Istanbul, as the largest city in Turkey with over 15 million residents, is a busy port city with a rich history, and the country’s economic, cultural, and historical center. The city is known for its many religious and historical sites, palaces, and markets, as well as its many diverse neighborhoods.
Luckily for the topic of this post, Istanbul is also a highly developed country with great internet infrastructure home to hundreds of galleries, coffee shops, and bookshops happy to host remote workers.
This post serves as a simple but practical guide to navigating the city if you plan on working while traveling. While we will get to the nomad-specific topics though, we’re starting with the basics, which is where you should go while visiting to learn more about the history of Turkey and Istanbul.
In our post How to Live Like a Local, I recommended that you take the time to check out the local point of interest even if it may sound like an overly-tourist thing to do because it gives you an opportunity to get better acquainted with the culture and history of the place you’re visiting. So I’ve highlighted some of the places that make Istanbul special below:
Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) is a Byzantine Orthodox cathedral-turned-mosque located in the heart of Istanbul’s historic neighborhood, Fathi. It was constructed as a basilica in the 6th century by the order of Emperor Justinian I and was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. Visiting the Hagia Sophia allows you to truly soak in the architectural and historical masterpiece that is one of the most important buildings of world architecture and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Grand Bazaar is the world’s largest covered market, located in Üsküdar in central Istanbul. The market is home to more than 4000 shops, each of them selling a different product.
The Grand Bazaar is centuries old and was first built in the 15th century. Over the years, it has changed hands between many different people, which has made it what it is today. Today, the Grand Bazaar has about 4000 shops, most of them selling Turkish rugs, carpets, ceramics, and souvenirs. The Grand Bazaar is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can shop until you drop!
Istiklal Avenue is one of the most famous streets in Istanbul. It stretches for 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from Taksim Square in the south to Taksim Square in the north. Istiklal Avenue was once home to business people, intellectuals, and artists. Today, the shops are occupied by chic boutiques, cafes, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, and nightclubs.
Taksim Square is the center of political, cultural, economic, and social life in Turkey, surrounded by many famous historical monuments. However, while that may be the case, it is also a well-known transport hub, meaning that in addition to being an incredibly enlightening place to visit, it’s also very practical.
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a historical mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmed I (reigned 1603–1617), and was intended as a prototype for later imperial mosques. The Blue Mosque was the first major construction project undertaken by a Sultan after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is one of Istanbul’s great marketplaces and for good reason. Here, you can find any variety of spice, tea, or Turkish delight you might fancy. While you can easily get lost in the multitude of storefronts here, be sure to take some time to drink complimentary tea with a shopkeeper and try the variety of goods their shop offers. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the local goods and the perfect chance to try your hand at some friendly haggling.
The Galata Tower is a historical landmark and museum located on Istanbul’s European side, to the east of the Golden Horn, and is next to the Galata Bridge. The Galata Tower is a cylindrical tower with tall walls overlooking the Bosporus in the district of Beyoğlu. The tower is a landmark, the highest point in Beyoğlu, and was formerly used as an observation post for warning of Byzantine naval attacks.
In our team’s combined 60 days roaming the streets of Istanbul, we found more than a few great places to get work done, both solo and in a group. One of the things we absolutely loved about Istanbul is that there are literally dozens of coffee shops, bookshops, restaurants and cafes, and co-working spaces scattered throughout the city, and the local restauranteurs never mind you staying longer than originally anticipated, being willing to wait on you and split bills up in whatever way is most convenient for you.
Here are each of our favorite spots that we found while visiting Istanbul:
A local chain of coffee that takes its espresso very seriously, I found Craft Espresso to be exceptional in more than a few ways. Firstly, out of the roughly 20-30 double espressos I ordered in Istanbul, Craft had — hands down — the best. Secondly, the service was exceptional. Lastly, the wifi was super fast, the atmosphere was great, and it was easy to get in the vibe and just start working.
While Leo especially loved this spot, what made this place very special to us all is how spacious and accommodating they were to us working there as a group. The first time I (Danny) personally visited, we were in a large group of 7 and worked for a few hours before we even ordered anything. They have a few big tables for groups to all sit at together, with outlets and adjustable lighting. You also may recognize this place in Bader’s video he filmed during our retreat. They were super accommodating to his needs of arranging the area with lighting and camera as needed.
While this is more of a restaurant than a coffee shop, which might feel a bit strange to work at for Americans, the vibe of this restaurant was perfect and the owner was extremely accommodating to the Plutio team setting up and working here. Bader especially loved the vibe, which had subtle, somewhat dim lighting and great food.
I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t actually consult with Joe on which were his favorite places, so I’m basing this on the spots that he spent the most time. Joe seemed to have a soft spot for Kava Cafe, which is a small, two-story coffee house with great espresso and a nice view of the bustling street below from the second story. I did work one day from here and the service and coffee were excellent. Joe also recommends checking out the Tower Pub, which he may or may not have drank a beer or two at.
A local chain with terrific espresso, a clean and modern vibe, and super fast wifi, it’s clear to see why Farvin loved this place. One major benefit of working from here is also the great food menu. Farvin’s favorite aspect of working here was the amazing view.
Any time you’re visiting a new country, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to get from one place to the next. Let’s face it, cities can be hectic, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages to the various means of transportation. Additionally, the local culture often dictates what’s common and uncommon as well as how to approach getting around. For Istanbul in particular, one thing to be aware of is that using ride-sharing apps is generally frowned upon by the locals, and you’d be wise to avoid being conspicuous when doing so.
Overall, Istanbul is known as one of the Great Cities of Traffic Jams, so, to avoid the hellfire of spending countless hours of your valuable travel time waiting to get from one place to another, we’ve ordered the below recommendations in order from our favorite to least favorite modes of transportation.
Overall, so long as you’re in the more dense areas, Istanbul is a great city to get around the old-fashioned way: by foot. The tight corridors full of cafes, restaurants, and shops mean that most of your needs will be within a few blocks at most.
Additionally, taking the time to walk around gives you a great opportunity to take a closer look at the beautiful architecture and get lost in the amazing and serene experience that walking in Istanbul is.
One thing to be aware of when walking around is that you’ll definitely need to mind the traffic while walking. Traffic lights, for instance, tend to be on the same side of the streetcars wait, so pay extra attention to whether it’s your right-of-way or not before crossing streets.
With a population of more than 15 million people, it’s important that Public transportation in Istanbul is no slouch and, thankfully, Istanbul excels in this metric. Not only is public transportation generally efficient, but it’s also very affordable by western standards. Make sure you’re armed with cash and coin before boarding a train or pick up a metro card if you can.
Like most major cities in the world, taxis are a great way to get around in Istanbul, with a few caveats. Generally, taxis are very affordable. However, be aware that it’s possible you could be scammed into paying for more than is fair if you’re not paying attention and if you’re not aware of what is a fair fare. (Leo told me of a story, for instance, where he ended up paying more than triple the fair price for a ride from the airport during his first visit to Istanbul.)
Always keep your eye on the meter and if possible, get a quote for your ride before entering your cab. For reference, at the time of writing this, a fair price from the Istanbul airport to the Karakoy neighborhood was between 250 and 350 Liras, although this price may increase if the Lira continues to decrease in value as it has over the last few years.
While you can use ride-sharing apps in the former capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of.
First, if you’re using Uber, specifically, every uber you can order is going to be an actual cab driver. You’ll have the choice between yellow and black cabs, with yellow being the more affordable option. Using Uber to get a ride, however, can be a little tricky as most cab drivers tend to ignore Uber requests, preferring instead to get paid in cash (Danny and Joe found this out the hard way when trying to meet up with a local Plutiopian and wound up getting more than an hour late to their destination).
The other ride-sharing option is TikTak (not to be confused with Tik Tok), which is more of an American-style ride-sharing service. While we didn’t try it out when we were there, we’ve heard that it’s often frowned upon so much so that it’s advisable you get in the front seat of your driver's car to be more inconspicuous if choosing this option.
Let’s face it, most nomads aren’t going to go through the hassle of picking up a bike during their travels—but some cities tend to emphasize bicycling so much you don't even have to think about it.
Istanbul is not one of those cities.
While yes, in a busy and dense city, biking is a viable means of getting around for many, there’s not enough bicycle infrastructure available that I’d recommend it for someone visiting for only a short period of time (3 months or less).
Biking around may be possible for the more adventurous, but if you’re not familiar with a more live-and-let-live driving culture that creates a somewhat chaotic traffic scene, then it’d likely be better for you to stick to safer ways of getting to your favorite work spot.
Istanbul, Turkey is a great city full of culture, history, and great food. It’s located in the Middle East, on the shores of the Bosporus Strait. It’s a beautiful city with tons of amazing food.
Here’s a list of some of the best places to eat in Istanbul
Leo, Danny, and Joe were all very grateful to be introduced to this restaurant by Plutiopian and Istanbul Local Mehmet. The food is a staple amongst locals and is especially known for its high-quality cuts of meats. As a bonus, it’s also very close to the famous historical Aquaduct of Valens, which is more than 1,500 years old and a great place to sit in the shade and read a book, have a conversation, or play a game of backgammon.
While this isn’t a restaurant that is often trafficked by locals, this restaurant is well known in the international culinary scene, having been awarded a Michelin Star for its superb offerings and amazing atmosphere. The top-floor view the restaurant offers is also a great sight to see.
I’m going to be honest and say this restaurant isn’t exactly known for its food, but rather its view. That’s because being perched at a high point on Istalkl Avenue gives the restaurant stunning views that look over the Bosporus Strait and surrounding neighborhoods.
While not exactly a restaurant per see, a visit here will ensure you get your day’s calories worth. Located in the Karakoy neighborhood and is very close to our favorite neighborhood, Beyoglu, the place is known for having some of the best baklavas in Istanbul, in addition to their signature güllüoğlu which is a popular dessert based on honey, pistachio nuts, raisins and walnuts made with pistachios, but don’t just take our word for it. Ask around, and you’ll find that the locals seem to agree.
Hands down our favorite restaurant for meze dishes and large group breakfasts, we couldn’t recommend this place more, given its delicious food, relaxing atmosphere, great service, and affordable menu. It’s also a great place to drink some Turkish coffee if you haven’t tried it before.
Westerners sometimes get anxious at the thought of traveling to what can be considered a middle-eastern city, but Turkey is an accepting country, with tolerance for many religions and ways of life. During our visit there, we took note of many beautiful mosques and churches alike as well as vibrant marketplaces and nightlife.
Standard etiquette when visiting religious sites is advised. Remove your shoes before entering mosques and dress appropriately. When out and about, feel free to wear whatever you feel is most comfortable. In terms of weather, while the country is often warm, it can also get fairly cold. Check the weather in advance and pack accordingly.
In terms of language considerations, it’s always advisable to know at least a few key phrases in the dominant language of the area you’re traveling to. However, rest assured that if all you speak is English, you’ll get by just fine as the vast majority of public-facing staff in the country seem to speak at least a little English.
Lastly, as is true of most countries and out of respect for the locals, we advise staying out of local politics. Nobody quite likes a foreigner with strong opinions on how things should be run in their country, and in some cases getting involved in the politics of other countries while visiting can get you into situations you’d rather not be in.
For anyone working remotely that would like to see the world, Istanbul is a great city to see, but keeping in mind a few key considerations will get you much further in the city. While we’re a little biased, if you’re a freelancer or service provider, we also recommend considering Plutio for conducting business on the go. Plutio has some awesome features for nomads, including auto timezone adjustment, multilingual support, localization settings, and simple collaboration tools.
If you made it this far, it’s clear that you have a true interest in traveling and seeing the world—we hope that Plutio helps make this goal of visiting Istanbul, Turkey possible for you!
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