Istanbul Travel Guide

We sent Yodeler Elif Tanverdi to the amazing Hilton Bomonti and Hilton Bosphorus to experience the beautiful properties, shoot some photos and create a beautiful local guide with tips and local secrets. Istanbul is the country’s economic, cultural, and historic center. This bustling city, straddling Europe and Asia, is filled with exceptional food, history, culture and endless activities.  But don’t take our word for it, explore Istanbul through Elif’s beautiful insightful local guide.

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Name: Elif Tanverdi  

Occupation: I studied architecture in school but over the last five years I have been traveling, attending festivals, concerts and writing about these experiences. I am also a DJ.

Place you live: I’m a nomad. I don’t live anywhere. I’m originally from İstanbul and it has always been home for me.

How long have you lived in Istanbul? 29 years!

Can you sum up Istanbul? Istanbul is where east meets west. It is unique as it is located on two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul has been home to many civilizations as well as a crossing point for a number of cities. Cultures from different time periods and geographies have left their mark making the city a melting pot.

It’s a timeless city. I’m not religious but I love hearing the call for the prayer (Ezan) and the church bells mixed in with the sound of seagulls and Vapur (an old steamboat that is my favorite form of transportation in the city).

I love the traditional and modern elements in the streets of Istanbul. When the sun sets everything is colored in a shade of golden. It is my favorite time of day in the city.

I love the food, the people, the rhythm and the color. Istanbul offers something for every taste.

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What is the best thing about Istanbul?  Bosphorus, old historical buildings, and the food.

What is a perfect day in Istanbul?  My favorite time of the year is when the hills of the Bosphorus are covered with the purple leaves of Judas Trees. My perfect day consists of taking the Vapur to cross-continents or enjoying a ‘serpme’ breakfast by the sea, visiting Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM), and taking a long walk by the Bosphorus. Then visiting local markets, stopping for Turkish coffee around Ortaköy, and catching the sunset. After I’d go to Karaköy to enjoy the areas good vibe and finish the night at some of the hip bars around town.

What are the people like in Istanbul? This is a difficult question to answer since 18 million people live in Istanbul. I wouldn’t want to stereotype anyone. There are young and open-minded people as well as very traditional and conservative and they are all mixed in together. You could encounter a taxi driver that rips you off and another who makes the effort to find you to return the wallet you dropped in the cab.

If Istanbul was a person who would it be? Istanbul would be a very beautiful woman in her mid 40’s. She carries her wrinkles with elegance. Her eyes always sparkle. You can tell she has seen a lot. She doesn’t speak often but when she does, she has so much to offer. She impresses everyone.

Tell us about your experiences at the hotels:

Hilton Istanbul Bomonti: Bomonti is a new up and coming area in Istanbul. Babylon, the cities most iconic music venue, moved from its original location to Bomonti two years ago. The whole area has been in the spot light ever since. Hilton Bomonti is one of the reasons this area will bloom and develop extensively in the near future. Bomonti is close to Bosphorus but the hotels are completely different in character. Bomonti is bigger, more contemporary and the architectural is “the style of its time.” The staff is young, very kind and accordingly as hip as the hotel. I loved the rooms, common areas, the restaurants, bars and the SPA.

Istanbul Bomonti Breakfast Buffet Executive Lounge

Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Breakfast Buffet Executive Lounge

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus: Hilton Bosphorus is the first five-star hotel in Turkey. The staff makes you feel like you’re a movie star from the 1950s. I love that naive interpretation of recognition. The hotel building is a landmark in Istanbul. It is one of the first examples of modern architecture. SOM architects and local partner Sedad Hakkı Eldem designed it. Eldem is an author on architecture and was a professor at the University where I studied. I’ve been to Hilton Bosphorus for events but had never stayed overnight. It was a special experience for me. I loved Italian Night at the restaurant. My waiter was a very nice gentleman who has been an employee for 30 years. I think this fact sums up the whole Hilton Bosphorus experience. It is nostalgic, timeless, elegant and comfortable. When here you feel special!

Bosphorus Istanbul Room View

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus Room View

What did you love about the hotels? 

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus: The Hilton Bosphorus building was my introduction to modern architecture in Istanbul. Istanbul is an ever-changing city. There have been circumstances when important buildings were not protected. Staying a night in Hilton Bosphorus was like witnessing history. The hotel is historical without loosing comfort. I should mention the epic Bosphorus view from all of the rooms. People who love historical atmospheres would enjoy a stay in Hilton Bosphorus.

Hilton Istanbul Bomonti: I loved everything about Bomonti. I had breakfast in the Executive Lounge and it was great. The SPA treatment was really wonderful. I Highly recommend getting a Bali massage here! The rooms were contemporary, spacious and comfortable.

The lobby is decorated with high ceilings and the lighting was warm. I found the area to be elegant and modest. The restaurant offered great food.

If your best friend was visiting Istanbul what would you suggest they do? Have a Turkish breakfast, if you eat breakfast. On Sunday the city has great brunch.

To digest your meal, walk over to Ortaköy. It’s an area where a mosque, a synagogue and a church meet. Then enjoy a Turkish coffee by the sea. You can chose from a hip cafe or a local shop; the choice is up to you! In Turkish, breakfast is called kahvealtı, which means, ‘before coffee.’ Turkish coffee is great for digestion. Now you’re ready to explore.

For museum time I suggest SSM. Then walk around Cihangir, Cukurcuma, and Tophane to explore the many vintage shops. The architecture is a mixture of old and new Istanbul. It’s a great area for walking!

Go to Galata for lunch at Günay. Another great option is to have fish and bread (balik-ekmek, a street food) in Karaköy.

In Galata, go up the Galata Tower for a nice city view. Explore little designer shops in the area, especially Serdar-ı Ekrem street once you’re done. For dinner try Matbah Ottoman Palace Cuisine.

Bar options: Finn Karaköy, 5 Cocktails & More in Asmalımescit or any bar you stumble into in Arnavutköy,

For a fun night out some good options are Lucca in Bebek or Klein in Harbiye. Both are very close to Hilton Bosphorus!

Babylon Bomonti is a great venue for live music. It’s also next door to Babylon Bomonti.






Best place to eat:

I love Karakoy Lokantası for rakı. I go to Bodrum Mantı & Café for Mantı, and Karadeniz Pide for diner. Öz Killis is a great area to get lahmacun (flatbread with minced meat and veggies) and Nelokal is good for interpretations of Turkish cuisine in modern forms. For Italian, I enjoy La Scarpetta. Sushimoto has amazing sushi.

Best place to drink:

5 Cocktails, Finn Karaköy, and Geyik Coffee Roasters and Cocktail Bar.

Best place to shop:

Nişantaşı, Karaköy and Grand Bazaar.

Best outdoor activity:

Spending a lovely Sunday in Belgrad Forest or attending one of the nice open-air festivals in Spring/Summer.

Local tip:

Use Vapur, drink Turkish tea, try simit (share it with seagulls if you take the Vapur), and catch the sunset.

Best place to stay:

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus & Hilton Istanbul Bomonti