General information about Istanbul – Getting to Know Istanbul

Augusta, Antonina, Nova Roma, Byzantion, Byzantium, Constantinople and finally Istanbul… These exciting names reminds the mysterious and enchanting past of the city. Istanbul can be considered as the combination of the old and modern city, as well as Islamic and Mediterranean mixture of cultures in a captivating atmosphere. There are only few cities in the world that can be so delightful to experience and enjoy as Istanbul.

A quick look at Istanbul’s features 

  • more than 8,500 years of history,
  • capital of 3 glorious empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires,
  • a magical composition of two continents, two Worlds, the East and the West,
  • Islamic and Mediterranean mixture of cultures in a captivating atmosphere,
  • population of more than 15 million,
  • one of world’s main air traffic hubs with 2 international airports,
  • 5th most visited city in the world,
  • 2010 European Capital of Culture,
  • 2012 European Capital of Sport,
  • one of world’s leading congress destination,
  • connecting 2 continents; Europe and Asia,
  • more than 75 museums,
  • more than 100 lively shopping malls, and 4 historic bazaars,
  • 5 imperial palaces, and many summer palaces, pavilions and mansions,
  • huge transportation network of metro, subway, tram, buses, ferries, sea-buses, etc,
  • 4 seasons throughout the year.

Istanbul – a welcoming city

Istanbul is a magical composition of two continents. And especially the Bosphorus, Istanbul Strait will cheer up your hearts. Aside from being the largest and most popular city of Turkey, Istanbul is also the biggest cultural and financial center of Turkey. Istanbul is considered to be the bridge that links Asia with Europe from a cultural and geographical standpoint.

Istanbul is located partly in Asia and the other part in Europe. Its geographical position as well as its rich history are responsible for a fascinating melting pot of cultures. Tourists are flocking to experience this magical city full of contrasts for themselves, making it the 5th most popular tourist destination in the world.

Istanbul offers an unforgettable experience for its travelers, with its colorful daily city life and dynamic nightlife. The beautiful silhouette of the city combines historical sites and monuments such as Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, Venetian towers, Ottoman palaces from the Byzantine, Ottoman and Turkish periods.

And the skyline covers monumental minarets with skyscrapers and plazas. And especially the Historical Peninsula and the Bosphorus will make you deeply fall in love with the city.

Istanbul is also one of the most lively metropolises in the world (having more than 15 million residents) that offers variety of intercontinental events, international film, music and theater festivals, international biennials, and more than 80 museums and many art galleries showcase all the culture, arts and history; including painting, sculpture, photography and more.

Things You Must Do in Istanbul

You can explore, have fun, and never tire of taking photos everywhere in Istanbul. We can say there are no limits to what you can do in this city. But knowing what to do where can simplify your travel plan for this magnificent city. Here are a few recommendations.

  • Discover the magnificent Historic Peninsula Area that hosts the Hagia Sophia Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern, Gülhane Park, and the Grand Bazaar.
  • Climb the Galata Tower and watch Istanbul from the eye of history.
  • Visit Dolmabahçe Palace and enjoy the privilege of closely examining one of Istanbul’s historical beauties.
  • Have a boat trip to Maiden’s Tower.
  • See the Rumeli Fortress.
  • Explore some of Istanbul’s oldest districts like Balat, Pera, Kuzguncuk, and Karaköy. It’s worth mentioning that some of the city’s best coffee shops are found here.
  • Eat baked potatoes in Ortaköy, a wet burger on Istiklal Street, fish sandwiches in Eminönü, and yogurt in Kanlıca.
  • Take a ferry from the European Side to the Asian Side or from the Asian Side to the European Side. Don’t miss out on the pleasure of tea and simit on the ferry.
  • Enjoy a Bosphorus dinner cruise or Sunset cruise.
  • Be sure to visit the Istanbul Archaeology Museums, which sheds light on the history of Ancient Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans, Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East.
  • Immerse yourself in Istanbul’s art and history-rich side at the Koç Museum, Toy Museum, and Istanbul Modern.
  • Visit at least one of the options such as Polonezköy, Ağva, Belgrad Forest, Emirgan Grove, and Atatürk Arboretum and see that this big city is never disconnected from nature.
  • Go to Çinili Hamam, the Historical Galatasaray Bath, or Kılıç Ali Paşa Bath and discover the therapeutic power of the traditional Turkish bath experience.
  • Walk in Bebek, pass to Ortaköy.
  • Cycle around the Princes’ Islands.

What to Eat in Istanbul?

As for eating out and gastronomy, it means that you are one step away from tasting the delicious meals of the Turkish cuisine, from spicy and hot Anatolian and Aegean dishes freshly cooked with olive oil. Istanbul offers wide range of Turkish cuisine at the variety of well established, good and luxury Istanbul restaurants.

You can find the finest dishes of Turkish cuisine in the restaurants of this city. Not only Turkish cuisine, but you can also easily find the flavors of world cuisine in this city.

Luxurious restaurants with Bosphorus views, authentic places in historical areas, third-wave coffee spots, and entertainment venues will welcome you in various districts of Istanbul. Being a very large city, you can find dishes and flavors specific to almost every region in Istanbul, made by the masters of that dish.

But the real taste sensation of Istanbul is street food! You can experience street foods like simit, roasted chestnuts, corn on the cob, stuffed mussels, döner, wet burger, or kokoreç throughout your travel.

We Highly Recommend These Fantastic Night-time Activities

Moreover, Istanbul, which has a rich cuisine, has food varieties associated with the city in almost every district. Ortaköy baked potatoes, Vefa boza, Eminönü fish-bread, Kanlıca yogurt, Sarıyer pastry, and Beykoz paça…

Places Where You Can Shop in Istanbul

As for shopping, the variety of the traditional and modern products offered at the Ottoman’s originated historical bazaars and modern shopping malls, makes the city an attraction center for shopping lovers.

Istanbul is a city full of shopping. Shopping centers with world-famous chain stores, bazaars where you can find all regional products reflecting Turkish culture, and world-famous shopping streets will offer you a wonderful experience in the city.

The world famous Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi) is one of the greatest historical malls in the world, with its more than 4000 shops. The Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) is also very popular where you can enjoy the scenery of the various spices, dried fruits, basketry, jewelry, drapery and haberdashery.

The Grand Bazaar, built during the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet and one of the magnificent architectural examples of its time, is Istanbul’s most well-known traditional shopping spot with nearly 60 streets and more than 3600 shops. You can find souvenirs, jewelry, shoes, and authentic clothes here. The Egyptian Bazaar, located near the Grand Bazaar, is a historical spice paradise. Here, you can see more herbalists, spice, and dried fruit shops.

Istiklal Street with its nostalgic tramway, passages, and colorful showcases, Bağdat Street, which offers shopping pleasure for about 5 kilometers, and Nişantaşı, Istanbul’s luxurious district, are among the favorites for shopping lovers. Additionally, more than 100 shopping centers spread across various parts of Istanbul are waiting for you.


As for entertainment and nightlife, it revolves around many of the entertainment venues that the city has to offer. The nightlife in Istanbul has really come alive in recent years and the locals will all tell you that the nightlife spreads out in all directions throughout the city.

Where to Stay in Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city that attracts visitors all year round. Therefore, it meets you with a wealth of accommodation options that can cater to every budget and need. You can stay in 5-star hotels, boutique hotels, historical mansions, aparthotels, or guesthouses.

You can find a place to stay almost anywhere in Istanbul. However, it would be more appropriate to stay in places close to the city’s touristic points or on transportation networks.

Istanbul is a fairy-tale-like city with its Bosphorus view. To start the day in this fairy-tale atmosphere, you can choose luxury hotels with views of the Bosphorus.

These hotels are mostly located in Beşiktaş-Ortaköy, Beylerbeyi, Taksim, and Bebek areas. Taksim is a location that houses both luxury and decent guesthouses.

If you want to stay in boutique hotels, Galata, Cihangir, and the Islands will offer you the most suitable options. If you want to be close to historical areas, hotels in Sultanahmet will assist you.

If you want to stay in a place with a developed transportation network to easily reach almost everywhere in Istanbul, Mecidiyeköy and Levent hotels are just for you.

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Insider Tips for First Time Visitors

* For time visitors to Istanbul should check and well plan the area to stay, best time to visit the city, best places to see and top attractions, how to save money, where to go for eating and shopping, airport transfer and public transportation, etc. to make the most of their Istanbul visit easy, budget, convenient, and safe.

* We recommend you to have some essential information first, before arriving Istanbul. Make sure you read our pages below.

* You can explore the majority of the sights and sounds of the city on foot. You will mostly need to take a tram as for transportation in between old and modern city.

* So get an IstanbulKart as you can have access all the public transportation network of Istanbul.

* There are also guided tours with professional local guides that you can save yourself from the beggars, and people coming beside and ask for helping with guidance around or for money.

* And with a guide you will learn each detail and story, and have a detailed look at the architecture, mosaics, construction, galleries of the sights coming from the thousands of years.

* You can general admission tickets at ticket windows on location but it will cost you about at least 1 to 2 hours waiting in the line. And this will effect your future sightseeing calendar.

* We recommend you buy your attraction tickets online. This is by far the easiest and great value for money.

* Below, you’ll find our pick of the best and great value for money discount cards, and attraction tickets. You can be sure that we only suggest the proven and top rated ones with travelers’ comments. Our website visitors will also get extra 5% discount in some of the tours and tickets.

Tourist Discount Cards & Tickets Advice

Istanbul has several tourist discount cards. You’ll have access to variety of major Istanbul attractions and services with a fixed price and save a lot. This is by far the most practical and cheapest way to explore Istanbul, as well as get airport transfer, public transportation card, unlimited internet, etc. Below you can see our recommendations. There is also Museum Pass for museum lovers.

Istanbul Welcome Card Premium

Valid for 7 days, free delivery to your hotel/airport pick-up and includes; Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace fast track entry tickets with 30 minutes guidance and Audio Guide App in 10 languages, Istanbulkart with 10 Rides, Bosphours Cruise (1,5 hours), Digital Guide Book and City Map.

Buy Istanbul Welcome Card Premium

Combo: Hagia Sophia + Topkapi Palace + Basilica Cistern

This is a great combo ticket. Our favorite. You can visit these top 3 most visited sights in Sultanahmet with this combo ticket, with skip the lines access. Great value for money. Book your tickets online in advance as they are selling out quickly.

Buy Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern Combo Ticket

Click the red button to buy Combo online tickets and skip the lines.

Istanbul E-Pass

This is a digital travel discount pass that is delivered to your phone upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival. It includes 30+ attractions and services including skip the line access and guided museum tours, dinner cruise, hop-on & hop-off Bus, airport transfer, etc.

Buy Your Istanbul E-Pass

Istanbul Tourist Pass

Istanbul Tourist Pass is a digital travel discount card that provides entrance and transportation tickets to many of Istanbul’s top tourist attractions along with several guided museum tours with skip-the-line access in a simple, useful, convenient and fun way.

Rather than paying for each item individually, the pass allows you to choose from 75+ things to do in Istanbul so you can pack as much into your stay as possible for a single set price. You’ll get valuable discounts of up to 75%.

After you purchase the pass, it will be delivered to mobile phone and will be ready to use at upon arrival. There are four types of Istanbul Tourist Pass (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10-Day).

Buy Your Istanbul Tourist Pass Online Now

Guided Istanbul Highlights Tours Advice

We recommend this kind of tours, especially for first time visitors. You are able to make the most of the city’s sights and sounds with a private guide and save yourself from the hassle of making an ideal one day to 3 days plan. All will be made by professionals and you’ll get skip the lines tickets, as well as pick-up and drop-off hotel transfer.

Highlights of Istanbul: 1 or 2-Day Private Guided Tour

This is Get Your Guide’s top selling and certified tour, which means it has gained one of the best traveler experiences.

You’ll discover the magic of Istanbul on a private 1 or 2-day walking tour with skip the line tickets. Enjoy a river cruise and guided tour of the city highlights, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Dolmabahce Palace, and Istiklal Street.

Duration: 7 hours – 2 days
Live tour guide: English, Spanish, German, Japanese
Pick-up from the front desk of your hotel in Istanbul

Book Highlights of Istanbul Guided Tour

Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Tour

This is also Get Your Guide’s top selling tour. Has great traveler ratings and comments.

You’ll see the sights of Istanbul that most interest you on a customized tour with private guide. Marvel at some of the city’s most significant sights including Topkapi Palace, Chora Church, Basilica Cistern, Fener-Balat neighboorhood, and many more.

Duration: 7 hours – 3 days
Live tour guide: Spanish, English, French, German, Italian
Pickup is available from centrally-located hotels in Istanbul, by your guide on foot.

Book Istanbul 1, 2 or 3-Day Guided Tour

Airport Transfers Advice

Istanbul has two international airports. You’ll find all the transportation opportunities such as Airport Shuttle, Metro, Train, Taxi, Private Shuttle, etc. from the airports to the city center and vice versa from our pages below.

Istanbul’s both airports are located about 45 km. from the city center. You can take a Metro, 1 hour taxi, 1,5 hours HAVAIST Airport Shuttle, 1 hour shared shuttle or 1 hour private shuttle.

Private & Shared Shuttles

If you are a group or a family with kids or having lots of luggage with you, than we highly recommend you to take private shuttle transfers for your hotel as they offer a fixed rate, comfortable and safe transfer that include meet-and-greet airport pickups and luggage assistance to your hotel from the airports or vice versa.

This is a good option as while the Airport Shuttles or Public Buses will bring you only to the city center and you’ll need to take a taxi to reach your hotel which will seem to be harder for you, private shuttles will drive you just to the entrance of your hotel.

As for private shuttle transfers, we highly recommend Kiwitaxi as we recently booked with them had a great trip to our hotel.

It offers low-priced, fixed rate private shuttles that include meet-and-greet airport pickups and luggage assistance. Their large selection of comfortable taxis, minivans, luxurious cars and 6-19+ passenger minibuses can match any need while ensuring quick and safe travels to and from New Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW).

Below you can use the search box to find your prefect private or shared shuttle transfer service in between Istanbul airports and your hotel.

Check out and book your transfer from the below best and cheapest options

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