ruben-150x150by Rubén Hornillo Rodriguez

I belong to the most privileged generation of Europeans because we attended University just before the Great Recession of 2008. However, most of us now are unemployed or in precarious jobs, but boy did we have a hell of a time when the Erasmus program had funds galore! I was lucky enough to spend a semester in Istanbul and fall in love with the city… and its women. Busy shooting a music documentary (I’ve just decided I’m going to write a post about my 3 favorite music documentaries soon), in hindsight I realize I didn’t do as much typical tourism as I would’ve wanted. I did visit typical spots like Sultanahmet, but for example never went to the Great Bazaar or got into Galata Tower. However, I still enjoyed myself. These are my three favorite spots, which you can visit in one day.




Kadikoy is the main district in Istanbul’s Asian side. It’s one of those places that attracts you for no particular reason. It’s not like there’s a specific restaurant, bar, or historical monument that’s a must-see, but the combination of all the not-so-notable elements creates a neighborhood, right on the Asian coast of the Bosphorus, that will captivate you. Early in the morning, you can have breakfast anywhere, or just grab something to eat from one of the food carts roaming around the streets. Then take a stroll around the port, relax while people watching (a great thing to do in Istanbul) and if it’s hot, walk to Moda and have the best ice cream in the country at Ali Usta. Then hop on a ferry towards Europe.


tophane 3


Once you are on the European side, walk over to Tophane, right on the Bosphorus. This neighborhood in the Beyoglu district is known in the city as Nargile Central. Nargile, for those of you who don’t know, is the Turkish word for water pipe. Not a smoker? I’m not either, but I believe nargile is a must-try. You can walk into a nargile spot, relax while you smoke mint flavored tobacco, eat some fruit, drink apple tea, watch a soccer game (in which case say goodbye to relaxing, as Turks are really passionate about sports) and play backgammon, Turkey’s national board game. One thing you won’t do is drink alcohol, as the nargile establishments are very close to the Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque, which dates to 1580. However, if you really feel like drinking, you can order wine-flavored tobacco for your nargile or walk over to…


istiklal 2


Istiklal is probably the most crowded street in Istanbul, and also one of the best spots in the World if what you want is bar-hopping. Located in Beyoglu Disctrict, this street runs from Taksim, one of Istanbul’s most important squares, to the medieval Genoese neighborhood. There are hundreds of restaurants, bars, old cinemas, coffee shops, store, etc. A regular night could start at any restaurant, many of them offering live performances of traditional Turkish music. After that, you can go to Peyote, Istanbul’s main hipster option, which has a dance floor with the trendiest electro on the first floor and a rooftop garden where they play alternative rock. After a couple of drinks there, if electro is not your thing, you can walk a couple of blocks to Araf, the only club in the World specializing in World Music. Only there can you dance to the number one Spanish hit, then to the hottest song in Israel or the song that drives crowds crazy in South America. After a hard night of drinking and dancing, go and grab something to eat at any of the restaurants that seem to never close and call it a night… or not.