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Summer Packing Guide: Istanbul

Whenever people make a big deal out of fireworks, the first thing I think is, "We have them every other night in Istanbul!" Weddings, grand openings, reunions…there's always an excuse to celebrate rockets in the sky. (Ironically, there's also a Turkish idiom that calls people who celebrate everyday crazy.)

Crowds that never cease? Shops and restaurants that stay open late into the night, including on Sundays? Istanbul definitely fits into the Frank Sinatra standards of never-sleeping, among many other similarities with New York, including a pretty equal number of Starbucks. As well as plenty of traffic. And there was at least one Topshop in every major neighborhood before New York had its one-and-only in SoHo.

But of course there are ways it's very different, too. Along with significantly less skyscrapers and more sea views, the food is much cheaper (an Istanbul bagel costs only a quarter!).

As I pack my bags for a few weeks in Istanbul, the city where I grew up, I'll make sure to bring the essentials below for each of the places I'll visit. This includes historical sites (there are so many and just as inspiring each time!), art exhibits, cafes and tea houses by the sea. So click through, learn more about Istanbul and see what I will be packing for my short summer trip.

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You'll be on your feet 24/7, so make sure to bring comfortable shoes with you. Embroidered low-wedge sandals are perfect for touring the old city around the Sultanahmet neighborhood and visiting the Topkapi Palace, where the Ottoman sultans used to live–in all their embroidered robes and slipper shoes.

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Since it will be too hot to layer, it's best to pack pieces with cool prints on them.

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A generous tote is great for holding stuff you buy at the bazaars and flea markets, where you're sure to spend LOTS of time.

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Abercrombie & Fitch is extremely popular in Turkey (and in the rest of Europe), so don't be surprised to see many people wearing knock-off versions. But the real thing is so much better! I pack something from A&F to give my sister each time I visit home.

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Original Ray-Bans are way more expensive in Turkey, and there'll be a lot of sunlight. So, you better get a pair before you leave!

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Istiklal Street is a melting pot of cultures and a major hotspot in Istanbul, where you can find everything from shopping and live music to art exhibits and Byzantine churches. Head to the cafes in Cihangir, along with local hipsters and artists, and then to Galata where independent crafts shops and boutiques surround the famous Galata Tower. A breezy boho dress should definitely be in your luggage.

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If you love heels as much as I do, cork heels and wedges are best on Istanbul's old cobblestone–or new, but crooked–streets, and they match any casual outfit. I'm definitely packing my light and comfy cork-heeled sandals.

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I don't know if you knew this, but Istanbul has a great nightlife, with tons of bars and clubs. Dance in one of the waterfront clubs by the Bosphorus where all the Turkish celebs hang out, and look fancy in case the paparazzi snaps a photo.

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Sitting at a "family tea garden" against the Bosphorus sea is a Turkish tradition that goes back to the Ottoman times. Go for brunch and order Turkish breakfast, rest your tired feet and see how peaceful this seemingly chaotic city can be.

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