About Adventure in Istanbul
Being one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Istanbul is somewhat lacking in green spaces. Enthusiasm for the outdoors or an active lifestyle has not necessarily been a big part of Turkish culture, though increasing Western influence is beginning to change that for some of the younger generation.
Exercise is not a obsessive pastime, as it is in the States, and most young people seem to stay slim by smoking a lot of cigarettes.
For a half-day trip, take the ferry to Heybeliada, the second-largest in the Prince's Islands archipelago in the Marmara. Cars are not allowed on the island, but watch out for horse-drawn carriages. Hike uphill past historic Ottoman houses to the pine forest at the top of the island. You'll be rewarded with a sweeping city view.
By virtue of sightseeing and the sheer size of the city, you will end up walking a lot. The tourist loop in the Sultanahmet district will keep you on your toes, and wandering the back alleys of Taksim, Tunel and Galata will clock up surprisingly high numbers on the pedometer.
For a (relatively) quiet coastal stroll, follow the main road from Istanbul Modern to Dolmabahce Palace. Or head up to the peaceful fishing village of Arnavutkoy to wander until you find the perfectly charming seafood restaurant you desire.
Most parts of Istanbul are not especially conducive to outdoor jogging (hilly, full of traffic and smog, crowded sidewalks). And most Istanbullus, making up one of the world's largest markets for cigarette sales, are not especially inclined to aerobic activity. Which is why, sometimes, if you're a single foreign woman going for a jog, people will assume you are being chased by someone.
But if you brought your running shoes and itching to shed off some of that new baklava weight, your best bet is to head to a local park, like Yildiz (watch out for the steep incline) or Emirgan Park in Sariyer for a peaceful jog.
Kilyos Beach, a short shuttle or car ride outside of Istanbul, is a popular spot in the summertime for a dip in the Black Sea. During the peak season restaurants and hotels usually charge for beach access and the beach turns into an all-day raki-fueled techno party.
Gym memberships tend to be vary pricey in Istanbul and cater mostly to the upper class. Many hotels have gyms, the best of which is at the Marmara Hotel where you can get a work out and sweeping view of Taksim Square all at once. While you're there, you might as well take advantage of their rooftop pool and take a dip....like a boss.
Biking on Istanbul streets is for only the most insane and street-wise locals and is most definitely not recommended for visitors. The best place in the city to ride a bike is Heybeliada, a car-free island accessible by a 90 minute ferry.
Yoga is fast becoming the international language of svelte, which has not fallen on deaf ears in Istanbul. There are a few studios in the fashionable neighborhoods of Nisantasi and Ortakoy, catering to the jet set and foreign expats.
Yildiz Park is the best place to get back in touch with nature without leaving the city. Located in the heart of Besiktas (home to middle-class families and rabid soccer fans), this well-maintained and enormous park has centuries-old trees and beautiful Ottoman-era structures. Watch out for canoodling Turkish teenagers.
Gulhane Park, home to Topkapi Palace, is a popular spot for strolling Turkish families on the weekends. It's a welcome respite from the smog and road rage on the streets.
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