As you are probably aware, travel doesn’t always have to be expensive and while there are a million and one sights to see in Istanbul, you can enjoy a lot of them for free! The only problem is fitting them all in as you truly will be spoilt for choice! Listed below are some of the many things you can do for free in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Spice Market
No travel to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to the iconic Spice Market.
With the sea breeze practically blowing you in to the spice market, once you are inside a world of wonder awaits you! It is in this market that you can find every flavour of Turkish Delight ever imagined by man and get to taste it… for free!
The vendors of the market are happy for you to taste their delightful treats and often have trays waiting out the front for you to grab a piece and try. The trick is, they know how good it is, so letting you try it for free isn’t a problem because they know the real problem will lie with you trying to resist purchasing some of these delicious sweets!
Not in to Turkish Delight? “No problem”, says the Spice Market! As the name suggests, equal to the Turkish Delight, is the amount of spices available for you to gaze at and breathe in. Just looking at the beautiful colors is enough to make your eyes water and as you watch the locals haggle over prices and amounts, the experience is doubled with fun and excitement.
The Grand Bazaar
If spices and Turkish treats aren’t your cup of tea (which you can also purchase from the Spice Market) then head to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul‘s old historical area for a real awakening of the senses. Every angle of this labyrinth is filled with goodies to marvel over and funny Turkish men to wonder about. Get truly and completely lost as you spend hours trawling through this monstrous market and expect to find almost anything as Turkish men attempt to lure you into their shops.
Carpets, trinkets, leather goods, fake shoes, fake bags, fake anything else you can think of, clothes, watches, towels, rugs, underwear and so much more awaits you! Expect to find all of it in abundance.
The Blue Mosque
Step out of the craziness that is the markets and enter a place that feels magical and surreal. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen for free and words can hardly describe how truly beautiful it is.
With high ceilings, tiled in a magnificent blue sparkle and red carpets that accentuate each other in a way that only these places can, you really feel like you are in your own world. Walk around as you watch people pray and marvel at the beauty of the mosaics in this wonderful, crazy place. Make sure you are outdoors for at least one call to prayer as this is one of my favourite things about Istanbul. The eeriness and beauty of this chant, elapsing throughout the city over the loudspeakers of the countless mosques, is an experience in itself and shouldn’t be missed!
Standing near the Blue Mosque will allow you to hear several of the mosque’s calls and it truly is an amazing experience.
Moving to the modern side of Istanbul, across the Golden Horn, you will find Taksim Square and the crazy, bizarre streets that lead to it.
From the Galata Bridge (which you should walk across for free rather than paying for a tram or ferry!) you will reach the Galata Tower that hovers above the skyline. From here, take the street that everyone is walking down and you will find yourself in a crazy place full of street performers, tourists and locals alike with vendors selling trinkets, watches and the freshest orange juice you will ever smell mixed with the always present and very welcome smell of kebapi.
As you make your way up this street you should expect atmosphere. In one day along this street we witnessed a marching band advertising a clothes shop, a gay and lesbian rights demonstration with riot police standing by to separate those against the demonstrators, a magic show and the filming of what seemed like a Bollywood movie.
The street alone could take you hours to experience as you get stuck into whatever takes your fancy – shopping, eating, watching. You can do it all along here and Taksim Square with its surrounding streets is no different.
In the afternoon, don’t forget to stop by Galata Tower and sit with the locals as you watch them drink beer, eat sunflower seeds and play music.
MOST IMPORTANTLY… don’t forget to WALK! Walking around this city by day and by night is an amazing experience that will leave no thrill seeker bored.
To get a good glimpse of the city and the history and culture it contains, follow the main tram line (the bus companies also follow). The tram line will most of the time lead you everywhere you will want to go and the overpriced boring bus tours that are advertised for 20 euros or more will follow this line too. The only difference is they don’t get to stop off and wander down exotic streets, see amazing things and experience the real culture and heartbeat of the city.
So while you see people sweating profusely in the bus as you wander the streets as free as can be, smile and be glad you are experiencing the culture of Istanbul for free!
*This is a guest post by Daniel and Kelly, an Australian couple traveling the world. They love adventure, culture, food and fun! Daniel and Kelly are experiencing, doing and seeing as much as they can while spending as little as possible and showing you that it’s easy to travel for less! Follow their blog at www.danielandkellytravel.com, follow them on twitter @danandkeltravel and join their journey on Facebook at facebook.com/danielandkellytravel
**All photos belong to the authors of this post and can not be used without their permission.