Istanbul City Guide

Istanbul City Guide
Quick Facts
Known Names:
Population:15.46 million (2020)
Area Code:+90
Currency:Turkish Lira (TRY)
Time Zone:Eastern European Summer Time - UTC/GMT+3

General Information / Guide

Istanbul is a fascinating city with an abundance of historical, natural, and cultural sights. It was originally the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and remains a commercial and cultural hub in Turkey. It is one of the world's largest metropolises, with a population of more than 14 million people. The main downside is the bustling crowds and traffic, but you may have a calmer excursion throughout the week. Notably, Istanbul is the only city in the world that connects two continents, with one side in Europe and the other in Asia, linked by bridges, ferries, and the Marmaray, an underwater tunnel beneath the Bosporus.

The city is full of ancient sites dating back to the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. It is home to several churches, mosques, and relics associated with the Jewish faith. Also, the palaces and museums of Istanbul are worth a visit. The well-known Bosphorus Strait gives an extra appeal to Istanbul, making it an extraordinary spot at any time of day or season.


Climate / Weather / When to Go

Istanbul experiences a diverse climate with four distinct seasons. The best time to visit Istanbul is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) when temperatures are moderate and pleasant. Spring offers blooming landscapes and cultural festivals, while autumn is known for its comfortable weather and fewer crowds. Summers (June to August) can be hot and crowded, while winters (December to February) are cold and often rainy.


How to Get There

Istanbul is accessible through Istanbul Airport, one of the largest and most well-connected airports in Europe and Asia. The airport is a major hub for both domestic and international flights, providing easy access for travelers worldwide. From the airport, you can reach the city center via taxis, which are available 24/7, or by using public transportation options, such as buses.
Also Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, which is located in the Asian part of İstanbul, is close and easily accessible to major centers like Kadiköy and Üsküdar. You can opt for taxis, airport shuttles, or public transportation such as buses and metro. 


Food / Restaurants / What to Eat and Drink

Istanbul is a paradise for food enthusiasts, offering a wide range of culinary delights influenced by various cultures. Some must-try dishes include Kebabs, a variety of grilled meats, Lahmacun, a thin and crispy Turkish pizza, Mantı, Turkish dumplings, and Baklava, a sweet and rich pastry. You can try these delights at iconic spots like Hamdi Restaurant, Ciya Sofrası, or Karaköy Güllüoğlu for the best Baklava.
For an authentic Turkish experience, visit local eateries known as "Lokantas" or try delicious street food called "Balık Ekmek," a fish sandwich, along the Bosphorus. Don't forget to complement your meals with traditional Turkish tea or a strong cup of Turkish coffee.


Important Places / Places to Visit

  • Hagia Sophia: A historic architectural marvel that has served as a cathedral, mosque, and museum.
  • Topkapı Palace: The former residence of Ottoman sultans, now a museum with remarkable artifacts.
  • Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque): A stunning mosque adorned with blue tiles and a must-visit for its grandeur.
  • Grand Bazaar: One of the world's largest and oldest covered markets, offering a shopping adventure.
  • Spice Bazaar: A colorful market filled with spices, sweets, and local products.
  • Bosphorus Cruise: Explore the strait that divides Europe and Asia on a scenic boat trip.
  • Galata Tower: An iconic medieval tower offering panoramic views of the city.
  • Istiklal Street: A bustling avenue filled with shops, cafes, and a lively atmosphere.
  • Chora Church (Kariye Museum): Famous for its mosaics and frescoes.
  • Basilica Cistern: An underground chamber with atmospheric lighting and ancient history.


What to Do

Istanbul offers a multitude of activities catering to various interests. Take a stroll through the historic neighborhoods of Sultanahmet and Eminönü to immerse yourself in the city's culture and history. Explore the vibrant street art in neighborhoods like Karaköy and Balat, or take a Bosphorus cruise to admire the city's skyline from the water. Shop for unique souvenirs, textiles, and spices in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. Be sure to visit the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace to delve into the city's rich past.


Nightlife / Bars / Entertainment

Istanbul's nightlife scene is diverse, offering a mix of traditional and modern entertainment. Explore Beyoğlu and Taksim Square, known for its vibrant nightlife with bars, clubs, and live music venues. Enjoy the breathtaking views from 360 Istanbul, a rooftop bar with panoramic vistas. For a taste of local music and dance, head to a traditional Turkish folk music performance or a belly-dancing show. Sip on Turkish raki or try a hookah at a charming Turkish café.


Shopping / What to Buy

Istanbul provides numerous shopping opportunities, from bustling markets to upscale boutiques. The Grand Bazaar is a treasure trove of carpets, textiles, jewelry, ceramics, and more. Spice Bazaar offers an array of spices, sweets, and exotic ingredients. Istiklal Street boasts international and local brands, perfect for fashion enthusiasts. Don't forget to purchase traditional Turkish delights, ceramics, and exquisite carpets as souvenirs of your Istanbul journey.

In Istanbul, you can also find high-end luxurious brands and numerous malls throughout the city, catering to all tastes. Famous brands have shops in neighborhoods like Nişantaşı and Bağdat Avenue. And if you prefer indoor shopping centers, check out İstinyepark in Istinye, Zorlu Center in Levent, Akasya in Acıbadem, Aqua Florya in Florya, and Cevahir in Mecidiyeköy. These are some of the most well-known spots for shopping.


Festivals/ Events

June-July: Istanbul International Music Festival 
April: Istanbul International Film Festival 
July: Istanbul Jazz Festival 
May-June: Istanbul International Theater Festival 
October-November: Istanbul International Puppet Festival 
June: Istanbul International Opera Festival 
June: Istanbul Shopping Festival 
May: Istanbul Dragon Festival 
November: Istanbul Short Film Festival 
April: Istanbul Tulip Festival 
June: Istanbul Bosphorus Festival
September-October-November: Istanbul Biennial 


Holidays / Festivals / Important Days

1 January: New Year's Day
23 April: National Sovereignty and Children's Day
1 May: Labor and Solidarity Day
19 May: Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day
30 August: Victory Day
29 October: Republic Day
Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Adha


Things to Pay Attention to / Important Information

Plan trips in Istanbul according to traffic hours due to its size and congestion.
Use public transportation options like the metro, Metrobus, ferries, and Marmaray.
For short distances, consider walking.
Use the "Istanbulkart" to pay for public transportation conveniently.
Explore the city by dividing it into regions: Sultanahmet District, the Bosphorus area, Taksim-Beyoğlu, and the Grand Bazaar area.
Visit additional places like Nişantaşı, Bağdat Avenue, and Yeşilköy, with shared taxi services available.
Consider getting a museum card for easy access to numerous museums in the city, you can purchase Museum Cards at tourist locations or online.
While Istanbul is generally safe, be cautious of pickpocketers.



The well-established and varied transportation network in Istanbul makes it easy to navigate the city via systems like the Istanbul Metro, trams, taxis, ferries, Metrobus, and Marmaray. Buses are an affordable way to get around the city, but the historic tram on Istiklal Street adds character to your travels.
The metro, Metrobus, buses, minibusses, shared taxis (dolmuş), and maritime routes—including the Metrobus that connects Asia and Europe—are all part of Istanbul's 24-hour public transportation system. Suburban train lines will soon reopen, and the Marmaray rail system crosses the Bosphorus. The majority of services are accessible with an Istanbulkart; shared taxis and minibusses provide quicker options with fewer stops and generally take cash.

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