Istanbul is one of the leading cities in the world in terms of historical and natural wealth. It has created a unique order in chaos with its increasing population day by day and the urban texture that has become chaotic accordingly. Generally, touristic spots are gathered in the region called “Historical Peninsula”. Although it has been discussed to close this area to traffic in the past, no decision has been taken in this direction. You can see the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the old and the new side by side in almost every point of this city where the West and the East meet. If you dream about a vacation in Istanbul, keep reading this guide.
The most famous buildings in the city, which are among the places to visit in Istanbul, are all within walking distance. The region called the Historical Peninsula forms the borders of Byzantine Istanbul. Fatih entered the city on horseback with a great welcoming ceremony and visited Hagia Sophia. After that, Hagia Sophia was the first visit point in the city as a tradition. The rest of our list of places to visit includes the most important sightseeing spots such as Galata Tower, Istanbul Archeology Museum, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, palaces such as Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, parks such as Gülhane Park, Emirgan Park, squares and museums. You can find detailed information about these places and more in the rest of the article.
A Vacation in Istanbul: Transportation
In Istanbul, intracity road and sea transportation are coordinated by IETT. In addition, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Bus Corporation and minibusses play an active role in transportation. The rail system in Istanbul is coordinated by Istanbul Transportation Inc. within the body of IMM. Municipal buses, Metrobus under the IETT and metro, tram, and Marmaray services under Istanbul Transport. At the same time, transportation between some regions on the European and Asian sides and between the Islands is carried out by ferry services under IETT.
Urban transportation in the city started in 1869 with the establishment of the Dersaadet Tramway Company and the construction of the Tunnel Facilities. After being operated by foreigners for a while, this company gained a new structuring with the law numbered 3645 in 1939 under the name of Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel (IETT). There is one airport on both sides of Istanbul. Atatürk Airport serves on the European side and Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Anatolian side. In addition, the work of the third airport in the city continues. You can reach the city from the airports by HAVABUS and the metro. To reach Atatürk Airport, you can use the Yenikapı – Airport metro line, as well as easily reach by taxi and private airline vehicles.
You can reach the Yenikapı-Airport metro by transferring from the Anatolian side by Marmaray and from the European side by Metrobus, tramway, and other metro lines. Transportation routes to Sabiha Gökçen Airport are more limited. HAVABUS departing from Kadıköy and Taksim, airport buses, and taxis are the options used for transportation. Apart from these, works are continuing to extend the Kadıköy – Tavşantepe Metro Line and to construct it up to Sabiha Gökçen. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport is 14 km away from Pendik Train Station and you can reach the airport from here by taxi.
There are extensive public and private transportation opportunities in Istanbul. There are bus and metro lines, trams, ferries, and minibus options. You will need to use a token each time you board a tram, subway, or ferry covered by the public transport system. You can buy tokens from the toll booths or machines at bus, subway, or train stations. If you are going to stay in Istanbul longer than a few days, it is a good idea to have an Istanbulkart. This card can be used on public transport and gives you the option to transfer between public transport or lines for free or at a discount. Istanbulkart can be bought and refilled from all major buses, tram, or metro stations as well as some newspapers near these stations.
There are two types of public buses, the public buses operated by the private sector operating in Istanbul and the public buses operated by IETT, and you can distinguish these buses by their colors. While blue-green buses with yellow non-electronic route signs are private-public buses, buses operated by IETT appear in a wide variety of colors like red and blue buses, as well as newer green buses and double-decker buses. Metrobus is a long hybrid bus that operates on its own lane separated from all other traffic and thus saves a lot of travel time.
Sea transportation is widely used in Istanbul. With sea transportation, you can avoid traffic and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Bosphorus. Ferryboats connect the two sides of the city by sailing from several piers; In addition to these trips, there are also trips to the Islands. In addition to ferries, there are also Istanbul City Lines, sea bus (IDO), and special engine options.
A tram line (T1 line) connects Kabataş to Zeytinburnu, where you can transfer to the metro line to get to Atatürk Airport. This line has 24 stations and serves popular tourist spots like Sultanahmet and Eminönü. There are two trams operating on a separate line; Line 38 runs along the entire T1 line between Kabataş and Zeytinburnu. Line number 47 runs between Eminönü and Cevizlibağ stations. Both trams stop at stations in the Old City. In addition, there are two more tram lines connecting residential and industrial areas to the city center in the northwest: T2 line reaches Bağcılar district and the T4 line reaches Sultançiftliği district and connects to Zeytinburnu and Topkapı stations on the T1 line.
The Istanbul metro consists of two lines: the north line connects Yenikapı to Hacıosman via Mecidiyeköy and Levent. In addition, there is a funicular system that connects Taksim to Kabataş, where you can get on the ferry to get to the Anatolian side and also transfer to the tram to the old city. Another funicular system, “the Tunnel”, operates between Karaköy and İstiklal Caddesi. The tunnel is Istanbul’s first underground system and has been used since 1875. A separate south Metro line connects Aksaray to Atatürk Airport via Esenler Bus Terminal, which is the main bus terminal. On the Asian side, the M4 metro line is now operational and connects Kadıköy to Tavşanca.
A Vacation in Istanbul: Accomodation
Considered among the world’s most beautiful cities, Istanbul is also in the first place among the most popular tourist areas of Turkey. When it comes to places to visit in Istanbul or things to see in Istanbul, there are many attractive opportunities from cultural and entertainment opportunities to historical and architectural beauties, from shopping to eating and drinking, from nightlife to nature. In order to visit Istanbul, which is home to so many must-see things and is a very large city in terms of surface measurements, you should definitely make your accommodation area choice in Istanbul in the most pleasant and comfortable way.
After finding an answer to the question of where to stay in Istanbul, your business will be easier with Istanbul hotels because there are many hotel options in Istanbul that appeal to every budget and taste. “Where to stay in Istanbul?”, “Which are the ideal accommodation areas to visit Istanbul in the easiest and most comfortable way?” If you are confused by such questions, the Istanbul accommodation areas I have listed below will help you determine which region you should choose for hotel selection in Istanbul.
Beşiktaş is one of the most central and vibrant districts of Istanbul. Whether you are traveling to Istanbul for business or a touristic plan, you can choose among Beşiktaş hotels for accommodation and visit Istanbul in the most enjoyable way. If we briefly talk about the features of the Beşiktaş region, it is possible to find everything you are looking for here. There are many alternatives especially for shopping, eating and drinking, and nightlife in Beşiktaş Çarşı. Even considering details such as “Where to eat in Istanbul?” Or “Istanbul nightlife”, we can say that many special places are in Beşiktaş.
Ortaköy is one of the most preferred regions for accommodation in Istanbul. It is definitely ideal for the answer to the question of where to stay in Istanbul, both when it comes to transportation to places to visit in Istanbul and when considering the alternatives around the hotel. If you want to be close to the most active places in Istanbul and not to be in that mess, you can book a hotel in Ortaköy.
Let’s continue with Taksim, one of the most popular areas of Istanbul. Although the historical texture and atmosphere of the past do not remain today, Taksim is still the most touristic area that comes to mind when Istanbul is mentioned. Taksim, which contains culture, entertainment, shopping, eating and drinking, and many other alternatives, which can be called the most active area of Istanbul day and night, is one of the places that can be preferred for accommodation in Istanbul.
Karaköy is one of my personal favorite areas in Istanbul. From shopping to eating and drinking, from museums to entertainment venues; It is a region where you can find everything you are looking for and be away from the complex of Istanbul. Especially with the changes it has gone through in recent years, it started to host many new places, both modern and traditional.
- Eminönü and Sirkeci
Another alternative that I can recommend for those wondering where to stay in Istanbul is Eminönü and Sirkeci, which are among the most valuable districts of Istanbul. Eminönü and Sirkeci, located in the region called the Historical Peninsula, are ideal for those who love busy and dynamic areas. You can discover the spirit of Istanbul by staying in Eminönü and Sirkeci with its historical bazaars, pleasant streets, architectural textures, food, and beverage alternatives.
Sultanahmet is one of the most preferred regions for accommodation in Istanbul by tourists and travelers. If you want to stay in a historical area and be as close as possible to historical buildings in Istanbul, you should take a look at the Sultanahmet hotels. Sultanahmet is the most important and popular tourist area of Istanbul with its historical buildings, architectural wonders, museums, and different opportunities from shopping to eating and drinking within its borders.
Kadıköy, the most central region of the Asian side with its shopping, eating and drinking, nightlife, culture, and entertainment opportunities, is one of the ideal recommendations we can give for the question of where to stay in Istanbul. If you want to discover the young and energetic side of Istanbul, you can look at accommodation alternatives in Kadıköy. There are many more original and innovative options in Kadıköy, instead of the classic shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. that you can find in almost every district of Istanbul.
Üsküdar, located on the opposite side of Beşiktaş, is one of the most ideal districts in terms of transportation on the Anatolian Side, considering the touristic places and the most popular places in Istanbul. If you are to ask “Where to stay in Üsküdar?”, I can say that Üsküdar Iskele surroundings (Üsküdar Sahil), Beylerbeyi and Kuzguncuk.
A Vacation in Istanbul: Activities
Visitors to Istanbul may find it difficult to grasp the size of the city at first glance. Especially foreign visitors are amazed by the abundance of options while preparing a list of activities to be done in Istanbul. There is a 24-hour life in this mega-city with a population of over 15 million. In some parts of the city, the streets are desolate at night, while in other parts the movement continues until morning. In order to fully feel the energy of Istanbul, it is necessary to spend time in Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Ortaköy, or Kadıköy districts in the evening. Because Sultanahmet, where historical artifacts are located, is silent after 23:00, except for the month of Ramadan. Here are the activities to be done in Istanbul:
Things to do in Istanbul include lots of walking. As a tourist guide, I recommend you to go to the places you will visit without a car as possible. The best way to get to know a city is to walk. Every street of districts such as Sultanahmet, Fener-Balat, Karaköy-Galata is full of history. If you drive to your activities in Istanbul, you may miss many details to discover.
One of the most beautiful things to do with a lover in Istanbul is to go on a Bosphorus tour. When it comes to traveling the Bosphorus by boat or ferry, we come across two options. One of them is to participate in the 1.5-hour tour with the Turyol boat. Turyol’s Bosphorus tour boats depart from Eminönü and Üsküdar. After continuing to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, they return. The second option is to go to Anadolu Kavağı by the Private Travel Ferry of the City Lines departing from Eminönü. This activity will last about 6 hours and takes your whole day. However, a 3-hour break at Anadolu Kavağı is enjoyable. You can climb Yoros Castle and eat fish by the sea.
All local and foreign visitors who come to visit Istanbul start from Sultanahmet to explore the city first. Of course, when we consider historical artifacts such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapı Palace, they are not unfair. The most important place of the Historical Peninsula, which was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, is of course Sultanahmet. It offers exquisite Instagram shots to those who want to visit historical monuments in Sultanahmet and take photos in Istanbul.
After a stroll in Sultanahmet, it is customary to go to the Grand Bazaar and crown the day with shopping. With its history dating back to 1461, the Grand Bazaar attracts people like a magnet. Even people who wait in long queues in Sultanahmet’s museums and get tired during the day cannot resist the desire to shop in the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar, a huge historical monument with 67 streets and more than 3000 shops, is the last representative of the traditional shopping style to date.
Fener and Balat are two districts that have become increasingly popular in recent years. These neighboring districts can be easily visited with a walking tour that will take a few hours. These two districts, which reflect the Ottoman period Istanbul in the best way, are of great historical importance. Fener Balat districts represent the mosaic structure of Istanbul with its mosques, churches, and synagogues located in neighboring streets. These districts, in which non-Muslim Ottoman citizens lived in the past, have a considerable cultural heritage. Walking Fener Balat is one of the top weekend activities in Istanbul.
Both the Anatolian and European coasts of the Bosphorus are very active on weekends. “Breakfast Culture”, which is a very large participant of Istanbul, shows itself all over the city on weekends. Although there are great breakfast facilities in Galata, Cihangir, Sultanahmet, or Kadıköy, which are not adjacent to the Bosphorus, of course, there is no substitute for breakfast on the Bosphorus. On the European side, Ortaköy, Bebek, and Rumeli Hisarı host the best breakfast places. On the other hand, the Anatolian Side is in a sweet competition with the other side, with its distinguished neighborhoods and groves such as Beylerbeyi, Çengelköy, and Anadolu Hisarı.
With the rise of tourism in Istanbul since the early 2000s, dozens of hotels were opened and historical baths were restored. The most beautiful Turkish Bath, which has been restored and brought to tourism in recent years, stands out as the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Bath, which is adjacent to Hagia Sophia. This bathhouse, which is adjacent to Sultanahmet Park, was built by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century. In addition, Çemberlitaş, Cağaloğlu, Süleymaniye, Kılıç Ali Paşa, and Galatasaray Baths are among the historical baths of Istanbul.
In the upper lines, we talked about having breakfast on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. One of the things to do in Istanbul on the weekends is having breakfast in Ortaköy; It must be one of the most enjoyable things to take a walk to Bebek or to Rumeli Fortress. Arnavutköy, which stretches between Ortaköy and Bebek, is the track where activities such as walking and jogging on the Bosphorus will be the most enjoyable. While walking from Ortaköy to Bebek, you can watch the bridges and mansions by breathing the fresh air of the Bosphorus right from the shore of the sea. You can even dive into the sea with fishermen and take great Instagram photos.
A Vacation in Istanbul: Eating and Drinking
- Pickled water in Petek Turşuları
Just as pickles go well with every meal, it’s always the right time to drink pickle juice. Add a few pieces of your preferred pickle and enjoy this salty drink in the colorful jars around you. Petek Turşuları is in Balıkpazarı.
- Stuffed meatballs in Sabırtaşı
Another famous street flavor of Beyoğlu is the stuffed meatballs of Sabırtaşı. It’s crispy on the outside and soft inside. We recommend that you buy two so you don’t get back on the road alone because one is never enough.
- Turkish coffee in Mandabatmaz
The name of Mandabatmaz, located in Olivia Pass in Asmalı Mescit, is enough to describe the consistency of the coffee. Its foam is so thick that even a buffalo doesn’t really sink into it.
- Turkish coffee at Kronotrop Coffee Bar & Roastery
Kronotrop, a third wave coffee maker, also approaches Turkish coffee with a new perspective. They don’t mix the beans, they make the coffee in copper pots. You should try the coffee of Kronotrop, which has four branches in Istanbul.
- Kazandibi in Özkonak Muhallebicisi
Serving in Cihangir since 1962, Özkonak is very famous for its desserts, yogurt, and cream. When you enter Özkonak, which does not change its decor, you will be teleported to the past with a time machine.
- Tadım menu at Mikla
We met the new Anatolian approach for the first time in 2012 at Mikla, thanks to Mehmet Gürs. In Mikla’s kitchen, which respects the traditions and rich flavor culture of Anatolia, the ingredients come from small local producers.
- Karnıyarık at Şahin Restaurant
With rice and cacik on the side, Şahin Lokantası’s Karniyarik is so delicious that most of the time there is nothing left from the lunch service. But don’t forget to reserve a place for the walnut Kadayif. Şahin Restaurant is in Asmalı Mescit.
- Nicole – Fine dining
Nicole, who is in Tomtom, cooks Turkish food with French techniques. The list of the restaurant, where you can only have a tasting menu, changes every six weeks according to seasonal ingredients.
- Appetizers at Asmalı Cavit
Eggplant salad, hatching, fava, sea bass marinated, Lacerda, sea beans, şakşuka … You will have a hard time choosing when the tray comes before you, yes. You should also taste the leaf liver from the hot appetizers.
- Sausage and kidney bean puree at Yeni Lokanta
As soon as you enter Yeni Lokanta, the noise of Istiklal Street will remain behind you. Do not fill your stomach with sourdough bread and burnt butter on your table. Next, we have raçanga in vine leaves, stuffed zucchini flowers, dried eggplant ravioli, and hummus. However, perhaps the most famous dish of Yeni Lokanta is Antep sausage with walnuts and warm kidney bean puree.
- Galata Simitcisi
You can find simit around every corner in Istanbul, but few of them are as delicious as in Galata Simitcisi. The fork of this simit seller in Karaköy is also popular.
At Mürver, which serves different menus at noon and in the evening, meats, seafood, and vegetables are cooked on the flame. Start with the octopus, then continue with the Thracian lamb. Enjoy it with delicious cocktails.
- Boiled lamb in Nato Lokantası
Peers with Turkey’s NATO membership (1952), this restaurant has been offering quality service for years. Boiled lamb should not be missed. Half portion doner kebab over rice should definitely be tasted. You can also share your table with people you don’t know and have interesting conversations.
In Neolokal, located in Salt Galata, the flavors of Anatolia come before you with modern interpretations and exquisite presentations. You may not be able to decide whether your plates are more beautiful or the view of the Golden Horn in front of you.
- Historical Karakoy Fish Restaurant
The most delicious fish grills of Istanbul are hidden in Hardware Stores Street. The must-try option is perch on paper. It is also recommended to start with shrimp skewers. Note that it is only open in the afternoon.
- Cankurtaran Gıda
You can find a variety of cheeses, sausages, bacon, honey, and olives in this delicatessen in the Spice Bazaar. Erzincan Tulum cheese is very popular in Cankurtaran Gıda, which has not lost its line since 1964.
- Meatballs at the famous Filibe Köftecisi
Filibe Köftecisi is very close to Marmaray Sirkeci Station, with its almost coin-sized bite-sized meatballs, blarney, and green peppers cooked on the grill. Founded in 1893, the place has been serving the same taste for more than a century.
- Sehzade Cag Kebab
In Şehzade, one of the representatives of Erzurum’s delicious cag kebab in Istanbul, lavash, onion, paste, and yogurt will come with your meat. If you can curb yourself, don’t forget to reserve a place for stuffed Kadayif.
- Pita with roasted meat at Hocapaşa Pidecisi
Serving in Sirkeci since 1964, the humble Hocapaşa Pidecisi’s pitas with minced meat, pastrami, roasting, and cheese are prepared in front of your eyes and cooked in a wood oven. It is especially magnificent with its fried pickles and Ayran.
A Vacation in Istanbul: Best Time to Visit
Istanbul has a structure that attracts tourists in all months of the year. The city offers different beauty in every period. The redbud trees with purple flowers in the spring and the yellowing vegetation in the autumn envelop the city streets and streets with a beauty similar to landscape paintings. Likewise, under the snow-white snow of winter, Istiklal Street has a beauty that is just as good as the Christmas cities of Europe. Some people like this city in winter, some in summer. It would not be right to make such a referral. Honestly, Istanbul is always a different beauty.
Istanbul is a city that welcomes people from all over the world, but when to go to this magical Istanbul? It is possible for every civilization to find something in Istanbul. If you are thinking about when to visit Istanbul, which spreads over 7 continents and offers different tastes in both continents, you should first decide what kind of trip you want to take. Deciding the appropriate time period for you or the events you want to catch in Istanbul will be extremely effective in your decision about the future period.
You can encounter different beauty in every period of Istanbul. Offering different pleasures throughout all four seasons, Istanbul is decorated with tulips with the arrival of spring and tulips are one of the most important symbols of this city. If you are looking for an answer to the question of when to go to Istanbul, this is perhaps the most beautiful period for Istanbul, when the streets are full of tulips. Istanbul draws attention with its yellowing leaves in the autumn period. If you want to witness Istanbul in a calmer and less touristy period, autumn can mean your season.
- If you want to visit the Islands in Istanbul, the best time for visiting the Islands is summer. Although the Islands are a bit crowded during the summer months, the sea offers various activities. You can get beautiful and fresh food produced by the island people throughout the year. Islands are a preferable alternative for a peaceful holiday in winter.
- If you are planning to plunder Istanbul and visit all historical monuments, summer can be a very challenging period. Therefore, take care to take your holiday in the spring months. Since Istanbul is a bit calmer and cooler during these periods, you can easily reach different places.
- If you have a plan to shop in Istanbul and think about when to go to Istanbul, shopping mall culture is common in Istanbul and therefore you can come in every season. If you have a plan to shop at affordable prices, you can visit Istanbul at times suitable for the discount periods in the shopping malls.
- If your aim is to visit the markets of Istanbul, then take care to be in this city in the summer; those big markets are much more chirpy in the summer.
In summary, you have the answer to the question of when to go to Istanbul. Because Istanbul has a structure that can be visited in any period. If you want to get to know Istanbul, Istanbul will open its doors to you every season. While wandering through the streets of the city, you can come across traces of Yeşilçam days, Armenian architectures, and the streets where Atatürk passed. Do not forget to raise your head and roam in Istanbul because there are descriptions in many apartments. Notes are written on the streets and apartments where poets, writers, and celebrities live, even the period in which the person was present and on which floor he lives. Istanbul is one of the special places where you can pass historical monuments. You can always find the opportunity to visit the history of Istanbul as a stone or a means of transportation called a tunnel. Istanbul is a timeless city, you get different tastes every period.
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