Licensed tour guide Cem Balsun has been leading tours in Istanbul, Bursa, and Canakkale for five years, offering personalized tours and transportation around his home and showing visitors the effusive hospitality found in Turkey. Offering insight into the culture, history, religion, and economy of Istanbul and Turkey, he also loves to help tourists to discover what daily life in Istanbul is really like.
We asked Cem for an insider look at his favorite things in Istanbul, and here’s what he had to say:
One of the best things about visiting Istanbul is that in one city you can visit two continents, Asia and Europe, all in the same day.
To save money, I recommend that all visitors who come to Istanbul buy one “Istanbulkart” (It is a transit pass card for all vehicles of public transport in Istanbul; bus, tram, metro, funicular, metrobus, ferry). You must use this card especially for buses because cash payment is not accepted on a bus. Traffic is a serious problem in Istanbul. So, to travel, it will be better to use tram, metro or metrobus to not waste your time in traffic.
Many people don’t know about the terrace of Sapphire Istanbul (the highest building of Turkey) but I recommend it for the largest panoramic view of Istanbul. Another great thing to try is the “Skyride” (4D Helicopter simulation).
It is very difficult to recommend just one thing from Turkish Cuisine but a few of my favorite local foods are Manti (Turkish Ravioli with yogurt sauce), Hunkarbegendi “Sultan’s favorite,” and Baklava (Turkish sweet).
If you only have one day in Istanbul, divide it into three parts; in the morning check out the Sultanahmet area and Grand Bazaar, then do a Bosphorus Cruise, and end your day discovering Istanbul’s night life.
Editor’s Note: Viator recently held a contest to “Win Your Dream Travel Job” where we selected 4 finalists to travel the world shooting video. Throughout the summer, these teams will travel and film in some of the word’s top destinations, documenting their experiences along the way. Check out Team Europe’s trip to Istanbul.