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Solo Traveller's Guide to Istanbul – Best Things to do Alone

By Dilek Camurcu A Turkish culture expert who loves to share her knowledge of the city
17 February 2020
Solo Traveller's Guide to Istanbul – Best Things to do Alone

Edited by: Matthew Wears

Touring Istanbul on your own can be a really exciting experience if a little bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time visiting! You shouldn’t worry too much though, my city is a really fun place to explore, whether you’re with someone else or not, you’re going to find so much to do that is just as much fun when you’re solo! If there’s one thing that traveling Istanbul alone means, it’s that you should definitely mix more with the local people, which is certainly not a bad thing, and pretty much everyone will be so happy to talk to you, we’re all very friendly! I’m going to be telling you all of the must-visit spots where you’re guaranteed to meet really cool people because that’s what traveling solo is all about, right? My solo guide to the city will tell you exactly what to do in Istanbul alone, the best areas to stay for solo travelers, as well as just a tiny, tiny bit of local etiquette that is going to make for a much safer and of course enjoyable trip. I’ve met plenty of travelers taking on Istanbul alone and I like to think that I know a thing or two about where to go and what to see, so without any further introduction, let’s begin my Istanbul solo travel guide!


Where To Stay?

Traveling to Istanbul alone is great, but you’re going to need to know where to stay! There are a ton of options here for every type of traveler, but if you’re satisfied with staying in the center of town where there’s always going to be something going on, that’s really not a bad decision if you’re on your own! People always ask me the question; is Istanbul at night safe? And it is in most areas, but if you’re at all unsure about this then you should definitely stay in a main district such as the Galata Tower or somewhere close to Istaklal Street. You’re going to find so many accommodation options here, but it’s mostly going to be BnB’s because it’s quite a residential area! Another area I would really recommend staying would be Cihangir, it’s a very cool district that is famous for its antique shops, but it’s also a really fun and interesting place to stay too!

Where To Stay?

Somewhere that is maybe a little bit unusual to stay would be Kadiköy over on the Asian side of the Bosporus. This is a traditional area of the city that is going to be very, very different from staying in one of the central areas I mentioned before, but in a good way! If you’re travelling to Istanbul alone, then Kadiköy is going to provide you with loads of options for every budget, from the cheapest hostels to very fancy boutique hotels! This area also has a very lively atmosphere, which is important if you want to mix with other people! Kadiköy would definitely be at the top of my list of places to stay because it’s so much fun and I just think you’ll get such an authentic experience staying here, it’s also free from tourist traps that you will find in busier parts of the city!

What To Do?

If you want to find some things to do alone in Istanbul, I think it’s really important to stick to things that involve mixing with as many people as possible, so visiting a market has to be the best place to do this! The Grand Bazaar is the biggest market place in the whole city and it’s one of the main Istanbul attractions. I think it has a really nice mix of tourists and local people although for many people wanting something more authentic, it can be a little too touristy! If this isn’t for you, one of my favourite non-touristy things to do in Istanbul is to catch a ferry over to the Asian side of the city to Kadikoy. This is where you’ll find a market that is very traditional, you’ll see all kinds of local produce being sold here such as cheese, olives, spices and of course what the market is known for; fresh fish!

What To Do?

Spending some time in the central Galata District is probably one of the best things to do in Istanbul at night, not only are there absolutely tons of really nice bars in this area, but just under the tower you’ll find one of my favourite hidden gems in the city! This area has become very popular with young locals who sit around and socialise, many of them bring musical instruments and jam into the night. For anyone who finds themselves in Istanbul alone, this can be a great place to meet some really cool people, everyone here is super friendly and I think it’s nice for a tourist to interact with the locals! Other places to check out at night time would be the Tophane District, it’s the ‘hipster’ part of the city where you’ll find loads of great restaurants, cafes and some cool shops!

What To Do?

Finding out what to do in Istanbul alone isn’t really any different to looking for things to do if you were travelling with people. I think you’re still going to go and see all of the main attractions like the Suleymaniye Mosque, which of course everyone should! This is where any Istanbul solo travel journey should start, although it is a super busy area that is very popular with tourists. If you want to get off the beaten path, then head down one of the nearby alleyways where you’ll find centuries old artisan shops selling all kinds of products, it’s a very authentic experience! Also, one of my favourite Istanbul attractions is the beautiful city itself, and there’s nowhere to get better city views than by taking a ferry out into the Bosporus water. These are super cheap modes of transport that are just so much more rewarding than taking a bus or train, mostly, the views you get of the city are just amazing!

Where To Eat?

I think Istanbul solo travel is a really good idea, mainly because you’ll get to choose exactly where and what you want to eat at any moment, and who wouldn’t want that? If you’re not sure where to go in Istanbul alone for food, then I’d really recommend eating at a local market area because not only is the food nearly always great, but it’s also going to have that vibrant atmosphere that you want when travelling on your own. The two markets that I mentioned previously have some really great options, but for general street food you can’t beat places like Istaklal Street! Chilling out in the coffee shops around the Tophane District is also one of the coolest things to do in Istanbul alone, there’s some really great places around this area and you could spend an afternoon exploring them all, try the Ozo Coffee House for somewhere with a nice, modern style.

Where To Eat?

Anyone who is traveling to Istanbul alone should really go over to Ortakoy on the Asian side of the water. This is an area that is really famous for food, most importantly the kumpir, which is kind of like a baked potato but with absolutely tons of toppings to choose from. The area is very social and is nice to go alone, there are tons of stalls selling food and many people sit in groups along the water enjoying their potatoes. It has some really nice views out over the Bosporus too! On the other side of the river, just underneath the Rumeli Fortress, you’ll find a selection of really good restaurants that serve the best fixed-price traditional breakfasts for just sixty Lira, which is a fun experience if you’re on your own!

Tips And Etiquette

Istanbul solo travel is not exactly dangerous, but just like any big city there are a few things that you definitely need to remember, I don’t like to mention the negative bits, but it pays to be safe in certain situations. If you’re touring Istanbul on your own at night, stick to well-lit areas where there are other people around, and be aware that although most people in my city are really, really friendly, there will be people who aren’t too used to mixing with tourists, so just bear that in mind if you’re taking pictures! To get around, the best form of transport for a solo traveller is the underground, our ferry’s or the local buses, I’d say this is better than taxi, although if you do need one then the Bitaksi app is the cheapest and most reliable!