Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey with a population of 15 million. Due to its geographical location, it is one of the major crossroads of Asia and Europe for international trade and travellers. Istanbul has a remarkable history that you will discover by visiting the Museums ans archaeological monuments. At the same time this city is modern, very welcoming, with excellent cuisine, fashion and architecture. Discover the magic of the city by exploring the bazaars, palaces, museums, castles, churches, mosques and hammam baths. You will feel a unique aura and nostalgia for old times lost in the years of history. We guarantee you that you won’t get bored at all, as every corner of Istanbul will impress you. Below we mention some of the major sights to visit. The currency of Istanbul is the Turkish Lira and 10 Liras equals to 1.5 euros. For the latest updated exchange rates visit the XE Currency Converter page.
What To See...
Hagia Sophia is one of the most important monuments in the world, with a rich history that began 1500 years ago, when the area was still an ancient Greek settlement known as Byzantium. It was a symbol of the city, during the Byzantine and the Ottoman period. It was inaugurated in 537 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and served as a Eastern Orthodox cathedral. The construction is one of the top temple creations due to its innovative design and architecture. Today it operates as a museum and are visited daily by tourists from all over the world to admire the magnificence and see closely the important remains of history.
Istiklal is the most famous and crowded streets of Istanbul. Thousands of visitors pass through it every day as it is a 3km long street filled with shops, famous pastry shops, historic buildings, consulate and churches. Without realizing it, you’ll find yourself there several times, either for shopping or enjoying great street food and traditional desserts.
The Blue Mosque is the largest and most beautiful mosque in Istanbul. A characteristic feature of the construction that made it even more special are the 6 minarets, which give a magical aura to the whole area. The Blue Mosque is located in the oldest part of Istanbul , close to the ancient race track, in front of the Hagia Sophia and both buildings form a unique historical and architectural complex. Tourists from all over the world and locals, Muslims and non-Muslims, gather in the park across the mosque to hear the call of the muezzin resounding all over the city for the evening prayer. The atmosphere is more than just magical.
A 19th century palace, it is considered one of the most luxurious in the world. This magnificent palace was the residence of the Sultans and the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. The palace now operates as a museum, so thousands of locals and tourists visit it every year, but if you don’t have free time to visit it, you can admire some parts of it, by cruising the Bosphorus.
Galata Tower is one of the tallest and oldest towers in the city since it was built in 1348. It has been destroyed by earthquakes and fires many times, but the state has always taken care to restore it. The tower is a symbol of Istanbul and is a very popular viewpoint for those who want to admire the panoramic city view. At the top of the tower there is also a wonderful restaurant open to guests, featuring traditional cuisine, where you can also watch Turkish dance performances.
Fener is a district with a long history. It is a fairly picturesque area located on the fifth hill of Istanbul. The area has many tourists, most of them Greeks, which visit the patriarch, with intense emotions for the missing homeland overwhelm them. The area is full of picturesque alleys and old mansions with colorful facades. It is really worth spending a few hours walking around to this area and enjoying a hot Turkish coffee.
This is how the old area of Galata, is now called. A charming area with narrow streets where you will find small family businesses, modern but also traditional cafes , various galleries and traditional bakeries. The area is considered by many to be a microcosm of modern Istanbul , and many new designers and artists choose the Karakoy area for their studios.
One of the largest bazaars in the world is located in Istanbul that’s why it has the name Grand Bazaar. It features 11 different entrances and exits and hosts about 4,000 businesses that you will discover when you get lost in the maze of the bazaar. This bazaar is mainly known for gold jewelery, traditional furnitures, carpets and leather objects. If you decide to visit the bazaar for your shopping, you will need at least 3 hours. You’ll definitely feel exhausted , so it’s worth pausing for a while to enjoy traditional coffee and baklava in one of the many patisseries you’ll find outside the bazaar.
Büyük Çamlıca Camii
This is a new construction that opens to the public only in 2019. It is built on the highest hill of the city and has a capacity of 63,000 people. It has six tall minarets, a museum and the largest mosque in Turkey.
Besiktas is located on the European side of Istanbul and is especially popular for its neighborhoods, the bazaar, the fish market, students, nightlife and much more. For Istanbul, this area is the center of culture, art and education, as there are many old buildings and museums, which are a remarkable historical heritage of the Ottomans. Walk around every corner of the area and discover a huge variety of great cafes and restaurants with the most beautiful views of the Bosphorus.
Eminönü is one of Istanbul’s oldest neighborhoods and it is located in the center of the old city. This area has always been an important place from the Byzantine period to the present as the city began from this start point. It is one of Istanbul’s busiest neighborhoods and attracts many tourists and locals to bazaars and other historical sites such as Ottoman mosques, palaces, churches, and museums.
One of the biggest and most popular attractions in Istanbul is the Top Kapi Palace. High on a hill, was built by Sultan Mehmet II in the 15th century. The palace has many sections that have been turned into exhibition rooms or museum venues and are open to the public. If you visit it you will be truly impressed with the luxury and exuberance in which the sultans of the palace had chosen to live.
The Ortakoy Mosque is without a doubt one of Istanbul’s most popular symbols. It has such an elegant architecture and for sure is one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul. It was built by the sultan Abdülmecit in the 19th century and gives the impression of standing on the water of the Bosporus. Everyday crowds come to the mosque to take commemorative photos with one of the symbols of the City.
15 July Martyrs Bridge
It is a suspension bridge that was renamed to honor the victims of local people who resisted the coup attempt. The bridge was built from 1970 to 1973 and about 180,000 vehicles pass everyday from the European to the Asian side and back.
If you have time for sightseeing in Istanbul, the Princess islands are the perfect choice. It is a cluster of 9 small islands in the Marmara Sea and they form a popular destination for both tourists and locals as it is a very close destination to escape the pulses of the city. Of the nine islands, only four are open to the public: the largest and most popular Büyükada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kınalıada. The main characteristic of the islands is the relaxed routine of day life and the calmness. Motor vehicles are banned and the only sounds you will hear are bike rings and horse carriages. You can have access to the Princess islands by Ferry boat departing from the port of Eminonu and the fare is approximately 1.5€
What To Eat
In Istanbul all you don’t need to worry about is food. You will have the opportunity to enjoy a huge variety of delicacies that are unlike anything else in the world, and we confirm this as our trip was planned to relax and enjoy the local cuisine. Below are some of our favorite dishes that impressed us. At the top we have Iskender Kebap and doner, which are usually served with a portion of buckwheat, pies, yogurt and spicy red sauce. Next option is the pide which is a fluffy bread boat stuffed with various ingredients such as minced meat, cheese, egg and more. Another favorite dish is the Icli kofte where it is grilled bulgurballs with a delicious spicy stuffing of onions, minced meat, and walnuts.
If you already think you’re in a dilemma about what to try first, just wait for us to talk about oriental pastries. At the top of our options, with no negotiation, is Kunefe. It is a dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, or alternatively fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as cream or nuts. Next up is the traditional pistachio baklava, which in some restaurants and pastry shops you have the option of serving with ice cream. Creamy desserts, such as profiteroles and baked rice pudding, became our favorites in Istanbul. We will never really forget the shops with the delicious candy towers that made us to get in and get them all. What we tried was unique in taste and quality so here are some of our favorite places which you can find them on the map just below.
The traditional Ortaklar restaurant offers great dishes at very affordable prices. It is a hangout for locals but in recent years it has become a favorite of many tourists just like us. The staff is always very kind and even with a few basic English they are always willing to explain our queries. Turkey’s famous Hatay Medeniyetler Sofrası offers a huge variety of traditional Turkish dishes. It’s a little bit more expensive restaurant but the quality, the flavors and the portions will reward you. One more famous restaurant around the world is the famous Nusr-Et steakhouse. Here you will find excellent meat quality and generally great dish presentation. We recommend you to book a table as the wait is long enough. For dessert you must go in the patisserie of Hafiz Mustafa you will find the sweetest delicacies and we guarantee you that you will enjoy here the best of the city’s kunefe . Totally must visit!
How to move
Istanbul has a very modern public transport system which we recommend you to use. It has many busses, trams and subway lines, connecting all corners of the city and even very frequent routes to transfer passengers. For greater benefits, we recommend you to buy the Istanbul Card. This single card enables you to pay for multiple types of transportation: busses, metros, ferries, funiculars, and tramways. The card is pre-paid and easily rechargeable. We would also recommend avoiding taxis as they are the most expensive means of transport in Istanbul. For your transportation to Istanbul Airport we recommend the Havaist Airport Shuttle, which is a very reliable and cheap bus service. The cost per route costs 18 Turkish liras around 2.5 €.
Where to stay
The variety of hotels in Istanbul is really huge. The competition is very high that’s why they offer incredible services and comfort at low prices. It was difficult for us to decide for our stay. So we chose our hotel based on the area, the comfort and of course the cost, so we booked 5 different hotels for 6 days. The best areas for easy access to points of interest, are Sultanahmet and Karakoy. Sultanahmet is home to the most important historical buildings such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and more. So nothing is better than an accommodation 5 minutes away from these monuments. Karakoy has become our favourite area as well for the same reasons. In both areas you will find hotels with traditional or modern design, serving excellent breakfast and even Turkish hammam bath services. The cost for the hotels we booked ranged from 15 to 75 euros. You can make your bookings via Booking.com
Istanbul Through Our Eyes...
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