

Why Istanbul?

18 months ago we visited North Cyprus where Yuksel spent his childhood, it was our first visit back in a few years and it brought back so many nostalgic memories and gave us lots of inspiration for recipes and new products. We find that a change of environment, with a difficult culture, food and smells is the best for igniting creativity and so having been to Istanbul before for work and for sightseeing we knew that it had so much inspiration to offer! So we decided to spend 3 days exploring the food that the city has to offer. 

Is 3 days enough to explore the city and where is the best place to base yourself?

We stayed for 4 nights (3 full days) and honestly felt like we didn't have enough time. Considering we did not go in any mosques, palaces or museums as we had done that before it just shows how much there is to do in this city. We love to walk and explore wherever we go and ended up walking 40 miles over the 3 days! The metro and tram system has come a long way since we last visited in 2016 and is very easy to navigate and super cheap at between 50p-£1 per journey so you could definitely make more use of that than what we did. We covered the 3 main central parts of Istanbul and did 1 day in each part, we stayed in the Old City (Fatih) and visited the new city (Karakoy) and the asian side of Istanbul (Kadikoy). The last time we went we stayed in Karakoy at The Bank Hotel Istanbul and definitely preferred this area to base ourselves and would recommend this especially for your first visit. On this trip we stayed at the Rayelin Hotel Istanbul in the Old City because of the facilities it offered, it is a new hotel and very clean, modern and has the benefit of a spa, gym and hammam but is a 20min walk or 5-10mins on the metro to the centre. 

What Were Our Food Highlights?

We ate in so many different places and luckily all of the walking helped us to burn it off! There is so much choice and variety of food in Istanbul, had we not done extensive research before we definitely would not have come across most of the places that we ate in. We will be posting a vlog on our youtube about all of the places that we ate in but for now here are our top 3: 

1. Van Ahtamara Beyoglu Kahvalti Evi  - Karakoy 

We had a 10/10 Turkish Breakfast here. We were seated in their lovely open roofer courtyard on a sunny March morning. The service was excellent, the waiters were attentive and explained what all of the dishes were and the best way to eat them. We ordered the full breakfast spread for 2 people plus an extra menemen with pastrami, this comes with a bread basket which the waiter told us to use the sweet bread to dip in our (unlimited) Turkish tea. It was delightful! The full breakfast spread came with a variety of cheeses, jams, honey, fried eggs, cream, tahini, a egg and flour dish, olives and more! We literally did not speak while we were eating this and all you could hear were 'ooos' and ahhs' as we did our best to finish it all! Highly recommend. 

2. Sehzade Cag Kebap. - Old City

We had this on our first night and it was the perfect start to the trip. Cag Kebap is similar to doner kebab but it is cooked on a spit horizontally instead of vertically like a doner. The meat is then sliced off onto smaller skewers and then finished over the mangal so char the fat. It was served with thin wraps, salad, sumac onions, beautifully thick yoghurt and one of the best ezme salads we've had. We would love to recreate this as a recipe at home but think it will be a difficult one as it really does come down to a perfect technique that these guys hone and practice day in, day out. 

3. Cihangir Tarihi Simit Firin - Karaköy 

This is a bakery we visited after our Turkish breakfast, I had read great things about it so really wanted to see if it lived up to the expectation. We were stuffed from the Turkish breakfast and so decided to buy some bits for later (we ended up having them for breakfast the next day). This bakery is a cute little shop in a lovely neighbourhood and is family run, you cannot sit inside as most of the space is taken up with the women baking and a big oven for baking of the delicious treats, but there are some tables outside. We bought Tahinli which is one of Yuksel's most favourite tahini cakes, and he said this was the best one he had ever eaten! (and he has eaten quite a lot in his life time!), we also got their orange bun which was like a cross between a hot cross bun, a scone and a cake and was also delicious. We also got their almond cookies which are usually used at weddings and events (we gave them as favours at our own wedding). They have the chewy consistency of a macaroon but are bigger and a little more cookie like, again these were spot on! Definitely stop here for a light breakfast or an afternoon snack.  

Should I Visit Istanbul? 

Istanbul really is like no other city we have travelled to. It really is East meets West in every way, we love the contrasts of this city and the rich culture that it offers. It is non stop however, there is so much going on all of the time and after 4 nights we were a bit wired from the constant hustle and bustle and were so glad that we had the amenities of the pool and spa at the hotel and that we also booked a hammam at Cukurcuma Hammami for some much needed relaxation. Istanbul is 100% a city you need to tick off your bucket list but be prepared to be tired by the end of the trip! 

Make sure to subscribe to our youtube channel to see our vlogs of our entire trip and all of the food we ate! 

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