ISTANBUL.

Istanbul is rich in history and tradition, with remnants of bygone times waiting for you behind every corner. No wonder – the cultural heritage of Istanbul is enormous, considering it used to be ruled by the Greeks, Venetians and Romans, and then finally, Ottomans. It all formed Istanbul the way it currently is – a diverse city offering attractions and entertainment for just about anyone, no matter the taste and preferences. In that sense, Istanbul resembles its own Grand Bazaar – if you search long enough, you’re bound to find what you were looking for. The attractions of Istanbul are among the most awe-inspiring and interesting in the world, with Topkapı Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque and Ayasofya being the prime examples. But architecture isn’t the only thing that leaves tourists breathless – Istanbul is about culinary heritage as much as about the cultural heritage. The restaurants that you can find in Istanbul are simply the best in the country, whether you’re looking for Italian cuisine, Asian dishes or simple street food.

Money Saving Tips

Money Saving Tips

Best Period to Visit Istanbul

Best Period to Visit Istanbul

Accomodation Tips for Istanbul

Accomodation Tips

Getting Around Istanbul

Getting Around Istanbul

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Istanbul

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Istanbul

Other Things to See and Do

Other Things to See and Do

Money Saving Tips

Use public transport

The public transport system in Istanbul is quick and efficient, allowing you to cover vast distances for a very reasonable price quickly. When choosing a method of transportation, make sure to first see if there is a metro station nearby, as it is definitely the fastest way of getting around the city.

Take the Underwater Metro

This method of transit will allow you to very quickly cover the distance between Europe and Asia, opening up the possibilities of seeing even more places. The underwater metro is 13.6 kilometers long and connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, and is quite an experience in itself.

Try the Bosphorus ferries

If you want to travel around the city with efficiency and without having to share your vehicle with crowds of other tourists, make sure to hop on the Bosphorus ferry. The ferries are a preferred way to get around by locals and allow you to make some good photos of the marvellous landscape for a low price.

Taste the street food

A good way to save some money and taste some of the unique delicacies of the Turkish cuisine is to take a walk along the streets and try some street food. Make sure to try the simit, which is a Turkish equivalent of a bagel, usually served with tea, but avoid eating out during Ramadan, as it is considered impolite.

Drink the local beverages

There is a wide variety of alcoholic beverages in Turkey, most of which are usually imported from foreign countries. Such imported alcohols are very often overpriced, so why not try some of the local beers and wines instead, such as Efes or Raki, which are both praised by the locals.

Remember to tip

While you may think that tipping is just a way to spend even more money on a trip, it will actually get you some advantages for a small expense. People will see you as polite and will be more inclined to help you should you need some tips or advice, and the expected tip amount is only rounding up.

Visit the bazaars

Istanbul, similarly to most of Turkey, is filled with small bazaars where people show off their homemade pastries, fresh vegetables, and fruits, or spices. Moreover, remember that you are not expected to pay the price provided by the salesman, as the locals consider it a tradition to bargain for a lower price.

Take a free walking tour

Some of the locals often organise into a group of guides who will show you around the city for free. Make sure to look online for the current timetables, or ask around in your hotel. Most free walking tours usually start at one of the major squares of the city, often early in the morning.

Visit the free museums

There is a bunch of museums in Istanbul that are actually free to visit, including not only history museums, but also art galleries. There are even some outdoor music concerts and cultural festivals which are free to attend as well, especially during Ramadan in the Blue Mosque district.

Take a walk in the park

Istanbul is filled with beautiful, lush greenery, providing plenty of space to walk around or have a jogging session in the afternoon. Grab a basket and prepare some snacks before you venture out and you are sure to have an enjoyable picnic among nature with wildlife often running around.

Best Period to Visit Istanbul

Tourism

We strongly advise visiting Istanbul in two seasons – between March and May, and between September and November. During these shoulder seasons, the crowds are bearable, and the temperature is great, but not overwhelming. Peak season lasts from June untill August, which is when tourists swarm the city.

Weather

The warmest season in Istanbul lasts from June to August, when you can expect 28 °C highs. Shoulder months, March to May and September to November, offer around 20 °C highs. Winter in Istanbul is relatively mild, with 3 °C lows.

Money

Peak season lasts from June to August, and that’s when Istanbul is the most expensive. For some slight discounts on accommodation, food and entertainment, try visiting Istanbul either from March to May or from September to November. Winter offers heavy discounts on just about anything, as that’s when Istanbul barely sees any tourists.

Events in Istanbul

International Istanbul Gastronomy Festival (February)
Istanbul Tulip Festival (March-April)
Istanbul Film Festival (April)
Istanbul Music Festival (May-June)
Istanbul Jazz Festival (July)
Istanbul Biennial (every other year, September-November)
Contemporary Istanbul (September)
Istanbul International Puppet Festival (October)
Akbank Jazz Festival (November)
Istanbul Theatre Festival (November)

Accomodation Tips

Apartments

Istanbul offers no shortage of quality apartments for rent. Apartments are great for large groups travelling together, or families, as they offer a higher degree of privacy and usually come with kitchen annexes, allowing you to cook your own food – which in turn can lead to substantial savings.

Budget (1-2 star) hotels

Visiting Istanbul on a budget is possible, despite the high prices in this city. By booking a cheap hotel in Istanbul, you will cut your expenses on accommodation, which is typically very expensive. 1- and 2-star hotels don’t offer much else than a roof over your head and a bed to sleep on, but if you don’t plan on spending your time inside a hotel, it may very well be just what you need.

Standard (3-4 star) hotels

There are many hotels to choose from in Istanbul. Standard hotels, ones with 3 or 4 stars of rating, offer a higher degree of comfort compared to their cheaper counterparts and are usually located in more convenient spots throughout the city. If you value comfort and convenience, then these hotels in Istanbul are just what you need.

Luxury hotels in Istanbul

Luxury hotels in Istanbul offer state-of-the-art facilities and the most spectacular amenities. If you’re ready for the additional expense, as nightly rates start around $200, then there is no better form of accommodation. Even the most seasoned travellers will be delighted by these lavish hotels.

Getting Around Istanbul

Bicycle

Riding a bicycle around Istanbul is a really, really bad idea. Do not try driving down the bustling streets, as you are sure to put your life and health at risk. If you want to ride around for exercise, visit one of the parks in the city, but do not use a bike as a method of transportation.

Ferry

Ferry rides are loved by the locals, as they provide a pleasant way to travel through the city. The ferries also provide quick transfers between the Asian and European sides of the city, with most ships cruising through the Golden Horn and Bosphorus, and some even to the Princes’ Islands. The tickets usually do not cost more than ₺5, but make sure to check the local timetable as it tends to change often.

Bus

Buses are one of the better methods of transportation in the city, as they are fast, efficient, and cheap. However, keep in mind that the frequent traffic jams can easily slow the bus down and create long delays, but the dedicated bus lanes tend to limit the problem. These lines are, however, only present in the centre, making going outside of it a bit risky. The most important bus stations are located at Taksim Meydani and at Besiktas, and the buses run between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Make sure to look at the timetable of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn routes, as these are two of the most relevant routes to tourists.

Car and Motorcycle

Similarly to riding a bike, driving around the city in your own car can be very dangerous. The locals usually know how to drive safely, but if you have never been to such a bustling city, and you probably haven’t, then you should probably not try your luck with a car. Moreover, the parking is not only difficult to find, but also quite expensive.

Dolmus

A dolmus is an interesting alternative to a bus. It is a minibus which waits at its departure stop until it is full and then drives towards its destination. The cost of the tickets vary from dolmus to dolmus and are always paid onboard directly to the driver. Remember that you will probably have to shout to the driver if you want to get out, or else he will not stop. The biggest advantage of the dolmus is that they usually run all the way through the night and are a cheap alternative to a taxi.

Funicular

Istanbul has two funicular lines in the city, which use the same tickets as the rest of the public transport. The first line of the funicular services between Karaköy and Tunel Meydani, between 7 a.m. and 10.45 p.m., and costs ₺4 to travel with. The second line drives between Kabataş and Taksim Meydani, connecting the route to the metro, and departs every five minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight., and costs ₺5.
There is also a single cable car line in the city which connects the Eyup to the Pierre Loti Café and Maçka to the Istanbul Technical University. It runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and costs ₺5.

Metro

Metro is a great way to travel quickly around the city for a small fee. A train usually departs every five minutes, and the metro services from 6 a.m. all the way to midnight. A single ticket costs ₺5, but you can also use a card or a pass. The first line of the metro runs from Yenikapi to the airport, making it a good and cheap way of transferring after you arrive in Istanbul. The second line connects Yenikapi and Taksim, with stops near the Grand Bazaar and the Tunel Meydani.

Taxi

Taking a taxi in Istanbul can be a risky business, as most of the drivers ride insanely fast and do not pay much attention to what's happening on the streets. Make sure to ask if the meter is running before you depart, as some of the drivers try to scam tourists by giving them a flat fare or lying about the actual price. If a driver tells you that he does not use a meter, get out of the vehicle and do not use the services of that company again. However, a regular taxi fare is quite cheap, with identical rates both during the day and night. Keep in mind though that most of the taxis do not have seat belts and you may end up afraid for your life.

Tram

While in the centre of the city metro is much more efficient than trams, they are still a good way to travel outside of the centre and in the suburbs. The two main tram lines run from Bacilar to Zeytinburnu and Kabatas, and from Cevizlibag to Kabatas. The trams usually depart every five minutes or so, from 6 a.m. to midnight. You can buy tickets at machines present on all tram stops in the city, and a single ticket costs ₺5. There is also an antique tram which travels from Tunel Meydani to Taksim Meydani, but it needs a separate ticket which costs ₺4.

Tickets and Passes

Istanbul Kart – while most of the methods of transportations tolerate single tickets, you must have an Istanbul Kart to use buses. The card is both pre-paid and rechargeable and offers various discounts. The easiest place to get the Istanbul Kart from is the airport, but there are also kiosks at most of the major transit stops which can sell you one. The fee is ₺10 to get the card, and it is non-refundable, which is a bummer, but the fare with the card is ₺2.60 instead of the usual ₺5.

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Istanbul

Best of Istanbul Guided Tour

This comprehensive tour will allow you to choose one of the three duration options, including a one day, two day, and three-day variant. The tour covers most of the Ottoman sites in Istanbul, including the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque neighbourhood, among many other monuments and attractions.

Whirling Dervish Show

Indulge in this unique experience during a one and a half hour show in a luxurious theatre in the centre of Istanbul. At the start of the show, you will be presented with a free beverage to enjoy during the performance, as you watch the UNESCO-certified traditional Persian dance performed by professional dancers.

Small Group Istanbul in One Day Tour

This tour will provide you with a problem-free method of transportation between six of the most popular attractions of the city. A knowledgeable guide will take you on a journey with an air-conditioned couch as you go through such sights as the Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, with a dinner included in between.

Hagia Sophia Museum Admission Ticket

This pre-booked admission ticket to the museum of Hagia Sophia will allow you to skip the long lines of tourists and locals waiting to see the wonders inside. Hagia Sophia is often named by the locals as the eighth wonder of the world, filled with golden mosaics, gorgeous frescoes, and marvellous architecture.

Bosphorus Strait Cruise

This tour gives you the chance to see the picturesque city of Istanbul from the water, all the while learning about the history of Turkey’s cultural capital from a local guide. The cruise will take you along such attractions as the Kucuksu Palace or the Rumeli Hisari Fortress, among others.

Topkapi Palace Entrance Ticket

Beat the crowds with this premium entrance ticket to one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions. The line to the Topkapi Palace often requires hours of waiting before you will be able to enter, and this ticket allows you to skip the waiting entirely and go in without having to stand in the hot sun for long.

Istanbul City Tour

This walking tour will take a whole day and will show you some of the most intricate attractions in Istanbul. A professional guide will supervise the trip, all the while telling you about the history of the city and answering your questions as you go through the Ottoman and Byzantine heritage sites.

Gallipoli Day Trip from Istanbul

Enjoy a full-day trip to the battlefields of Gallipoli with comfortable transportation from Istanbul on an air-conditioned minibus. You will be able to learn the details of the battles which took place during the First World War, where the armies of the Allied forces and the Ottoman Turks clashed.

Evening Sunset Cruise

This sightseeing cruise will show you the gorgeous waterfront of Istanbul. The cruise takes place in the evening and takes about one and a half hour, allowing you to see not only the Topkapi and Dolmabahce palaces, but also a picturesque sunset over the city with complimentary tea and biscuits.

Istanbul Essentials Small Group Tour

This tour is packed with activities, allowing you to see as much of Istanbul as possible in a single day. The tour will take you around the Old Town of the city, with supervision and commentary provided by a local guide, as you explore the museum of Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar, and others.

Other Things to See and Do

Zulfaris Synagogue

The Zulfaris Synagogue was made as long ago as 1671 but was closed in 1985 as it was no longer supported. Nowadays, the synagogue is functional again, this time as a Jewish Museum of Turkey, showcasing the history of Sephardi Jews who were thrown out of Spain and settled in the Ottoman Empire.

Yildiz Park

If you are looking for the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll or a picnic, make sure to visit the Yildiz Park. The park is often filled with locals jogging and walking their dogs, who watch the old Ottoman houses lined along the picturesque paths, all surrounded with flower gardens and small duck ponds.

Bomonti Flea Market

A good way to spend a day while on your trip to Istanbul is to walk around one of the many flea markets of the city. One of such markets, the Bomonti Flea Market, is often filled with gorgeous souvenirs and memorabilia handcrafted by the locals, which are a sight to look at even if you do not intend to buy anything.

Zeyrek Camii

The Zeyrek Camii is a place of gorgeous Byzantine architecture, so make sure to stop by to make some photos and look at the marvellous sights. The place is located in the Faith district, near the Golden Horn, and is one of the largest religious buildings in Istanbul, consisting of two churches and a chapel.

Dogancay Museum

The museum of Dogancay is located in the Beyoglu district. The museum itself is a building that is over a hundred and fifty years old, in which Burhan Dogancay and Adil Dogancay, two of the most famous Turkish painters, lived. There is even a free tea served in the afternoon.

Grand Bazaar

You cannot skip the visit to the famous Grand Bazaar while on your trip to Istanbul. The bazaar is filled with thousands of shops and stalls, placed on an area of over fifty thousand square meters. Take a walk through the bazaar and gaze at the handmade jewellery, memorabilia, clothing articles, and even food.

Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art

Opened in 2001 as a way to make contemporary art more popular among the locals, the museum was opened by the Elgiz family to show their extensive collection of art to the world. Their collection includes but is not limited to some of the Turkish artists and international ones such as Andy Warhol, Paul McCarthy, and more.

Misir Carsisi

While this market is certainly much smaller than the Grand Bazaar, some locals prefer to set up their stalls at the Misir Carsisi, as it is not only a quiet, tranquil place, but it is also close to the port, making it easy to move goods around. Come to this bazaar if you are looking for fresh produce, or just want to look at colourful spices.

Ortakoy Square

The Ortakoy Square is not only a place of gorgeous architecture, hosting one of the prettiest mosques in all of the city, but is also a place which the locals frequently visit. Relax at a beach by the waterfront and talk to some locals, who will surely provide you with tips and advice on your further ventures.

Salt Galata

You might think that a regular bank is not a place worth visiting, but you will surely be proved wrong when you see this gorgeous piece of architecture. The Salt Galata bank is placed in the Karakoy district and is not only a beautiful place from the inside, but also provides a nice view of the city from its viewing platform.

The Istanbul Modern

If you are into modern art, make sure to visit the Istanbul Modern for one of the most comprehensive collections of modern art in all of Turkey. The museum has been recently renovated and is the first modern art museum in the city, and can be visited for free every Thursday.

The Museum of Energy

This unique museum is a place worth visiting for every first-timer to Istanbul. The museum is located in the Santralistanbul culture complex and showcases the story of electricity, including its discovery and its importance in the development of society as we know it today.

The Museum of Painting and Sculpture

Filled with more contemporary pieces of fine arts, this museum focuses on art created during the 19th and 20th century by local artists. The museum was founded in 1937 and is a host to pieces by famous Turkish artists such as Osman Hamdi Bey, Bedri Ramhi, and Seker Ahmet Pasa among others.

Suleymaniye Mosque

Located near the Istanbul University, the Suleymaniye Mosque’s gorgeous architecture can be spotted from afar. The mosque is one of the largest ones in Istanbul and was built in the 16th century. The most famous part of the mosque is its beautiful dome, which is located over fifty meters high and is almost thirty meters wide.

Topkapi Palace

You don’t have to buy a skip-the-line ticket to the Topkapi Palace if you are willing to wait a couple of hours in a line. The palace was once the administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Empire and even served as military barracks at one point. Now, the palace stands as a reminder of the powerful empire.

Florence Nightingale Muzesi

While this place is definitely hard to get access to, it can be done for free and is definitely worth it. The museum was once a house to military barracks with a hospital for injured soldiers. To get into the museum, you will need to book your visit ahead and provide your passport details and get permission from the guarding army.

Sultanahmet Mosque

Mostly known by its nickname, the Blue Mosque, the Sultanahmet Mosque is a gorgeous place to visit on your trip to Istanbul. The mosque is filled with beautiful blue tiles, which gave it its nickname. The mosque was built during the early 17th century and is one of the last mosques to be constructed in the Ottoman style.

Basilica Cistern

This one is definitely an unusual sight to see, but nevertheless worth visiting. The Basilica Cistern is one of the hundreds of underground water tanks, made during the sixth century by the emperor Justinian I. The entrance to the cistern is decorated with a head of a medusa, and even though the cistern is now empty, it used to store over a hundred thousand liters of water.

Kapali Carsi

Similar in size to the Grand Bazaar, the Kapali Carsi is the largest covered market in the country. The market is filled with over four thousand shops and stalls set up by the locals, who want to sell their enormous decorative carpets, handmade jewellery and pottery, and traditional cuisine.

Kilyos Beach

A short ride from the city centre lies the newly opened public beach of Kilyos. If you want to relax after a long week of sightseeing, make sure to visit the clean sand of the beach and take a towel with you to sunbathe. The beach is watched by lifeguards and has bathrooms, showers, and changing cabins.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the best hotels for Istanbul city break?

    Our list of the best hotels in Istanbul are: Hilton Istanbul Bomonti, Elite World Business Hotel, Hotel Sultania, Sura Hagia Sophia Hotel and InterContinental Istanbul. Discover the full list of best hotels in Istanbul.

  • What are the luxury hotels in Istanbul?

    The finest examples of luxury hotels in Istanbul include Rixos Pera Istanbul, Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul, Radisson Blu Hotel Istanbul Pera, DoubleTree By Hilton Istanbul, The Marmara Taksim, Wyndham Grand Istanbul Levent and Grand Hyatt Istanbul. Discover the full list of luxury hotels in Istanbul.

  • What are the cheap hotels in Istanbul?

    Those trying to visit Istanbul on a tight budget will find everything they need in hotels such as The President Hotel Istanbul , Neorion Hotel, Deluxe Golden Horn Sultanahmet Hotel, Hotel Arcadia Blue Istanbul, Orient Express Hotel- Sirkeci Group, Titanic City Taksim and Gezi Hotel Bosphorus. Discover the full list of Cheap hotels in Istanbul.

  • What is the best period to visit Istanbul for a city break?

    Taking factors such as weather, crowds and prices, the best months to visit Istanbul for a city break are March, May, October and November.

  • What are top 5 things to see and do in Istanbul?

    Istanbul offers plenty of exciting attractions and things to do. Must-sees in Istanbul include: Best of Istanbul Guided Tour, Whirling Dervish Show, Small Group Istanbul in One Day Tour, Hagia Sophia Museum Admission and Bosphorus Strait Cruise.

  • How much does an Istanbul city pass cost?

    A city pass in Istanbul costs around €47.

  • How much does public transport in Istanbul cost?

    24-hour ticket for public transport in Istanbul costs around €3.10.

  • What are the best night clubs in Istanbul?

    The best night clubs in Istanbul include: Klein, MiniMüzikhol, Ulus 29, Lucca and Kiki.

  • What are the best bars in Istanbul?

    Judging on the reviews and customer opinions, the best bars in Istanbul are: Lucca Bar, 360Istanbul, Babylon Bomonti, Ruby and Backyard BackBar.

  • What are the best places to eat in Istanbul?

    Your choice of the best restaurants in Istanbul may vary depending on your taste, however, Aman Da Bravo Bistronomique, Gram Kanyon, Petra Roasting Co and Kilimanjaro are some of the most popular choices.

  • What are the top 5 best restaurants in Istanbul?

    Top 5 restaurants in Istanbul include: Antiochia, Aheste, Asitane Restaurant, Beyaz Fırın and Nicole.