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3 Weeks in Istanbul

My 21 year old son is heading out tomorrow for three weeks in Istanbul - he is staying with his girlfriend's family - lucky kid!! He has the guidebooks and is a middle-eastern history major so knows the big stuff to see. For those of you who have spent time there and wandered off the main tourist track, what are some of the more out-of-the-way places you have discovered in the city?? Any other thoughts about culture or customs he should know since he's staying with a Turkish family? I plan to send a few gifts to them. Anything else to consider?

Posted by
6129 posts

what are some of the more out-of-the-way places you have discovered in the city??

I would think the girlfriend and her family would have the answer to that question.

Any other thoughts about culture or customs he should know since he's staying with a Turkish family?

If he and his girlfriend are at the point he is visiting her family, ( for 3 weeks) I would be surprised if she has not told him about such things.

Posted by
6147 posts

I wrote a comprehensive list for someone but of course the search function is so weak that I cannot find it. The short version is any place outside of the Old City/ Sultanahmet (i.e. tourist central), including the Asia side. Istanbul is HUGE, with layers and layers and a maze of different neighborhoods - from old and scrappy to modern high-rises and business districts. I would try to see as many as possible, including along the upper Bosphorus and the Golden Horn (including Eyup, where there is a very old conservative mosque). I think the best thing would be for the girlfriend to take him to her favorite places, there is nothing like a local showing you around a giant, complex city like Istanbul. Most areas are full of locals and have virtually no tourists. One of my favorite trips was a ferry down to the Princes Islands, which is a nice respite from the human traffic of Istanbul (I bet the islands are much more busy now than when I went).

Posted by
1313 posts

He will be with a family, there is no need for recommendations they will know more than anyone who visits as a tourist.

Posted by
872 posts

His girlfriend has likely already filled him in on this but.... probably he'll be expected to take off his shoes when he enters a home, and wear socks or slippers (provided by host). Also, it's quite possible that they do not imbibe alcoholic beverages at all....

Posted by
3304 posts

Thank you so much Agnes; this is helpful - we haven't heard of some of these so will add them to the list of things to possibly see.
For those of you saying that I don't need to ask since her family lives there, I would say this. I live in Los Angeles and don't know every single nook and cranny - I'm sure there are many places I have yet to discover that others may know. I believe that people who live in other cities as well maybe don't have a comprehensive knowledge of every single thing. I think it's fine to ask questions to find places that other people have enjoyed...but thanks for the lecture anyway.

Posted by
41 posts

Middle Eastern history covers over 4,000 years. He may have a particular period in which he is interested.
Gallipoli, a major WW1 military disaster for Britain/ victory for Ottoman.
Rhodes and area for archaeology
Ephesus for same
Troy for same
Cappidocia for amazing geology/geography/human settlement
And back in Istanbul, many days in the archeological museums
and wandering the neighborhoods.
IRT family culture, I hope he and she has figured out sleeping arrangements. There are many American families that would still be upset if their daughters' boyfriend was too friendly/intimate with her in their home. There is a reason that American humour has references to "shotgun weddings".

Posted by
690 posts

Turkey is a secular country. Many Turks drink alcohol. Many Turks are physically affectionate with each other before being married.

Posted by
110 posts

How exciting for your son! I’m sure he will have a wonderful time. One somewhat off the beaten path is the Pierre Loti café. It is high on a hill and has a great view. Lots of locals go there.

Posted by
25 posts

Ten years ago we spent 5 weeks traveling around Turkey and there is LOTS to see. However, fairly close to Istanbul is the island of Bozcaada which we loved. A little further but not hard to reach is Cappadocia which is full of interesting sights. What a great experience for him.