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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The best area to stay in Istanbul.
- How to get from New Istanbul airport to city center, Sabiha Gokcen airport to city center , or Galataport to city center quickly?
- How to get around the city easily?
- How to obtain IstanbulKart, city’s public transport card?
- Where to find discounted attraction tickets, and skip the lines, best guided tours, or sightseeing tours?
* 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 Deluxe
The is an innovative city pass. It includes fast track entry to 12 museums (Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Harem, Basilica Cistern, etc), 3 tours with historian guide, 20 rides with public transportation (IstanbulKart), Bosphorus Cruise and digital guide book and city map. It also offers 20% discounts at the most important Istanbul attractions on their shop. With this card you’ll skip the long ticket lines and not have to pick anything up.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
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.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
Combo Tickets for Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern
Valid for 3 days, digital pass, no need a printed ticket, guidance service with certified guides. Includes: Skip the ticket lines with an official tour guide, all entrance fees and english speaking tour guide, 30 – 45 min. Highlight Tour at each museum by official tour guide, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Audio App in 9 languages for IOS and Android (English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Turkish)
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
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.
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
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.
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 1 hour taxi for about €30, 1,5 hours HAVAIST Airport Shuttle for 18 TL (about €2,7), 1 hour shared shuttle for about €15 or 1 hour private shuttle for about €40. There are No direct metro lines to the airports.
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 Tranigo (a Turkish company operating since 1996, and partnered with renowned names like Hertz, Thrifty, Budget, and many reliable and efficient local suppliers) 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.