Always beguiling and often bewildering Istanbul is as heady as it is wondrous. This massive city (somewhere between 13 and 19 million people are believed to live here) bridges the gap between Europe and Asia, both geographically and culturally. For the incoming backpacker, getting to grips with Istanbul is not the easiest challenge; it is, however, one of the most rewarding.
This is a city jam packed with out-of-this-world sights, interesting things to do, wonderful food, and a kicking nightlife. Traveling here can potentially be a life-changing experience, though it does help if you're prepared for what's in store.
Here's a quick rundown, then, on how to go about backpacking in Istanbul …
The hostel scene is a vivacious one in Istanbul, and backpackers will find plenty of home-for-home type places to stay when sleeping in the city. They're also uniformly affordable, which means you can save some cash to then splurge it during the day. Not, all in all, a bad deal by any means.
The Metropolis Hostel is one Istanbul hostel that turns up time and again in conversations about backpacking in the city. Perfectly located on the edge of the Bosporus and within walking distance of some of Istanbul's best attractions, it's a comfortable and welcoming joint. The rooftop restaurant is particularly fun here, as it serves great Turkish food and drink at impressively low prices.
In the same area as the Metropolis Hostel, the Istanbul Sydney Hostel also proves a winner with travelers to the city. In look and feel, this place is more like a guesthouse; it's great for travelers looking to get a good night's sleep, or for couples on a romantic getaway. Again, a rooftop seating area provides food and drinks.
The Istanbul Harmony Guesthouse, meanwhile, is a real traveler's hangout. Cheap, cheerful, and comfortable, it's a good place to head if you're traveling to Istanbul as a solo backpacker, as meeting likeminded people is never difficult here.
Sultanahmet (the Old City) is where you'll probably spend most of your time in Istanbul – especially if this is your first trip to the city. Most of the city's standout things to see and do are to be found in this area (along with each of the hostels listed above).
The Sagia Sophia is one such standout attraction – a monumental basilica that adorns many (if not most) of the postcards sent home from here. Make sure you also visit the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern.
In terms of things to do, far and away the best has to be to walk. Istanbul is an incredible place to experience, and there can be no better way of doing so than by taking to the city's paths and experiencing it from ground level.
Food and Drink
It almost goes without saying that Istanbul is just about a traveler's dream in terms of food, with tasty (and healthy) kebabs available for a tiny price around just about every corner. Street vendors selling everything from donuts to corn on the cob are also ubiquitous, making eating here on a budget really quite straightforward.
In terms of drink, make sure to sample the local coffee, which is just about as strong as it comes anywhere in the world. With that coursing through your veins, who needs alcohol?