A Local’s guide to Istanbul is part of a series collaboration with Spotted by Locals Istanbul.

‘If the world was only one country, Istanbul would be its capital!’, or at least that’s what Napoleon is said to have believed. And while two centuries have passed since and the world would be all but unrecognisable to him today, Istanbul remains Turkey’s largest city and one of the great metropolises. You may think that with its 15 million inhabitants it might be impossible to find spots close to the centre that aren’t constantly overrun with people, but thankfully that’s not the case. Here are some tips by locals Deniz and Yücel on where you can still find refuge from Istanbul’s infinite crowds and rush.

A Local’s Guide to Istanbul

Otağtepe Tema Park

Located in Kavacık near the 2nd Bosphorus bridge, Otağtepe Tema Park was originally run by Tema, an organisation for combating soil erosion for reforestation and the protection of natural habitats. Nowadays it serves as a quasi-botanic garden, but what truly sets this park apart is its magnificent view over both bridges and the Bosphorus. Great for photography walks year-round.

Baltalimanı Japanese Garden

The Japanese garden in the neighbourhood of Baltalimanı was created in 2003, Year of Japan in Turkey, in collaboration with the Japanese government and the city of Shimonoseki in the Yamaguchi prefecture. Inside it there are two ‘Bosphoruses’ (one inspired by Istanbul and one by Shimonoseki) and everything a typical Japanese garden must have, like a waterfall, a pond, a walkway, a tearoom and, naturally, sakura trees. Catch them when they blossom around April and you may even think you’re in Osaka.

Moda Seaside

The classic Istanbul touristic cliché of “the city that spans two continents” becomes real when you walk along Moda Seaside on the Asian side, which is generally less frequented by tourists. The two kilometre stretch starts from the Kadıköy IDO Ferry Station, goes up to Moda Pier and comes complete with pedestrian zone, bike paths and grassy patches. There you’ll often find youngsters having drinks and snacks from the nearby shops market, playing music and hanging out. At the end of the pedestrian zone there’s a very old tea house offering great views.

Maçka Park

Situated right between Dolmabahce and Nisantasi, Maçka Park is one of Istanbul’s few city parks, along with Gezi, Emirgan, and Yıldız. This green space provides locals with a place to take their kids, jog, walk dogs, or just sit and relax. There are playgrounds, decorative pools, cafes – everything necessary to catch a breather from the centre of the city on the European side. Deniz’s suggestion: bring some drinks and snacks, and get there by the Maçka Gondola Lift.

Fenerbahçe Park

Fenerbahçe Park in the neighbourhood of the same name is actually on an island, next to a marina. It has spectacular views over the Bosphorus, the Historical Peninsula and Istanbul’s islands. Whether on a cold weekday or a warm summer weekend, its peaceful atmosphere is perfect for catching up with your book or meeting up with friends over tea at one of the cafes scattered around it.

Istanbul photos courtesy of bass_nrollCouture.com.trDeniz Dönmez and Yücel Babadağ

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Spotted by Locals is a series of apps and blogs with up-to-date tips by locals in 60+ cities across Europe and North America. To get more local tips, visit the Spotted by Locals website or download the app.

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