18 Reasons Why Istanbul is the Best City

Istanbul is a great and beautiful city which offers you a million different sides and things to do. In fact, it can be the best city in Turkey, and perhaps the world. Of course, putting cities into categories is a pretty subjective thing, but strong arguments support Istanbul as the best city. Read the following article and decide yourself, can any other city offer you the things Istanbul has? The final opinion will be yours, so let’s get started.

Rich History

Naturally, all cities went through a good amount of series of events in history that would make them historically significant. But the thing about Istanbul is that three big empires ruled it in history, and İstanbul was very significant for each empire. In İstanbul, you can see the traces from the Ottoman Empire, Roman Empire, and Byzantine at once.

Istanbul being a host for all kinds of cultures, ethnicities, races, and religious beliefs resulted in a great cultural and historical richness, which can be concretely observed today. As you walk in Istanbul streets, you can encounter a magnificent Ottoman mosque, and as you keep walking, you can see a church from the Byzantine Empire, which has lots of things to tell you.

There are no possible ways for you to be in İstanbul and not feel this energy from history. If you ever are curious about a unique-looking building and wonder if it has a background, the answer will probably be yes. You will walk in the streets once sultans walk, pass by the places where the decisions that changed history were once made. And as you explore Istanbul, you will understand why important people from the past chose Istanbul as their centers and tried so hard to take or keep this city.

Cuisine

One thing you need to know about Istanbul and Turkey, in general, is how rich the cuisine is. There are so many options and so many unique dishes to choose from according to your taste. A great opportunity in Istanbul is that you will have access to most Turkish cuisine dishes. 

Of course, certain dishes belong to specific areas of Turkey. But İstanbul is a center of everything, including food. As you are in İstanbul, you can sit in a restaurant to see dishes from Muğla, Erzurum, or Adana regions. It is always the best to try those foods in their region, but since traveling the whole country can be very time-consuming, having access to all of them in one city is a great plus.

Besides, the options are not limited to Turkish cuisine. Istanbul is a world city, and you can find different dishes from various cuisines. If you ever get exhausted from eating all those traditional foods, you can always find a restaurant to get an acai bowl, sushi, Thai food, or whatever you can think of. Just know where to look!

Alive Nightlife

Another aspect of Istanbul that would make it the best city is the nightlife. Nightlife can mean many different things to different people, and the good thing about nightlife in İstanbul is that there is always an option for every kind of preference. 

If you want to have a crazy party in a nightclub, there are hundreds of places to choose from. If you want to have a themed dance night, you can find one. If you want to just chill with your friends late at night when drinking something with the company of live music, you will find a good place. Besides, nightlife can get better while you are cruising between two continents. You can also find a yacht to party at night in Bosphorus. The options are endless, just experiment with the options, and you will find the best place for you.

Natural Beauties

Being in a big city where you can find everything is cool, but so does being in nature, away from the city. A good thing about Istanbul is that you can have both in the same city. There are forests to have a picnic at, places to go hiking, or calm areas with the best views. The following are some natural beauties of Istanbul, to give you an idea about.

  • Belgrad Forests: The very first thing that comes to mind in terms of nature in İstanbul is the Belgrad Forests without a doubt. You can have fresh air in this forest full of green trees, run in the parkours, have a calm walk, or have a picnic with your loved ones.
  • Emirgan Grove: Another dazzling natural beauty of İstanbul is Emirgan Grove. If you are in Istanbul in the springtime, then you must visit Emirgan Grove to see the visual feast that tulips create. You can participate in activities such as running, hiking, and having a picnic as well.
  • Çamlıca Hill: Istanbul is awesome as you are in it, and imagine seeing Istanbul from bird’s eye view, panoramically. The best Bosphorus view can be observed from Çamlıca Hill, in addition to the fresh air, you will get there.

Best Shopping Experience

One thing people enjoy on holidays is shopping because you can find things that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Since Istanbul is a metropolis, you can find most brands you would like to shop at, as there are many shopping centers with different options. Besides, there are many local boutiques with unique pieces. 

Everyone can find the stuff from big brands, and indeed you will have access to them in İstanbul. But the thing here is, they do not always carry the vibe of uniqueness and localness. You can shop at stores that sell handmade products, vintage stores, secondhand stores, or local boutiques with one-of-a-kind products.

Another wonderful side of Istanbul in terms of shopping is the weekly bazaars. If you are looking for a place to shop local things, you must visit a weekly bazaar. There are all kinds of bazaars at different places in Istanbul, with different schedules. You can purchase handmade jewelry, clothing, perfumes, makeup products, handmade foods, and so on. The options are endless when you are at a bazaar.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar is a historical bazaar, where you can enjoy a nice shopping experience while exploring this landmark. It was once the most important shopping center of the Ottoman Empire, and its significance continues even today. There are thousands of products sold in Grand Bazaar, but the most popular ones can be listed as follows:

  • Gold and silver jewelry
  • Traditional carpets and rugs
  • Souvenirs
  • Natural self care products
  • Herbs and spices

Spice Bazaar

Grand Bazaar is not the only historically significant bazaar in İstanbul. Spice Bazaar is another historically significant bazaar, and it is one of the oldest ones. Spice Bazaar is primarily known for the herbalist shops in it, but you can find many other things there, including flower seeds, spices, various food types, and so on. 

İstiklal Street

Another unique shopping experience in Istanbul would be the İstiklal Street. İstiklal Street has many things to offer you, and perhaps the most popular activity to do in İstiklal Street is shopping. You can find everything you need in İstiklal Street, including famous brand shops and little shops where you can shop local things.

Besides, there are many secondhand bookshops in İstiklal Street. Those shops sell rare books, first publications of famous books, old records, and vintage postcards. If you are a bookworm or a big fan of vintage things, then you must visit those secondhand shops.

Landmarks 

An important benefit of having such a long history shows itself with all those significant landmarks. Learning about history is fun, especially when you can physically be in the places that the history was written. As I mentioned earlier, Istanbul has a very rich history, and every street you walked through has something to tell. The following are some of the most significant landmarks that you must not miss out on while in Istanbul.

Galata Tower

The gorgeous Galata Tower was built in the mid 14th century. Although it was originally built to watch the city for fires, its use changed in the future. Probably nobody could have predicted that it will become such an important tourist destination today.

Today you can get to the top of Galata Tower, and you can witness the most breathtaking view you can possibly see in the world. The city looks so small from above, and the panoramic view of Istanbul is so beautiful that it cannot be described with words.

Hagia Sophia

Another significant landmark of Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia. This architectural masterpiece was initially built as a church, then converted into a mosque, followed by a conversion to a museum, and now it serves as a mosque again. Regardless of the serving purpose of Hagia Sophia, it is one of the most beautiful structures of the world.

St. Anthony of Padua Church

The St. Anthony of Padua Church will catch your eye as you walk down Istiklal Street without warning. It is the biggest catholic church in Istanbul, with incredible architecture and rich historical background.

The Bosphorus

It is not very common for a single city to be located on two different continents, especially if a breathtaking formation like the Bosphorus separates them. Istanbul’s strategic location has made the city a very desirable place over the years, and today it is one of the important symbols of the city that makes Istanbul unique.

Say whatever you want to say about Istanbul, but as you walk around the streets and suddenly turn around from a corner and meet this view, you will forget everything. Of course, big guys from history were also in love with Bosphorus, and they built a lot of fancy and magnificent buildings around it. Every single historical building around Bosphorus is unique and has something to tell you about history. 

The thing about Bosphorus is not limited to its wonderful view. As I mentioned earlier, it is not common for a city to have, and switching between two continents by using public transportation is a big deal. Besides, the entertainment activities in İstanbul are as live as in the Bosphorus as they are in the land. Bosphorus cruises are addictive.

Climate

There are places you would have second thoughts about the climate, and places can be too hot or too cold. In Istanbul, you will not have such inconvenience since the climate in İstanbul allows you to live all seasons in a year without going to extremes. Appreciate it, love it, embrace it. The climate conditions in İstanbul are the best.

The summertime in Istanbul is hot and dry, but not at a level that would make going out a misery. It is the nicest version of hotness ever be; you can just wear light clothes, wear your sunscreen, and you are good to go. Is there any better way to enjoy the sun rather than being in the streets or the coasts of Istanbul? Besides, you can find beaches to swim in İstanbul.

The wintertime is as lovely as the summertime, as you can expect cold and rainy weather without the extremes. Rainy İstanbul is a different experience when the sun is not around, and the city becomes mysteriously gloomy. Besides, it can also get snowy so that you will have the opportunity of playing in the snow. How cool is that?

The autumn in İstanbul cannot be explained by words, so that people wrote songs about it (check out Istanbulda Sonbahar by Teoman and its lyrics). All the leaves of trees change colors to yellow and red, the streets are full of leaves, and there is just chilly nice weather. Istanbul is the live evidence of all days of a year that can look perfect in a city.

And of course, the springtime! The perfect weather between hot and cold, just the perfect in-middle. The flowers will start to bloom, and you will have this unexplainable joy at your heart, in the form of beautiful weather that makes you restless. It is time to go out, walk around, and appreciate every little thing you see.

Events

Everything can get usual after you get exposed to it for a certain amount of time, but you will never get this feeling in İstanbul, never. As I mentioned many times earlier, Istanbul is basically the center of everything, and of course, there had to be some unique events to attend at and have the best time of your life.

There are all kinds of events and festivals conducted in İstanbul annually. To have a unique experience, you should definitely follow the dates of those festivals and events to find the perfect one for you. The content of those events includes but is not limited to music, art, food, drinks, dance, opera, and so on. The following are some of the most popular annual festivals held in İstanbul, to give you a general idea about them. Do not forget that these are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are so many more.

  • Istanbul Jazz Festival: This incredible festival has been held in Istanbul every July since 1994. Many global jazz musicians around the world are in the Istanbul Jazz Festival, offering you great jazz concerts and other lovers. Fellow jazz lovers, you have just found the festival of your life.
  • Istanbul Second-Hand Book Festival: This festival has existed since 2006 and was first established to keep secondhand bookstores tradition alive. New books are cool, but the secondhand books that carry the energy of the former owner are cooler. More than 50 second -hand bookshops open a stand to introduce and sell secondhand books. It is the perfect match for bookworms.
  • Chill-Out Festival: The name can be pretty self-explanatory, but this festival will give you enough satisfaction from music and chilling out. Many musicians from Turkey and abroad give concerts at this festival, and you will have the opportunity to dance like no one is watching with the DJ performances.
  • Istanbul Biennial: This event is a contemporary art exhibition, but it is not held annually. The Istanbul Biennal takes place every two years, making it extra unique since you will have to wait a long time for it to happen. Here you can expand your understanding of art and see some unique masterpieces to think about.

Culture and Art

Some places are just beautiful, but they do not have a soul. Think about a perfectly good-looking person but does not have something to say or any emotional reactions. Istanbul is nothing like this, it has a vibrant soul and thousands of stories to tell you. This is mainly due to the great rich culture İstanbul has. There are so many things to learn about Turkish culture, and, to be honest, and culture is the primary thing that creates the vibes of the city.

The best thing about the culture in İstanbul is that it is never limited to one. Of course, the Turkish culture is the easiest one to observe among all the other cultures in İstanbul, but the other ones are just too much to ignore in the best way possible. Istanbul has always been a place where lots of different cultures lived together, and the situation is still the same. Over 16 million people are living in Istanbul, from all cultures and characters.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned here is the art in İstanbul. Art is an indispensable part of our lives, but it is so easy to overlook it. But in İstanbul, you will have the opportunity of not just making or seeing art but living it. As you walk down the street, you may see a form of artwork showing itself at random stairs and walls. 

Additionally, there are many art exhibitions all around the city. If you are an art lover looking for something unique or open to new things, you must explore the different art exhibitions in Istanbul to widen your perspective.

Of course, art is not all about exhibitions. There are thousands of concerts, theatre plays, musicals, and festivals to participate in. Istanbul can meet all of your art needs and feed your soul at the same time.

Photography in İstanbul is another great way to perform art in Istanbul. Istanbul can offer you the most wonderful landscapes that you can ever think of. Can you imagine the golden hour at Bosphorus, as the seagulls fly above, and the ferries are busily carrying people from one continent to another? Or the streets of Istanbul, when there is no one around but the street cats.

Hospitality

A crucial aspect of a city when it comes to being a good one is the people living there. There is a chance for you to hear about Turkish hospitality earlier, and you can experience this construct in İstanbul at its best.

Most of the time, all the places to visit or events to participate in a city can take you for a while, but if the people in the city are not so welcoming, a wonderful city can turn into hell for you. Luckily, you will never have to deal with this in İstanbul (most of the time, because no one can guarantee anything when talking about human beings).

Turkish culture itself is very welcoming and accepting for all people. The things that you will encounter may create a culture shock for you, especially if you are from a very different culture but in a good way. People here will make everything to make you feel at home. Turkish people are known for their willingness to help others. 

Popular Culture, Books, and Songs

As I mentioned many times earlier, I must once again say that İstanbul is a center for many things. The beauty and the wonderfulness of Istanbul can be clearly observed from the popular culture. For example, did you know that the Sam Mendes’ Skyfall movie was shot in İstanbul? 

Besides, most of the cinematic products in Turkey take place in İstanbul. If you happen to look at the greatest hits of Turkey, you will see thousands of Istanbul references in various songs. You may think, “okay, and what?” now, but think about it. Art in any form represents the way people feel and think, and Istanbul creates an urge to explain those feelings in a unique way to Istanbul. This is not something to underestimate, and neither should you. Istanbul is an experience itself.

In addition to the cinematic and musical products, Istanbul has a great place in literacy, and I am not just talking about Turkish literacy. Did you know that the Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk mostly writes about Istanbul? Or did you know that many legendary authors such as Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain mentioned Istanbul in their writings? It is not a coincidence that İstanbul leaves a trace on those who encounter it within. It is a shred of great evidence for Istanbul’s intangible value.

Health Care System

Besides all the things I mentioned up to now, I must mention the healthcare system in İstanbul. Of course, this is about the healthcare system in Turkey since there are no different applications for different cities in Turkey, but it must be said. If you have an SGK, most of your healthcare services will be free. It is a wonderful thing to have an accessible healthcare system that puts people’s health before anything else.

City Atmosphere

The atmosphere of a city is crucial. Istanbul’s atmosphere is hard to describe, but as in many other aspects of Istanbul, here we can safely say that there are options! Different districts of Istanbul have different characteristics as if they are real human beings. 

For example, when Beşiktaş district is a chill district where you can basically see all kinds of people minding their own business. But when you get to another district such as Nişantaşı, it will feel like you are at another place with all the fancy restaurants and stylish people. You will get the best of both worlds.

Transportation

It is not quite possible to live without public transportation nowadays. Even though you have your own car, the situation might not be available to use it to get to certain destinations, and transportation will always be more affordable than using private cars – and it is so much better for the environment. 

Istanbul gets the point here as well since there is a very developed public transportation system that allows you to get from a point to another easily. You can use the ferry, tram, buses, minibosses, metro, or the Metrobus. Besides, the public transport runs are pretty frequent, so you don’t have to wait.

One bad thing you can hear about Istanbul is the way sometimes traffic gets so stuck. But it is an adaptation process. You will get adapted to the traffic hours and automatically include the traffic factor on your plans so that you can leave early to be at a place on time. Besides, everything cannot be perfect all the time – we need to love the processes of everything!

Services and Expenses

As humans, it is our life’s part to need certain services (cleaning, repairment, locksmith, hairdressers, renovation, and so on), and sometimes they can be urgent. Istanbul is an alive city that does not sleep, so you can always find the service you are looking for, even if it is late at night or you need it at the last minute. It is a great thing to have to make our lives easier.

Besides, those services come in for every budget. You just need to be careful about choosing among the options and find the best ones for you. Istanbul is a place that it is normal to have three hairdressers on the same street with all different prices. You can always do quick research on the internet or communicate with the shop owners to have a rough idea about the service you will get.

Stray Cats

Believe it or not, stray cats in İstanbul are among the most loved parts of the city. It is not easy to understand this without visiting Istanbul. But it can be said that the cat population in Istanbul is almost as crowded as the human population. In every street, every corner, and sometimes at places they are not supposed to be, you can see a stray cat.

Most of the cats in İstanbul are very used to being around people and would let you pet them. Besides, if you feed them, they will adore you and will not leave your side. It is highly recommended to have stray cats as your friends!

Opportunities

Opportunities in a city refer to all the things you can do. One of the main things that make Istanbul a candidate for being the best city is the endless opportunities. As you get to the city, lots of different options will be waiting for you. Those opportunities include everything in general, from jobs to which hairdresser to go. 

There is always a thing for every kind of needs and preferences in İstanbul. You cannot say that “I have nothing to do” or “I could not find (insert anything you want here).” If you ever find yourself in those situations, keep in mind that, in fact, there is. Perhaps you did not look at the right place.

Final Conclusion: Is Istanbul really the best city?

With all that being said, I am sorry to say that there is no answer to this question. But the thing about İstanbul is that it will become what you want it to be. You will be in control while your life is being shaped there since you are never stuck to choose one certain thing. 

Istanbul is loved by millions of people (hence the 16 million people who live there), and there is just something about this city that makes it indispensable. Most people who lived in İstanbul and then moved to another city states that they miss İstanbul and wish to be living there. It is pretty understandable as all the things in Istanbul cannot be easily found in any other city. 

The thing is, Istanbul cannot be the best city in the world, but it is sure a unique one. No matter what your life looks like now, living in İstanbul for a while can be a big milestone in your life. Even if it would not be a milestone, you will collect so many unforgettable memories and the best experiences of your life.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...