Recent Posts

Istanbul vs Budapest


Istanbul is a beautiful huge city with a history full to the brim, Budapest is a fascinating city, smaller, but more concentrated than Istanbul. Budapest is generally colder than Istanbul. Getting from one point to another is easier in Budapest. Generally, they have the same price index. Istanbul and Budapest both have their advantages and disadvantages for tourists and for people who plan to visit them, I’m going to talk about some of these in this post.

Istanbul

Istanbul used to be the capital and heart of the Ottoman Empire. It was and still is the cultural, social, art, and food capital of Turkey. It is one of the biggest cities in the world by metropolitan area. Getting around in Istanbul is more difficult than in Budapest. Istanbul has nearly 10 times the population of Budapest and Istanbul on its own has more population than the entire country of Hungary, of which Budapest is the capital. Naturally, the city is very crowded at all seasons with its local population, but during the hotter months ( from late May to early September ) there are fewer people in them as the inhabitants try to get away from the noise and frenzy of such a huge city and go to other smaller touristic areas around Istanbul and Turkey.



Istanbul has a more modern look than Budapest. The majority of the population of Istanbul is not local, they come from all around the country, and a major population boom happened after the 1950s so the city expanded somewhat uncontrollably, except for the historic parts, it looks like one of the huge metropolises around the world. This has both been an advantage and a disadvantage for the city. It brought people from all parts of Turkey which brought their cultural heritage and food habits with them, thus enriching the city even further. It also got the city so huge that during rush hours it can take you 2 hours plus to get from the Asian side to the European side of Istanbul, so if you decide to visit the city during the off-seasons I would advise you to plan some activity between 8 to 10 A.M. and 5 to 7 P.M. in order to not waste your vacation time stuck in traffic.

If you stay near the center of the city, you can plan to taste the world-famous Turkish breakfast comprised of multiple savory treats. In the evening you can plan to go to a concert, of which there’s never a shortage of in the city, or you can take a ferry tour on the Bosporus with dinner. The possibilities are endless and I will elaborate on them to give you a better idea.

Budapest

Budapest is the historic and modern capital of Hungary. It is much smaller than Istanbul but with its look, it is one of the most beautiful and magical looking cities in Europe. Your visit to Budapest can be done in about 3 days with the major tourist attractions, as opposed to Istanbul for which you would need at least a full week. Your stay in Budapest is sure to be much calmer than a visit to Istanbul. The city holds the traces of a long kingdom, a short imperial and an even shorter communist regime remains.



Top Sites to See in Budapest

  • Buda Castle
  • Hungarian Parliament Building
  • Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • Heroes’ Square
  • Matthias Church
  • Széchenyi Chain Bridge
  • Central Market Hall

History

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, dates back to a millennium BC and has a rich history. Hungarian tribes that came to Eastern Europe towards the end of the 9th century established the Hungarian Kingdom. Once upon a time a part of the Roman Empire, Hungary was established as its own kingdom after the empire collapsed. Later it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the reform period (1825-1848), the city experienced the first development boom. The Hungarian National Museum and the Chain Bridge connecting the two shores of the Danube River were also built during this period. In 1873, there was an unprecedented development in Europe with the merger of three cities of Buda, Pest, and Old Buda. After the Second World War, the country, where the communist regime was dominant, transformed into the parliamentary regime in 1989 and was declared a republic. Approximately one-third of the local Hungarians live outside Hungary, especially in Romania where indigenous Hungarians were forced to emigrate.



In the 1960s and 1970s, the Elizabeth Bridge was opened to traffic, the underground network was developed, the old city center was renewed, and large construction work was started, especially around the castle. The city has started to develop in terms of tourism with hotels opening both around the castle and on the banks of the Danube. Soon there was an increase in tourism, known as “goulash communism”. In addition to Eastern and Western Europe, the city is also visited by other people around the world. In the city that currently has a population of two million Europe’s first underground rail network was built. In 2004 The country joined the European Union and has started to develop after this process.


Modern Budapest was formed in 1873 when Buda, Pest, and Old Buda came together. Buda is part of the city that was established on the hill west of the Danube River and constitutes the historical region of the city. In Budapest, which consists of 23 regions, the regions have numbers that they are known by other than their names. The city’s parks were built together with Andrassy Boulevard and the Opera House that are under UNESCO’s protection. Heroes Square and the Hungarian Art Museum were built specifically for the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Hungary. In the same period, the Parliament Building was built at a high cost.



After World War II there was too much material and moral losses and
the city was in a pretty bad state in the 20th century. The city, where a large part of the original buildings was destroyed, was remarkably rebuilt. However, traces of bullets from the war are still in some buildings. The buildings around Buda Castle, the most popular and historical area of ​​the city, bear the traces of baroque architecture. The historical texture around the castle has never been touched and destroyed.

Festivals in the City

The city, which hosts many festivals, has been recognized as the largest art and cultural center in Central Europe. Budapest Spring Festival, which attracts visitors from many parts of the world, has been held since 1981. The biggest museums and art venues openings in Budapest are always held with this festival. The festival is celebrated not only in the city’s concert halls but also in parks and squares. Another big festival is the Budapest Summer Festival. It attracts enthusiasts for 12 weeks with a rich cultural program. Especially very special opera and theater works are staged at the open-air theater on Margaret Island. Varosmajor Open Air Theater is located in one of Buda’s most popular public parks. In the place where famous names of the music world meet, in addition to Budapest theaters, Hungary’s traveling theaters are also staged. The world-famous Sziget Festival is one of Europe’s largest popular music and cultural events. Sziget Festival attracts tens of thousands of international visitors to Budapest every August. With its unique atmosphere and location, Sziget Festival is one of the most popular events in Budapest.



The country is the home of many famous scientists, the famous Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik, the creator of the Rubik cube, is one of the scientists trained in Budapest. Budapest has one of the most important spa cultures in Europe. There are many hot springs and baths with Roman, Greek, and Turkish architecture in the city. Known as the ‘City of Baths’, Budapest is one of the few cities in the world that is rich in thermal waters that are believed to have healing properties. Budapest is a city where you can enjoy traditional baths dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The best baths, Rudas, Kiraly, and Veli Beige are among the baths from the Ottoman Period. In Budapest, where there are very good universities, the education period of universities varies between 3 and 4 years. Pecs University, the oldest university in Hungary, was founded in 1367.

Food

Food culture in both of these cities is quite different from each other but similarities can still be found as they were twice cities under the same Empires.

While in Istanbul
  • Fish Sandwich
  • Lahmacun
  • Doner Kebab
  • Kumpir
  • Midye
  • Simit
  • Baklava
While in Budapest
  • Goulash
  • Chicken Paprikash
  • Bean soup
  • Lángos
  • Chimney Cake
  • Stuffed Cabbage
  • Dobos Torta


All dishes and desserts above are among the most important food items that if skipped during a visit, would leave it uncompleted. If you are a foodie as well as a traveler you most definitely have to try these.

What to Do in Budapest

Budapest is an ideal city for those who want to have fun activities with its historical texture, nightlife, and the Danube River view. The fact that compulsory expenses such as transportation and food can be met here at a lower price makes the city attractive.

The part of the city, where you can also find Turkish baths, usually contains historical textures, is the side of old Budin, or Buda. Gellert Hill, where the famous Gellert Baths are located, has an excellent city view. The island on the Danube River called Margaret Island is also a place to be visited. There are many religious and historical ruins on Margaret Island. The island, which is also home to the St. Michael Church, Franciscan, Dominican Churches is a favorite place for cyclists like the Islands in Istanbul.



The Castle Hill, the structure of the city that was included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1987, was built against the Mongols. If you are going to go here in the winter, don’t forget to take a coat with you. In addition, you should definitely have a camera and take beautiful pictures of the city.

Budapest is also famous for its cave tourism. The reason for this is that there are around 200 caves in the city. Castle Cave, Palvogly Cave, Chapel, and Szemlohegy caves are also the most important.

Night Life in Budapest

Budapest takes on another identity at night, especially due to the atmosphere that the Danube River adds to the city. A wonderful view is created for those who have a camera with lighting placed throughout the Danube.



The nightlife of the city is as colorful as the lit roads along the Danube River. The Astoria Nightclub, Octagon, and Blaha Lujza triangle on Seventh Avenue is a complete source of entertainment. Dolce Vita Bar and Poco Jumbo are also ideal for night trips. You can also find restaurants, bars, and cafes in Raday Utca, known as Soho of Budapest. Wine bars named Borozo are also good alternatives to try the flavors unique to Budapest.

Shopping in Budapest

The most important tradition of Budapest, from both Central Europe and Ottoman Culture, is the open-air markets in the city. Great Market Hall, called Big Market Hall, is one of the most important markets, while Hundayi Ter, Hold Utca, and Rakoczi Ter are other important markets.

The city has a satisfactory texture in terms of both the products that can be bought and shopping opportunities. If you like luxury brands, if you want to breathe the cultural structure of the city, you can go to local markets or street shops and shop according to your budget.



Vaci Utca is one of the first places that come to mind when it comes to the most famous shopping area of ​​Budapest. You can come across shops of world-renowned brands lined up on this street starting from Vörösmarty Square to Central Market Hall. However, if you are one of those who say “I see chain stores everywhere”, you should turn your route to Andrassy Avenue. In this narrow and luxurious ambiance ist apart from the most famous stores, boutique shops designed according to the local culture will also appear. You can buy clothes suitable for your style from these small shops that make affordable sales, and you can browse souvenirs such as trinkets, decorative ornaments, and types of food and beverages that you can gift to your loved ones.

Of course, what you can buy in Budapest is not limited to clothes! The Great Market Hall, the largest market place in the city; It is a shopping spot that is appreciated by all tourists with its food, beverage, and handicraft products. If it suits your taste, you can buy Paprika, Palinka and Tokaji wines from the ground floor, and look for souvenirs for your loved ones from the top floor. If you want a more attractive market alternative, stop by Ecseri Market! In this market, where the locals flock, the prices are relatively affordable and the product choice is much more diverse. Established only on weekends, Pecsa Market is preferred by tourists who like antique ornaments and decoration objects.

Where to Stay

The areas that are favorable to chose a hotel from are;

  • Vaci Utca
  • Erzsebetvaros
  • Terezvaros
  • Around Plazas
  • Elizabeth Bridge
  • Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya)
  • Citadella

Transportation

You have many alternatives to get to the city center from Budapest Airport, which is 18 miles away. Taxi is an expensive method, and you pay 10 times the train journey. The minibusses take you with a few people and transport you to your hotel for half the price of the taxi.



The easiest way to reach the city center is about 25 minutes by train. The first stop of the train is not the airport, so it is useful to get help while waiting at the Ferihegy stop or to see the diagrams that write the train line. The most ideal method for urban transportation is to use the metro and tram, the metro that operates on 3 different lines, and the tram that has 30 lines.

Prices

I will not name a certain amount of money to bring with you but give you some guidelines for both Istanbul and Budapest for helping you make a guess for your kind of trip. Until recent years, Budapest was considered to be cheaper than Istanbul but during the fluctuation of the value of Turkish lira, nowadays both of the cities can be considered to have the same prices for similar services. Hotel and restaurant prices are very similar in both cities. The things that you have to keep in mind while planning your trip to both of these cities are;

  • The time of the year
  • How long will you be staying
  • What kind of food do you prefer ( dining or street food)
  • What do you expect from the hotel you’re staying at
  • What mode of transportation do you prefer
  • How many places do you want to visit
  • How many events do you want to participate in both public and private

If you keep in mind those factors while you plan your visits, there shouldn’t be any surprise fees that will put you in a deficit with your budget.

Religion

Budapest is one of the most Christian cities in Europe. It has many churches, some of them turned into a church from a mosque that was built during the Ottoman era. You can spot these churches by their domes as the Ottoman mosque architecture built mosques with domes that were inspired by the Hagia Sophia which is, in turn, a church that was turned into a mosque. Hungary and Budapest are also one of the oldest regions that European Jews inhabited for a long time. Many of the Israelians that came from Europe can trace a part of their lineage to Hungary.



Istanbul is a Muslim majority city. There are many mosques in the city, both modern and historic. Due to the fact that Istanbul has been the capital of the Ottoman Empire, leader of the Islamic world for nearly 400 years, many of the mosques that were built during its capital-hood are formidable works of art that were commissioned by the Sultans themselves. Some of the most famous ones are;

  • Sultanahmet ( Blue ) Mosque
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
  • Beyazit Mosque
  • Ortakoy Mosque
  • Eyup Sultan Mosque
Climate

Budapest is a city that’s slightly colder than Istanbul. Budapest’s average temperature throughout the year is 50 degrees whereas Istanbul’s is 60. Budapest’s weather is dryer than Istanbul due to Hungary’s and the city’s landlocked position. The only humidity in the city comes from the Danube River. Istanbul is a humid city all year round. It is a city that is surrounded on all three sides by the sea, and yes both sides of the city. Budapest’s winters can be cold and dry whereas Istanbul’s are moderate. In the hotter month, it is nicer to walk around Budapest as opposed to Istanbul where you may need multiple changes of clothes due to its humidity.

When to Visit

You can consider every period of the year for a trip to Budapest. However, the city has cold and gloomy weather from November to the first week of March. It is even possible to encounter heavy snowfall during the period from December to February. However, since the temperatures start to rise after March, a significant increase is observed in the tourist population. Of course, if your goal is a bit more fun, do not miss the Spring Festival, which takes place in the first three weeks of April!



Istanbul can also be visited throughout the year, I would advise the late springtime especially as the city takes its winter coat on and prepares itself to the hotter month with its green light-coat. During the springtime in Istanbul, you can see the purple flowers of the “Erguvan” trees that inspired the city to adopt the color for some of its busses. Early fall is also a good time to visit the city, you will see the local population coming back from their vacations and all kinds of social events booming to welcome them back home, so you can benefit from those!

Final Word

Budapest and Istanbul are both rich, diverse, and beautiful cities. They are very different from each other, you may want to choose which one to visit according to your mood if you do not have the time or the budget, but if you can be sure to visit both during your trip, you are sure to not regret by crowning your vacation with these two amazing cities.

Istanbul vs Ankara


Istanbul and Ankara are the two most important cities in Turkey. Many people are confused when they’re told that Ankara is the political capital (the brain) of Turkey, and not Istanbul (the heart) because most people hear about Istanbul when the subject is where to visit Turkey, and there’s a good reason for that.

Ankara, the Capital

Ankara is the capital city of Turkey. It has been chosen as such by the first president of the Republic of Turkey, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, as it is officially known. Although Ankara’s geographic surface area is larger than Istanbul’s, that’s about the only aspect of it that is bigger than Istanbul.



Istanbul is the city with the most inhabitants in Turkey. It is the economic, cultural, artistic, historic, and trade capital of Turkey. It houses 19% of Turkey’s population. The country has 81 cities with provincial areas and it shows how important Istanbul is that 1 city houses 1/5th of all the population.

Istanbul also contributes to nearly 22% of the GDP. This shows how important is this city to Turkey and how every significant aspect is the biggest city in the country, bigger than Ankara the capital.

Why Ankara is the Capital and not Istanbul

Alright, to answer this, I have to give you some of the history of the Republic. Noticed how I sad history of the Republic and not Ankara? There’s a reason for that. Ankara is not a capital that became so because the people were already settled there, it became the capital during a war. Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic chose Ankara as the capital because it was strategically distanced from the enemies during the War of Independence, it was centrally positioned to all the strategic points of the Anatolian peninsula, and this made Ankara a supply point and a safer one at that.



During the War of Independence Istanbul was occupied by the British and their allies, so the Sultan at that time, Vahdettin, was under the control of their forces. He condemned the independence movement that rose from Anatolia. Ataturk wanted to distance the newly founded Grand Assembly from the monarchist rule so he chose Ankara as the center of the insurgency and later his deeper intentions would be made clear when the founding of the republic was announced.

The Distance Between Ankara and Istanbul

The distance between Ankara and Istanbul is 280 miles by road, it takes approximately 5.30 hours to travel by car and bus. Keep in mind that the highway between these two cities is the busiest one in Turkey so the traffic is constant at all times.

You can also travel between these cities by airplane and it’s only a 50 minutes-ish flight. By air, Ankara is 220 miles far from Istanbul. Trains are also another way to travel between the biggest cities in Turkey. Conventional old school trains are not generally preferred but there are high-speed express trains that are very comfortable and the time that it takes is somewhere between the road time and air time; 3.5 hours. The distance is the greatest but let’s remember, these aren’t called fast trains without merit. The site for train tickets is http://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/

Is it worth visiting Ankara

Istanbul and Ankara are of course not comparable when it’s a question of places to visit. Istanbul has been the capital of two major empires and for so long too. Ankara is also a great place to visit during your stay in Turkey. Maybe you can plan a trip from Istanbul to Cappadocia and add in a night or two in Ankara. There’s the first Grand Assembly where you can see the place that modern Turkey was founded.



The Anatolian Civilizations Museum itself is worth visiting without any other aspects but the museum itself is situated in the old part of the city so you can do a compacted day visit on just the historical castle and museum. You can reach more information about the museum here: https://muze.gov.tr/muze-detay?SectionId=AMM01&DistId=AMM

The most iconic place to visit in Ankara is Anitkabir Mausoleum. It is where the great leader of the Turkish people, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, is buried. It also doubles as a museum of the Republic that depicts sceneries from the War of Independence and the life of Ataturk.

The Castle of Ankara is a very old castle, it precedes the Ottoman Empire by about 600 years. It was used for defense of the city for a very long time. Nowadays the castle has become a tourist attraction from where you can get a bird’s eye view of the old part of the city.



Here you can find a list of what to do and where to be during your visit in Ankara:

  1. Anatolian Civilizations Museum
  2. Anitkabir
  3. Ankara Castle
  4. Hadji Bayram Veli Mosque
  5. Roman Temple
  6. Kocatepe Mosque
  7. Kizilay Square
  8. Ulus Square
  9. Beypazari
  10. Hamamonu

Most of these attractions are fairly close together and two days and one night should cover all of them except one: Beypazari. This town is located within the provincial limits of Ankara but 100 miles away from the center of the city. I will talk briefly about these attractions to spark your interest in them. Anatolian Civilizations Museum and Anitkabir are two whole subjects in themselves and I already gave some brief information about them so we will start with what’s next.

Hadji Bayram Veli Mosque

Hadji Bayram Mosque attracts both those who value spirituality and those who value history with its original atmosphere. When you look at the religious building that owes its originality to its architectural features, do not let it mislead you with its plain appearance. Because the details that will dazzle you when you enter are waiting for you. The mosque isn’t the very impressive gigantic structure that you would see in Istanbul, no. This mosque is the trace of civilization alive and vibrant that prevailed outside of the capital in Ottoman times. The amount of detail and originality of this mosque is one of a kind in the world.



Roman Temple

The Roman Temple in Ankara is also known as The Temple of Augustus or The Ankara Monument. The temple’s history is older than the Roman origin that it is attributed to. The temple’s history dates back 4000 years, it is said that the first religious structure that was built in that spot was built by the Frigians to the goddess of fertility, Kibele. Later the structure was repurposed and restored according to their own traditions by the Galatians to show their loyalty to the Roman Emperor Augustus. Later it was used as a church during the Byzantine rule of the land and lastly, the structure itself was left as it is but the land on top and around it was used by the Muslim Turks as a religious center. So as you can imagine, this site is one of the most important continuous religious sites in Turkey.

Kocatepe Mosque

The mosque is one of the grand structures of the young Republic of Turkey. It was constructed with the idea of forming a new architectural tradition for the future so it carries many traces of other mosques from Istanbul and all around Anatolia. When you stand in front of the mosque in its main square it gives you the same sense of grandeur that you can find in the mosques of Istanbul but in a more modern way. It has one dome and 4 minarets. It is said to resemble the Selimiye Mosque in Istanbul.

Kizilay Square

Kizilay square is the modern center of Ankara. The meeting point of many youngsters, the rally point for protests and demonstrations, the square is the heart of the city. One cool fact about the square is that Ataturk designed the avenues that lead to it about 3 quarters of a century ago. The people that advised him at the time objected to the avenues being 4 lanes large stating that there would never be a need for that. If you get caught at 5 P.M. on a weekday in that traffic you can imagine who was right.



Kizilay can be accessed easily from everywhere in the city. There’s public and private busses, subway, and taxis that serve as transportation to Kizilay. It is a great place to shop during the day and the evening, there are special “night bazaars” in the back streets of Kizilay. The bars, cafés, and restaurants in Kizilay are very nice to hang out in the evenings, you can find good food, live music and a calm evening to relax.

Ulus Square

Ulus Square is the old center of the city, back when it wasn’t even a capital. The Roman Temple, Hadji Bayram Veli Mosque, Anatolian Civilizations Museum, and Ankara Castle are all accessible from Ulus. There are also many other aspects of this place. The statue of Ataturk is in the center of the square. The one and only Synagogue and the Armenian Church are also in Ulus. The historic building and museums of İsbankasi are in Ulus. The mosque with one of the most beautiful woodsmanship in very close to the square, Aslanhane (Lion’s Domain). Roman Baths, Old Ankara Houses, the old Ulus Bazaar are the things that you should experience during your visit to the historical heart of the city. You might also find it a breeze to be able to visit all of the historical places of the city in walking distance after visiting Istanbul.

Hamamonu

Hamamonu is the oldest district in Ankara. It was “the” city back when it was a small hamlet. It has been the center of the oldest part for a long time, The architecture shows traces of the Ottoman times and the Republican period. There are multiple “bed and breakfast” types of businesses in Hamamonu where you can stay in old-style Ankara houses. It is a pleasure to walk the streets in this district because one of the night bazaars is set during. There are many great coffee houses that you can enjoy many different types of coffee but especially traditional Turkish coffee. The architecture is unique and very different than Istanbul’s. One cool fact about Hamamonu is that it was the seat of the local government Ahilik, that controlled the city during the interregnum period after the death of Sultan Yildirim Beyazit. Later because of the loyalty of the city the Ahi’s became the trade organization to control and to supervise the merchants all throughout the Empire. It is the only kind of power that propagated from Ankara to Istanbul and not the other way around.



The Differences and Similarities

Ankara and Istanbul are very alike and also very different. Here are some of the aspects that I will talk about to shed some light on the differences and similarities of these cities:

  • Climate
  • Population
  • Geography
  • Culture
  • Structure

Climate

The climate of Ankara and Istanbul is as different as it gets between two cities that are only 300 miles away from each other. Istanbul is has a humid climate due to its location. It has fairly mild winters and hot humid summers. Ankara’s air is dry due to its continental climate. If you decide to visit Ankara during the winter or the colder season, in general, be careful, the cold can bite you there! During the hotter months, it’s fairly nice during the days, but at nights you are sure to need some kind of jacket over your t-shirt especially near the morning hours. It can be refreshing to breathe without all the humidity after Istanbul. Another cool fact, the doctors during the Ottoman period used to send the sick with lung problems from Istanbul to Ankara as a cure.

Population

The populations of these two cities are also different from each other. Ankara’s population is mostly comprised of government workers. Due to Ankara being the capital, the ministries, the Grand Assembly, and other government agencies are all stated here so people from all around Turkey come here to work. All the embassies from foreign countries are also stated in Ankara, so not only Turkish government officials but also foreign government officials live here too. Istanbul is more of a trade-oriented city in that regard. Many of the Turkish companies’ headquarters and other foreign companies’ representations are in Istanbul. Ankara and Istanbul both have a huge population of students that come from all around the country for its good and deep-rooted universities.

Geography

There are some similarities and some differences between the cities geographies. Istanbul is surrounded by sea all sides with small hills dotted all around town. It is called by the locals “the city of 7 hills” but the rumors are that the name was originally used for Rome, the first capital of the Roman Empire but it was carried over from there to Istanbul with the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Eastern Roman Empire. Istanbul’s situation causes it to be humid so be prepared to sweat during your visit!



Ankara’s land is generally flat with some hills, there aren’t many forests in Ankara except for the northern parts of the city. You need to be careful about the sun there, you can get sunburns quite fast because of the lack of humidity in the air. During the summer the things that you need to be careful about are sun-rays and dust, some dust may be in the air because the hot seasons are also the dry seasons in Ankara.

Culture

The cultures of these cities are different because of their demographics. Istanbul is a vibrant city because of the occupation of its inhabitants the city is alive and moving at all times. Ankara is a city of government officials so late at night the city sleeps just like its people. Entertainment in Istanbul can be a night out to drink with family and friends for the white-collar private-sector workers. In Ankara, the pass-time would be to go out on a picnic with the extended family or make a barbecue in the backyard.



The eating habits of the two cities are quite similar due to them being metropolitans but there are also small differences. Ankara is a hub for people generally originating from central Anatolia, so the eating habits of these people have carried over here too. Bakery products are the main source of traditional food in Ankara. Istanbul has no such limitations as you can tell from the number of people living there, more than 3 times the population of Ankara, so I couldn’t name one kind of food that is dominant in Istanbul. Due to the locations of the cities sheep, beef and poultry are the general sources of meat for Ankara, fish is a well behind 4th place. In Istanbul seafood is more obtainable than Ankara especially on the streets.

Structure

The towns’ layouts are quite different from each other due to their locations. Istanbul’s layout is quite dense due to limitations of land with it being surrounded by seas. There are hills in Istanbul that might not seem real to you at the first look, they are covered entirely by buildings. Istanbul’s metropolitan area is one of the densest in the world. During workdays, some districts of Istanbul get as crowded as 1/3rd of the entire population of Ankara. The capital has plenty of lands to be laid out less dense. Ankara is the 3rd largest city of Turkey in regards to the surface area, so the metropolitan area is not as dense as Istanbul’s. Ankara has more green areas within the city contrary to Istanbul where the green areas are outside the city center. You will not see hills completely covered in buildings as you might see in Istanbul, but still, Ankara is not a sparsely populated town.

Which is the Better One

Ankara and Istanbul are two very similar and yet different cities. Istanbul has been a capital not only to empires but arguably to the world of old times due to its important location in trade routes. Ankara’s capital status is quite new in regards to Istanbul’s. Ankara is learning a lot from Istanbul about being a capital, it is a good thing that there is an example to show the way, but Ankara also develops its own way of being the capital of a country as young as it is with deep roots in history.



If you keep your expectations along with the reality of the subjects of this post you should have an enjoyable holiday in Turkey. A piece of good travel advice that I could give you for your visit would be to, visit Istanbul for about 4 days and nights, then go on to visit Ankara for 2 days and 1 night, after Ankara you can visit Capadoccia and the eastern parts of Turkey which contains a lot of traces of the many cultures that lived and prospered on these lands.

I could not say that one city is better than the other because what they offer is very different from each other. If you wish to experience them both, I would highly advise it, you could get one in a lifetime experience from the trip. Istanbul is full to the brim with history and natural wonders, the attractions are as diverse as it gets in this ancient city. Ankara has the unique features that give it the originality that it is attributed to. It is an authentic city that has been the spot from which Anatolia has been administered for centuries, it has been a political, religious, and trade center for the inner parts of the land.

The decision rests with you, which one do you prefer. You’re going to have to decide after you have seen both because they both are ready to give you an exceptional, splendid time during your stay. Istanbul with its rich history, natural and human-made wonders, beaches, and boat trips aplenty, or Ankara with its unique sides that lean in a specific direction, a reflection of the Anatolian life in a metropolitan setting. We both are absolutely not obligated to decide which one is better. You can love and like them both in their own aspects and for their own beautiful attractions that you seriously should not omit to see.

Istanbul Visit


If you like to travel and to explore, Istanbul is a must-visit city. It has a historical side to it that is unmatched by any other city in the world that just presents itself to its visitors, but rather than what you should visit during your stay in this ancient and marvelous city, we are going to delve into how you should visit this city and what can you expect to find.

Safety

First of all, we are going to talk about how safe and secure the city is. I bet that you too, wonder about how safe somewhere that you are going to visit is, just like me, so the first subtopic is naturally about safety. Istanbul is considered a relatively safe city in the league of the gigantic metropolitans that it competes in. There’s no denying that when there are so many people amalgamated together in an arguably small area, it attracts some misfits. Generally, those misfits happen in cases of pick-pocketing in the densest areas. Another form of criminality in the city is the fraud of the tourist hunters such as the over-priced restaurants, taxis, and the “guides” that will try to lead you to the shops that they own or work with. So in order to be safe in this city, there are 3 things you should be wary of;

  • Keep your purse or bag under your hand especially in dense crowds,
  • Keep some Turkish Liras on your person to avoid being shortchanged by the taxi drivers or some malicious server working in some overpriced tourist trap restaurant,
  • Don’t let yourself be lead to the extreme backstreets of the city after a “kind” local who was willing to give you a “tour”.


Before going on to our next topic, it will do you good to learn some conduct manners in the unfortunate event that you need help. The number that you should call in case of any emergency is 112, the equivalent of 911 in Turkey throughout, but in most cases, if you even dial 911 the operator directs your call to 112. You can get medical assistance, police, and fire department help from this number. If you are in no position to call for help via your phone, you can just ask for it from the locals, most of which will be eager to aid you. In order to ask for help, you can simply say “help”, most of the Turkish people will understand this word. The Turkish word for help is “imdat” (pronounced “eam-dot”) if you yell “eam-dot” people in especially touristy areas would be very attentive.

Value

Next, I will talk about what value you can get from visiting Istanbul, simply is it worth to take your time and spend your money on visiting this city. Imagine this, a city that was founded nearly 2000 years ago, excluding the times that it was still a “town”. It became one of the most important trading ports of the ancient and medieval world, it served as a capital city for two of the greatest Empires of those times, Byzantine (East Roman) and Ottoman. It houses the remains of these two Empires both on the ground and below it. In the city, there are both Byzantine churches, cathedrals, etc… and Ottoman mosques (like a cool trivia, the Hagia Sophia Church was one of the first examples of the “Domed” structures and it is the first example of architecture that features the use of domes on such a large scale).

I will list some of the structures and sites in Istanbul that are must-see in order to persuade you further and talk about some of them;

  • Hagia Sophia Museum ( it was made a museum by the decision of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk after the Republic of Turkey was founded).
  • Blue Mosque ( Sultanahmet Mosque)
  • Galata Tower
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Dolmabahce Palace
  • Maiden’s Tower
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Spice Bazaar
  • Anatolian and Rumelian Fortresses
  • The Bosphorus
  • The Belgrade Forests
  • Basilica Cistern
  • Taksim and Sultanahmet Squares

These and many more structures and sites are part of the charm of visiting Istanbul.



Hagia Sophia Museum
The most visited museum in Istanbul and Turkey the Hagia Sophia museum is an important building for two major religions in the world. The most important monument that succeeded to survive from the Byzantine Period of Istanbul is undoubtedly the Hagia Sophia, considered the eighth wonder of the world and also the most magnificent work of Byzantium. The work of Emperor Justirianus, who made the most important contributions to Byzantine Istanbul with Constantine, remained as the world’s most monumental structure for centuries with its size and splendor. It has survived many disasters such as fires and earthquakes in Istanbul and has reached modern times as a relic of the ancient world.

Sultanahmet Mosque ( The Blue Mosque )
Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which is one of the landmarks of Istanbul and located right across the Hagia Sophia Museum in Fatih district, was built between the years 1609 and 1617 with the order of Sultan Ahmet I, by the student of Mimar Sinan, Architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. It was built as a complex with madrasah (university), hospital, school, Turkish bath, freshwater fountain, public offices, shops, and the Sultan’s tomb. Some of these were added later.

The Galata Tower
The history of the Galata Region is as old as the inner wall. Galata, which was known as a settlement where Christians lived mostly in the Ottoman period, was a region covered with walls used by Genoese as a trade colony between 1273 and 1453. There are various rumors about where the name of Galata came from. The most accepted of these is that those coming from the people of “Galatian” settled in this region and gave their names to these lands. Another accepted rumor is that it came from the word “galasude”, which meant milk production in the Byzantine period. The fact that milk production was made in this region during the Byzantine Period meant that this rumor is accepted by many people. The Tower that takes its name from this region is believed to be built by the Genoese as and observation and defense building as the were sea traders.



Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace, which is an indispensable part of the list of places to visit in Istanbul for travelers interested in history and architecture, has been fascinating its visitors for centuries. Topkapı, which has been turned into one of the largest palace-museums in the world in the early years of the Republic, is waiting for you with its architecturally designed sections and the priceless collection it contains. The construction of Topkapı Palace, built on an area of 7.5 million square feet on the Eastern Roman Acropolis in Istanbul Sarayburnu, construction started in 1460 upon the order of Fatih after the conquest of Istanbul. It was completed in 1478, the palace was used as the administrative, educational and artistic center of the Ottoman Empire for about 4 centuries.

Maiden’s Tower
Maiden’s Tower is the historical building located in the middle of the Bosphorus, which has been the symbol of Istanbul for years. The Maiden’s Tower, which has been in construction for many years, is a work of the Byzantine era and its history dates back to 24 BC. It has been used for different purposes since the first day it was built and then repaired by the order of Ottoman sultans. The Maiden’s Tower, which has a cistern, had many useful purposes such as customs station, quarantine building, defense fortress, it also is a lighthouse that emits a red light that can be seen from 2.5 miles far.

The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar, which stands out with its magnificence and magnificence of its architecture, has been known as one of the most important trade centers of Istanbul for more than 500 years. The bazaar, which attracts shopping enthusiasts of all ages thanks to its content, also contains a rich cultural structure that dates back to the Byzantine Empire and developed during the Ottoman period. The history of the bazaar goes back to the Byzantine Empire. In the center of this place, which consists of a number of shops, there was a building called Cevahir Bedesteni. The first expansion works in the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest shopping places in the world were carried out in 1460 upon the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmet after the conquest of Istanbul. After the expansion, the bazaar, which started to be called Grand Bazaar, was built with another 15 sections.



For further information on Istanbul’s wonders you can check out some of the other posts on this site;

To conclude this heading, Istanbul is not only worth visiting but it is a must if you want to experience one of the most unique holidays of your life.

Money

One of the parts of planning a vacation at home country or abroad is to estimate how much money to have. Budgeting your trip beforehand will allow you to enjoy it without giving it much thought.
Around the time that this post is written (Spring 2020), the exchange rate is about 7 liras to the dollar. (10$ = 70 TRY). A mid rage meal costs about 20 to 40 Liras (3$ to 6$). Transportation can have a large variety of costs if you use public transportation and you wish to visit 3 spots in the city that are away from each other you should plan to spend about 30 to 40 liras (a generous estimate) in a day ( about 5 bucks ). You should set about 50 liras ( 7$ )to visit privately owned museums ( excluding the state-owned ones that you can visit with the Musekart). Generally, it should be enough if you set about 30$ for a day to visit the city. There are no known exchange office frauds in the city but you would do well to look up the rates online and prepare yourself for some small commission rates.

Istanbul Nights

Istanbul is a safe and whole different city at night. Some streets leading away from the Istiklal are known to have some bars running scams that result in the scammed to be asked for exorbitant amounts for little services. Istanbul has many bars and nightclubs that you can enjoy during your visit there. You can get more information about places to enjoy during the night here; https://goodistanbulguide.com/istanbul-things-to-do/



Alcohol

You can drink alcohol is most restaurants and all the bars in Istanbul. They serve wine, beer, and raki generally. For a pint of beer, you can expect to be charged about 25 liras ( 3-4 $). You should be careful about some restaurants that are specialized in raki and appetizers as some of them will not present you with a menu. You can get unpleasant surprises in some of these restaurants but do not hesitate to ask for the price of each item that comes to your table, they can try to imply that it is free but do not be shy about asking if it is free. Drinking on the streets is prohibited and monetary fines are applied to those who do drink on the streets. The legal drinking age in Turkey is 18, so you can get your drink from any shop and restaurant if you are past that age.

Healthcare

Istanbul’s hospitals are very well equipped. If you have traveling insurance most of the services are free of charge or costs just a token amount. If you call 112 you can call for an ambulance and there are operators that speak English. Food is generally very healthy in all places of the city, but be advised, to the unaccustomed plates the food might be too spicy or too oily so eat with consideration if you do not want to continue your trip with an upset stomach. Tap water is safe to drink in the city but the locals prefer bottled water because of the taste that they find unpleasant. The streets are fairly clean. As an added bonus, Istanbul is a city with many stray cats that are taken care of by the residents of the city. You will see many chubby and fluffy kitties on the streets that will not hesitate to come to you for pets, so it might be quite relaxing!

Hotels

The hotels in Istanbul are safe and well maintained. The prices for one night ( without breakfast) can vary greatly depending on the quality of the establishment. You can find international chains like Hilton, Wyndham, Mariott, etc… witch base their charges on the U.S. dollar. You can expect the nightly fees at these hotels to be around 100$. There are also local hotels that are as good as the chain ones and generally, you can stay at these for half of the price of the chain hotels ( about 50$). The only warning that I would give you would be to not stay at the hotels too close to the touristic attractions, those demand high prices for one night and the quality is less than desirable.

Shopping

Shopping in Istanbul can be very distracting and fun, but be careful because of the exchange rate you can spend more money than you wished for. Haggling is a must for most of your shopping in this city, especially in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. You can haggle down the price of some items such as giftable trinkets nearly to half. Except for the chain stores, you can engage in haggling with nearly every trader. You should absolutely try your hand at this because most of the shop owners in Istanbul see it as a fun pass time activity and are more likely to gift you some small amount of goods you’re purchasing as they will respect you more as a customer.



I will put the most important things that you should be careful about down in a list below;

  • Do not stay at hotels near touristic areas,
  • Avoid traveling by taxis, if you must, pay in Turkish Liras and don’t hesitate to exorbitant amounts and to tell that you will call the police,
  • Try to follow the locals and where they eat instead of restaurants in tourist hotspots,
  • Don’t be guilted into visiting people’s shops for helping you, the hint is in the name, it is indeed help, not a service,
  • Don’t pay the asked price for a giftable item on the streets, haggle it down,
  • Eat with care, although delicious, Turkish food might not suit some palates,
  • Be wary of where you carry your valuables, pickpockets are everywhere touristic in the world,
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for directions and help but don’t pay someone for pointing you in a direction or answering a question.

Generally, these are the most important things that get overlooked when visiting a city this big if you follow this advice you should have an enjoyable stay.

Next, I’m going to be talking about some of the special aspects that are often wondered about western tourists that plan a visit to Istanbul.
Turkey is a secular country and Istanbul is a very progressive part of it. Kissing in public, wearing shorts, mini-skirts will not cause you a problem in this city. However, in the mosques, those wearing short clothes will be expected to wear long skirts and headcovers before visiting them thoroughly. Kissing or shows of affection further than holding hands is inadvisable in any place of worship in Istanbul, mosques, churches, and synagogues.

The power outlets in Turkey are different from those in the U.S. Here the outlets are recessed in wall sockets and supply a voltage of 220V with European Type-C outlets. You might need a voltage converter and an adapter for your plugs in order to charge your devices. You can find these in some shops in Istanbul but I would advise you to bring your own for ease. Most of the restaurants, cafes, bars, and touristic public areas will have power outlets and some transports will even have USB sockets so you shouldn’t worry about being out of power.



Turkish people do not consume pork, it is both a religious and a cultural thing so it is rare to find such catering in Istanbul. Beef, chicken, and sheep meats are largely consumed meats by the Turkish people so you should have no problem finding your preferences. In recent years more and more restaurants included vegetarian and vegan meals to their menus so you won’t be hard-pressed to find such meals if you do not prefer to eat meat.

One other item that can come to mind before visiting Turkey, although the hijab is a common thing for Turkish people, it is not an obligation. Turkey is geographically close to the middle east but the culture in big cities is western-oriented. You can expect to find two sisters with one wearing a hijab and the other mini skirt. You are not expected to wear a special kind of clothing anywhere in the city except the places that I stated above.

In order to visit Turkey, if you are the citizen of the U.S.A. any European Union country and the U.K., you can get a one time, one month touristic visa at the gates of the airport. If you are not the beholder of the countries stated, but you have a Schengen visa, you can get the same one time visa at the gates as Turkey has integration protocols with the European Union.



The clothing that you should wear according to the weather will vary, Istanbul is a city that you can visit year long. If you travel in the summer, be advised that the city is quite hot and humid, you should prefer light clothes during this period of the year ( one exception would be at night if you cross the Bosphorus and winds can pick up and chill you to the bones). In the spring and fall, you should dress for rain and mildly cold weather, bring an umbrella (or you can buy them off the streets when it starts to rain most of the peddlers on the streets will bring out the umbrellas and single-use raincoats).

I hope that this post will help you with your visit to Istanbul and answered most of the questions that you had in mind. If you wish to get further information about what to do, where to visit, what and where to eat, stay or generally what to expect during your visit, don’t miss my other posts on this very same site. Safe-travels!

Best Places to Take Photos in Istanbul


If you are into making memories last forever, taking photos is a great joy for you! When it’s about taking photos, Istanbul is one of the best places that ever come to your mind. If you’re on your way to Istanbul but still have no idea about where, when and, how to take photos in this great city, you’ve come to the right place. Moreover, you will learn about the famous Istanbul photographers and will be inspired by their works while you’re taking your own pictures. Get ready to learn everything you need to know about Istanbul photos.

With its long history, natural beauties and worldwide famous places, Istanbul is a great corner of the whole world for you to take great photos. In Istanbul, with every step you take, you witness a whole history. Capturing moments from the pages of history will put you through time travel. If your camera is ready, press the record and we’re getting started! Here is a list of famous places in Istanbul to take the best photos.

  1. Galata Tower
  2. Bosphorus
  3. Pierre Loti
  4. Sultanahmet Square
  5. Topkapi Palace
  6. Istiklal Stret
  7. Belgrad Forest


Galata Tower

Galata Tower is one of the most significant symbols of Istanbul. As it is constantly associated with Istanbul itself, you might even recognize Galata Tower from the famous postcards of Istanbul.  When you visit Istanbul, don’t you want to take a great photo of the Galata Tower? If yes, here is everything you need to know about it. 

History

Galata Tower is formerly known as Isa Tower. It is said that the construction of the tower started in 500s A.D. However, the exact date is not clear. It was constructed as a result of the order of the Byzantine Emperor, Anastasius. What makes the tower that important and popular is the long history behind it. It is believed that Galata Tower is the oldest work of art in the region. Throughout history, the tower was used by various civilizations. These include the Ottoman Empire, Venetians, Romans, and more. The purpose of the use has shown a difference as time has passed. While it was used as a shelter by Christians, the Ottoman Emperor Murat III used the tower as an observatory. Later on, when it was finally owned by Turks, it was renovated. 


Galata Tower

Another interesting story about Galata Tower dates back to the 17th century. An aviator named Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi tried to fly with his own wings from the famous neighborhood of Istanbul, Uskudar to Dogancilar. With his wings made of wood, Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi chose Galata Tower as his starting point. It has been told for centuries that Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi managed to become the first person to fly with his own wings. This incident caught so much attention from all over the world. This might even be one of the reasons why the tower is one of the best landmarks in Istanbul.

Galata Tower is glamorous not only with its history and worldwide known incidents but also with its special features. While the height of the tower is 229 feet from the ground to the roof, the thickness of the walls is 12 feet. Under the deep holes, bones and skulls were found. Therefore, it is believed that the tower was also used as a dungeon in the past.

Legends About Galata Tower 

  1. According to the legend, If a boy and a girl get on the top of Galata Tower together for the first time, they will get married to each other. This legend comes from Roman times. Therefore, If Galata Tower is your first choice to take great photos in Istanbul, don’t forget to take your beloved one with you. 
  2. This legend is not only about Galata Tower. We also have another famous landmark, Maiden’s Tower. It is believed that Galata Tower and Maiden’s Tower are in love with each other but they can’t come together because they’re divided by Bosphorus. One day, Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi gets on the top of Galata Tower and takes the love letters written by Galata Tower with him and flies to Maiden’s Tower. Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi gives the letters to Maiden’s Tower, therefore Maiden’s Tower finally realizes that her love is not unrequited. From generation to generation, their love goes on and on. So just like in the legend, If you don’t want these two lovers to be separated, don’t forget to visit also Maiden’s Tower after taking great photos next to Galata Tower.

Maiden’s Tower

At any time of the year, Galata Tower is the best place to take photos in Istanbul. During summer and springtime, you can take great photos on the balcony and the beautiful sound of the birds will accompany you. Moreover, you will also have the chance to take great photos of old, historic buildings and Istanbul strait while you’re on the top of the Galata Tower.  

Location

Galata Tower is located in the Beyoglu district, Bereketzade Neighborhood and, Galata Tower Street in Istanbul. In case you need the exact address, here it is:

Bereketzade, Buyuk Hendek Street. Nu: 2, 34421 Beyoglu/Istanbul, Turkey

If you need to call for further information, there is also a phone number for you to make a phone call:
Phone Number: +90212 293 5707

Transportation

Beyoglu is one of the most famous districts in Istanbul. For that reason, you will have no difficulty in reaching the Galata Tower. The city offers you various alternatives for transportation. 

  1. If you use public transportation, you need to reach Taksim first. By walking for 15 minutes, you can reach the tower.
  2. If you’re coming from Kadikoy, you can take Karakoy ferry and after a 5-minute walk, you will reach the tower. 
  3. If you’re coming from Uskudar, you can take Karakoy ferry and after a 5-minute walk, you will reach the tower.

Fees and Charges

Galata Tower is open for its visitors from 9 am to 7 pm including weekends. The visit is not free but the fee is not too high. 

Turkish Visitors: 10 Turkish Liras (2 dollars)
Students: 5 Turkish Liras (0,7 cents)
Tourists: 25 Turkish Liras (4 dollars)
Free for children under 5 years old.

Bosphorus

It is no secret that Istanbul is always on the top 10 list with geographical location and importance. Istanbul Strait or in other words, Bosphorus has a huge function of connecting Asia and Europe to each other. This helps Bosphorus become even more important not only for Turkey but also for all the other countries. Throughout history, Istanbul Strait has always witnessed political, social, and commercial incidents. However, besides these important incidents, Bosphorus has a big contribution to social life. Both for local Istanbul people and foreign visitors, Bosphorus is always the best stop to spend quality time in Istanbul. But this time, we will talk about its just another huge function: A great landscape and is one of the best places to take great photos.



Either in the morning or at night, you can always take the best photos on Bosphorus. If you’re interested in nature photography, you can capture timeless moments, especially during sunsets and sunrises. If you want to get into this feeling more, don’t forget that you have a great chance to get closer to Istanbul Strait. Take ferry tours and capture the endlessness of the great blue water while you’re in the middle of the strait. You will also be accompanied by seagulls If you bring Turkish bagels which are called “simit” in Turkey. Just throw small pieces of bagels to seagulls from the ferry and enjoy witnessing this amazing moment and taking great photos of them while they’re eating enjoyable food. 

If taking an Istanbul Strait boat tour sounds like the best way to take great photos in Istanbul to you, then here are some options for you to enjoy a trip:

  1. You can start the trip from Eminonu to Kadikoy district:  You can find a new trip every 20 minutes on weekdays, weekends, and even on holidays. On weekdays, the first trip starts at 7 am and the last trip is at 9:10 pm. On weekends and holidays, the first trip starts at 7:10 am and the last trip is at 9 pm. 
  2. You can start the trip from Besiktas to Kadikoy district: You can find a new trip every 30 minutes on weekdays, weekends, and even on holidays. the first trip starts at 06:45 am and the last trip is at 11.45 pm every day of the week.
  3. You can start the trip from Uskudar to Eminonu district: You can find a new trip every 20 minutes on weekdays, weekends, and even on holidays. The first trip starts at 6:30 am and the last trip is at 10:30 pm every day of the week.
  4. You can start the trip from Karakoy to Kadikoy district: You can find a new trip every 10 minutes on weekdays, weekends, and even on holidays. On weekdays, the first trip starts at 6:10 am and the last trip is at 1 am. On weekends and holidays, the first trip starts at 7:10 am and the last trip is at 1 am.
  5. You can start the trip from Bostanci to Karakoy district: You can find a new trip every 50 minutes on weekdays, weekends, and even on holidays. The first trip starts at 6:55 am and the last trip is at 7:20 pm every day of the week.

Information 

For further information, you can also visit the website below or get in contact with the official call center. Moreover, there is even a number that you can send a text message and ask your questions.

Website: https://www.sehirhatlari.istanbul/en

Call Center: 153

For questions, send a text message to 1530.



Fees and Charges

These boat trips for Bosphorus are a part of public transportation in Istanbul. For that reason, you need to have a card called Istanbul Card to travel. In your Istanbul card, you need to have:

5,50 Turkish Liras (0,79 $) for Karakoy – Bostanci line
4 Turkish Liras (0, 57 $) for Karakoy – Kadikoy, Eminonu – Kadikoy, and Besiktas – Kadikoy lines.
3,65 Turkish Liras (0,52 $) for Uskudar – Eminonu line

Moreover, If you need more information about Istanbul Strait (Bosphorus) and traveling in Istanbul by ferry, check our other posts:
https://goodistanbulguide.com/istanbuls-strait/
https://goodistanbulguide.com/istanbul-by-ferry-vapur/

Pierre Loti

Pierre Loti is a famous hill in Istanbul where you can enjoy your time any time in a day. If the best landscape for your dream Istanbul photos is Golden Horn, you’ve come to the right place. Pierre Loti is famous for its cafe as you can not find a better place than this cafe to have a  better landscape. If you want to take the best pictures of Golden Horn, you can visit Pierre Loti and take great photos while enjoying your time and listening to the great silence of nature accompanied by the great landscape of Golden Horn.



History 

The hill takes its name from the famous French writer Pierre Loti. Pierre Loti is known for living in Istanbul for a long time and being a big Istanbul lover. His real name is Julien Viaud. According to the recorded information, the reason behind the fact that the cafe is very famous in Pierre Loti is actually related to the writer Pierre Loti. It is known that Pierre Lori was visiting this cafe very often. Back then, this cafe was called as “Rabia Kadin Kahvesi”. Moreover, there is also a street in Istanbul called Pierre Lori Street which shows us how important Pierre Loti is for Istanbul and Istanbul people.



Facilities

If spending a few hours sitting in Pierre Loti is not enough for you, there are some other facilities that it is served. These facilities include a place for accommodation, restaurants and some other cafes. 

  1. Turquhouse Hotel:  Located in Pierre Loti, this hotel will serve you a second home in Istanbul. You can feel and witness the atmosphere of Turkish houses in this famous hotel as the hotel is designed just like typical Turkish houses. Apart from its great landscape, the opportunity to reach the hotel by using the cableway will be just another unforgettable moment for you. In the morning or at night, you can take great photos in the cableway while you’re simply and comfortably on your way to your hotel.
  2. Aziyade Restaurant: Located in Pierre Loti, this restaurant is a great place for you to taste delicious foods from Turkish and Ottoman cuisine while enjoying the landscape at the same time. You have also the opportunity to have conferences,  weddings, or engagement parties at this amazing restaurant.
  3. Tarihi Kahve: What makes this cafe famous is the fact that famous writer Pierre Loti mentions this cafe in his novels. This cafe will be a great stop for you to spend some time, have some rest, and enjoy your time in Istanbul. You can also eat some Turkish food here like manti, gozleme (a food like a pancake).
  4. Nargile Evi: Especially during wintertime, you can enjoy smoking a hookah in this place.


Information

If you decide on Pierre Loti to spend your time and take unique photos, here is the information you need in order to reach the place, make reservations and further questions. 

Address: Pierre Loti Tepesi Turistik Tesisleri, Idris Kosku Street. 34050 Eyup / Istanbul

Phone Number: +90(212) 497 13 13

Email address: [email protected]

Website: http://www.pierrelotitepesi.com/index2.asp 

Sultanahmet Square

If you want your photos to witness the historical and religious places, Sultanahmet Square is the best place for you. If you visit Istanbul and don’t take photos of Sultanahmet Square, it will be a total waste of time. Sultanahmet Square is located in the Fatih district in Istanbul. You can take photos of famous mosques, historic palaces which were mostly used by famous pashas of the Ottoman Empire and fountains. If you want to know more about these famous places on Sultanahmet Square, keep reading!



  1. Palace of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha

If you visit Sultanahmet Square, don’t forget to visit the palace of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha. This enormous palace will put you in a time machine and take you to the old Istanbul in the 1500s. You will feel the atmosphere of the ancient Ottoman palaces and make this moment last forever by taking great historical photos.

History

Pargali Ibrahim Pasha was a famous pasha of the Ottoman Empire. He was also known for being the son-in-law of the emperor of the period, Suleiman The Magnificent. Ibrahim Pasha was married to the sister of the emperor. Ibrahim Pasha takes his name from the place he was born in, Parga. Parga is located in the Republic of Venice. Thus, that’s how Ibrahim Pasha takes his nickname. Pargali means “from Parga” in Turkish. So he’s simply called “Ibrahim Pasha from Parga”. Ibrahim Pasha is one of the most famous and successful pashas of the Ottoman Empire. He won various victories and he later became the second most important person for Ottoman Empire after the emperor. After getting married to the sister of the emperor, Suleiman the Magnificent, this palace, Pargali Ibrahim Pasha Palace was gifted to the newly married couple by Suleiman the Magnificent. Back then, the famous palace was known as At Meydani Sarayi which means At Square Palace in Turkish. Nowadays, the palace is used as a museum. 

Information

If your next stop to take historical pictures is Pargali Ibrahim Pasha Palace, here is all the information you need:

Address: Binbirdirek, Atmeydani Street. Nu:44, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey



2. Hagia Sophia

If you’re interested in different cultures, religions, and beliefs, Hagia Sophia will be your favorite place in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is currently a museum and mosque. With its long historical background and spiritual atmosphere, Hagia Sophia is one of the oldest and most famous historical artifacts in the whole world. If you ever visit Istanbul, don’t leave without visiting Hagia Sophia and taking photos. 

History

The long history of Hagia Sophia dates back to the Byzantium period. When Istanbul was under the control of the Byzantine Empire, it was built in the order of the emperor of the period, Justinian I in 532 AD. Firstly, it was built as a cathedral. However, later on, after the Ottoman Emperor Mehmed II conquered Istanbul in 1453, he turned the cathedral into a mosque. Since 1935, Hagia Sophia has served as a museum. The name of the museum comes from the Greek language. In Greek, Hagia Sophia means “divine wisdom”. Moreover, there are some special privileges. They are:

  1.  Hagia Sophia is the oldest cathedral in the world.
  2.  Hagia Sophia is the only cathedral that was built in 5 years. There is no other cathedral that is built in a shorter time. 
  3. Hagia Sophia is the biggest cathedral of all. 

Information

If you want to visit Hagia Sophia, here you will find the necessary information.

Address: Cankurtaran Street., Ayasofya Avenue, Sultanahmet Square Nu:1, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey
Phone Number: +90 212 522 17 50

If you want further information, check the website: 
https://muze.gov.tr/muze-detay?SectionId=AYS01&DistId=AYS

You can visit Hagia Sophia according to this timetable:

Summer Term:
April 1 – October 31:
Opening Hour: 9:00 am
Closing Hour: 7:00 pm

Winter Term:
October 31 – 1 April
Opening Hour: 9:00 am
Closing Hour: 6:00 pm

Note it down that the museum is not open on Mondays during the winter term. However, it is open to its visitors all week long during the summer term. Thus, plan your trip according to this information. 

Fees and Charges

As Hagia Sophia is a museum, there is a charge that you need to pay to visit. You need to pay 100 Turkish Liras (15 dollars) and you can get your tickets from the box office. Keep it in mind that the box office is closing at 6:00 pm during winter and at 7:00 pm during summer. 



Topkapi Palace

Istanbul is one of the most historic cities in the world. You can be sure that you come across a historical artifact no matter what direction you turn your head to. Topkapi Palace is just another famous, historical building that you need to see in Istanbul. Just like Pargali Ibrahim Pasha Palace, Topkapi Palace is also in Sultanahmet Square. We have already mentioned the Ibrahim Pasha Palace and its importance. This time, more importantly, we will talk about a palace that the Ottoman Empire emperors lived. If you want to know more about this great place that you can take many perfect photos, keep reading!

History 

Topkapi Palace was built in the order of the Ottoman Emperor, Mehmed II. It was built between the dates of 1460 – 1478. Until 1922, Topkapi Palace was the center of government and education. Moreover, it was served as a home to the Ottoman emperors. Later on, after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, in 1924 Topkapi Palace was turned into a museum by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. (Founder of the Turkish Republic) It is noted that the Ottoman Empire did not spend much money on the construction of Topkapi Palace so it is known as a “modest” palace. During the period, more money was spent on the construction of bridges, mosques, and caravansaries. 



Information

If you believe that you can not look into the future properly without knowing the past, Topkapi Palace will welcome you to the mysterious world of the past. There is no doubt that everyone would like to capture this amazing historical artifact so don’t forget to take great pictures. However, inside of the museum, you might not be allowed the take photos in some parts so be careful about following the rules. Here is the information you need for Topkapi Palace:

Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey

Phone Number: +90 212 512 0480 

Visiting Hours: 

Winter Term:
October 2 – April 1:
Opening Hour: 9:00 am
Closing Hour: 5:00 pm

Summer Term:
April 1 – October 2:
Opening Hour: 9:00 am
Closing Hour: 7:00 pm

Don’t forget that Topkapi Palace is not open on Tuesdays. Plan your trip accordingly. 



Fees and Charges

Here you will find the number of fees and charges to take a trip inside the Topkapi Palace Museum.

Topkapi Palace Museum: 100 Turkish Liras (15 dollars)
Harem (the part of the palace where women lived in the Ottoman Empire): 70 Turkish Liras (10 dollars)
Hagia Irene Museum: It is also another church that was turned into a museum in Istanbul. It is inside the Topkapi Palace Museum. If you want, you can also visit the Hagia Irene Museum: 60 Turkish Liras (8 dollars)

You can get your tickets from the box office. Keep it in mind that the box office is closing at 6:00 pm during winter and at 7:00 pm during summer. 

Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is a famous and very crowded street in Istanbul. It is so famous that when you watch a documentary about Istanbul, it is inevitable not to see or mention Istiklal Street. Being such a famous street makes Istiklal Street one of your highest possible best photo place.



History

Istiklal Street is located in one of the oldest districts of Istanbul: Beyoglu. This district includes 9 neighborhoods. Moreover, this street has a height of 242 feet. Just like other famous places in Istanbul, Istiklal Street also dates back to the Byzantine period. At first, there were people from other religions more than Muslims in this street but later on, the Muslim population has increased. In the 1960s, the street was open to car traffic but nowadays, no cars are allowed in the street. The most symbolic thing that belongs to Istiklal Street is the red tramway. On Istanbul postcards, you have a high chance to see Istiklal Street with a red tramway on it. However, after a while, this symbolic tramway became literally symbolic and stopped serving as a tramway. In the last years, even the symbolic tramway stopped working, unfortunately. But still, Istanbul Street is a great place not only for taking great photos but also for a lively nightlife.



Belgrad Forest

Although Istanbul is a great historical city, it is no secret that megacities like Istanbul sometimes lack green areas. If you like nature photography and want to spend your time among big, green trees, Belgrad Forest is the place that you’re looking for in Istanbul. This forest is located in Catalca Peninsula, Istanbul and it is preferred by people who like nature and want to spend some peaceful time when they get tired of the rush of the big city. If you want to take beautiful nature photos and spend some peaceful time and go on a picnic with your beloved ones, here is what you need to know about Belgrad Forest.



Back in time, the Ottoman Empire emperor Suleiman the Magnificient brought people from Belgrad to this place after his excursion of Serbia. Later on, many dams were furnished to supply the water needs of the empire. 

Today, Belgrad Forest is used as a picnic spot. You can get mesmerized by various types of trees such as pine trees, oak trees, poplar trees, and more. In Belgrad Forest, you can find restaurants, cafes, and sports fields. There is also a campground for those who love camping. During your camp, you can also see different types of animals and photograph these amazing animals in their habitat. 

Information

Although Belgrad Forest is a natural place, there is some information that you need to know for sure. Belgrad Forest is open all week long. You can visit any time you want 24/7. 

Address: Bahcekoy Yeni, 34473 Sariyer/Istanbul, Turkey

Phone Number: +90 212 226 13 14



Fees and Charges

According to your way of transportation, fees and charges might show some differences. Below, you can find the fees and charges.

If you’re coming by foot: It’s free. You will not need to pay any fee.
If you’re coming by car: You will need to pay 10 Turkish Liras (1,44 dollars)
If you’re coming by minibus:  You will need to pay 35 Turkish Liras (5 dollars)
If you’re coming by midibuses: You will need to pay 60 Turkish Liras (9 dollars)
If you’re coming by bus: You will need to pay 110 Turkish Liras (15 dollars)
If you’re coming by motorcycle: You will need to pay 8 Turkish Liras (1,15 dollars)

As it is stated above, you’ll be charge-free If you come on foot, however, don’t forget that you will need to walk for 1.2 miles from the entrance to the picnic spot. So it’s recommended for you to come using your car.

Famous Turkish Photographer

Ara Guler

Before taking your own photos, If you want to take a look at famous photography examples to get inspired, famous photographer Ara Guler and his photos will be your favorite. Ara Guler is a photographer who was born on August 16, 1928, in Istanbul. He is a worldwide known and prize-winning photographer. His photographs were published in different countries such as Germany and England. In 1994, his photograph book titled “Eski Istanbul Anilari” (Old Istanbul Memories) was published. Istanbul, famous places, and just random landscapes from the streets and people take a great part in his photography.

Consequently, you’ve read about some of the most popular, historical, and natural places that you can spend a good time visiting and taking photos in Istanbul. According to your understanding of great photos, you can find your own best place or places to take great photos in Istanbul. Whether you decide to take a natural photo in Belgrad Forest or a historical photo in Sultanahmet Square, it a fact that you will have the best photos ever either way because every single corner of this amazing city, Istanbul is the best place to take photos.

How to Get Visa on Arrival


Getting a visa without wasting so much time and energy is not a dream anymore If you’re reading this because you’re about to get informed about everything that you need to know to get a visa on arrival in Istanbul. Amount of money you need to pay, conditions and necessities, airports that you can apply for a visa in Istanbul and more is waiting for you just a click away! Keep scrolling down!

Istanbul catches so much attention from people of all nationalities, ages, and religions. This attention results in getting millions of visitors to Istanbul each year. If you wonder why Istanbul attracts this huge variety of people all over the world, you can check our other post and decide on your reason to get attracted by Istanbul.  
https://goodistanbulguide.com/istanbul-things-to-do/



If you find your own reason to visit this beautiful city, let’s talk about the things that you need to do. To visit Istanbul, there are some requirements as you expect. The first and most important one is getting a visa. Sometimes it might seem like it requires hard work and so much time but Turkey, a very welcoming country, makes sure that people from every corner of the world can have the opportunity to visit Istanbul, Turkey. Thus, the Turkish Government makes these legal procedures easier for its foreign visitors. Different alternatives are provided for travelers. Here is how to obtain these alternatives.

Can I Get a Visa on Arrival?

Forget about going to the consulates or embassies, spending long hours, tons of serious interviews, hard questions to be answered and everything you don’t like about getting a visa because you can get a visa at the airport when you land in Istanbul. This progress starts after you arrive in Istanbul.

How to Get a Visa on Arrival?

After getting off the plane, you will be directed to an office. At this office, you will find an officer that is waiting for you to help. By showing your required documents, you will be completing your legal procedures to get your official permission to enter Istanbul. At this point, you will be also expected to show up with your passport to finish your procedures with passport control. Moreover, don’t worry about finding your way. There will be signs and boards to show you the way. For example, you will see blue stripes on the floor on your way to the hall where arrival passengers wait and these stripes will lead you to the visa office. You can also keep an eye on a sign that says “Visa” to find your way. Moreover, feel free to ask directions If you are lost. Turkish people are known for being friendly and ready to help. If you can’t find anyone to help you, you can also use online maps below provided by airports in Istanbul to find the shortest way to get to the visa office.



For Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, you can use this map to find the place that you want to go and how to go there: https://inmapper.com/sabihagokcen/tr/
For Istanbul Airport, you can use this map to find the place that you want to go and how to go there: https://www.istairport.com/en/passenger/airport-guide/airport-map

When you arrive at the visa office, an authorized officer will be there to help you. In case you wonder, this visa office is open for all the passengers for  24/7 hours. Thus, don’t worry about the time of your arrival.

On the other hand, there is also another alternative for you. At the airport, you can get your visa quickly by using kiosks provided by Turkish Airlines. All you will need to do is to scan your passport, pay the fee and get your visa in a few minutes. If you prefer old-fashioned ways more and believe that getting things face to face is the best option, you can visit the office but using kiosks will definitely save more time.

Who Can Get a Visa on Arrival?

At this point, the country that you’re coming from has big importance as the opportunity that the Turkish government offers includes only a number of countries. If your country is on the list below, it means that you have the chance to get your visa on arrival. 

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Haiti
  • Ireland
  • Indonesia
  • Jamaica
  • Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • USA
  • Yemen

To keep up with the most recent updates and changes at regulations, don’t forget to check the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic. 

http://www.mfa.gov.tr/default.en.mfa

Is Turkish Visa on Arrival Free?

Just like when you’re getting a regular visa that you apply at an embassy, you will need to pay for a visa on arrival too. Thus, we can’t say that it’s free. For that reason, we advise you not to forget to bring enough amount of money with you while you’re coming.

How Much You Need to Pay for a Visa on Arrival?

This fee can show some changes from time to time according to the recent regulations and the currency rate but recently, the approximate amount is 200 Turkish Liras which equals 30 dollars.



How Can I Pay the Fee?

For payment, you have different options too. A debit or credit card is available for payment. You can also use cash.  However, keep it in mind that If you want to use the kiosks, you can only pay by your credit or debit card. Moreover, it is guaranteed that your card information will not be reserved or shared with anyone.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Visa on Arrival?

Normally, when you apply for a visa to Istanbul, first you need to get an appointment from the nearest Turkish Embassy or Consulate. However, as you don’t need an appointment for a visa on arrival, there might be a chance to wait in a queue. Nevertheless, don’t think that it will last for hours. Approximately, we can assume that you will get your visa in a maximum of 10 minutes. This might show some changes according to how busy is the office. If you choose the cheapest months to visit Istanbul, there will be a higher chance to wait for a bit longer while in line as the office will be busier with more visitors. If you want to know the cheapest and the most expensive months to visit Istanbul, you can read the post below for more information:
https://goodistanbulguide.com/istanbul-sabiha-gokcen-international-airport/



What Do You Need to Apply for a Visa on Arrival?

Getting your visa on arrival would be easier and quicker but it definitely doesn’t mean that you don’t need to declare some necessary legal documents. If you’re about to set out for Istanbul, make sure that you have these documents in your baggage. 

  1. Passport (It should be valid at least for a year)
  2. A hard copy of your passport
  3. You need to bring the visa application form and fill it completely. 
  4. Enough amount of money for the visa fee
  5. A document that proves your hotel reservation
  6. Your round-trip flight ticket
  7. At least 3 biometric photos
  8. Travel Health Insurance Documents
  9. A document that shows your bank account balance for the last 3 months at least.

Passport

Your international ID also is known as a passport is very important when it comes to visiting a foreign country. You can’t get a visa If you don’t have your passport with you even when you have all the other required documents with you. Moreover, the validity of your passport is also very important. It should be valid at least for a year and be careful about the blank pages in your passport. For each country that you visit, the visa officer will stick a stamp on your passport. If there are no empty pages left, you can’t use that passport and you can’t get a visa. Before starting your trip, don’t forget to make sure that you’ve done everything necessary.



How Long Is My Visa Valid?

If your purpose of the visit is to enjoy Istanbul and see this big, beautiful city that has witnessed different empires and civilizations, then you will need to get a tourist visa. There are different types of visa and the validity date of each visa is different. Here you will find different types of visa and you can decide on the visa type that you will get when you arrive in Istanbul.

  1. Visas for Visitors:  If your visit involves a tourist voyage or a business trip, it means that you will need to get a visitor visa. You can visit the country with this visa for 6 months.
  2. Visas for Students: If your visit aims to get an education in Turkey, then your visitor visa will not work. In special cases like getting an education, you will also choose your visa according to this purpose. 
  3. Visa for Workers Temporarily: If you will be in Turkey for a while to work in Istanbul, you need a work visa. This allows you to work in a certain amount of time. 
  4. Diplomatic Visa: If you are a diplomat and your purpose of the visit includes a diplomatic trip, then you will need a diplomatic visa.

The validity date for each type of visa can change in different countries. If we assume that you will visit Istanbul just for a touristic trip, then we can say that your visa will be valid for 90 days in 180 days. It simply means that with a visitor visa you can’t stay longer than 90 days in Istanbul in total.



Eligible Airports for Visa on Arrival in Istanbul

There are 3 widely known airports in Istanbul. These are:

  1. Ataturk International Airport (IATA)
  2. Istanbul International Airport (IST) – Located in Arnavutkoy
  3. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) – Located in Pendik

 However, there is no entry for domestic or international arrivals in Ataturk Airport anymore. In 2019, all the flights were transferred to the newly built Istanbul Airport. Since then, Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gokcen Airport have been the only two airports available for new visitors. For that reason, you can either fly to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Aiport If you want to visit Istanbul. Accordingly, only these two airports are eligible for a visa on arrival in Istanbul. 



E-Visa

If you don’t like to leave it to the last moment, there is an easy way to complete these legal procedures before arriving in Istanbul. A few years ago, The Turkish Republic announced that they will offer an opportunity for its foreign visitors. An electronic system called e-visa makes everything easier. By visiting the official website below, you will need to complete an electronic visa application form, pay the fee and complete your all procedures before even visiting an embassy. After completing the form, you will download your visa approval document. And by showing this official document, you will visit Istanbul. Here is the website:
https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

You might think that when you have a question, you don’t have anyone there to help you as you complete it all online but no need to worry because there is a section for you to get in contact with the officers on the website. By giving your personal information like your name, surname, document number, your country, you can ask your questions and you will be answered in a short while. However, don’t forget to send your feedback in English, no other languages are accepted.
https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/feedback/

You might wonder about other options to get a visa, there is one more here. Have you ever heard an invitation letter? If you haven’t, keep reading!



Invitation Letter

An invitation letter is a written document addressing the embassy of the country that you want to visit. However, this letter is not expected to be written by the visitors themselves, but by a resident that lives in that country. Thinking about Istanbul, we can simplify it like this: If you have a relative or someone you know from your home country living in Istanbul, Turkey, you can get an invitation letter from him or her to visit Turkey. This person needs to declare your name, surname, your purpose of the visit, your arrival, and departure date, etc. By providing an invitation letter to the Turkish Embassy, you will ensure that you have someone you know in Turkey and it will make you look more reliable. In a way, it will guarantee that you will come, visit and go back to your own country. However, don’t forget that an invitation letter doesn’t help you get a visa certainly. We can say that only an invitation letter is not enough. As a result of any other inconvenience, you might face a problem getting a visa. An invitation letter is just there to make it easier. 

As a result, we can say that there are different alternatives for you to get a visa to visit Istanbul. E-visa, regular visa provided by the embassy or a visa on arrival are known as the main and the most common options to get a visa for Turkey. You have got informed about the fee, required documents. This will help you find the best option that is suitable for you. Regardless of the option that you choose, Istanbul is waiting for you with open arms after getting your visa.

What’s Underground in Istanbul (Basilica Cistern)


When we walk in Istanbul, we actually walk above the past. It is possible to reach a hidden part of the history of thousands of years if you dig under your feet anywhere. Because the underground is full of Roman and Byzantine artifacts. The Ottomans never built a cistern and had little to none secret underground tunnels. Therefore, Istanbul has an underground background that focuses on Byzantine heritage. The major example of this would be the Basilica Cistern. It is located right next to the great Hagia Sophia and can be accessed ( and also seen in some parts ) from the Sultanahmet Square.

The Basilica Cistern is a massive water reservoir that is nearly 1500 years old. It is filled to the “brim” with secrets wonders. Let’s talk about it;

The Basilica Cistern covers a total area of nearly 100.000 square feet. The cistern, which has a water storage capacity of nearly 100,000 tons, can be reached by descending a stone ladder that has 52 steps. The interior of the building is supported by 336 columns, each 30 feet high and 15 feet apart. Most of these columns, which were added to the structure in 28 rows, including the Medusa Heads, which were the subject of legends, were collected from the structures considered to be old at that time.



Due to this situation that adds variety to the building in terms of architecture, you can easily notice the column heads with Corint and Dor style while visiting the building. The ceiling of the cistern is supported by arches so that it can carry the weight. Horasan Mortar was poured in a very thick way to ensure the waterproofing of its base constructed using bricks and its 15 feet thick walls.

The magnificent cistern, which is 450 feet long and 200 feet wide, is known as the “Basilica Cistern” because of its old religious structure. When talking about the structure that can be considered huge compared to its counterparts, the use of the name “Basilica Palace”, which is derived from its columnar structure, is also quite common.

The History

Built-in 532 by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinianus, the cistern was used to meet the water needs of the Grand Palace. During the construction process, water was provided to the gigantic structure, where 7,000 slaves were employed, through 2 arches that extend to the Taksim Square from the Belgrad Forests, 11 miles from the city. One of these arches were built by the order Emperor Valens was 3100 feet, the one ordered to be built by the Emperor Justinianus was 350 feet long.

After the city passed under the Ottoman rule in 1453, the cistern continued to be used for a short time in order to meet the water needs of the gardens in Topkapi Palace. However, when the idea that it was contrary to Islamic rules became widespread in the Ottomans, the use of the structure was abandoned. The discovery of the Dutch P. Gyllius, who came to Istanbul between 1544 and 1550 to investigate the Byzantine ruins, caused the building, which was abandoned to its fate after the Ottomans set up their own systems, gained fame among the Westerners.



The cistern, whose reputation gradually increased after the explorer explained the information about the building in his travel book, underwent 2 major renovations during the Ottoman period. As a result of an accident that occurred during construction work in the area between 1955 and 1960, there was a danger of collapse in 8 columns from the northeastern wall of the building. The traces of this event, where the columns are covered with a thick layer of concrete, are still clearly visible.

The cistern, which is the frequent destination of cultural tours, was added to the cleaning and restoration work carried out in 1987 within by the municipality. Since then, the cistern was opened to the public and hosts artistic events as well as tours. These events are comprised of concerts, galleries, readings, etc. If you want to reach further information about these events you can access their website here: https://www.yerebatan.com/en

The Artifacts

The most interesting part of the cistern is the Medusa Heads, which are placed under the two columns in the northwest corner for support.
Despite various studies conducted on the structure of these column heads, it could not be determined from which structure they were brought here. As the popularity of these pillars has increased over time, it was not long before legends based on Greek mythology have been speculated on these heads.

According to the most famous of these legends, Medusa was one of the most beautiful women of ancient times with her jet black eyes and long hair. Medusa, who had loved Zeus’ son, the demigod Perseus, was sentenced to an eternal curse by the jealous Athena. While Medusa’s long hair turned into a snake as was stricken of her beauty by the wrath of Athena, her gaze began to turn the men who dare to look at her into stone. It is believed that Medusa, one of the most famous characters of Greek mythology, was one of the Gorgon monsters, which, according to a legend, had the power to turn the gazers into stone, while the Gorgon paintings and sculptures were used to preserve large structures and private places, and therefore it is thought that the sculptures were placed for this reason.

In this version of the story, it is mentioned that the mythological entity is one of the 3 female monsters in the underworld. Another section that I think you might be interested in during your Basilica Cistern trip is the column decorated with various carvings and reliefs. It was previously believed that this column, with teardrop-shaped patterns on it, represented hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the building.



At the endpoint of the cistern are “peacock eyes” made of carvings and reliefs and “tear stones”. The tear column, also known as the “Weeping Column”, gives the appearance of crying because of its moisture condensation on it. There is a wishing pool right behind the tear column. You can feel like walking on the water on the sightseeing platform during the cistern’s tour. The colorful fish in the cistern fascinate those who visit. As soon as you enter the cistern, you continue to explore with more confident steps, feeling that you have caught the mystery of history from the first step. When you come to the middle of the stairs after you start walking in the cistern, you must be ready to discover the biggest cistern of Istanbul. The arrangement of the columns creates a fascinating atmosphere thanks to the successful lighting system. The Basilica Cistern, which had witnessed two empires with its historical features and interesting stones and columns, is one of the frequently visited museums today.

Transport

The cistern is located in Sultanahmet Square. The most practical method to reach the historical building, which has the Hagia Sophia Museum on the one hand and the Blue Mosque on the other, is to use the tram running between Kabatas and Zeytinburnu. After getting off at Sultan Ahmet Station, you can reach the cistern after a short walk. Other options for those who prefer to use public transportation are Marmaray with the city buses going to Eminonu. If you want to use your own vehicle to go to the most original building of the Historic Peninsula, you can choose from the parking lots around Topkapi Palace or Eminonu.

Opening-Closing Times and Fees

Due to its cultural content, 5 TL is requested from students who want to visit the building, which you can add to the list of places to visit in Istanbul, and 10 TL from adults. Foreign travelers need to pay 20 TL to enter the building. Since it is not affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, the facility is excluded from the scope of Muzekart. The Basilica Cistern Museum is open to visitors 7 days a week. The only exceptional application for visiting the underground structure, which you can visit between 09.00-17.30, is valid for the first day of the holidays. The building opens at 13.00 noon in the first days of Ramadan and Eid holidays.

Other Underground Structures in Istanbul

Given Istanbul’s history, there are many other underground structures beneath its visible sites. The most important ones are;

  • The already covered “Basilica Cistern”
  • Seferikoz Cistern
  • Magnaure Palace Remains
  • Zeyrek Cistern
  • Hagios Minas Church
  • Anemnas Dungeons
  • Theodosius Cistern
  • Philoxenus Cistern

The Seferikoz Cistern; The impressive 11th century Byzantine Cistern is now under Kadir Has University. Seferikoz Cistern, which was used as a tobacco and food warehouse after losing its cistern function, is also a part of the Rezan Has Museum. It is open to visitors but can be photographed only with special permission.



The Magnaure Remains; 2,300 years old Magnaura is known as part of the Grand Palace. It is located under a carpet store in Sultanahmet. High walls surrounded by greenery, ruins passing through a dark passage to visitors.

The Zeyrek Cistern; Dating back to 1105s BC, Zeyrek Cistern is located in the Cibali District of Fatih, Sarachane. Many people are unaware of this historical place, which is the only example of a cistern in Istanbul with three unique facades with water collection galleries above ground and inside.

The Hagios Minas Church; The building in Samatya is thought to be one of the oldest churches in Istanbul. A church serving the Greek Orthodox faith was built on the Byzantine church in 1834. This building, built by architect Konstantin Yolasigmasis, is located on Samatya, Bestekar Hakkı Bey Street.

The Anemas Dungeons; The Anemas Dungeons in Balat are the only underground dungeons of the city. It is also exceptional and creepy, with underground tunnels, labyrinth cisterns, and torture chambers. Anemas Dungeons are part of the Blakhernai Palace complex, also known as Tekfur Palace. In addition to being the only underground dungeon left in Istanbul from the Roman period. It has exceptional features with underground tunnels, labyrinth cisterns, and extremely narrow torture chambers. According to some claims, the tunnels of Anemas Dungeons stretched all the way to Hagia Sophia in Sultanahmet Square. It was even veined beneath all of Constantinople like a spider web. Many historians and archaeologists say that there are underground roads in Istanbul, built both during the Roman and Ottoman eras, although it cannot be fully revealed and proven. Were these roads really so extensive, did Anemas Dungeons stretch 7 times below ground even at that time? It is really hard to know. Even now, it is not very difficult to come across some parts of them during excavatşon for a metro line.



The Theodosius Cistern; It was built between the years 428 and 443, by the order of Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius the 2nd. It is one of the important buildings built with the Binbirdirek Cistern (4th century) and the Basilica Cistern (the 6th century). Visiting is free. Currently, there is no touristic establishment in the cistern. The cistern, quite well-aerated and has nice lighting. In this way, we are able to enjoy the architectural beauty of the cistern.

The Hours and How to Get There;

The Cistern is open between 10:00 am and 7:00 pm. You can visit the cistern, which is also open on holidays, whenever you want. The entrance fees of the cistern are; for Turkish citizens 10 TL, For Foreign Tourists 20 TL. Transportation is very easy. After arriving in Eminonu with Marmaray, you can come here on foot. If you want to get on the tram, you have to get off at Sultanahmet stop and from there you should walk about 5 minutes in Peykhane Street direction. When you get on the subway, you can get off at Aksaray stop and take the Eminonu Tramline, after reaching Sultanahmet stop, you can reach the cistern by walking for about 5 minutes. It is very easy to reach the cistern on Piyerloti Street in Fatih’s Cemberlitas district.

The Philoxenus Cistern; The cistern, built in the 4th century, according to Byzantine sources, is the second-largest cistern in Istanbul. The cistern, which has 224 columns inside and has a total size of 38.00 square feet, it has served as a workshop since the 16th century after it was dried. It’s also known as the “1001 Pillars Cistern” in Turkey because of its many columns. The columns in the cistern are combined with pyramid-like headers that consist of two bodies and have no engravings on them. However, there are various signs on the columns. It is stated that these signs belong to the workers working at the time the cistern was built. The cistern located to the west of the hippodrome was cleaned and opened to visitors in the past years. The cistern, which is quite easy to navigate and has an interesting beauty, has managed to survive the years from the 4th century to the time of Constantine the Great. 212 of the 224 columns in the cistern have survived to the present day. In the cistern, there are also sections such as cafes and exhibition areas.



How to get there: You can easily go here by using public transportation;

  • To go to the cistern by tram, you can get off at Sultanahmet Tram Stop (about 300 feet), Cemberlitas Tram Stop (about 900 feet) or Gulhane Tram Stop (about 1800 feet).
  • To go to the Cistern by using IETT Buses; you can reach the cistern by getting off at the Cattikapi Bus Stop (about 1800 feet), Beyazit Bus Stop (about 2000 feet), Akbiyik Bus Stop (about 2500 feet).
  • To get to the cistern by train, you can get off at Sirkeci Train Station (about 2500 feet).
  • To get to the cistern using Marmaray, you can get off at Marmaray Sirkeci Station (about half a mile).

Walking on History

As I mentioned at the beginning, Istanbul is a very ancient city, it has been the capital of three major empires; Eastern Roman, Byzantine ( which is a successor to the former ) and Ottoman. The Ottoman Empire did not have the tradition of building underground structures, hence, most of what is found under the city are from Roman and Byzantine periods. The reason for this, especially about the water reservoirs such as cisterns, is that the Turks had and still have the idea that stagnant water is not as good as running water. That’s why during the Ottoman Empire period the water structures that were built have been the arches to transport fresh water to the city. Although nowadays dams are being built in order to meet the water requirements of this city of 15 million, they are still considered better than underground water storage.



Because of this belief, and other religious and cultural ones, the Turks of the Ottoman era preferred to use the cisterns as mostly warehouses or just let them be filled with mud, which would be later cleaned during the Republican times in order to “reclaim the history of the city”. As you can see from the example of the Hagios Minos Church, Turks did not reform the “sacred” buildings, instead, they rebuilt other religious buildings on top or around the old one.

In order to cover all of Istanbul’s underground wonders I would have to write a book about them, unfortunately, this is neither the place nor I’m the expert to do so. Although I’m going to try to spark some interest in you, there are still many places and artifacts to be explored, who knows maybe in the future they will be opened to visitation and then you can re-visit this city and feel like you have been part of the discovery process.

One of the most coveted and subject to local legends are the “corridors” under the Hagia Sophia. These rumors are based on the imagination of the local populace and lack of study of these “corridors”. The historians and the archeologists that have had the chance to study and explore these structures are convinced that these generally were used as the city’s water infrastructure, freshwater canals or sewages. As you may have noticed a pattern until now, most of these underground structures are found under and around the Sultanahmet Square, the square is located near the tip of the Historical Peninsula ( Golden Horn ). The “old” city has been established on this peninsula because it was the most defensible location ( it was only conquered in 1453 by the most technologically advanced Empire in the world at the time, so the ancient kings and empires that located their palaces on the Horn were somewhat right don’t you think? ), they set their palaces within the fortifications that line the shore of the ancient city. Many contemporary stores and buildings are built on top of the old remains, some get discovered only by chance when the store owner or the owner of the land decides to put an addition. Here are some of the “lucky” finds ( most of which are not even names other that academically and more of which are closed to the public because they are on private properties that can only be accessed by academics ) ;



  • The palace remains under a parking lot in Sultanhamet ( some experts believe that these remains if excavated, can lead up to the Magnaure remains under the carpet store )
  • The basement of an old shopping center ( Kafar Han ) which is also an old Byzantine cistern. Limited visitations are possible as the center is still being used up to this day.
  • The remains of The Philoxenus Palace ( 4th and 5th centuries) that run under the Peykhane Street in Cemberlitas. These remains can be accessed through some of the modern buildings on the street. A small room under Servet Han is being used as the boiler room of the building. A part of the baths of the Palace is nowadays under a carpet manufacturer’s shop and is being used as its lunch hall. The remains have been somewhat restored by the owner of the shop.
  • Sultan’s Cistern under Ali Naki Street in Fatih. The cistern has been used by weavers and woodworkers in the past. It has been left in ruins for a long time. It has reopened in 2007 as a wedding venue after 7 years of restoration.
  • The remains of a church under a cafe. Even the academics could not access it at the time, the building is separated by the foundations of the adjacent buildings.
  • The palace remains that were uncovered after a fire in a shopping center. These remains continue under the “Antik Hotel” and are open for visitations. The remains under the hotel are nowadays being used as the hotel’s restaurant. You can check it out through their website here: http://www.antikhotel.com/

To conclude, Istanbul’s underground it as rich as its surface for those who are curious to explore. The cisterns that have been built for both water storage or for simply to level the ground for a future construction establish a major part of the city’s underground richness. When you visit be sure to check out as much as you can but keep your senses keen, as you might never know, maybe you can find some “corridor” that has been lost for centuries.