Summers in Istanbul can be brutally hot: The soupy air clings to you like a tight dress, while you can almost feel the bright sun piercing your skin. Sure, most of the malls and hotels have air conditioning, but who wants to be cooped up when you could be exploring all that Istanbul has to offer? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to escape the heat and cool down this summer.
1. Get on the water
The Bosphorus strait, the crown jewel of Istanbul and a natural resource that other states have coveted for centuries, offers so much more than delectable views. In the summertime, nothing can cool you down faster than taking to the water. The easiest way is to hop on a ferry crossing from Beşiktaş or Karaköy in Europe over to Kadıköy in Asia. Make sure to grab a seat on the side of the ferry; being so close to the water allows you to take in the sea breeze in all its glory. As a bonus, you can admire the Istanbul skyline on your casual jaunt between continents. For ferry times and more information click here.
© Emma Harper
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2. Visit a museum
The past ten years have seen a huge increase in the number of museums and galleries in Istanbul; it’s safe to say that the city is having an art moment. The Istanbul Modern in Karaköy is easily reached by tramway from Sultanahmet and is only a quick jaunt down the hill from Taksim. After soaking up some of Turkey’s finest contemporary art, you can enjoy a glass of wine at its cafe, which juts up against the Bosphorus and has spectacular panoramic views of the city (as long as a cruise ship isn’t blocking the way).
Istanbul Modern © Murat Germen
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3. Take a walk in the park
Despite the major construction boom in Istanbul, the city has retained some exquisite green spaces. You may be most familiar with Gezi Park in Taksim, which has become a household name after massive protests broke out in 2013 to halt its planned development into a shopping mall. But, in fact, Gezi Park pales in comparison to many of the other expansive parks and forests in Istanbul. Gülhane Park, a former garden of Topkapı Palace, still retains vestiges of its imperial heritage, with its towering outer walls and stately, tree-lined walkways.
Similarly, Yıldız Park in Beşiktaş is another remnant of Istanbul’s Ottoman past. Walking through the massive complex, you will stumble upon old Ottoman pavilions (köşk) and manicured gardens together with unkempt pockets of lush forest that recall the area’s former function as hunting grounds for the Ottoman sultans.
© Heineken 14 / Flickr
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4. Go for a swim
Going for a dip in the Bosphorus, while incredibly tempting when you gaze longingly at the strait from afar, becomes much less appealing once you get up close and see hundreds of jellyfish clumped together in large, white masses. But, there are ways to cool off with a quick swim that don’t require you to brave the waters of the Bosphorus.
One option is to take a ferry to the Princes’ Islands for a swim in the Marmara Sea. Get off at the first and smallest island, Kınalıada, which has the largest beaches out of all the islands. On the weekends, all the locals on the ferry will pour out at this stop, leaving only the tourists to head to Büyükada.
If you’d prefer to swim in a pool rather than the ocean, the large hotels along the Bosphorus offer daily access to their pools, although often for quite a high rate. Your better bet is to head to Moda Sea Club (Moda Deniz Kulübü), a private club on the Asian side.
A short walk from Kadıköy along the shore path, the Moda Sea Club allows guests to use their pool for a fee (50 TL per day on the weekdays and 75 TL per day on the weekends). Located right on the water, the pool has a stunning view of the Marmara Sea and the Princes’ Islands.
© Darwinek / Wikimedia commons
5. Give in to the heat
If you can’t beat it, why not join it? Similar to the idea espoused in Turkey that a glass of hot tea is a good way to cool down on a stifling summer day, the best way to approach the heat may be to give into it completely. Take a trip to the hamam (Turkish bath) and spend the day perspiring in an appropriate setting.
The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam in Tophane is a recently restored Ottoman hamam that is very friendly to foreign visitors; the staff speak English and will guide you through each step of the process. You’ll completely forget about the heat waiting for you outside as you’re scrubbed clean and doused in fragrant soap suds by a bath attendant.
© Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı