There are countless museums and historic sites to see in Istanbul and they're all worthy of a visit. Even though I'm a huge museum nerd, looking back on our time in Istanbul I think my favorite activity was walking through the bazaars and food markets looking at the gorgeous textiles, fresh produce, and sampling food carts. The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar was our first adventure in the world of Turkish shopping so our fearless leader gave us a crash course in price negotiation. During our tutoring session, we enjoyed a strong cup of tea and coffee at the Shark Cafe or Sark Kahvesi, before putting on our shopping game face.
Several of us (me included) looked ripe for the picking... sweet, wide-eyed, young American women let loose in one of the largest covered markets in Istanbul on a textile mission! We tried out our negotiation tactics after a while and made our first textile purchases. After looking at our loot, our teacher simply said you must keep practicing. We eventually got pretty good; by the time we hit Bodrum, the ladies and I were excellent negotiators.
There are food carts everywhere in Istanbul. One of the most popular were the roasted corn and chestnut stands...so good! One of my favs- the vitamin shops...offering freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juices.
No trip to Turkey would be complete without visiting one of the candy shops to try Turkish Delight. Turkish delight isn't my favorite but the Turkish baklava rolled in pistachios was amazing.
The next night our teacher took us to the Asian side of Istanbul to visit the Kadikoy Market (aka food paradise). There are several ways to get to the other side but we decided to take the scenic route by ferry. I'm so glad we traveled this way; very cool to see a different perspective of the city and really feel how huge Istanbul is.
When we arrived at the other side, we were absolutely bombarded by the number of food vendors and specialty shops. It's not a good idea to go there on an empty stomach- sensory overload.
Food is a big deal in Turkey... With a long culinary history dating back to nomadic Turks and the Ottoman Empire, the Turks lay claim on yogurt, baklava, and the kebab. It's also one of the few countries in the modern world able to fully support its own national food needs.
Having little knowledge about Turkish food would be like before my trip I was pleasantly surprised by what we found...lots of friendly vendors and shop keepers eager to share their goods with us, so many choices, always fresh, and always delicious.