Istanbul is the magical place where contents meet. You could say this is the middle of the world. Istanbul is the place where East meets West and this you could take literally. One half of the city is on the European continent, the other half on the Asian. Because of its strategic location, it's a place that has been fought over. Before the Ottoman stormed into town and took over the city, it was part of The Greeks, Romans and Venetians empires. Now it's the biggest city in Turkey and its financial and cultural hart of the country.
There is so much to do, see, eat, exporter and discover you could stay here for weeks and never get bored.
Latest about Istanbul
Facts about Istanbul
- Istanbul is the only city in the world that is situated on two continents; Europe and Asia.
- Istanbul had 1400 public toilets when the Ottomans ruled in the city.
- Istanbul has more than 3100 mosques.
- Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and the 8th largest in the world.
- Istanbul has the oldest and biggest covered bazaar in the world. The Grand Bazaar has got 3000 shops.
- Istanbul attracted some famous writers in the past. Agatha Cristie wrote Murder on the Orient Express at ht Para Palas Hotel.
- Istanbul was the most crowded city in the world. This was in 1502.
- Istanbul subway is old. It was the third city in the world that got an underground railway track.
- Istanbul knows how to be a capital. It was the capital for three empires. Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire.
Events and Exhibitions in Istanbul
Neighbourhoods in Istanbul
The Old City is a must see when visiting Istanbul for the first time. It's the place with the big tourist attractions. The Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Süleymaniye Mosque and the Basilica Cistern are there. The Old City also houses the Grand Bazaar. I think you have to visit this places, but if you have seen them once, Istanbul has much cooler neighbourhoods to offer than the Old City.
Galata is part of the Beyoğlu district and in the heart of it is the historic Galata Tower. You can visit the Galata Tower and overlook all the neoclassical buildings and cobblestoned streets that surround it. An excellent way to explore this Neighbourhood is to start walking. Every street has got something to offer. From cool shops, good coffee places and fabulous restaurants. So start wondering and try to get lost and you will have a perfect afternoon.
Çukurcuma is also a part of Beyoğlu district, and if you are into antiques, this is the place for you to go. Exploring it is definitely worth it. There are a couple of established antique store there, but there are new ones every time you will visit. The Museum of Innocence, a literary museum is in Çukurcuma as well.
Karaköy is on the Asian side of Istanbul. To get there, you can take the boat from Karaköy or Eminonu. If it's a sunny day, this is a fantastic experience as well. Nobody looked at Karaköy until 2012. Around that time it became a hotspot for locals and tourist. On the weekend it fills up with people that hang out and chill for an afternoon there. It's filled with shops, cafe's, bars and shops. All over Karaköy you can find the best street art of Istanbul. The murals change from time to time so there is always something new to see.
Balat is where the Greek Orthodox and Armenians lived, its full of colourful houses. In the centre of all fantastic looking houses and streets is the Fener Lycee, a castle-like structure that overlooks the whole neighbourhood. There are lots of small businesses in the many historic streets run by young people. Explore and find your favourite art gallery and coffee roastery.
Arnavutköy is an upscale neighbourhood and its all about nightlife. But it was the place where The Ottomans had their waterfront mansions. It was then and still is well known for its fish restaurants. Now it's filled with cocktail bars where you can enjoy a good night out. It's not only an excellent place to be at night. During the day it's a fantastic place to wander around admiring the beautiful mansions and the waterfront.
Moda is my favourite neighbourhood. It lays just beside Karaköy and has a very local feeling to it. There are lots of cafes, coffee places, bars and restaurants there. Moda beach (don't expect any sand) is a great place to go for a walk and enjoy an Istanbul sunset.
Practical Information about Istanbul
Most retail outlets have non-negotiable price tags. No point in bargaining there. But of course, there is an exception to this. In the Grand Bazaar, you can have a go at it, especially in the carpet shops. But if your travelling only with hand luggage, the airline crew will not be too happy with a carpet.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Political tensions in Turkey and in the region have led to a Coup d'état. There also have been terrorist attacks on places where tourist frequently visit. Please monitor your home countries travel advice to keep yourself safe.
- With all travelling, you have to use your common sense. Be especially careful about visiting the cities historic walls. There are a lot of people that have substance-abuse problems. Don't go there alone and do not walk around there at night.
- Watch where you are walking. Give way to vehicles; they tend not to slow down when you are walking around admiring the surroundings. Sometimes it gets jam-packed on the sidewalks, wait patiently and don't walk in the street where the cars are.
- Theft and Robbery are rare in Istanbul. But don't let Istanbul's relative safety fool you. There are some places where you have to be a bit more careful. The Grand Bazaar, its nickname is "Pickpocket Central". Be careful at Aksaray/Laleli, the city's red-light district and the streets of Caddesi in Beyoğlu.
Museum Pass Istanbul is a good bargain. You save up to 70% on admission prices if you visit all the museums it's valid for. It will provide you with admission to the following museums: Topkapı Palace and Harem, Aya İrini, Aya Sofya, the İstanbul Archaeology Museums, the Great Palace Mosaics Museum (Chora Church), the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Galata Mevlevi Museum, Rumeli Hisarı, Fethiye Museum and the İstanbul Museum of the History of Science & Technology in Islam. This pass will give you also some discount on some privately run museums. These include the Museum of Innocence, the Pera Museum and the Rahmi M Koç Museum. For more info go to this website.
Emergency & important Numbers:
- Ambulance: 112
- Fire: 110
- Police: 155
- Country code: 90
- European Istanbul: 0212
- Asian Istanbul: 0216
- Code to make an intercity call: 0
- International access code: 00
- Directory inquiries: 118
- International operator: 115
Entering & Exiting Turkey
To enter Turkey, some nationalities need a visa. Some can do this online, and some have to apply at an embassy. Have a look at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out what legal documentation you need.
- Appointments: If you have an appointment, be on time.
- Invitations: If you invite someone for dinner it means you are going to pay the bill.
- Ramazan: Please do not eat and drink on the street during daylight hours in Ramadan.
- Body Language: Don't blow your nose in public and do not point the soles of your shoes of feet to a person.
- Sign language: Don't use the OK sign in public. For most of the world, it means you are ok. In Turkey it means homosexual.
Gay and Lesbian Travellers
Homosexuality isn't illegal in Turkey, but it isn't legal either. Among the general population, homosexuality isn't accepted. People can frown upon openly displaying affection between persons of the same sex.
A useful website to have a look for LGTB travellers to Istanbul is.
Better not leave home without it.
We all have a smartphone today. Get a local sim card at one of the many phone shops. Wifi is available at most hotel's, hostels, restaurants, bars and coffee places. So no need to be disconnected from the rest of the world.
The Turkish government is well known for blocking websites. So don't be surprised if you can't go on Wikipedia or Youtube. The locals get around this problem by using a VPN. When I am travelling, I always use Nord VPN. Check them out, definitely worth it.
- Age of consent in Turkey is 18.
- The police can always ask you to show your passport. So you have to carry that around all the time. Many travellers make a copy of there passport or take a second ID with them when going around Istanbul. Their passport is safe in the hotel vault.
- You are not allowed to buy or take any antiquities out of Turkey.
In the last couple of years, the free press in Turkey isn't that free any more. And this situation is getting worse rather than better. There are two English language newspapers in Turkey. The Hürriyet Daily News a secular newspaper. The other paper is the Daily Sabah; it is very pro-AKP.
The currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira; ₺. The lira is fully convertible, so no black market.
ATMs are all over the place, so getting money out of the wall is no problem at all. Be aware that most ATMs will charge you a fee to use their services.
Credit Cards are widely excepted. Even to pay a cup of coffee in a trendy coffee shop. Bring your Visa or MasterCard, using your Amex will be harder.
If you have cash, you can change this at one of the many exchange bureau's.
- Tipping in Restaurants and Bars: 10%
- Taxis" Round up to the nearest lira
- Hamams: 10% on massages
- Bars: Afternoon to early morning
- Nightclubs: 11 pm to very very late
- Post offices and banks: 8:30 am to 5 pm on weekdays
- Restaurants: From breakfast to Dinner time, 07:30 am to 10 pm
- Shops: 10 am to 7 pm Monday to Saturday
All you need to know about Post in Istanbul can be found at the website of the PPT.
- New Year's Day 1 January
- National Sovereignty & Children's Day 23 April
- Labor & Solidarity Day 1 May
- Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth & Sports Day 19 May
- Democracy and National Solidarity Day 15 July
- Victory Day 30 August
- Republic Day 29 October
There are two more public holidays every year. But because they are religious holidays and follow the Muslim Lunar Hejira, there dates change every year. The first one is Şeker Bayramı, and the second one is Kurban Bayrami. Google them, and you will see when the dates are of these public holidays.
Most foreign mobile phones work in Turkey; some North American phones don't. Check with your provider.
Getting a SIM card for phone calls and internet is easy in Istanbul. There a three major networks: Vodafone, Turkcell and Turk Telecom. The all sell pre-payed SIM cards that work in foreign phones. Depending on your needs there is a package for everyone. Ask them which one is good for you.
Turkey is on Eastern European Time all year round. So no summer and winter time.
There are public toilets at transport hubs and stations and around the major sights in Istanbul. For example near the Hippodrome and in the Grand Bazaar. Or at the ferry docks at Eminönü and Karaköy.
There are Tourist Information offices Sultanahmet, Taksim, Sirkeci, Sabiha Gokcen International Airport and Ataturk International Airport. They can help you with all kind of questions about what to do in Istanbul.
Going to Istanbul as a female is no problem at all. Behave and dress appropriately. A skimply top and tight jeans will be very ok to wear when you are in Beyoğlu or along the Bosphorus. But if you visit conservative suburbs like Üsküdar, this will not be appreciated.
When taking a taxi, sit in the back and not next to the taxi driver.
Just use your common sense, and you be fine.
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