How to See Istanbul like a Local

Experience the real Istanbul -- and avoid tourist traps -- with these insider tips.

You will need

  • Sense of adventure
  • Offbeat destinations
  • Raki (optional)

Step 1 Visit the smaller markets Enjoy the famous Grand Bazaar. But don’t miss these local favorites — Balik Pazari, the Fish Market; Cicek Pasaji, the Flower Passage; and the Kadikoy Market. For a truly hidden treasure, visit the Kasimpasa Kastamonu market; it’s only open from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sundays, but the delectables are worth an early wake-up call.

Step 2 Check out the new art After you’ve admired Istanbul’s ancient treasures, check out the robust modern art scene at the Istanbul Modern Museum and the Haaz Gallery.

Step 3 Head to the islands Spend a day exploring the Princes’ Islands, a chain of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. Four are open to the public and accessible by ferry.

Step 4 Enjoy happy hour Head to Istiklal Avenue at sunset; that’s where Istanbul residents pack the taverns for after-work drinks and mezes — small plates of nibbles similar to Spain’s tapas. Also check out the Cihangir area, known as the Soho of Istanbul, and nearby Cukurcuma, which is filled with antique shops.

Step 5 Trip the light fantastic When happy hour ends, move on to the rest of Beyoglu, where you’ll find lots of restaurants serving traditional fare and bars and nightclubs featuring Turkish pop music. Pooped? Have a Turkish coffee!