Impressions of Istanbul [25 Photos]

The Streets of Istanbul

Cigarettes, seagulls and selfie sticks. Those are the first things I think of.

On paper, that sounds like a terrible combination, but somehow, someway Istanbul makes it work.

The cigarettes are a sign of the city’s European lifestyle, where drinking tea, coffee or beer for hours on end is a daily ritual.

Istanbul Sapphire - Observation Deck

The seagulls connect you with the bustling waterfront that serves as Istanbul’s lifeblood.

And… those ever-present, ridiculously obnoxious vanity poles called “selfie sticks” are proof that the city is one of the most picture-worthy places I’ve ever been.

Seagulls of Istanbul

Over the course of the last two months, I’ve lived in four different locations, which has given me a few different sides to life in the city…

Thanks to an invitation by the Swissotel, I started my trip out with five-nights of luxury along the Bosphorus. From there, I moved over to Sultanahmet (old town), where the tourist population drove me away in just a few days. Next, I stayed with a friend over on the Asian side in Kadikoy – where I really enjoyed the laid back lifestyle. After a month of comfort, I needed a little more stimulation so I relocated to an apartment near Taksim Square, just off one of the city’s main shopping avenues.

If I lived in Istanbul long-term I would choose Kadikoy, but if you’re there for vacation, I highly recommend finding a place off of Istiklal street. 

istiklal caddesi in Istanbul Turkey
Istiklal Caddesi near Taksim Square is one of the busiest shopping streets in the city
Istiklal Caddesi Trolly
A young girl looks watches the world pass from the trolly window down Istiklal Caddesi

Despite a frequent change in locations, one thing always remained familiar… the food was absolutely delicious.

I’ll talk much more about this on an upcoming video, but let’s just say Turkish food was definitely the highlight of Istanbul.

Street treats and spinning meats won me over from day one, and despite the language barrier, I could point and smile at most things on the menu.

Baklava in Istanbul

Speaking of which… the Turkish language is very hard. The words are long and I just didn’t get it. Then again, I put very little effort into learning the language, which no doubt, effected my connection with the country.

The good news is however; I met some great people while living in Istanbul, which made the entire experience worth it. These new friends connected me with local hot spots and I was able to get a sense of life as a “townie” relatively quickly.

Salsa Night in Istanbul
Rooftop Salsa Night with the Crew
Moda Coast - Kadikoy - Istanbul - Turkey
An evening along the Moda Coast with locals in Kadikoy (notice the swing dance meet-up happening in the park)

Overall, the experience was much different than usual; I only had a few months to live here, didn’t learn the language, and didn’t have a set mission.

Regardless of the time or agenda, it doesn’t take much to realize how fascinating Istanbul is…

From the religious chants that echo across the city, to the old men playing Turkish Rummikub (Okey) in small shops and street corners.

You can overlook the oldest mosques and palaces while partying at the newest rooftop bar and clubs.

Tea (chay) is everywhere, mustaches are glorified, and fresh lemon can be squeezed over most food.

There are a million and one little idiosyncrasies that make Turkey’s largest city so enticing – and that includes the cigarettes, seagulls and selfie sticks.

Check out some visuals from my first weeks living in Istanbul…

Istanbul Photos

Istanbul Photos

Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Photos

Istanbul Gun Game
Shoot the Balloon, Impress Your Boyfriend – Just watch out for passing boats!

Summer in Istanbul

Istanbul Rainbow Steps

Cats in Istanbul
Cats, cats and more cats

People of Istanbul

People of Istanbul

Istanbul Sunset

Besiktas - Istanbul - Turkey

Football Celebration
Fans gather after the Galatasaray Football Club wins the Championship

Football Celebration

Turkish Food in Istanbul

Fresh Fish

Galata Bridge - Istanbul Turkey

Galata Tower View - Istanbul Turkey

More Istanbul photos from the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and much more coming soon!

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


  1. I was in Turkey last year, really i enjoyed, i love the culture, history, how can i explain the santa sofia, or the gran bazzar.. nice places to visit, thank you for sharing. keep it going.
    i invite to you visit us and explore with our segway The Barcelona City


  2. Its me again!
    Istambul is THE CITY!!!! I LOVED it so muchhhh!!! I wish i could spend more time…like a month at least!!! Its a place to live indeed…
    I explore a bit the country, fullfilled very former dreams (since 1996 when i bought a National Magazine that showed Pammukkale!) went there on the way to Capadócia and felt that delicious minearl hot water from Cleopatras bath!!! Hierapolis Ruins…Pamukkale! Went also to Kusadasi and Efesus. But i wish i could go to all turkish riviere till Kas…Turkey is one of the most incredible countries i have been!!!

  3. Correction: National Geografic Magazine!

    PS: LOVED your pictures, and the cats hahahahahhaa. My two cats are exatcly like those you pictured: a fat yellow one and a Tigrado, small one! Rousseau and Zuquinha, tiger

  4. Istanbul, such a lovely place to hangout with best friends. Pics are really amazing!! Is that a sweet box you’re holding? looks delicious to me!! thank you for sharing the pics and experience

  5. Wow, those pictures are easily the best I’ve seen anywhere on a travel site. You have an eye my friend! Keep up the great work, loved the shot with the cat … looks just like mine back home 🙂

  6. wow..what pics. awesome. the credit is in two places – the city which itself is so colorful (and thus finds it high on my to-do list) and you, who managed to point his camera at the right place. Good going!

  7. I have been recently on this great restaurant and I have only one word “PERFECT” I lived in Istanbul for a couple of years and since I left What I miss the most are the taste of that wonderful cuisine that have conquered my heart…. Well If u want to experience the best of Turkish food in Zagreb.

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