Last week I visited Istanbul and was amazed by this beautiful city of 14 million.  I have to admit though that February is not the ideal month to travel to Istanbul; it was minus degrees, snowing, raining and extremely windy. I’ve decided to come again for a second visit in May in order to experience Istanbul’s full potential.

This was my first visit, so I was clueless about the city, well, not entirely though, I knew there were going to be a lot of mosques and I wasn’t disappointed. Luckily, some friends who had been to Istanbul before were able to give me some useful info about places to party, restaurants, attractions etc.

One fact one should know about Istanbul is, that even though Istanbul is a modern city much like the big cities in the West, the Turks’ English is very limited, especially within the older generations. Even at an international spot such as the airport the staff is left speechless when spoken to in English.

The hotel we stayed in was located in the hip Beyoglu district only 100 meters from Istiklal Cadessi shopping street. On the side streets you could find lots and lots of small bars, clubs and restaurants. We went to the Indigo bar and later on the Indigo club right next to the bar where we danced the night away to some house beats played by a Belgian DJ on that particular night. Beyoglu is the place to stay if you plan on partying a lot in which case, everything is pretty much walking distance or pretty close by anyway. The Beyoglu district however, doesn’t hold a candle to the beautiful historic Istanbul on the other side of the Galata bridge. The only negative is the non existent nightlife in that area.

Also in Beyoglu, not that far away from the Galata tower, we stumbled across a nice sushi place. The sushi was sooo good and of great quality, freshly made by a Japanese cook. The restaurant was also very beautiful with clean and minimalist interior. For all sushi lovers I recommend this place. It’s called Sushi Express and is located here.

There are a lot of other nice bars and restaurants close by here that are worth exploring. You will especially notice a lot of exclusive hotels in this area.

People in Istanbul love to shop! Not even 0 degrees can keep them from strolling around the city’s vast shopping streets. Right after crossing the Galata bridge from Taksim you will find a different kind of shopping center very unique to Istanbul: The Grand Baazar. It’s the world’s oldest and biggest baazar and includes more than 5000 shops. Here you can find jewelry, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops.

However, if you are interested in some high end shopping than go to Nisantasi where you will find a large variety of all the famous brands.

Another interesting part of Istanbul is the Bebek district which is an old fishers town. Make sure to visit the stylish post modern Lucca bar/restaurant which seems completely out of place when compared to the rest of the city. The clientele is overly chick. I have not been there after dark but according to their FB page it turns into a popular night club with some pretty hot international DJs.

Other popular party places in Istanbul, Ortakoy, are open clubs Reina and Anjelique which are right next to each other. I have to visit them during summer and then get back to ya.