In the bustling center of Istanbul, daytime traffic and one-way streets make routes circuitous. Fortunately, public transportation and taxis are both plentiful and inexpensive. Buses, minibuses, sea buses, ferries, metros, trams, trains and taxis are at your disposal to travel from area to area or from one shore to the other. However, to really get a feel for the city, there’s simply no substitute for a pair of comfortable shoes and the willingness to explore on foot. Here are just a few suggestions for great trails to trace in Istanbul.
Exploring Sultanahmet, the Bazaar Quarter, and Beyoğlu
The two-kilometer walk from Sultanahmet along Divan Yolu to Beyazit Square and the Grand Bazaar will take you past many interesting old buildings, markets, and shops. It’s also possible to take this route via tram, but if you want to stop and visit quirky shops or have a bite to eat along the way, walking is the way to go.
One lovely walk downhill is from the Grand Bazaar along Uzunçarsi Caddesi, through the Tahtakale district to the Egyptian (Spice) Market in Eminönü. This promenade will take you through Istanbul’s local crafts and shopping district. If you need a short break you can hop on a tram downhill to Eminönü, stroll languidly across Galata Bridge and enjoy the scenery of the Bosphorus.
Another nice walk starts either by taking the metro uphill from Karaköy (Galata) to Tünel Square, located at the southwestern end of Istiklal Caddesi, formerly known as the Grande Rue de Péra. Stroll northeastward along the avenue toward Taksim Square. If you’re tired or in a hurry, you can take the restored 19th-century tram from Tünel via Galatasaray to Taksim, but there are a plethora of charming little side streets to explore along the way, and you have to walk to do this. Tip: Afterwards, you can stop for a meal or at least a coffee and sweets at the delightful Sütis restaurant, which dishes up a variety of quality Turkish specialties.
A Green Stroll Along the Historic Peninsula
Another great place to enjoy on foot is the tip of the Historic Peninsula. You’ll want to start on the north side, near the Gülhane tram stop. From here you can enjoy the beauty of the Gülhane Park and its views out to the water as well as walk around the nearby Topkapi Palace gardens, former home of the Ottoman sultans. Amble around the Istanbul Archeological Museums southward until you reach the Ishak Pasa Caddesi, from which you can then head westward to the lovely Sultan Ahmet Park and the Mehmet Akif Ersoy Park.
Exploring the Old Fishing Villages of Arnavutköy
By taking the bus northward from Besiktas, you’ll enjoy a lovely ride along the coast of the Bosphorus. You’ll want to exit the bus at Arnavutköy, a charming historic neighborhood full of wooden Ottoman-era mansions and verdant patches along the fishing boat-lined shore. Walk northward or wind your way uphill and stop for lunch at one of the excellent seafood restaurants or cafes that run parallel to the banks of the Bosphorus.
These are just a few suggestions for routes to take that will help you get a feel for Istanbul – but once here, you’ll create your own. Istanbul is a magical city whose surprises are best found on foot!
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