Travel Guide: Istanbul

Travel Guide: Istanbul

Istanbul stands out as a fascinating city with its historical and cultural richness, magnificent architecture, exquisite cuisine and lively atmosphere. This metropolis, which has a strategic importance with its unique geographical location connecting east and west, bears the traces of many civilisations that have left their mark on world history.

From its walls that smell of history in every corner to its enormous palaces; from the call to prayer heard while wandering its streets to its historical bazaars, Istanbul is like an open-air museum, each telling a different story. This travel guide aims to guide travellers who want to discover Istanbul’s must-see highlights, flavour stops and cultural richness.

What are the places to visit in Istanbul?

As a city full of history, culture and beauty, Istanbul is home to many places to visit. Here are some important places you can visit in Istanbul:

  • Hagia Sophia: This historical building, which is the symbol of Istanbul, was used as a church and mosque in different periods from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire. Today, it can be visited as a museum.
  • Topkapi Palace: Topkapı Palace, the residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, is famous for its enormous collections and palace architecture. The palace offers a rich experience for history and art lovers.
  • Blue Mosque: One of the symbols of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is known for its enormous dome and blue tiles. It is one of the most beautiful examples of Ottoman architecture.
  • Grand Bazaar: One of the oldest covered bazaars in the world, the Grand Bazaar offers a great variety for those who want to shop. You can find jewellery, leather products, textiles and many other products.
  • Bosphorus Strait: The Bosphorus Strait, which divides the city in two, is famous for its magnificent view. You can take a ferry tour on the Bosphorus, sit in the cafes on the shore and watch the beautiful view.
  • Galata Tower and Galata Bridge: The historical Galata Tower is an important symbol that forms the silhouette of Istanbul. You can spend a pleasant time walking or fishing over the Galata Bridge.
  • Istiklal Street and Taksim Square: Istiklal Street, the centre of shopping, dining and nightlife, extends to Taksim Square. Known for its lively atmosphere, this area shows the modern face of the city.
  • Rumeli Fortress: Located on the Bosphorus, this historical castle was built to ensure the defence of the Anatolian side of the Ottoman Empire before the conquest of Istanbul.

This list is just a starting point as Istanbul is a city full of rich historical and cultural heritage. There are many other important sights, museums and neighbourhoods in the city.

Istanbul travel tips

Istanbul is a world-famous destination with its streets reeking of history, magnificent architecture, exquisite cuisine and marvellous views. However, paying attention to some important details while exploring this fascinating city can make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free. Some tips for travelling to Istanbul can help you use your money more effectively, get a deeper local experience and choose the best time according to seasonal recommendations.

Where to exchange currency?

An important issue for travellers to Istanbul is currency exchange. Usually, there are exchange bureaus at international airports, major hotels and large shopping areas in the city. However, you can also check with local banks in the city to get a better exchange rate and lower commission fees. Electronic payment methods, credit cards and ATMs are also widely used, so you can reduce your need for cash during your trip.

How to save money?

You can apply several strategies to save money in Istanbul. First, focus on free or affordable activities. Many museums, mosques and historical sites in the city charge entrance fees, but some may be free or discounted on certain days or hours. Also, shopping at local markets, trying food from street vendors and opting for public transport can help you save your budget. Trying local delicacies in restaurants and opting for street food rather than luxury restaurants can also reduce costs.

Best months to visit

Istanbul’s climate covers all four seasons, but spring (April-June) and autumn (September-October) are considered the best months to visit. During these periods the weather is warm and mild, the tourist density is lower and outdoor activities in the city can be enjoyed. The winter months can be cold, but the snowfall and white cover of the city during this period can offer beautiful views, especially at historical sites. If you plan to travel in any season, it is advisable to pack with the weather in mind.

Travel budget suggestions for Istanbul

Creating a budget for travelling in Istanbul can help you keep your finances in check while exploring the city’s rich culture and history. Firstly, it is important to consider accommodation options. In addition to luxury hotels, there are also more affordable boutique hotels, hostels and apartments for rent in Istanbul. Booking early and avoiding peak tourist periods can reduce your accommodation costs.

In terms of transport, Istanbul has a wide network of public transport. You can visit the city in an economical way with options such as buses, trams, metro and ferries. It is also a free option to explore historical places on foot. Discovering the rich cuisine of Istanbul is also an important point in budget planning. By trying street flavours and traditional Turkish cuisine, you can limit your luxury restaurant expenses.

Museums and historical sites in the city offer free or discounted entry on certain days. Following these discounts can help you enjoy your cultural experiences in a budget-friendly way. Keeping track of exchange rates and checking the current exchange rates, especially before shopping, allows you to use your budget more effectively. City cards can offer discounts on museum entries, public transport and some restaurants. You can optimise your travel expenses by checking these cards. In addition, it is common to bargain while shopping in Istanbul. Comparing prices in popular shopping areas such as Grand Bazaar and shopping with a predetermined budget will help you save money. Managing your budget carefully while travelling in Istanbul will help you enjoy the full experience the city has to offer.

Where to stay in Istanbul?

Accommodation options in Istanbul are spread over a wide range of neighbourhoods in different parts of the city. The city is famous for its historical texture, modern neighbourhoods and diverse cultural attractions, so the choice of accommodation can vary depending on personal preferences, budget and purpose of the trip. Staying in the Historic Peninsula, Sultanahmet and its surroundings provides proximity to important historical sites such as Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. There are also accommodation options in traditional Turkish houses or boutique hotels in this area.

Taksim and Beyoglu are famous for modern shopping, entertainment and cultural events. A wide range of hotels and apartments for rent are available here. The areas along the Bosphorus coast are noted for their lush landscapes and luxury hotels, while neighbourhoods on the Anatolian side, such as Kadıköy, offer suitable accommodation for those who want to explore local life. Choosing where to stay in Istanbul allows for exploring different aspects of the city and customisation according to personal preferences.

Istanbul’s Culture

Istanbul is a city that has gained worldwide fame with its historical and cultural richness. This fascinating metropolis has been home to different civilisations in the past as the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Important historical buildings such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque are excellent examples of the city’s rich past.
Istanbul also attracts attention with its religious diversity. The use of Hagia Sophia as a church and mosque symbolises the religious richness of the city. Important places of worship such as the Blue Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque also emphasise this religious diversity.

The Grand Bazaar is another important point reflecting the rich bazaar culture of Istanbul. Here you can find a variety of products such as traditional handicrafts, carpets, jewellery and textiles. The magnificent view of the Bosphorus, with its villages and bridges, adds a different atmosphere to the city. The Bosphorus culture has become one of the symbols of the city. Istanbul’s rich cuisine has been shaped by the heritage of the Ottoman Empire and the interaction of various cultures. Kebabs, mezes, baklava and tea culture reflect the traditional flavours of the city.

In the field of arts and entertainment, Istanbul offers a wide range of galleries, museums, theatres and concert halls for culture lovers. The Beyoğlu district enlivens the cultural scene with its art galleries and vibrant nightlife. The fact that Istanbul is home to various ethnic groups makes the city a mosaic where different cultures come together. On the streets where different languages are spoken, it is possible to enjoy the diversity and richness. Istanbul culture offers a unique and fascinating atmosphere with the combination of all these elements.

What to eat in Istanbul?

Istanbul has a rich and diverse culinary culture. The city is famous for its delicious food, shaped by the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the interaction of various cultures. Here are some delicious local delicacies you should try in Istanbul:

  • Kebab: Adana kebab, Urfa kebab, shish kebab and doner kebab are all deliciously served in shops and restaurants on the streets of Istanbul.
  • Fish and appetisers: On the shores of the Bosphorus, especially in neighbourhoods such as Rumeli and Anadolu Kavağı, there are restaurants where you can taste fresh and delicious fish. Appetiser platters are also an important part of the table.
  • Iskender: Iskender, which is served by adding butter and tomato sauce on top of doner, is one of the original flavours of Istanbul. You can find it in popular restaurants in areas such as Beyoğlu and Sultanahmet.
  • Lahmacun and pita: Prepared with a mixture of spicy minced meat, onion and tomato on thin dough, lahmacun is a quick and delicious snack. Pide is a type of Turkish bread filled with various ingredients and baked in the oven.
  • Bagel and tea: Bagel, which is indispensable for street vendors and bagel bakeries, is especially preferred for breakfast and tea time. Tea drunk with bagel has an important place in Turkish culture.
  • Baklava and other desserts: Baklava, which stands out among the desserts of Istanbul, is made with peanuts and sugar syrup. You should also try desserts such as künefe, güllaç and lokum.

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