Istanbul Travel Guide
Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural and historic center. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world’s most populous cities, ranking as the world’s fifth-largest city proper and the largest European city. What’s so fascinating about Istanbul is its enigmatic culture and rich history.
Why should anyone visit the city?
As one of Europe’s dream destinations, you can expect the unexpected as you step into the city of Istanbul. Located at the edge of Europe, Istanbul is the city where east meets west. You’ll never run out of activities to explore as you immerse yourself in a place filled with diversity. More than the culture, food, and the people – prepare to marvel at its unique and breathtaking architecture.
Is the city safe? What areas are not safe?
You may have heard about the recent threats in Istanbul especially because it shares borders with Syria but there is no need to panic since the city has heightened security and tourist police designated all over the city. Just be alert and keep your valuable items close to you when you visit crowded areas.
What’s the weather like?
Depending on the part of Turkey where you are visiting, the weather ranges from being a hot dry summer to a cold snowy winter. It is much colder in the Northeastern area while in the Mediterranean, where Istanbul is located, you get to enjoy hot summers to mild winters.
Is the US Dollar widely accepted?
Major cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara generally accept credit cards. But when you visit smaller towns and other more laidback establishments, they prefer cash and change. Aside from their currency which is the Turkish Lira, you may use US dollars or Euros.
What are the best areas or districts to stay in the city?
It is better to stay in the Ortakoy area and away from areas close to Syria. While you’re in Istanbul, you need to visit these amazing districts in order to get a worthwhile travel experience – Nisantasi, Etiler, Bebek, Moda, Princess’ Island, Suadiye, Fenerbahce, Arnavutkoy, Karakoy, Emirgan.
What’re your top 3 hotels and why?
While you’re exploring the wonders of Istanbul, what better way to do it than to stay in an area where you can get the most of your experience. Here are our top 3 hote picks:
- Juliet Rooms and Kitchen – a 3-in-one modest hotel that is also a restaurant and hostel at the same time. It boasts of its cozy rooms, authentic dishes and clean amenities that you can find in Moda or Eastern Istanbul.
- MGallery Galata – an impressive hotel that houses charming rooms, amazing restaurants, and a full spa for a completely rewarding experience.
- Four Seasons Sultanahmet – situated at the heart of the oldest district in the city, it brings forth a cozy vibe with its superb patio restaurant.
How does one get around the city? Taxi, Uber, similar apps, ATVs? Include links to public services
Taxis are notorious for scams and cheating in general. Uber works well in Istanbul but you need to turn on your GPS so that you will be well aware of the route. Always bring small bills to pay for your fare.
Can you highlight the MUST see sight? Minimum of 5, feel free to share as many as you would like.
You definitely would not want to miss out on all the fun, that is why you must try out these top 5 activities in Istanbul:
- If you want to feel like a chef, you may join a cooking class and prepare dishes with all types of spices, the best place to get them would be in the Spice Bazaar.
- Feel like releasing that artistic vibe in you? Why not go to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts to appreciate the diverse artistic influences that made Istanbul a notable city of cultures.
- Have a taste of history as you enter the Hagia Sofia that used to be a Greek Christian cathedral that got transformed into an Ottoman mosque. Now, it has become a museum that displays the evolution of the two most prominent religion in Turkey.
- Get that youthful glow back in your skin as you unwind and enjoy the steam room, soothing massages, or body scrubs coupled with a relaxing Turkish tea in the 16th century Turkish Hamam.
- As you uncover the wonders of Istanbul, why not go and explore their diverse neighborhoods in order to get a glimpse of the lives that the Turkish people live. You may visit Karakoy, Galata, and Beyoglu Neighborhoods.
What’s the best place to take a photo?
If you are looking for the best site to take pictures or selfies while you’re in Istanbul, look no further because all rooftops and terraces will give you unlimited access to the best overlooking view of the city. Literally feel like being on top of the world as you marvel at the wonders of the city’s rich culture.
What‘s the one thing you MUST eat in the city?
Being dubbed as the mecca of food, you must not miss out on getting a taste of heaven from a Turkish cuisine that they call – the Turkish Breakfast. We can choose whether to go for the Menemen which is a Turkish omelet with roasted onions, peppers, herbs, parsley, and more ground red pepper. You may also want to try out a platter of Meze for a mix of cold starters. You must also try all the different types of Kebap.
What about food markets?
You can always go to local neighborhoods and explore what you can find that not only looks good to eat, but also tastes amazing. With 4 – 5 star ratings, you probably want to go shopping in Adiyaman pazari, Misir Carsisi, or in Ozmen Food Market.
Where should one go at night? Any bar/nightlife areas or districts you recommend?
Party all night and just have the time of your life by going into Beyoglu, Taksim- Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy, Ortakoy, and the list goes on and on. Enjoy the night out with your friends and party like there’s no tomorrow in the city that never sleeps, Istanbul.
Can you recommend the best shopping areas? Best shopping mall?
When you’re up to the challenge of indulging yourself in a shopping spree, you can always prepare a large empty bag. In it, you may place all the things that you bought from bazaars, markets, or artisan craft shops. Here, you’ll get a good bargain for towels, carpets, jewelry, books, ceramics, paintings, antiques, and lots of other souvenirs. And if you want to get everything all in one roof, go to Akmerkez where 250 stores housed on four floors will welcome you with open arms.
Do you recommend any tours outside the city? Islands? Boat Tours?
If the big city is too overwhelming that you want to escape and unwind for a day, you can readily do so by enjoying the historical sites outside Istanbul such as the Gallipoli Peninsula, or the archaeological site of Troy. You may also want to go to Ephesus or enjoy the tranquility in the Princess’ Islands.
Are Casinos allowed? Blackjack tables? If so, what’s the best Casino in town?
Unfortunately, casinos are illegal in Turkey because it is a Muslim country. You won’t be able to find the best casino since everyone is prohibited to get involved in such illegal practice.
Any last advice for people visiting the city?
If you want to go to Istanbul, make sure to prepare your Visa. You’d also need to prepare for your departure strategy as it is often more difficult to get out of the city than to enter Istanbul. One last useful piece of advice that you may need is to keep in mind the T-1 Tram as your lifeline in going in and around Istanbul. And if you’re all set and ready to go, never ever forget to enjoy yourself and bring back all good memories from your travels.