Ultimate Travel Guide to Istanbul – Turkey

Your Complete Travel Guide to Istanbul

Are you planning your next long holiday trip? But not sure where to go? Well, we can help you with that. Why not pay a visit to the spectacular city of Istanbul in Turkey?  Istanbul is located between two continents on the Bosphorus straight which separates Asia from Europe, it is known as one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

The old quarter, with its oriental-fantasy skyline of domes and minarets, and its narrow cobbled streets lined with quaint old wooden houses, lies on a tapering peninsula pointing gravely across the straits to Asia. To the south, the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara glitter invitingly. North, across the graceful curve of the Golden Horn, flicker the bright lights of the pulsating entertainment quarter of Beyoğlu.

If you have limited knowledge about Istanbul, don’t worry because we have got you covered. You don’t have to browse through the entire internet searching for information. Just read through this article and you will get to know all the important information about the city of Istanbul that you need to know.

Check out our Travel Guide to Istanbul.

History

Founded by King Byzas in the 7th century BC, Istanbul is a place that is rich in history and culture. Istanbul has been conquered and ruled by some different empires because of its strategic location; many civilizations preferred settling in the area. Also, the city has been named and re-named quite a few times by the different civilizations that ruled it. It is one of the most influential cities of the past.

Getting There/Visa

If you have already packed your bags and ready to leave for Istanbul, here is how you can get to your destination. If you are taking a flight to Istanbul, you will likely land at the grand Istanbul Ataturk Airport which is 24kms west of the center of Istanbul. Considering the traffic, it may take you at least 1 hour to reach the center of Istanbul. You can either take a havabus bus or a private taxi to reach the city from the airport.

Regarding visas, if you are from Europe, then you are free to enter Turkey without a visa. But as far as people from other countries are concerned, the majority of them will need a visa to enter Turkey. However, there can be certain exceptions. You can apply for the Turkey visa online from their website.

Ultimate Travel Guide to Istanbul - TurkeyThings to See/Do

There are plenty of things that you can do or explore in this city. All you need is the right knowledge, and we are here to provide you that. The city of Istanbul is rich in art and architecture which you simply cannot afford to miss.

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Travel Guide to Istanbul - TurkeyIstanbul Museum Pass: Get the Istanbul Museum Pass to avoid standing in lines. The pass will give you access to many of the museums in the city. Your Istanbul visit will stay incomplete without visiting these museums. After all, it’s worth witnessing the rich historical layers of Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia: This is perhaps Istanbul’s most famous tourist attraction and therefore, it should be on the top of your must-visit places in Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace: This is yet another must-visit attraction in Istanbul. This is the former palace of the Ottoman Sultan.

Basilica Cistern: This is one of the underground cisterns of Istanbul. If you are fond of spooky places, then it is a must visit place for you.

Grand Bazaar:

Visit the Grand Bazaar inn the heart of the old city, put your bartering skills to the test, the bazar is many centuries old and started as a small warehouse in 1461. It now covers a large area, selling everything you can imagine. The bazaar feel like you have stepped into Aladdins cave, with he stunning ornaments and beautiful rugs on sale, it is a dream places to visit especially for shopaholics. The market is is so colourful and vibrant is make it a incredible place to snap some travel photos.

Spice Bazaar:

No visit to Istanbul is complete without stopping by the atmospheric Spice Bazaar. While the Grand Bazaar may be the largest and most famous of Istanbul’s covered bazaars, this spice market wins the prize for being the most colorful, fragrant, and often the most fun – as visitors can taste the goods on offer too. It was built in 1664 and is a must visit spot when in the city. Dot forget to try the delicious Turkish delight.

 

Blue Mosque:

This is İstanbul’s most photogenic building was the grand project of Sultan Ahmet I (r 1603–17), whose tomb is located on the north side of the site facing Sultanahmet Park. The mosque is such a popular attraction that admission is controlled in order to preserve its sacred atmosphere. If you love architecture and old historical buildings this a a must visit place when in Istanbul. 

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

This Ottoman palace was built in 1524 for İbrahim Paşa, childhood friend, brother-in-law and grand vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent. It has a vast collection of artefacts, and one of the world’s most incredible antique carpet collections. Artefacts in the museum’s collection date from the 8th to the 19th century and come from across the Middle East.

Süleymaniye Mosque

It took eight years to build, and was completed in 1557, as tribute to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Also within the Sülemaniye Külliyesi (mosque complex), there is a medrese (religious school), soup kitchen, hospital, caravanserai, library, bazaar and several tombs. The tomb of the architect, Mimar Sinan, is also located here.

Chora Church / Kariye Museum İstanbul

A stunning museum with amazing mosaic work, if you love art this is a fanatic place for you to visit to provide you with  insights into Byzantine art.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Set in beautiful  gardens, the palace is divided into three sections: the Selâmlık, Harem and Veliaht Dairesi. Entry is via a compulsory and dreadfully rushed guided tour (up to 50 people per group), which focuses on the Selâmlık but visits parts of the Harem as well; you can visit the National Palaces Paintings Museum independently. In busy periods English-language tours leave every 10 minutes or so; during quiet times every 25 minutes is more likely.

Hamam – Turkish Bath

Try and do this if you can there are many to choose from around the city, some are more expensive than others. A great relaxing activity to do whilst in Turkey.

Rooftop bars in Beyoğlu area

Istiklal is a popular street in Istanbul in Beyoğlu, which starts at Taksim Square (to make it easy to find). It’s a fun place to go out for the evening. Just don’t forget to look up, the rooftop bars are almost elusive, until you realize they exist, and then you realize they are everywhere. Get up to the roof, cheers with the people across the street from you, and enjoy a sunset with an Efes Dark overlooking the city.

The Underground Cistern

Straight out of a movie (actually several movies), this place has to be seen to be understood. It is like a small version of the mines of Moria, with water. It was built in 532 AD, right in the middle of Sultanahmet (the old town), and water was transported here from the Belgrade Forest, 19km away. Entry is approx 10 lira.

Bosphorus Cruise

A cruise on the Bosphorus is a fantastic activity to do in Istanbul tourist attraction. It covers many of  the historical sites in Istanbul from the peaks of Sultanahmet’s tourist sites, to the famous Ottoman waterfront mansions.

City Sightseeing Bus Istanbul Tour

Istanbul is unique city – enriched with mesmerising cultural contrast. Istanbul bus tour captures it perfectly hop on to and hop off to discover the city’s magnificent mosques, palaces and bazaars

Apart from these main attractions, there are many other interesting places as well that you can visit such as the Galata Bridge, Galate Tower, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square and many more.

 

Travel Tip:

Mosque etiquette:

When you do venture inside the mosque, make sure you remove your shoes before entering. Both men and women should be modestly dressed, which means no shorts, short skirts, or bare shoulders and arms. Carrying a scarf with you or incorporating it into your attire is a good idea, but most major mosques offer or rent cover-ups if you need them.

Turkish Language Tips:

Hello is Merhaba (pronounced Mare-ha-ba)

Good Morning is Günaydın (gew-nahy-DUHN)

Good Day is İyi Günler (E-yee Guen-ler)

Good Evening is İyi Akşamlar (EE ahk-shahm-LAHR)

Goodbye is Hoşçakal (Hosh cha kal) is you are leaving, but if you are the person stay Goodbye is Güle güle (guele guele) so expect to hear it when leaving shops

Informal Goodbye is Allaha ısmarladık (ah-LAHS-mahr-lah-duhk)

Thank You  is Sağ Ol (SOWL)

You’re Welcome is Bir şey değil (beer SHEHY deh-YEEL)

Do you speak English is İngilizce konuşabilir misiniz

Cheers for drinking is Şerefe! (Sher-a-fa)

Hagia Sophia  in Turkish is spelled Aya Sofya (Eye-ah So-fee-yah)

Mosque in Turkish is spelled Camii (Jah-mee)

Foods to Try:
Istanbul is packed with some of the best dishes of the world because of its rich historical background. The list is quite long therefore we have listed only a few of them which you simply cannot afford to miss.
Menemen: You can start off your day with an amazing Turkish egg dish breakfast.

Cag Kebap: Your visit to Istanbul will remain incomplete until and unless you have tried out their deliciously cooked kebabs.

Kofte Sandwiches: This is yet another famous dish of Istanbul and therefore, you should give it a try.

Kokorec: This is an ideal dish for people who love to experiment with their food. Kokorec means lamb intestines which you can order either with bread or stuffed in a sandwich.

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Safety

Safety is of utmost importance when you are on your holiday trip. Speaking of Istanbul, unless you are at the wrong place at a wrong time, the place is safe to visit for the tourists. But it is advisable that you always stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

Transport

You will get plenty of transport options to go around the city such as:
Trams
Buses
Taxis
Uber
Boats
The choice of your transport depends on you and where you are headed to in the city. Costs are pretty reasonable for all options. If you’re used to using the likes of Uber, one of the best apps to hit Istanbul is a similarly easy taxi call system called Bitaksi. It offers a fare calculator, payment by credit card, and much more.

Approx Costs of Things

Just to give you an idea, here is an estimate list:
Accommodation: The prices may range from $30 to $150 per night.
Transportation: Depending on your mode of transport, the prices may range from $3 to $26.
Food: Depending on the type of food, the prices may vary widely.
Overall Budget: Your overall expense for each day in Istanbul may range from $20 to $150.

Where to Stay?
You can get any accommodation here in Istanbul. But for your information these are the two places that are quite famous with the tourists:

Sulthanamet: This is a very old part of Istanbul and one of the major tourist attraction areas.

Taksim Square: This is one of the key points in Istanbul. The place is packed with restaurants and shopping malls.

Weather
The weather condition of Istanbul is very much similar to that of the Marmara region. In the summer, it is humid and warm while during the winters, it is wet and cold with some snow. Between July and August, it rains heavily.

Turkey operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, with round-prong European-style plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets. Make sure you pack an adapter so your phone, tablet, or laptop are always charged and ready.

And for those wanting to check out Istanbul’s happening art scene, you’ll love the Istanbul Street Art app. Set a course before you arrive, or just follow your phone in search of the latest masterpiece. 

Currency
The currency of Istanbul is the Turkish Lira. You can use the ATMs in the city to get the Turkish currency, or you can even convert it from a Currency Exchange Office.

Hopefully, you have all the information to make the most of your trip to Istanbul. If you have been to Istanbul sure what your favourite places were in  the comments below.

Ultimate Travel Guide to Istanbul - Turkey

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Travel Guide to Istanbul - Turkey

 

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Comments
  • Heraa Farooq
    Reply

    We loved Istanbul and your guide is amazing. We could only visit Istanbul but plan to visit again to explore more of Turkey 🙂

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