Istanbul City Guide – Istanbul Travel Tips
Istanbul – the city of dreams between two continents, it’s the perfect escape for couples
Reasons to visit
Istanbul is the most important city in Turkey, a financial and cultural hub. It’s a bridge between Asia and Europe and it’s famous for his history starting ancient times, buildings, tourist spots, food, and shopping.
Located between the Black Sea and Mediterranean sea, having served as the capital of both Byzantine and Ottoman empires, Istanbul is a city born of a beautiful marriage of Europe and Muslim World. This city is heavy with a melancholic past which made its citizen, the Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk, name his memoir ‘Istanbul’ in tribute – but please don’t take it to mean that it is just a historical city, for it is also one of the fastest developing metropolia of the world.
It’s perfect to visit Istanbul in spring between March to May and in autumn between September and November.
Turkey is the birthplace of Tulips and so, the best season to visit this city-beautiful is spring – from March to May, especially around International Tulip Day, when city glooms with the Tulips that decorate all its corners.
His climate is temperate oceanic with some continental temperate. It’s recommended to have an umbrella during spring, autumn and winter because
Istanbul Local Transport
Getting around city could be difficult but it’s not impossible. The easiest way to travel it’s by metro and if you have any issues using it you can install on your phone Istanbul Metro Guide and Subway Route Planner. It’s easy to use, works offline, calculate cost of the route.
The main language spoken is Turkish. Not all of the Turkish people speak English but if you are in a tourist area you will find people who speak English.
In Turkey the power sockets are european. This socket also works with plug C and with plug E if it has an additional pinhole, we suggest having a travel adapter if you are not from Europe.
Main currency is Turkish Lira. Though exchange centers are available at airports and most tourist attractions, the best way of exchanging currency is to withdraw from ATMs – which is both the fastest and cheapest method of doing so.
Must Try Food
If you love sweet snacks there will be the land of sweetness: Baklava, Turkish Delight, Halva, Muhallebi pudding and more. Could be too sweet for you if you suffer from diabetes. Also, you must not miss their food: different type of Kebab, Donner, Turkish breakfast.
The first thing I was thinking when we arrived in Istanbul was Turkish Coffee. It’s strong, tasty and wakes you up instantly. Also, don’t miss Ayran, cold yogurt mixed with water, perfect for breakfast or black tea. As alcohol, you must try Raki.
Where to eat?
The great variety of food items that Turkey has to offer is world famous. Here are some of the places you must eat in:
1. Çiya Sofrası
This restaurant is the best in all Istanbul and has deliciousness on offer in more varieties than you can count including several you won’t find elsewhere.
Visit this restaurant for its durum sandwiches, which will probably one of the best things you will ever taste.
The restaurant is known for its strange ‘wet’ orange colored burgers. Eating these burgers should be one of your bucket-list items.
How to get there
From Europe is pretty easy to fly here. Plenty of low-cost airlines have flights here, so if you catch a promotion, a discount, just take it! A plane ticket with carry-on baggage could be really cheap, like 10 euro.
So, in our opinion it’s perfect for a city break here, perfect escape. You don’t need to carry too many things, just enjoy your time here. If you want to check the best fly tickets you can trust kiwi.com. Kiwi can help to find also best fly on your way home.
If you have more time to spend you can also take an international bus like Flixbus. Prices are pretty good and you don’t have limits on your baggage.
Of course, take more time to get here but is perfect if you want to visit different cities around like Venice, Rome, Florence and so on. You can also use ride-share apps like BlaBlaCar for a cheaper ride.
You can spend good time in cars with locals and they can suggest you different places to visit which could be more useful then guides.
Where to stay
Istanbul has multiple options of finding a cheap or expensive place to stay. As I said, could be expensive but you can fit also on a budget.
It’s a huge city and must consider how much you will to walk, how close to the city center it is your place. If you like to hang out with a local you can book a room on www.airbnb.com and you can find a good price for your accommodation.
Also if you can stay with them for free using Couchsurfing app. You can use it also only if you want to meet with them.
Istanbul has two airports: Ataturk International Airport and Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. From Ataturk you have plenty of express bus service going in different location and it’s named Havatas.
To Sabiha Gokcen you can use metro, it’s much easier around here but also you can use Havatas, or public buses.
Inside Istanbul you can use public transport, as buses or metro. If you don’t stay here to long and it’s difficult for you public transport just use metro.
If you are planning to get a taxi most of taxi drivers barely speak English but it’s not difficult understand each other.
Now we are getting to our top. Like all in Europe, you must be prepared for the long line of waiting on major places to visit. My advice is to book your ticket online or from the previous day to avoid the queue at ticketing.
In other words, let’s start!
Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox Christian as a Cathedral (world’s largest at that for a thousand years) in 537 A.D. and later turned into a mosque, Aya Sophia, originally Hagia Sophia (literally meaning ‘Holy Wisdom) is now a museum and a sight worth seeing for its architectural beauty including several other things.
Hagia Sophia is an example of Byzantine Architecture decorated with marble and mosaics
The history of Christians and Muslims and their trajectory in this Mecca site makes of Hagia Sophia a must go place. They have done a great job in preserving it. It is an incredible feeling being able to walk within these ancient walls full of history.
Entrance fee cost 40 TL (Turkish Lira) but you can buy plenty of packs which include entrance to different tourist spots.
This Palace giving a view of Bosphorus was the ruling seat for Sultans of Ottoman Empire. The palace stands glory of Islamic art in its prime and a place, really, that deserves to serve as a home for emperors
The palace gives you a very good insight into how the early Ottoman sultans lived and how gradually the simplicity of Sultan Fateh gave way to the airs of Superiority displayed by Suleiman and his successors. The harem was such a crowded space that its residents could only survive through intrigues, of which there’s no dearth in Ottoman History.
Just around Topkapı stadium, stands Turkish Archeological Museum – holding in its laps glorious artworks and artifacts from all of Turkey.
For museum entrance fee cost 40 TL except for Harem section which cost 25 TL. Here you can use also Museum Pass.
Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque
This mosque earned controversy in the Muslim world back when it was created in seventeenth-century because it has six pillars – same as Mecca, and thus a seventh pillar had to be offered to Mecca.
A historical mosque, surrounded by a nice park where you can enjoy eating, ice creams, chestnuts, corn. The mosque itself is very spiritual, and it is close to everything else, near the tram station, there are many shops and restaurants as well. I always love to visit this place whenever I go to Istanbul.
Behind Blue Mosque is Arasta Bazaar, a perfect place to buy souvenirs and if the art lover is still hungry after having enjoyed the beauties of Blue Mosque, you will find Great Palace Mosaic Museum which displays a 250 sq. meter fragment of Great Palace Mosaic Pavement unearthed in the 1950s.
The huge, palace-like underground hall, supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, was once used to story the imperial water supply for the Byzantine empire
The most famous of these columns are the Medusa stones in the northwest corner, getting their name from their Medusa head carvings. The atmospheric beauty is dazzling with steady sound of peaceful water around you and columns so brilliantly lit.
This place was in a James Bond movie as well as Inferno with Tom Hanks. It’s a bit too dark inside and there was no water as in the movies but it is still magic and worth to see. I highly recommend
Entrance fee cost 20 TL and it’s worth every “penny”.
Grand and Egyptian Spice Bazaars
Located at a mere walking distance from Sultanahmet square, the two bazaars are the most popular bazaars. Grand bazaar consists of 3000 shops selling almost anything you might need, whereas Egyptian Spice Bazaar is much smaller – a mere 100 shops selling nuts, dry food, Turkish delights etc.
A must place to go when visiting Istanbul. All 4500 little shops in the closed market create an environment of Turkish bazaar in action. Amazing shopping with
This bridge Istiklal Caddesi is surrounded by what awesome in both past and present times of the cities. You get a chance to experience Istanbul’s nightlife here. A former watchtower, Galata Tower, has great views of the city to offer whereas Dolmabahce Palace of this area is the biggest palace in the city.
Great place to walk over and under,
The Galata Tower, is one of the highest and oldest towers of Istanbul.its provide a 360-degree view of the town. Entrance fee cost 35 TL.
A couple of elevators will take you up but there are still three more floors to climb by stairs to get on top about 50 meters above from the ground. A small shop and cafe are located inside the tower. it’s crowded but just go early morning about 9 am with no waiting to go inside.
Far before all its beautiful architectures, it was the Bosphorus river that gave Istanbul its scenic beauty. A sea-cruise in Bosphorus, with a chance to enjoy seafood, beautiful views etc is the first thing you should be doing in Istanbul.
Anyone who is visiting Istanbul, the Bosporus Cruise is must-do. By this one can see both parts of Istanbul. While selecting these cruises, the best is to go and take a normal ride rather any specific tourist cruise. The regular rides are like sea taxi which will take one from one stop to another, but this is best way to travel around the city. The sea is always breezy and one will enjoy the sea cruise specially in sunny days.
Having history much similar to Aya Sophia in beginning as a church, then being converted to Mosque and now being a mosque, this small church is popular for its marvelous mosaics. Chora means country and the church is named rightly being located on outskirts of what was once Constantinople.
The mosaics are really special. The church is really old. It is not easy to reach as there are no directions. Locals are very friendly and we were able to reach it with help from locals.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Best known for its display of the vast collection of Carpets (considered best by the textile experts) from Turkey and Iran, this Museum from different periods of history. You will also have a chance to see ceramics, calligraphy, and wood carving works from different from different periods of Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
Top European museums would give a small fortune for the level of historic artifacts in this museum. Some of the oldest Islamic historical items are here, second only to the extraordinary artifacts in the Topkapi. Yet people don’t know about this museum. It’s situated at the side entrance of the Sultanahmet Mosque and it was in a previous life an important palace. There was an exhibition of calligraphy and we had an inspiring chat with one of the artists Esma. Hopefully one day they can bring these arts to the UK.
The beautiful Mosque has the beautiful harmony of design to it. Outside the mosque in a beautiful garden area, you will find a beautiful Roman Cemetery.
Suleymaniye Mosque is a beautiful and surprising place to get to know. It is not as austere as Hagia Sophia. I loved both but I must admit that the approach is different from the equally beautiful Sophia. Light, Flowers paintings and minimalist. The University of Istambul right in front and you may reach the Spice Bazaar or the grand bazaar very easily from here. Also Chora Museum with amazing mosaics. Only heavy traffic may bother you. Also one of the best views of the city.
While visiting Istanbul most venture into the Old City. The charm, soul and beauty of the area are unmatched at the crossroads of three empires. On the other end is another view of Istanbul’s changing landscape. The design and architecture are very reminiscent of Western Europe. However, in keeping with Islamic tradition, the Palace is absent any sculptures, statues and carvings of people. The Palace is a beautiful reminder that Istanbul is rooted deeply in Europe and Asia.
Taksim Square is a large spot for locals and tourists and it is almost always fairly crowded. Great place to stop and enjoy the view, monuments, people watch and picture taking. Taksim Square is very safe. Do not be alarmed if you see police stationed around the square.
Tourists should beware of little beggers who are relentless and will pretty much follow you for a lira or two. My tip is to walk away really fast when one approaches you.
Places to Visit Around Istanbul
Istanbul is the epicenter of Turkish tourism which means the best tourist attractions of Istanbul are concentrated in and around the city. While the great tourist spots in the city get lots of well-deserved mention, it is perhaps a criminal mistake to tour Istanbul without having ample time to also visit the sites nearby.
Here, we now talk about tourist attractions in areas surrounding Istanbul. Assuming you are in Istanbul, inexpensive flights ensure that you can enjoy these sites with little additional costs.
Most of these trips need a day or two. Read about them and you will know why we insist on you
I don’t think I need to tell you about the ancient city Troy – the city that was lost fighting for the heavenly beauty of Helen (who was kidnapped by Trojan Prince, Paris), the setting of Greek mythical war. that became the setting of Homer’s Iliad and that became the graveyard for such great heroes as Achilles.
The ruins of this city are one day trip from Istanbul. Relics are on display here, there is Odeon (Concert Hall) and there is also on display, the proverbial Trojan Horse.
The Black Sea
An excursion to the Black Sea is not without its own beautiful delights to offer. Besides offering breathtaking views of sea losing itself to oblivion Horizon and beautiful sunsets. You will want to lose yourself to the serene beauty of the sea and will never want to return home.
Cappadocia has several tourist attractions to offer which makes it worth spending a couple of days there. It is most famous for its beautiful moon-like landscape which is created by the strange rock formations known as fairy chimneys that populate the landscape.
The view is even better from a hot air balloon which becomes a kind of must once you are in Cappadocia. This place will also offer you such attractions as Kaymakli (largest underground City here), Pigeon Valley, Goreme Open Air Museum, and Pasabag. Goreme Open Air Museum is famous for its rock-cut churches that having beautiful paintings on their walls.
Pamukkale has on offered the ruins of Hierapolis and Cleopatra’s pool for history nerds and scenic views for those into natural beauty.
Cleopatra’s pool has at its bottom, brilliant Roman marble columns from around the second century B.C. But what makes Pammukale even more beautiful is Pamukkale is its white terraces.
The seventeen naturally occurring hot red springs of this town deposit the sedimentary rock travertine which is used in creating these white terraces.
Hippodrome is the ancient spa town here. Constructed in third and fourth century AD, Hippodrome, was the scene of ancient public games and chariot races as well as factional conflicts.
There isn’t now much left of Hippodrome but you might still be impressed by the small section of gallery walls that still survives on the southern side and a fountain gifter by German emperor, William II, to Ottoman towards North-East.
Towards South-West, three amazing ancient monuments still sing the glory of the Ottoman Empire – a 20-meter high Egyptian obelisk (from Heliopolis, the Serpent Column (Constantine brought it here from Delphi) and a stone obelisk which was once covered with bronze plating stolen by soldiers during the fourth crusade.
The whole of Turkey stands on the ruins of several empires but perhaps no other ruins are as beautiful as those of Ephesus which were built in the 10th century BC.
The seaport was vital to trade and commerce of the ancient world and an important hub for early Christianity.
The ruins make you reflect what great civilizations must have been born, raised and brought down in this little town.
Take a one day trip to Gallipoli from Istanbul and get a chance to see the sites
The most important Australian Memorial here is called ‘Lone Pine’ after the only Pine tree found here. You get a chance to visit War-torn trenches of Nek.
You may also want to pay tribute to servicemen buried in Burnu Cemetery here. The trip to Gallipoli can be combined with that of Troy
These islands got their name from Byzantine Empire Princes who once used to come here to relax.
A one-day trip to these peaceful islands will give you a nice break in-between trips to Historical sites of Istanbul. The hotels here serve fresh fish and you can have a nice evening on sea-side and enjoy your leisure royal style.
Sapanca Lake and Masukiye
Another one day trip will give you a chance to see the countryside of Turkey. Sapanca lake is an eye candy too delicious to miss.
A visit to Ankara, a four-thousand-year-old settlement, gives you a chance to breathe in the atmosphere of the stone age. You will love to visit the Museum of ancient Anatolian Civilisation and the Ataturk Mausoleum.
A chance to observe statues, reliefs, and embellishments – products of the imagination of Turkish art community as well as Old Copper Market. Please note that this Old Copper Market is not open on Sunday.
Izmir promises elegant arts as well as ancient monuments such as the castle of Alexander the Great build in fourth century BC, a symbolic 98-year old Clock Tower and the Archaeological And Ethnographic Museum displaying elegant scriptures and antiques. Pagos Hill nearby offers splendid views.
Bursa and Uludag
Bursa was a former capital of Ottoman Empire. A visit there thus gives you a chance to visit such sites as the Great Mosque and Green Mosque. Here you also get a chance to go skiing. We thus rest our argument as to why your trip to Istanbul should not just stay limited to only Istanbul.
Milan it’s a perfect city to escape, especially if you are from Europe, It’s a great market for shopping and fashion and can be also for the budget.
If you have other questions feel free and leave a comment. Until then, you can read more articles about other beautiful destinations.