Istanbul is one of those holiday destinations that just gets under your skin, and makes it near impossible to leave. The city’s energetic charm is totally addictive, the culture is infinitely interesting, the people are lovely and the country’s history simply permeates through every cobblestone street. Besides, the sheer number of things to see, do and experience here is outstanding; there’s no way one could do it all in just a single visit. Spend a week here and don’t be surprised if you feel the incredible urge to go home, sell your belongings, leave your job, drop the cat off at your mum’s, and move here permanently.
If you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time, there are certainly a few things we’d urge you to do. At the risk of sounding a little bossy, you must visit Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market and the Blue Mosque. Actually, while you’re at it, just get lost in Sultanahmet, the city’s historic centre, and by the time you emerge on the other side you probably would’ve visited the most popular landmarks on the tourist-trail.
While some visitors tend to go on a bit of a sightseeing binge in the first few days in Istanbul, we recommend you slow the tempo down just a tad. The chaos of Istanbul can be overwhelming and diving head over heels into the tourist ‘world’ could easily be cause for a migraine. Instead, we suggest you have breaks in between visiting major landmarks and spend a few relaxing hours indulging in some of Istanbul’s other cultural attractions.
Here is the list of our most favourite things to do in Istanbul.
Belly dancing classes
Now THIS you really must try! Every visitor to Istanbul takes in at least once belly dancing show whilst in town, but not many brave the dance floor themselves. Leave all your inhibitions behind and join one of the city’s most popular dance studios Les Arts Turcs which specializes in both private and group dance classes. The studios are located smack in the middle of town, the teachers amiable, and the variations of folkloric dance classes on offer fantastic. Whether travelling alone or with friends, these classes are pure fun, culturally enlightening and more than just a little bit sexy…
Turkish Cooking Classes
Safe to say you may need to gain a few pounds to really master the art of belly dancing. To that end, we introduce…the Turkish cooking class! Once you’ve tasted the most delicious Turkish delights and some of the most unusual foods, spend a whole afternoon learning how to make your favourite dishes from scratch! The guys at Cooking Alaturka are renowned for their professionalism and flexibility, and can teach you how to prepare a delectable five-course meal straight from their restaurant’s kitchen. Best part about these classes is, of course, that you get to devour your creations and you get to take home some invaluable new cooking skills. Priceless!
Visit a Turkish Hammam
After all of that dancing and all of that cooking, you may be in need of a nice, relaxing, spa experience. Or you could go to a traditional hammam.
Turkish bath-houses are renowned for being luxuriously brutal, and a visit to one should be on everyone’s list when visiting Istanbul. Spend a couple of hours locked away in one of the city’s traditional spas and sweat your cares away. It’ll do wonders for the soul… Read our guide to Istanbul Hamams for more information.
Have your eyebrow threaded!
One of the things we love most about Istanbul, and Turkey in general, is that luxurious treatments like haircuts, manicures, pedicures and eyebrow shaping are considered basic maintenance; which means they’re available everywhere and cost but a few bucks. For the guys too!
These treats are such common practice that they are usually offered together at the local hairdressers. Even if you don’t need a haircut, walk into a local salon and indulge in a little inexpensive pampering, even if just for fun value. The only difference you’ll find, from anything you may get at home, is the traditional eyebrow threading technique, common in many parts of the world.
Using a simple sewing thread (twisted around the middle fingers of both hands), each and every eyebrow is ‘pinched’ away swiftly and painlessly. This eyebrow shaping technique has been around since time immemorial, and is considered the ideal form of eyebrow soaping because it doesn’t pull the skin or irritate it in any way. If you feel a little hesitant about walking into the first salon you come across, then we suggest you ask the concierge at your hotel for a personal recommendation.
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