Ball of Energy, Şişli
Bridget suggests: Finding a place to exercise in İstanbul can sometimes seem difficult. I live in a pretty crowded part of the city, so running in my area is somewhat impractical. However, if you’re a runner or want to go bike riding, I’d suggest checking out some of the nice pathways along the waterfront. There is the long walkway on the Asian side that runs through Caddebostan and Bostancı which has a beautiful view of the Marmara and the islands and lots of space to run, ride a bike, play Frisbee or have a picnic. I have also been told that there are some nice beaches around there, but have never been myself. Another path one can run is along is located on the European side of the Bosporus, past Bebek. There is a long walkway along the water where you can run or ride a bike. During the weekends it is pretty crowded, so I wouldn’t suggest riding a bike then, but you can still go for a stroll. Even though Bebek is a more contemporary neighborhood, you may still get stared at while running along that shore road, which has been the experience of some of my female friends. There are also wide sidewalks along the Golden Horn, though here you are more likely to be stared at or followed if you’re a female foreigner.
Another great place to go for a run or stroll is in one of the many parks in the city. If you plan on running in a park, I’d suggest checking out the park before going for a run to make sure you feel comfortable there.
There are also lots of gyms in the city, and though pricey, if you plan to go often, a gym membership is worth the price.
Rose suggests: There isn’t quite the exercise culture in İstanbul that exists in cities like Boston or San Francisco, at least not yet. You’ll see the occasional jogger out and about, and, of course, more in certain areas, but the average Turk most likely does not go running, and runners are apt to get some odd side glances if they venture out through Fatih. Still, there are some great places around the city to keep fit. First on my list would be Belgrade Forest, in Bahçeköy, which is full of joggers on the weekends. It has a well-marked path around a lake, and several running groups carpool up on Saturdays and Sundays to take advantage of the clean air and running path. There are also buses to Bahçeköy if you have a free morning during the week or if the running groups’ schedules don’t match yours.
Closer to the city center, the municipal government has, in the past several years, put up many “exercise parks” or small clusters of outdoor exercise equipment around the city, usually appended to city parks. These are great because they are everywhere, open to everyone, and best of all free. You could also look into joining a gym, but they tend to be quite expensive. You can try to negotiate a lower price, though, and many will let you try out their facilities once or twice to see if you’d be interested in joining.
Lastly, there are several organized runs through the city -- the İstanbul Marathon is coming up in October, and also has a 15K and a fun run (8K) option. It’s a fantastic opportunity to run across the Bosporus Bridge, from Asia to Europe, which is rare as the bridge is generally closed to pedestrian traffic. In truly Turkish fashion, last year as I ran across the bridge I was passed by a guy running with a full tray of simit on his head, selling them as he went along. It was a uniquely İstanbul sight.
While running may not be as popular here as it is back home, yet, it is rapidly becoming more popular, and there are loads of options for everyone, from marathoners to the less fleet of foot.