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Istanbul is one of the most unique cities in the world where two continents meet. Within the same city, you can travel to Europe or Asia in around an hour. Istanbul offers you many unique experiences due to its nature such as cruising on the Bosphorus or going through a tunnel under the Bosphorus to reach the other continent. Believe it or not, people could even walk from one continent to the other in 1954 due to the harsh winter that brought a huge ice block into the Bosphorus.
Istanbul is home to a rich history that still lives in the corners of the city. Seeing many empires rise and fall, Istanbul carries each of their marks. You can see the work of the Byzantine Empire as well as the Ottoman Empire mostly and lose yourself in their history while also falling in love with their architectural beauty.
Istanbul is a metropolitan city where a multicultural lifestyle is embraced. Since the Ottoman Empire days, people from different beliefs and backgrounds have been living peacefully in Istanbul, Armenians, Jews, Greeks, Christians, Turks and Muslims. It is a rare quality to see in a city in today’s world.

Istanbul has been a city for a long time that is estimated to be first founded by Greeks. Later on, the Roman Empire lived in Istanbul, making it the capital of the empire. After the Roman Empire fell, the Byzantine Empire claimed the city as their capital. This was because Constantinople had no equivalent as a city. It was a trade center and it allowed people to easily cross between Europe and Asia.


Therefore, people started to refer to Constantinople as “the city” because everybody would understand which city they were talking about. When the travelers would talk to others on the road and get asked where they were headed, they would simply say “to the city” which is “stanpolis”. In time, this phrase turned into Istanbul.

Due to its location, Istanbul has always been important to the empires in the world. Many of the empires wanted to conquer Istanbul. Even after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, other countries had their eyes on the city. During World War I, the English made an attack on the Dardanelles in the hopes of reaching Istanbul. However, they couldn’t make it. Due to being under threat during the war, the capital was moved to Ankara in Turkey, so that it would be protected till the last moment.

Istanbul’s fame and popularity caused the empires to build the most magnificent and mesmerizing buildings in the city. In the Byzantine Empire era, Istanbul was the center for Christians therefore, many stately churches were built such as Hagia Sophia. A similar situation happened in the Ottoman Empire as well. The city became the center for Islam with many mosques being built.

    Summer is when all the tourists visit Istanbul from June to August. Especially July is the hottest month. If you prefer to evade the hot weather, you could prefer to visit Istanbul in mid-April or May to witness the awakening of nature which paints an amazing picture. You could also visit Istanbul in September and maybe early October when the weather is not that hot yet, occasional rainfalls may happen.
    In Turkey, Turkish is the official language. Since Istanbul is a metropolitan city where many cultures come together, you can also find English or German being spoken. Due to the Syrian refugees who are staying in Turkey for a while, you will also hear quite a bit of Arabic being spoken around.
    There are so many public transportation options in Istanbul such as metro, metrobus, marmaray, bus and minibus. The fastest options are metro and marmaray. Yet, you will mostly be using metro since it connects to all the tourist attractions.
    During the summer, the average temperature is 24°C. However, especially in July, the average is around 28°C and it can even exceed 30°C on the hottest days. The rainfall rarely happens in Istanbul during the summer, and the city gets around 10 hours of sunshine each day.
    There are two international airports in Istanbul: Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the Asian side and it is difficult to reach the city center from here. Istanbul Airport is located on the European side and it is the one mostly used by the tourists. It is much bigger and technologically advanced while having the best VIP options.
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    The currency used in Turkey is Turkish Lira or TL.
    Istanbul’s standard time is UTC+2. During the summer, daylight saving time is used and it becomes UTC+3.
Summer is the time most tourists prefer to visit Istanbul. In summer, Istanbul gets quite hot. Even though traveling may be a lot more fun with a brightly shining sun, it can also be exhausting. Therefore, it may be a good idea to visit Istanbul in early or late summer. Spring is also a great time to visit Istanbul, especially after mid-April. As nature wakes up, you will enjoy most of the parks and natural beauty of Istanbul even more. You could also prefer to visit Istanbul in September and maybe early October to escape the hot weather and witness the coming of the fall.

There are two international airports in Istanbul: Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Istanbul Airport is located on the European side and it is a new airport built in Istanbul to be used instead of Atatürk Airport which is no longer in use. Even though Istanbul Airport is not in a central location, most of the tourists prefer this particular airport due to its modern and technologically advance nature and there are ways to reach the center of the city. Havaist buses are designed to take the visitors to and from the airport. After paying a certain amount of money, you can reach the city center in about an hour and a half. There are currently no metro lines reaching the airport since it is a fairly new project, however, there will be a metro line reaching the airport in the near future.

Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the Asian side of Istanbul. It is preferred less by tourists due to its location far away from the city center. The only way to travel from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport is to take the designated buses that travels to the center of the city. The metro line does not reach the airport just yet however, it is planned in the near future.


There are many different public transportation options in Istanbul such as metro, metrobus, marmaray, tramway, bus and minibus. Each of these transportation options is used by the locals frequently. However, as a tourist, you will have to use only a few of them since you will be mostly visiting the central city.

Metro is the fastest option among them all. It is convenient and easy to use not only for locals but also for the tourists. Metro lines reach most of the landmarks and popular districts of Istanbul. Even though there are many different metro lines, only two of them will allow you to travel most of Istanbul.

M1A and M2 metro lines are the ones that you will be using. M1A is the line that travels between Yenikapı and the old Atatürk Airport that is no longer in use. This line travels most of Istanbul in one line and also allows you to go to Sultanahmet via tram lines that connect to it. M2 metro line is between Yenikapı and Hacıosman. This metro line is used to reach the entertainment centers Taksim and Beyoğlu.

Other than the metro, the tramway is another transportation option that you will be using. The T1 tram line travels between Kabataş and Bağcılar and allows you to reach some of the popular historical areas such as Beyazıt, Sultanahmet, Gülhane Park, Eminönü and even Karaköy.

Marmaray is another great option especially if you want to travel from one continent to the other. Even though metro lines travel on a similar route, marmaray travels much further, covering most of Istanbul in one line.

Buses, minibuses and metrobus are all frequently used transportation options by the locals of Istanbul. They are designed to reach the suburbs of the city making it easy for people to reach the central parts of the city. Even though metrobus travels right on the E5 highway, it does not reach the landmarks of Istanbul, you still need to transfer to another transportation option. In this case, it is better to use metro, marmaray and tramway to reach most of Istanbul as a tourist.

In order to pay for transportation, you need to buy IstanbulKart first. You could travel without buying this card, however, it would be a lot more expensive. IstanbulKart allows you to travel 40% cheaper compared to regular tickets. You only have to pay 7 TL for the card itself. Then, you can load money onto the card via a “biletmatik” machine that is yellow and black in color which only accepts cash and not even coins. When you are ready to go back to your home country, you can simply return the IstanbulKart and refund the 7 TL you paid for it.

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    Four Seasons is a five-star hotel located near the Bosphorus. You can find many services offered in the Four Seasons such as high-speed internet, fitness center, pool, free breakfast, bar, spa, babysitting service, butler, laundry service as well as airport transportation. Due to being a five-star hotel and its location, Four Seasons is an expensive hotel compared to the other options.
    Tomtom Suites is a five-star hotel and it is located in Karaköy, near the historical landmarks. The experience of staying in Tomtom Suites is quite different due to the hotel building that was built in the 1850s. There is free high-speed internet connection, airport transportation service, free breakfast, laundry and ironing services, dry cleaning, hot tub, bar, a terrace as well as massage in the Tomtom Suites. Tomtom Suites manages to be affordable even though it offers a luxurious stay.
    White House is a four-star hotel. It is located near famous locations such as Sultanahmet, Eminönü and Beyazıt. Therefore, it may be a great choice for you to reach the landmarks easily. White House Hotel provides services such as free high-speed internet, dry cleaning, laundry and ironing services, currency exchange, free breakfast, free airport transportation service, bar as well as walking tours. If you are planning to visit Istanbul with your family, the White House Hotel offers free stay for children.
    White House is a four-star hotel. It is located near famous locations such as Sultanahmet, Eminönü and Beyazıt. Therefore, it may be a great choice for you to reach the landmarks easily. White House Hotel provides services such as free high-speed internet, dry cleaning, laundry and ironing services, currency exchange, free breakfast, free airport transportation service, bar as well as walking tours. If you are planning to visit Istanbul with your family, the White House Hotel offers free stay for children.

Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular landmarks in Istanbul that almost everybody knows. Hagi Sophia is located in Sultanahmet, right across the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). Hagia Sophia was built by the order of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I after the two previous churches built in its place were burned down due to riots happened in the city. He wanted Hagia Sophia to be huge and the center for the Christians to come and visit. After the Ottomans took over the city, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. The Ottomans covered the mosaics and paintings without harming them and covered the floor with carpet. They also added minarets to the structure. Until the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Hagia Sophia was used as a mosque. After the Republic of Turkey was established, the founding father of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, turned Hagia Sophia into a museum in 1935. The carpets were removed, the mosaic and paintings of the Christians were uncovered.

Today, you can see the marks of both the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire as well as both Christianity and Islam in one place which is why Hagia Sophia is considered to be such a unique place in the entire world.


The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque is located in the Sultanahmet square. The mosque was ordered to be built by Sultan Ahmet I. He wanted the mosque to complement the structure of Hagia Sophia, he wanted the mosque to be as much breathtaking. The Sultan Ahmet mosque draws attention to the handpainted Iznik ceramic tiles used inside. There are 20.000 tiles used on the interior in total. These handpainted tiles are mostly painted with blue and red inks. Due to the blue tiles found inside the mosque, it is also referred to as the Blue Mosque.

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is also one of the unique mosques because of having six minarets. Traditionally mosques have either two or four minarets. However, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque has six minarets. Even though it is not confirmed, it is said that the mosque has six minarets due to a misunderstanding between one of the architects and the sultan Ahmet. Apparently, Sultan Ahmet I wanted “golden minarets” (“altın minare” in Turkish) however, the architect misunderstood this phrase as “six minarets” (“altı minare” in Turkish) and built six minarets as a result. Yet, this created a major problem. The only mosque with six minarets in the world was the mosque in Kaaba in Mecca. Fearing from being disrespectful, Sultan Ahmet I ordered a seventh minaret to be added to the mosque in Kaaba which solved the problem.


Gülhane Park is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Istanbul. Especially during the spring, you can witness the blooming of all sorts of flowers in this place. You will forget that you are in a big, crowded, metropolitan city in Gülhane Park. Breath in the clean air, watch the waters moving slowly and listen to birds singing.


Süleymaniye Mosque is a place that you must see. Even though not every tourist is aware of this structure, it should be visited. Süleymaniye Mosque was ordered to be built by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The mosque’s architect was the famous Ottoman architect known as Mimar Sinan which means “Sinan the architect” in Turkish. The Süleymaniye Mosque is a building that amazes its visitor with its genius design. Mimar Sinan is the most famous Ottoman architect because of his intellect and genius designs that last for centuries to come. Some of the techniques he used cannot be completely understood today and cannot be replicated.

Mimar Sinan designed the acoustic system in the Süleymaniye Mosque himself. He used empty earthenware jugs and placed them upside down on the walls around the ceiling. This way, he did not only achieve the results he was aiming for, but he also added additional support to the structure. Thanks to these jugs, the sound in the mosque travels quite fast, allowing everybody to hear when someone is talking anywhere in the mosque. The sound travels with only a 3 seconds delay from one end of the mosque to the other. There is no microphone needed to be used in the mosque during the sermons.

Mimar Sinan also wanted the soot coming from oil lamps and candles to be collected somewhere, fearing that it might harm the structure in the long run. He built a room above one of the doors after calculating the airflow in the mosque. The soot was collected in this room and was used to make a special ink that was used in writing imperial papers because it was liquid resistant.


The Grand Bazaar is definitely one of the most popular historical places and it is still very much alive. Grand Bazaar is located in Beyazıt. It is a covered bazaar that has 4.000 shops in 61 streets. After Constantinople was conquered by Sultan Mehmet II, the Grand Bazaar was opened since Istanbul was a trade center. Textiles from all over the world including the rare ones were sold in this bazaar. It was much smaller when it started out. A second bazaar was built as well and jewelry was sold in that one. Later on, over the years, other small shops were opened between the two covered bazaars and finally, they all formed one big bazaar.

Today, Grand Bazaar still has its historical atmosphere where you can get a taste of Turkish culture and tradition first hand. In Grand Bazaar, you can find all sorts of items such as textiles, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, lanterns, sweets and desserts, Turkish delight, carpets and so on. Visit this place, talk to the sellers and haggle with them as it is a playful tradition in this place.


Galata Tower is a structure you can easily spot in any given city silhouette. It is a fairly tall watchtower that was built during the Byzantine Empire era. At the time, it was used to watch the city gates. After the Ottomans took over the city, the Galata Tower was used to spot the fires in the city immediately. Nowadays, it is a frequent stop of those who wish to view the city panoramically. You can watch the sunset while drinking a cup of coffee at the top of the Galata Tower.


The Maiden’s Tower is a place that is fit for fairytales. The legend of the tower is no less interesting than Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel. It is said that there was once an emperor who lived in the city. He also had a beautiful daughter he loved dearly. One day he heard a prophecy about his daughter. The prophecy was that his daughter would die after being bitten by a snake. The emperor did not want his daughter to die. He decided to build a tower in the middle of the sea so that no snake would be able to reach. The daughter started to live in the tower and everything seemed to work for them for a while. Then, a snake that gotten into a fruit basket managed to reach the tower. The story did not end happily ever after. It is not known whether the story is true or not. However, it definitely gives a reasonable explanation as to why such a tower would be built in the middle of the sea. In any case, we highly recommend you visit the Maiden’s Tower, have dinner and watch the city living as well as the famous Istanbul silhouette.


The Princes’ Islands may surprise you if you did not know there were islands connected to Istanbul. There are in fact nine islands in total that are considered to be a part of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Some of these islands are extremely small and some of them are private islands that are not open to visiting tourists. On the other hand, there are two specific islands that you need to see. Büyükada is the biggest island of them all as the name suggests, it literally means “big island”. It is the most visited one by the locals and the tourists as well. Heybeliada is another island that you can visit if you have already visited the Büyükada.

Since it takes time to tour one island, it is unlikely that you can visit two islands in one day. We recommend that you visit only one of them at a time. The islands do not allow motorized vehicles to be used. You can either travel by foot, bike or horse carriages. The traditional and most fun way of exploring an island is by renting a bike, getting a map and going on an adventure. There are many shops where you can rent a bike. Try to find the bikes in the best condition and the best price range.

Unless you have a health issue and cannot travel by bike or foot, we advise that you do not get on the horse carriages. Sure it is a fun and interesting way of exploring the island. However, the locals of Istanbul and especially the islands are protesting against the horse carriage owners since the horses are usually overworked. There is news each year about horses falling sick due to being overworked or even dying. Even though there have been attempts by the authorities for electric carriages to be used, the horse carriage owners have been objecting to the idea.


There are two very cute and colorful neighborhoods in Istanbul you have to see. Balat is located on the European side while Kuzguncuk is located on the Asian side of Istanbul. They are both the places where minorities of Istanbul live such as Jews and Christians, Armenians and Greeks. There are also Turks and Muslims living in the area. These people are living together in peace. You will see many two or three-story wooden houses that are in the colors of a rainbow. Walk on the narrow streets of these neighborhoods while watching the beautiful colors and coming across many different places of worship from churches to synagogs. There are also many small but cute cafes in these neighborhoods where you can rest while having a cup of coffee or tea.


The Topkapı Palace was the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire for a long time. It is the largest structure in Istanbul since every sultan added a different building to the main structure. Topkapı Palace was an important location because it had the imperial treasure, Ottoman arms and weapons as well as the Holy Relics of Islam. After the sultans moved to the Dolmabahçe Palace, these stayed in the Topkapı Palace. Today, if you visit the Topkapı Palace Museum, you can still see the Holy Relics of Islam such as the belongings of the prophets. There is another section for the arms and weapons of the Ottoman Empire as well as the ones that they received as a gift or as war treasure. In another section you can see the clocks of the Ottoman Empire as well as the ones that were gifted from different countries and empires. You can also visit the Harem section to see how the women of the Ottoman Empire lived. However, you need to pay an additional fee to see the Harem section.


Dolmabahçe Palace is a relatively modern palace built after Topkapı Palace was no longer comfortable enough. The sultans moved from the Topkapı Palace to the Dolmabahçe Palace and started ruling the empire from this place.

Dolmabahçe Palace has three main sections. The main and the most important section is the Ceremonial Hall. The Ceremonial Hall is the place where imperial ceremonies and rituals took place. Important guests were also welcomed in this hall. There are also administrative rooms where the sultans and their men would talk about the important matters related to the empire and make important decisions. Finally, there is the harem section where the women and the children of the Ottoman Empire would live.

After the Ottoman Empire fell and the Republic of Turkey was established, the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started to live in the Dolmabahçe Palace when he was in Istanbul. He passed away in his room in the Dolmabahçe Palace on 10 November 1938. His room is still kept the same as the day he passed away and you can also see the room when you visit the palace even though visitors are not allowed to enter the room or take photos. It is said that his body was put on the Ceremonial Hall after he passed away and the Turkish citizens visited to pay respects to their leader.

    Balık ekmek is a must if you visit Eminönü. Balık ekmek is a street food yet quite healthy compared to the other street food options. It is basically a grilled fish placed in a half bread bun with some onions. You can buy balık ekmek from the boats on the coastline of Eminönü. The boats are designed as kitchens to grill the fresh fish and served right from the boats to the customers. You can also drink pickle juice that is pink in color if you want to try out how the locals prefer to eat balık ekmek.
    Dürüm is another delicious Turkish food that is similar to wrap or burrito. Dürüm can be made with meat or chicken. The meat, tomatoes, spices and sometimes greeneries are wrapped with a type of thin bread. While you can find dürüm pretty much anywhere, we highly recommend you eat dürüm in Dürümcü Baba in Yeşilköy, Florya district, if you want to eat the best one. It is a famous high-end restaurant that is also visited by many celebrities. The restaurant does not only have dürüm but many other traditional Turkish food. Anything you will eat in this place will be tasty and prepared with high-quality ingredients.
    The best Turkish delight maker is found in Istanbul. No kidding. Hacı Bekir was the person who is known to be the inventor of the Turkish delight and his shop was opened in 1777 in Bahçekapı in Istanbul. He made the best Turkish delight and became the Chief Confectioner of the Ottoman palace due to his fame. The business he created has become a family business with generations continuing to run the shop and make the best Turkish delight with the original recipe. Hacı Bekir lokums, also known as Turkish delight, won many awards all around the world since the day it started operating. Today, the original shop is still open and operating as well as many other branches in different districts of Istanbul. We highly recommend that you eat Turkish delight from Hacı Bekir because you will love it. Make sure to buy some more to bring to your friends and family.
    Boza is a drink that is usually consumed during the winter. Boza is made from fermented bulgur. It is slightly sour in taste and has a thick consistency. It is usually drunk with some cinnamon sprinkled on top and roasted chickpeas added on top as well. These additions balance the sour taste of the drink. Since boza is fermented, it is best to drink a freshly made one and keep in mind that after about 4 or 5 days, boza should not be drunk because it can cause food poisoning. The best boza in Istanbul is found in Vefa Bozacısı. If you wish to try it out, we recommend you drink boza in Vefa Bozacısı.
    Baklava is another very famous dessert in Turkey. Baklava is made of thin dough and pistachios put in between. A syrup prepared with just water and sugar is poured on top of the dough after it is baked to make baklava. The best baklava in Istanbul is prepared by Güllüoğlu in Karaköy. You can see a long queue in front of the shop almost at all times.
How many days you will spend in Istanbul depends on what you want to do or what you want to see. Essentially three days would be enough to explore Istanbul if you do not have time. You can add in extra days for extra activities. If you wish to truly explore Istanbul, it would take about a week to do so.
    The first day in Istanbul should be spent by visiting the most famous historical landmarks most of which are located in Fatih district. You can go to the Sultanahmet area to visit Hagia Sophia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Topkapı Palace and Gülhane Park. You can go to the Beyazıt area to see the Grand Bazaar. You can also go to Eminönü to eat balık ekmek.
    On the second day, you can visit Beyoğlu which is the ultimate entertainment center. You can walk on Istiklal Avenue, explore the shops on the street, listen to the street musicians or watch the street performers. You can also visit the cafes, restaurants during the day time or bars and pubs during the night time in the area. This part of Istanbul is always alive. You can also explore the Galata area and climb the Galata Tower here.
    You can also set aside a day to explore the Asian side of Istanbul. Visit the Maiden’s Tower and the Beylerbeyi Palace, explore the streets and cafes in Kadıköy. Depending on your time in Istanbul you can either spend your fourth day on the Asian side or skip the Princes’ Islands for the time being.
    On the third day, you can visit Büyükada or Heybeliada. Visiting one of the Princes’ Islands takes up almost a day and it is an exhausting experience. Therefore, it is a good idea to set aside an entire day to explore an island.
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