Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the leading industrial, commercial, historical, and cultural centre. Not only because of the diversity of people, but also geologically; Istanbul is the only major city world-wide that lies on two continents, Asia & Europe.
It’s one of the most fascinating places and therefore the “Soul of Turkey” should be visited at least once in a lifetime.
Connecting the two continents, the city hides layers of history, culture, colours and scents. The architecture, the food, everything in Istanbul tells a story.
Istanbul has two international airports. Istanbul Ataturk airport (IST) on the Europeon side and Sabiha gokcen airport (SAW) on the Asian side. All major international flights land at Ataturk airport(IST), close to the city centre. Sabiha Gökçen(SAW) is served by many budget airlines.
Regardless to say, British passport holders do not need a visa to enter Turkey. But people like me with Indian Passport definately need a visa. So if you have a valid Schengen, UK or a US Visa, you can apply for an E-Visa directly on there website https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. Very simple process, they just need £30/$48 from you.
WHERE TO STAY
Istanbul’s two main hotel areas, Old Istanbul and Beyoğlu, are a 20-minute taxi ride, or a 35-minute tram ride apart. Hotels on the Asian shore are 20 minutes away by ferry. There are also hotels north of the city center on the Bosphorus, where transport at rush hours can be long and tedious by any method.
Sultanahmet – if you want to be surrounded by history?
If you going for the first time and you want to explore the city on foot, Sultanahmet is the answer. Known as the old town, this neighbourhood is where all the ancient sites are. Yes, it´s packed with tourists, street sellers and not so cheap restaurants, but you will be able to visit many of the important places in 5 – 10 minutes walking from your hotel. In our first trip to Istanbul we booked Double Tree by Hilton in Sultanahmet and no regrets.
Takism – “Time Square of Istanbul” is one of the lively squares in the city, full of restaurants (locals and internationals), and few steps away from Istiklal Avenue, the busiest street in Istanbul. From there you can take the metro and tram to all the tourist attractions in the city. It has more and better cafés, restaurants and upscale shops, though fewer historic sites.
Every city has an iconic avenue, a vital artery through which the lifeblood of the city flows. Paris has its Champs Elysees, Barcelona its Las Ramblas, and Singapore its Orchard Road. What Istanbul has, is Istiklal Caddesi.
Most of these hotels offer magnificent water views from luxury 5-star rooms facing the Bosphorus strait, but not all rooms do, and the location is a bit distant from sightseeing, shopping. You’ll be taking lots of taxi rides, sometimes through dense traffic.
Hagia Sophia means “Divine Wisdom” in Greek, this was an Orthodox church dedicated to holly wisdom, not to a Saint Sophia as some people wrongly call it today. Turkish people call it Aya Sofya, it’s a former Byzantine church and former Ottomanmosque, now located in Sultanahmet neighbourhood being one of the most important museums of Istanbul, considered as a World Heritage by UNESCO. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture.
Beautiful Mosque with Beautiful architecture and wonderful example of Islamic history. The mosque is very stunning. A definite when visiting Istanbul. Females be mindful of your attire. Go early to beat the crowds.
Looks more charming at night with the seagulls flying around it.
A visit to Topkapi Palace is going to be mostly standing around in lines. Lines to get onto the grounds, lines through the front gate, lines for the specific rooms once inside. It takes a few hours to see all the things in the palace.
To really appreciate this place, get here early and dedicate several hours to fully take in everything. If this is your sort of thing, you’ll love it, but this was not my field of interest.
Galata Tower – One of the city’s most striking landmarks
The cylindrical tower with its conical cap rises high above all other buildings on the east bank of the Golden Horn and provides a magnificent 360 degree view of Istanbul.Open everyday from 9.00 to 18.00 to climb up to the observation deck.
Sunset at the Galata Tower is a definite WOW.
If you have never been to a bazaar, you cannot pass this one up. It’s worth the trip! Use your shopping sense and you will not be disappointed here.
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi in Turkish) is one of the the largest covered markets in the world with its 4400 shops in 64 streets and with 22 gates. A must do while in Istanbul if you love to shop and bring your negotiating skills, because it’s an art form here, and the shopkeepers will be offended if you don’t negotiate.
Tip: It looks like a labyrinth at first sight but it’s actually not that complicated. All you have to do is to keep your eyes on the main street (The Jewellry Street).
The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered shopping complex, after the Grand Bazaar and one of the oldest Bazaars in Istanbul. The market was often referred to as the Egyptian Bazaar since the spices came from India and South-East Asia via Egypt.
A stroll through the bazaar is an assault on the senses – piles of spices in hessian bags fill the market, distinct, with their heady scents of cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, saffron and countless others, which you may never have heard of.
Great place to find cooking spices, tea, nuts, dried fruits of variety and quality.
It stands on a hilltop (3rd hill) dominating the Golden Horn and contributing to the skyline of Istanbul. Views from the courtyard are fantastic.
First thing, you cannot take pictures inside the Saray or the Harem. That’s a bummer and that is not posted until you get inside.
Outside looks great, the gardens are manicured and gorgeous seaside view.
No visit to Istanbul is complete without a cruise along the Bosphorous to admire the elegant mansions that line its banks and the city’s sensational skyline. The river, which runs from the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) to the Black Sea (Karadeniz) is Istanbul’s major artery. It divides the city into Europe and Asia!!
Takism – “Time Square of Istanbul” is one of the lively squares in the city, full of restaurants (locals and internationals), and few steps away from Istiklal Avenue, the busiest street in Istanbul!!
Taksim is iconic, if you miss it people might be questioning if you had really gone to Istanbul.
Must visit to get a sense for the energy of the city.This is the street where people never sleep.
Istiklal Street is a pedestrian shopping street right off Taksim Square. It’s a great place to spend an evening strolling down the street, shopping and finding a place to eat dinner. Very crowded with many dining options, including interesting street foods. Bifurcating from it are many smaller side streets filled with shops and pubs! It was really enjoyable to walk from Taksim down to the Galata bridge.
Be mindful of the tram which goes down the street every few minutes.
Recomended Place to visit if you dont count in waiting in the line, it does not take long to look around. Great historic place and offers nice place to cool down in the summer.
If you have only few days visiting Istanbul, this is definitely not one of a MUST places to visit.
Reina is on top of my list!!
Reina stands out for hospitality. Excellent food and service, Exquisite ambience, Unique atmosphere, Wonderful people and Great party! The view is amazing overlooking the Bosphorus with its beautiful lights at night is like cherry on the cake. I would totally recommend Reina to everyone looking for a classy night out.
Istanbul is known to be photographer’s dream place.
There are so many photography spots in and around Sultanahmet Square, Karakoy , Salacak, Eminonu, Galata tower!
Some of the spots for excellent photography are Bar Restaurant at the top of Blue House Hotel, Pudra restaurant at the top of Hettie Hotel at Karakoy, Zinhan restaurant at the top of Stork Building at Eminonu, top of Camlica Hills(Asian side), Yoros Castle at Anadolu Kavagi (last pier of Bosphorus cruise), Pierre Loti Cafe at Eyub up above the hills reached by cable car, Salacak shores near Uskudar, during Kadikoy ferry trip, during Bosphorus cruise trip and the list continues….
EAT & DRINK
Istanbul is the paradise of food, sweets and teas. The streets of Istanbul are packed of kebab stalls, cozy restaurants, teas and coffee shops. There are so many flavors, spices, ingredients that Turkish food would deserve one entire and delicious blog post 🙂
One thing you have to keep in mind is: Try Everything!! Food is not expensive in Turkey, even in a nice restaurant in Istanbul you would not pay a fortune for a good meal. Local dinners can be found around Taksim Square and at Istiklal Street. Go to the Turkish buffet restaurants to see and try different dishes. As dessert the traditional baklava with ice cream or some Turkish delights are a must.
MUST HAVE TURKISH FOOD:
- Go loco for lokum
- Tuck into Ottoman cuisine : Asitane – resturaunt serving authentic Ottoman food.
- Try Kavun dolmasi, a melon stuffed with minced meat, rice, almonds and pistachios.
- Make meyhane district is usic in the meyhane: city’s most famous mthe Çiçek Pasajı (Flower Passage), located just off Istiklal Caddesi. Recommend Boncuk
- Hookah : The Enjoyer Café is the most touristy; Erenler Çay Bahçesi is more student-friendly; Narghilé Bar in the old town area.
- Simit: Turkish Bagel
- Hunkar Begendi Chunks of succulent lamb cooked in a rich tomato and butter gravy
- Ciğ Köfte , Pronounced chee kooftey!
- Lahmacun Turkish pizza
- Mantı : miniature dumplings containing some variety of minced meat or potato.
- Şalgam : “turnip juice”,like spiced pickle juice.
- Istanbul Apple tea
- Dondruma – Icecream
- Baklava : Gulluoglu is the mother ship of all things Baklava. Located in Karakoy on the European side on Rhythm Caddessi (you can’t miss it, it is on the street level of a large multi-coloured parking garage!). Gulluoglu is one of the very best baklava makers in Turkey. – over 25 varieties (including a to-die-for chocolate version) and not too sweet.
- Tavuk Gogsu : Boiled, finely shredded chicken breast.
- Chechen pastries
Istanbulkart is the best way to travel in the city.
If you need to use Taxi, make sure the meter is on and don’t accept flat rates to go to the tourists attractions. For sure they will charge you far more than it´s worthy. Also from Ataturk airport you can reach the city using public transportation.
Tavuk : Chicken, Fish: Balik, Beef: sigir eti, ham: Jambon, Suasage: sosis, cheese: peynir, eggs: yumurta, Bread: ekmek, rice: pirinc, noodles: sehriye, Water: Su, Salt: Tuz, Delicious: lehzizdi, Cheap: ucuz, Merhaba: Hello, : Thankyou: Tesekkur ederim: Yes: Evet, No: Hayir, Please: Lutfen, Left: sol, Righ : sag, Straight: duz
It´s time to enjoy your first trip to Istanbul.If you didn’t buy your ticket do it fast. If you already have your holiday booked, hope this post helped you plan where to go, to eat, to party and to stay in Istanbul! Information I collected on my first trip to Istanbul.