Seeking recommendations for Istanbul (not Constantinople)
May 3, 2015 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Asking for friends who are in Turkey for the next week. They have done lots of guidebook research and have accommodations sorted out, but are looking for personal recommendations for must-see/must-do activities as well as recommendations for outstanding food and drink (read: alcohol wherever possible).

They are interested in the following locations:

Lycian Way
Butterfly Valley

Thanks in advance, O Hive Mind!
posted by little mouth to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As far as Lycia goes, a boat trip round the sunken city at Kekova (east of Kas) is a must imho. The ampitheatre at Kas itself is also outstanding, if they're into ruins.

I've stayed in both Kalkan and Kas, and I don't think I had a less than great meal in either of them. Kalkan has more "gourmet" restaurants and has become more of a swanky international holiday town in the past few years. Kas draws in a lot more domestic holidaymakers and I personally enjoyed the food there more for it being more out and out Turkish, not to mention cheaper.

My last trip there was 4 years ago, so things may have changed, but restaurants that were very good that time were the Sultan Gardens and Cinarlar in Kas, and the Korsan restaurants (there are 3, one general, one fish focused, one kebab house) in Kalkan.

Alcohol is widely available (and widely consumed by holidaying Turks) in all the resort towns I've stayed in in Lycia. I've only rarely eaten in restaurants that didn't serve alcohol - these have tended to be canteen service joints, catering to locals and usually open earlier than other restaurants. The food in them has usually been fantastic, however.

Alcohol is heavily taxed these days - although this is somewhat offset by how cheap eating out is in general. Wine in particular is very pricey and often of very poor quality. Unless budget is large I would reccomend sticking to other drinks most of the time and splurging on wine from the top end of the list a few times rather than drinking indifferent wine habitually.

Raki - pronounced "Ra-kuh" - is the best value tipple and does go beautifully with Turkish food, provided aniseed isn't a turn-off. It is quite usual to buy a small bottle of it to drink throughout the meal.

I hope they have a wonderful time. The Lycian coast still haunts my dreams, answering this question has given me strong pangs of jealousy!
posted by protorp at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In Istanbul, have lunch or dinner on the roof top at Seven Hills restaurant. Great food and a truly amazing view.
posted by MelissaSimon at 1:47 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lokanta Maya is probably the best restaurant in the city, I'd wager. It's got a great selection of wine as well.

Giritli is also an amazing experience, and perfect for a warm May afternoon.

(Both of these are in Istanbul.)
posted by yellowcandy at 6:11 PM on May 3, 2015

Best answer: The web site Istanbul Eats has published a guide book available in many bookshops in Istanbul. It is almost all one needs. I particularly recommend the Kadinlar Pazar in the conservative Fatih neighborhood (AKA the Siirt Bazar) for pit cooked lamb (there are about a dozen excellent places rimming the market.)

I don't know how heavily the present government has cracked down on nightlife, but in the back alleys off of Istikklal Caddesi in Beyoglu there were a lot of bars frequented by Alevis - a radically liberal sect of Islam - that featured hard core Anatolian folk music ("Halk Musigi") with drinking and snacks for pretty cheap, as well as a very open and friendly, woman friendly atmosphere. A bit pricier, and more upper class, is a trip to any Meyhane restaurant, where families go to sing and drink and eat appetizers and fish for hours, kind of like karaoke with a live band.

Also, the Kadikoy neighborhood on the Asian side has a great market area that becomes a great food and night life destination after hours. Also, the weekly tuesday Kadikoy Flea ("Sali Bazar") market is great - thousands of regular Istanbullus massed to buy cheap crap, eat great street food, and if you search enough, antiques and textiles far below tourist prices.

Hope on a ferry boat and visit the Princess Islands in the Sea of Marmara: no cars allowed, only horse carts. Buyuk Ada is full of IStanbul's Armenian community, and Heybeliada is the equivalent of the Catskills for the Sephardic Jewish community. Also, take a bus up the Bosphorus to towns like Ortakoy, Arnavutkoy or even Istinye for a nearby suburban seaside lunch.
posted by zaelic at 2:05 AM on May 4, 2015

Best answer: I was in Istanbul last month. We were only there for four nights, so only really scratched the surface. Random thoughts:

Our meals were a bit hit and miss, but we didn't really do any research. I don't know if you can book tables, but I'd look into it if there's somewhere specific you want to go, as places seemed to fill up (inside when cold, outside when not). Or just be unfashionable early. 2nding Seven Hills for a pleasant meal with an unbeatable view. Another great view was 360 on Istiklal, though we only had a drink there (and caught a random circus act, which was nifty). Istiklal st inself was no different from any shopping st in a large city - I have no idea why it is a tourist destination. We also went to Hos Seda a fish restaurant in Kumkapi, on a small roundabout dominated by about 5 very busy restaurants (recommended by the hotel - they had free hotel pickup). It was a good meal, but definitely a splurge - one of those experiences where you're not sure if you got ripped off or not. We also had a nice meal at Vaha - chosen mostly because it was round the corner from our hotel.

The underground cistern was awesome. Hagia Sofia also totally worth it. Mosques only take a few minutes to look around and seemed quite samey to me, so don't queue for hours to see the blue mosque, unless it's literally the only time you'll be near it.

Crowds for the big attractions were very time dependent. Lunch time seemed to be quiet at the Hagia Sophia. The Blue Mosque was packed during the day, but essentially empty late afternoon. Lines did move fast though. It might be different now it's higher season.

Large sections of Turkish & Islamic Art Museum (the ethnographic bit) and St. Savior in Chora were shut, which was disappointing. Only go if you're very interested and have time.

Go to a hammam and get laundered. We went to Cemberlitas Hammam, which was reasonably newbie friendly (take contacts if you wear glasses and like to be able to see).

If they're there for a weekend, and the weather's nice, people watching at the park is a nice way to spend an hour or so. Maybe it was because it was spring, but everyone in Istanbul seemed to be in a park picnicking or bbqing on the weekend afternoons we were there.

Definitely catch a ferry somewhere if there weather's nice. If catching it from Eminonu, give yourself plenty of time to find the right wharf - it's a bit of a maze.

I didn't enjoy the Grand bazaar or the Spice Market - both were so touristy (though my sister got some nice silver jewellery at the Grand Bazaar). The most interesting market we found was on Hasircilar caddesi, behind the spice market (I have no doubt there are more authentic suburban markets, but this one is stupidly easy to get to). Suddenly, the English disappeared and the goods being sold became more varied and practical. Look out for kunefe. I didn't like it, though I wanted to, but I've never eaten anything quite like it.
posted by kjs4 at 6:18 PM on May 4, 2015

Response by poster: I marked all of these helpful responses as best answer. My friends have already incorporated several of these suggestions into their itinerary. Thanks to all of you!
posted by little mouth at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2015

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