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City Report Muttalip Gürbüz

My guide Last update 1 year ago
Muttalip Gürbüz, 30 years old. Muttalip moved to Istanbul four years ago, because it's the city of many possibilities. He originally comes from southern Turkey, near the resort of Antalya. We ask him what's so special about Istanbul: "Istanbul is beautiful for its many historic buildings from the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman period. The city has many faces, in addition to culture, there are also very modern areas such as Taksim.

What are the top 5 tourist attractions in Istanbul?
• Topkapi Palace: the former residence of the Ottoman sultan
• Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)
• Galata Tower: for a fantastic view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus river
• A visit to the hamam, a Turkish bathhouse
• Bosphorus tour: a trip of 2 to 6 hours on the Bosphorus is really worth because there's a lot to see along the riverside

Did you know that there was a fire in the Blue Mosque, because of which a great deal of its blue tiles on the inside are lost? They have replaced the lost blue tiles by green ones but most tourists don't even notice. Do try to pay attention to it!

What's your favourite area/street? I live in Beyazit, in the old city district near the bazaar. There's always something interesting going on and they have really good food. It's also the place where most tourist attractions are, such as the Aya Sofya, the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque. At night you should go towards the river, because when all the lights are switched on, it gives Istanbul a different atmosphere. Under the Galata Bridge, you can even eat delicious fish.

What do you like to do during your spare time? Family and friends are very important in Turkey. In my spare time I visit family or I have dinner with friends at Taksim Square. Usually we go to a bar, like Barabar, a cosy little place where you can sit outside. Isn't it too cold in the winter to sit outside?Most bars have heaters outside, otherwise there are blankets. Recently smoking has been prohibited here as well, although not every bar follows this rule. The "narghile" (water pipe) is only allowed outside. Is that something everyone does, smoking a water pipe? Yes, it's certainly not just for tourists. Look for Dervish or another popular 'narghile' spot. There are many locals, alone or with friends, smoking a bong while playing a game. At Dervish, you are allowed to smoke inside.

Can you say something more about the Hamam? There are three major Hamams in Sultanahmet where many tourists come: Sultanahmet, Çemberlitaş and Cağaloğlu Hamam. Gedikpaşa and Aga Hamam are smaller and less touristic. In every hamam, even in the touristic ones, are many Turks. Çemberlitaş is mentioned in many guidebooks, and is the finest and largest hamam in the city. Expect to pay around 50 lira (25 EUR) for a full treatment: washing, sauna, scrubbing / peeling and the traditional soap massage lasting for a half hour all together. The hamams have separate rooms for men and women. Swimwear is not necessary, you get a cotton cloth to wrap around your body. In the small hamams they often don't speak English but with words like 'peel' and 'shower' you know what they mean and it shouldn't cause any problem to go there. At the big hamams they sometimes ask you for a tip, but actually this is already included in your entrance fee.

Do you ever visit a club? 
Not very often, but there are plenty of them in Istanbul. There are many big clubs in Beyoglu and Taksim, but also in Ortaköy at the Bosphorus. You pay about 10-20 EUR entrance, and sometimes there is a strict door policy. My advice is to make Turkish friends because then you can easily enter. The best known club is Reina, but Sortie, Babylon and Rhythm are also very popular. Beware of the drink prices, you could easily pay 10 EUR for a beer.

What food do you recommend tourists in Istanbul? Bread, white cheese, olives, honey and baked potatoes. In Turkey, lokum is also very popular; a sweet treat with e.g. coconut or pistachio nuts. You'll find them in shops throughout the city; especially at the 'spice bazaar'. In the shop they are happy to let you taste some.

What is the best time to travel to Istanbul and how many days do you need to spend? Personally, I would say during spring. From March to May. It starts to get a bit warmer then and the big advantage is that it's not as crowded as in the high season. You can see the city in a few days, but if you want to enjoy more of your stay and see more than just the highlights, try to stay at least one week. This way you also have time for the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara; four of which you can visit. There are no cars, so you can enjoy hiking or rent a horse, carriage or bike to explore the island. Especially during the summer it's a really nice place, because when it rains, there is not much to do.
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