The city is dramatic in it’s ancient mosques, its diverse population, its water-ways, its vistas, its ability to accommodate western culture without losing the Turkish originality, its welcoming hands to tourists. It is an easy city to visit. Istanbullus know what hospitality mean. As long as you are willing to go out of the tourist traps and explore the city on your own terms, you are guaranteed to have a fulfilling cultural experience in the city that is too big to be definable.

Staying in Sultanahmet, I walked from the cultural heart of the city to the modern Beyoglu in one direction, Mevlana Kapi on another, and took a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul looking over to the Black sea.

This serene city sets the village-like mood in the Sultanahmet area and a fifth-avenue style life style by the Taksim. It takes a 30-minute walk or a tram-ride to cross the galata bridge to switch back and forth between these two moods.

I walked from mosque to mosque, palaces to museums and one bazaar to another. The city didn’t bore me a bit. The gloomy streets, serene alleys, smoky lanes are filled with Doner Kebap stalls, turkish delights and roasted nut that are guaranteed to stir up your appetite.

Feel free to avoid the Bosphorus ferry to go to the Asian side, unless you have absolutely nothing better to do. It is a pure tourist trap and I fell for it. Oh well….

Well, unless you are made of steel, it is hard to avoid everything touristy in Istanbul, especially in the old city.

Taksim area where youngsters and rich people hang out is the heart of modern Istanbul in the infrastructure based on 1800s architecture. This European side of Istanbul is where most of the luxurious hotels, high-end restaurants, clothing lines, bars and clubs are located.

Just a sample of how lively the Taksim streets are :