Updated: Oct 25
Istanbul is unlike any other city in the world. Istanbul is a metropolis of layers and contrasts that is spread across two continents. Istanbul is a city where old and new coexist, with historical sites like the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace rubbing shoulders with bustling bars and lively cafes, Ottoman-era mosques nearby from contemporary art museums and galleries, and traditional carpet shops nearby from hip boutiques. The metropolis is constantly in motion.
Istanbul serves as the nation's transportation hub, with planes travelling all throughout Turkey and the rest of the world, and is also home to a large number of independent galleries and creative eateries. It's simple to spend weeks in Istanbul without ever seeing everything because each area has its own unique identity and attitude. But the fact that there is always something to keep you coming back for more is what makes it so fascinating. So grab a cup of Turkish coffee and some pistachio baklava, and prepare to explore this intriguing city.
Time Zone Istanbul
Turkey is in the GMT+3 time zone, which is commonly known as TRT (Turkey Time). There is no daylight saving time in Turkey.
Best Time to visit Istanbul
Istanbul is best visited in the spring (April–May) and fall (September–October), when the weather is mild and sunny. The city-wide Tulip Festival takes place in April, when the city's parks and green areas are decorated with the brightly colored bulbs.
When it gets hot and steamy in the city during the summer, most people leave for the southern beaches as soon as they can, but when it gets a little cooler at night, the streets come alive. Istanbul is at its moodiest and most evocative during the wet and dreary winter months.
Things to Know about Istanbul
Istanbul's official language is Turkish, but with the city's significant multinational population, you might encounter conversations in English, Arabic, or Farsi while you explore. Turkish people are typically quite helpful, even if you don't speak any of the language, and store owners frequently encourage you to sit down and have a çay, a tiny tulip-shaped cup of strong black tea. This is especially common in Sultanahmet, the city's historic core. Don't be shocked if you feel like someone is standing too close to you as you wait for a bus or in a queue because personal space is often a premium in this busy city.
The body of water that divides the city is not a river. A crucial shipping route connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Sea of Marmara and the Sea of Marmara. Huge container ships frequently pass your commuter boat in this manner.
While Ankara in central Anatolia serves as the country's capital, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. However, one might be led to believe differently by the palaces that dot the Bosphorus and were built while Istanbul served as the Ottoman Empire's capital. Although the politicians may conduct their affairs in Ankara, Istanbul has the impression of being the global hub.
Public Transportation Istanbul
Istanbul's intricate network of legal and unofficial transportation systems makes getting about the city simple. There are many metro lines that link to an above-ground tram line and two funiculars, all of which have modern cars and clear signage. The Marmaray, a transcontinental metro line that crosses the Bosphorus Strait and connects the city's metro systems on the European and Asian sides, has recently been extended to reach both sides of the city's suburbs. Otherwise, taking a ship between ports on a regular schedule all day long is the greatest way to travel between Europe and Asia and back.
City buses, which are funded by the same IstanbulKart that gets you aboard the metro, Marmaray, and ferries, fill up the gaps. A dolmuş, a yellow van that travels on a predetermined route but stops anytime a passenger requests it and departs when the van is full, may be available if there is no bus that operates to your destination. Additionally, there are light blue minibuses that travel a variety of routes all around the city. Dolmuş and minibuses must be paid in cash, and the cost varies with the distance traveled.
There are many taxis, especially in touristy places. If you can't flag down a cab, apps like BiTaksi can be helpful for making direct calls to taxis. Hotels are generally typically pleased to book a taxi for you.
Best Hotels Istanbul
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Things to Do in Istanbul - Travel Guide Istanbul
When the Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453, work on Topkapi Palace started. For nearly 400 years, it served as the main imperial residence. Despite requiring a separate ticket, the stunning blue-tiled walls and chambers of the Harem make it worthwhile.
The Hagia Sophia is a structure that has held several different identities over the years, including Byzantine church, Ottoman mosque, secular museum, and back to mosque once more. There is no longer a price to enter the ultimate palimpsest of a building, but visitors must still follow the regulations of Turkish mosques and dress suitably. Many of the well-known frescoes and mosaics can still be seen, despite part of them being covered.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is thought to be Mimar Sinan's most beautiful mosque in Istanbul, and the architect is interred there in a tomb. Suleymaniye is a treasure among Istanbul's imperial mosques with its beautiful tiles, huge dome, and expansive view of the city from its courtyard.
Galata Tower, a famous feature of the Istanbul skyline, was constructed by the Genoese in the fourteenth century. For some of the city's greatest vistas, especially around dusk, climb to the summit.
One of the biggest and oldest covered markets in the world, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is home to a bustling hive of artisans and traders dispersed across 60 streets and 4000 businesses. Bring cash to bargain over traditional Turkish carpets, gold and silver jewelry, leather products, and other items.
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam
The Kili Ali Pasa Hamam offers a very opulent full hamam, or Turkish bath, experience. Get washed squeaky clean while working out on a marble slab in the elegantly renovated historical structure.
Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar)
This fragrant covered bazaar, which dates back to the 17th century, is bursting at the seams with spices, including Turkish saffron, sumac, and smokey urfa pepper. Turkish delight, ceramics, and other non-spicy goods are also offered by vendors.
Neighborhoods to Know in Istanbul
Kadiköy - Great Tip in your Travel Guide Istanbul
The district of artists and creatives is called Kadiköy, and it is situated on Istanbul's Asian shore. Buildings are covered in brilliant murals, and the streets are teeming with lively bars, modern third-wave coffee shops, chic boutiques, and outdoor dining options. In the summer, folks congregate along Kadiköy´s long stretch of promenade to sip beers as the sun sets. Kadiköy is the area to come to observe how Istanbul's cool kids live, and it's only a lovely ferry trip from the city center.
In this neighborhood, it seems like there is some historical remnant on every block. The paired Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, along with other imperial mosques from the Ottoman era, Byzantine cisterns, and the ruins of a hippodrome, dominate the center area. With good reason, here is where most tourists visit when they travel to Istanbul because this is where each of the various empires that had ruled the city made their mark.
Located only a few blocks from Taksim Square, this hip district is the place to be. Cihangir has long been the meeting place for young Turks and foreigners thanks to its cutting-edge shops, gloomy bistros, vibrant pubs serving drinks, and chic cafes.
The Karakoy area, which was formerly a desolate strip of shipping warehouses and camping supply stores, has grown over the past ten years into a vibrant strip of eateries, shops, and art galleries. Five of Istanbul's most prestigious private galleries are housed in one structure, while the magnificent Klc Ali Paşa Mosque and its opulent hammam are just outside.
Beşiktaş, a boisterous district known for its ardent support of the local football team and its abundance of taverns, is situated on the European Bosphorus shore just a short stroll from Dolmabahçe Palace. Explore the wild side streets that are bursting with people taking in the nighttime energy.
The affluent Nişantaş is where Istanbul's wealthy go to experience luxury and fine things. Elegant restaurants, high-end stores selling haute couture, and luxury labels like Prada and Louis Vuitton can all be found here. Maçka Park, one of the few parks in the heart of Istanbul, is close by and a great spot to wander.
With their vibrant wooden cottages lining the sloping cobblestone alleys, Istanbul's twinned neighborhoods of Fener and Balat, which once had sizable Greek and Jewish populations, are among the most charming areas in the city. In recent years, Balat has exploded, unquestionably establishing itself as one of Istanbul's most intriguing emerging neighborhoods. Visit one of the many cafes and brand-new eateries that line the streets or explore the antique stores that dot the neighborhood.
The Princess Islands - Main Island - Büyükada
Four of the nine islands that make up the Princes Islands, or Adalar in Turkish, in the Sea of Marmara are accessible to tourists. Since cars are not permitted on the islands, the best modes of transportation are bicycles, foot, and horse-drawn carriages. The islands provide a getaway from the city within the city with their attractive white wooden cottages and abundant bougainvillea. Regular ferries run from the mainland to the four islands (Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Knalada).
Winter: Istanbul's winters are gloomy and perpetually rainy, with temperatures ranging between 45° and 50°F (7-10 Degrees Celsius). Despite the unfavorable weather, the city is atmospheric and oddly homey, with street sellers peddling roasted chestnuts and restaurants serving tulip-shaped cups of tea.
Spring: In the spring, the sun emerges and the temperature rises to a pleasant 65° to 70°F (around 20 Degrees Celsius). Flowers are in bloom all around the city, from jasmine that is aromatic to Judas tree blossoms that are fiery pink. Even if it's still a little chilly at the beginning of spring, everyone still sits outside to enjoy the sunshine.
Summer: The lengthy, muggy, and congested days of Istanbul's summer are typically 85°F (around 30 Degrees Celsius) and 70% humid. The city's proximity to water is its saving grace; swimming in the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul's islands or enjoying a transcontinental ferry ride's Bosphorus wind help to relieve the city's oppressive heat. And the never-ending summer nights, which are frequently spent together around a long meyhane table sipping a chilled glass of raki laced with anise, make it all worthwhile.
Autumn: Istanbul experiences a warm and cozy autumn. The humidity decreases along with the temperature, which stays around a pleasant 65°F in the early fall and dips to 60°F (18-15 Degrees Celsius) in the latter half. This is actually the ideal time to visit Istanbul.