Istanbul sits in a unique corner of the world, with one half in Asia and the other in Europe. The cultures of the Orient and the Mediterranean mix together in this city, where you can find old Turkish bazaars and sultry belly dance performances.
How to Get To Istanbul
The Istanbul Ataturk airport is the major airport in Istanbul, and you can get there by connecting with the metro. Most international visitors will need a Turkish visa to enter the country, but the airport has simplified this process into a quick online application.
Istanbul, Turkey skyline
Simply print out your visa and bring it through to the airport. From there, you can take the metro buses, and taxis to reach the city.
Istanbul is a diverse city in terms of transportation. In many cases, the metro buses will be the fastest option. These buses have a dedicated lane on most bridges and highways, so you’ll zip past the traffic. Another option is to take a dolmus, which is an independently run minivan service.
Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey
You’ll be crammed in with many other locals, but the fares are unbeatable. Taxis can also be a good option if you don’t want the hassle of public transportation. Finally, if you need to get from one side of the river to the other, there are many ferries leaving every hour.
Tram in Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey
Things to Do
Istanbul is a vibrant and ancient destination, perfect if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation than can be found at a beach resort. Things to do in Istanbul vary depending on the season, but travellers are always certain to find a number of exciting attractions and activities.
Basilica Cistern (a.k.a. the Sunken Palace), Istanbul, Turkey
The most popular historical sites are the Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, but travellers will also enjoy lesser-known sites, such as the Basilica Cistern and the Theodesian Walls.
Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
If you are interested in shopping you can stroll through the Grand Bazaar, though there are smaller open-air markets throughout the city if the Grand Bazaar is too intimidating.
Spice Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
Art museums popular with tourists include the Istanbul Modern and the Pera, while the city also boasts an impressive Archaeology Museum.
Dolmabahçe (Dolmabahce) Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
On the European side of Istanbul, there are many palaces and religious sites to see. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or the Blue Mosque as it is popularly known, in Sultanahmet is one of the most prolific Islamic mosques, and the Hagia Sophia is another must see.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Çırağan (Ciragan) Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
You can also walk through the streets of Taksim, the commercial and nightlife center of the city. From there, you may be able to peek your head into a courtyard that’s hundreds of years old.
Dolmabahçe (Dolmabahce) Palace in Istanbul, Turkey
The Asian side of Istanbul is no slouch, either. The main attractions on this side are related to the waterfront. You can eat at a floating restaurant or take a ferry to some of the more remote parts of the city.
The Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey
There are a number of restaurants in Istanbul offering a great deal of variety for travellers, from traditional Turkish fare to East Asian or even American food. Particularly impressive is the selection of seafood restaurants, especially in the Kum Kapu district.
The nightlife in the city is undoubtedly concentrated on Istiklal street, where you will find countless bars and nightclubs on the back alleys. This is an International melting pot of people, with DJs playing almost every night of the week.
Night life in Istanbul, Turkey
There are a large number of clubs in the city, with the nightlife becoming particularly lively in the summer months, when many pubs and nightclubs open rooftops or balconies to patrons.
Sunset over the the Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey
Where to Stay
Most tourists will want to stay in the Taksim, Galata, or Beyoglu neighborhoods, which provide the best safety and access to the historical parts of the city. It seems that new inns and bed and breakfasts are popping up all the time, so you will have an abundance of hotels, hostels and other accommodation offerings to choose from.
Galata Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
Hotels in Istanbul range from the cheapest, most spartan hostel accommodations to levels of luxury that match those of hotels in Paris or New York. If you’re lanning to travel to Turkey during the summer, however, it is best to reserve rooms early no matter what your budget, as tourists often quickly fill the hotels and inns.
Flying into Istanbul is one of the best things you can do on a Europe trip. With the excellent history, cultural diversity, and beautiful scenery in the city, you could spend weeks exploring.
Whatever activities or accommodations you choose, a trip to Istanbul, Turkey is certain to be a magical and memorable experience.
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