Thanks to Ümit at Locally Istanbul, we had an unforgettable stay in Istanbul!
We are first-time visitors to Istanbul from the San Francisco Bay Area. We have traveled globally but had never been to this part of the world before.
My husband and I had an incredible time in this extraordinary city. But we could not have experienced Istanbul to the depth and vibrancy we had, had it not been for Ümit from Locally Istanbul as our guide. He was tireless in showing us the “Bohemian” side of Istanbul in the New Town area. We were taken to hidden gems, cafes, and eclectic eateries that only a local who is passionate about his city could know about. He was so generous with his time and with his knowledge, tailor-making our experience to what we were interested in but also adding his specific knowledge about the city in which he grew up.
Unlike many other guides who are also excellent and high-quality, but can be cookie-cutter, Ümit made the day special by individualizing the tour, spending most of the day in New Town with just a short stop at the Grand Bazaar where he showed us some of the best shops for ceramics, textiles, and rugs, and then taking the ferry over to the Asia side with us. This was exactly what we’d wanted, and he managed to hit all the high notes for each of these places.
He guided us to 12-13 different shops, boutiques, restaurants, vendors, and cafes throughout New Town and the Grand Bazaar as he told us about the city’s social history, people, religion, and politics. He also recommended what we might do during the remaining 2 days of our stay. We followed his advice and found that they were each spot-on and of excellent quality.
In the end, Ümit spent an extra 2-3 hours with us, even walking around the Asia side of Istanbul to walk us through the markets and to take us to his favorite restaurant in the Kadıköy neighborhood. With his warmth, enthusiasm, and humor, he went above and beyond what he had to do, and we were so grateful for his generosity.
But on top of that wonderful tour, Ümit enabled us to have an unforgettable experience the very next morning. We were in Istanbul on November 10th when much of the city’s people commemorate the passing of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Atatürk. We knew nothing about this, but he offered to meet us in front of Dolmabahce Palace where Atatürk had passed away on November 10th, 1938, and where throngs of people congregate every year to remember his legacy. To be among the crowd of respectful mourners gather in honor of their founder was both memorable and moving. None of this would have been possible without Ümit letting us know and actually meeting us there, just because he wanted his guests from far away to experience a meaningful moment.
Istanbul is a magnificent city but one that is enhanced by walking through it with an excellent guide. We had an extraordinary time, thanks to Ümit who went above and beyond what we could have expected.
We plan to recommend Locally Istanbul and Ümit to any of our friends and family who would want to visit Istanbul in the future.