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Fly to Istanbul
Istanbul is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Centuries of fascinating culture has been carved out within its buildings, roads and people – while it also represents the very modern world in which we live. Everybody should visit Istanbul at some point, and here is why…
Attractions and activities to do in Istanbul
This city is filled with interesting places to visit, and there is always something to do. Here are five things we recommend checking out during your stay.
Aya SofyaThroughout history, this iconic building has been a church, a mosque, and a museum, home to one of the most amazing artefacts you’re ever likely to see. While the exhibits are all interesting to look at and learn about, what is truly remarkable about this place is the architecture. The way this building was constructed is an astonishing achievement – with a 43 meter-wide dome providing quite the spectacle. It has been converted back into a mosque in 2020, and prayers are held here five times a day. It is still open to visitors of all religions, free-of-charge.
Topkapi PalaceA place steeped in Turkish history, Topkapi Palace has been the home of many significant figures. This includes Mehmet the Conqueror, who built this palace in the 15th century. Today, the public are welcome to enter and explore the building and its various courtyards. You’ll find crown jewels, a weapons room, and many more interesting.
Grand BazaarIf you’ve had your fill of historical and cultural landmarks, then a great place to visit is Grand Bazaar, the famous Turkish marketplace. With more than 500 places to shop, you won’t have time to see it all – but you should definitely check it out, and have fun bargaining with the owners for a souvenir, piece of jewellery, or perhaps even a carpet!
Bosphorus CruiseThe views of Istanbul from the outside can be just as impressive as those from within. A Bosphorus Cruise will take you down the Bosphorus Strait, right by Istanbul, where you’ll be able to see all the palaces, mansions and mosques the city has to offer. The cruises operate at various lengths, so you can choose the one suitable for you.
Galata TowerIf it’s spectacular views you’re interested in, then the Galata Tower cannot be missed. It offers a full 360 panoramic view of this glorious city from 60 meters high. There is a restaurant/café inside, or you could wander around the nearby streets for some fresh, local cuisine – if you’re feeling adventurous.
Eating Out in Istanbul
Istanbul is home to some of the best food in the world. It isn’t particularly varied, as most eateries only serve Turkish dishes, yet several international options also exist and are on the rise.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Name: Cooking Alaturka
One of the most interesting restaurants in Istanbul is also a cooking school, where skilled trainees learn how to cook and serve some delicious foods. It has a classic Turkish home-cooking theme, with things like ‘imam bayıldı’ on the menu (eggplant onion, tomato and peppers). Suitable for vegetarians.
Name: Balıkçı Sabahattin
If a good seafood dish is what you crave, then look no further than Balıkçı Sabahattin. Although its menu is limited, the deliciousness of the food more than makes up for it. You’ll be seated outside, and presented with some of the freshest fish you’re ever likely to have (or you can choose the meze – which is also fantastic).
A growing trend in Turkey, and even other countries, is what they call ‘Ottoman Palace Cuisine’ – which is based on dishes that were served hundreds of years ago. Matbah is an establishment that presents this type of food, and frequently changes its menu depending on season. The friendly staff are excellent – even offering an explanation as to the historical nature of each dish.
Cuma is a very popular restaurant, and one that inspires loyalty in its customers – many of whom return time and time again. Its specialty is most definitely breakfast, where you will find a range of delicious fruit smoothies, and freshly-baked house bread.
Name: Çiya Sofrası
Çiya Sofrası is well known throughout the city, as an affordable place to try some Turkish delicacies. Arabic-style pizza, also known as lahmacum, is worth tasting, as is the içli köfte (meatballs rolled in bulgar and fried). Service is fast, so if you’re really hungry, it’s a worth stopping by.
Hotels in Istanbul
There are many wonderful places to stay in Istanbul. Here are five hotels we recommend:
White House Hotel (4 Star)Price:
The White House Hotel is an excellent choice of accommodation. Its close proximity to many of the great Istanbul landmarks – namely Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar – means you don’t have to travel far to see the very best of this great city. The hotel itself is designed with a mixture of western and eastern influences, and offers all the necessary amenities.
Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul (5 Star)Price: 250 TL – 393 TL ($85-$133, £65-£102)
If you’d like to live in luxury for the duration of your stay, then the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul has everything you could ask for. This award-winning establishment has a number of high quality restaurants on site, as well as a sauna, massage parlour, swimming pool and state-of-the-art fitness centre. All the rooms are incredibly spacious, and you can even upgrade to a suite.
Osman Han Hotel (3 Star)Price: 162 TL – 331 TL ($55-$112, £42-£86)
The Osman Han Hotel is a more affordable option, but nevertheless provides its guests with a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Located right by the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, you will be welcome to enjoy some spectacular views. The rooms are clean and cosy, while the staff are friendly and always happy to help.
Witt Istanbul Suites (5 Star)Price: 308 TL – 921 TL ($104-$312, £80-£239)
Another luxurious offering, the suites at the Witt Hotel are large, beautifully-designed, and present the most incredible views of Istanbul – particularly those that look out over the sea. Each room has access to free Wi-Fi, a flat screen TV and an Espresso machine. Thai massages and other treatments are also available.
Hotel Amira (4 Star)Price: 254 TL – 385 TL ($86-$130, £66-£100)
A boutique hotel with 32 spacious rooms, Hotel Amira utilises an Ottoman-inspired theme, while at the same time provides its guests with modern amenities. Free Wi-Fi is available, as is a ‘business corner’, while a complimentary breakfast buffet can be accessed every morning. A 24 hour concierge is also on hand 24 hours a day to answer any question you might have.
The Weather in Istanbul
Istanbul is typically very warm, but the weather does vary throughout the year. What you can expect depends on when you plan to visit.
In the summer months, temperatures can reach as high as 28°C, and typically remain in the 20s from May through to October.
Temperatures drop off to around 10°C-12°C in December, January and February.
Events in Istanbul
Many fun and interesting events are held in Istanbul throughout the year. Here are a few of our favourites...
Name: International Theatre Festival
Regular theatre goers will love the International Theatre Festival, held to celebrate performances in theatre from all over the world. This is one of the only times international plays come to Istanbul, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Name: Conquest of Istanbul
Speaking of live performances, every year a fascinating re-enactment of Mehmet the Conqueror’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453 is held. It’s a fun, educational day that also features a number of different exhibits. If you’re interested in learning about local history, then this is a great place to start.
Name: Rock n Coke
The biggest open-air music festival in Turkey takes place in early September over the course of two days. Music fans will not want to miss this – as it typically features some of the biggest acts in the world. Past performers include Peter Gabriel, Muse, Moby and The Cure.
Name: Contemporary Istanbul
Art lovers will not want to miss Contemporary Istanbul, an event designed to put this city at the centre of the contemporary art world. Enthusiasts visit Istanbul from all over the world to view various exquisite collections – showcased in more than 100 galleries.
Name: Istanbul Book Fair
The Istanbul Book Fair has taken place every year since 1982, and features a number of incredibly exciting authors, publishers and literary experts. Each year a new theme is chosen, and visitors are welcome to attend workshops, discussions and interviews based on this theme.
Transport in Istanbul
Istanbul is a major city with a very modern infrastructure. Therefore, it has numerous transport links to help you get around.
There are a number of bus routes – both privately run and those owned by the city – which are cheap and will take you pretty much all over Istanbul.
Or, there is an underground metro system, consisting of four different lines. Again, this is a very affordable option.
Finally, there is a tram line that runs through the city, and has a total of 24 stations for you to stop at. It goes past many of the key tourist spots
CurrencyThe cost of living is approximately 41.79% lower than in London.
If you’re visiting Istanbul for more than a few days, then buy an Istanbulkart. It is a plastic card that can be used for public transport, including buses, trams and the underground.
Try to avoid using taxis if you can. They’re expensive, and some might try to scam foreigners out of even more money.
If you’re in need of internet access, many cafes offer free Wi-Fi – just make sure to buy something first!
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