Visit Istanbul: ancient city on the Bosphorus

IstanbulIstanbul is one of the most popular destinations for city trips, and for good reasons! The largest city of Turkey lies within both the European as the Asian continent and knows a very rich history. Once Istanbul (or Constantinople) was the capital of the East Roman Empire and later on sultans were swinging their sceptre. Western, as well as Eastern and Islamic, influences are catching the eye: churches, mosques, bazars and a diverse nightlife.

Istanbul, travel time, currency and weather

Pay attention: for a city trip to Istanbul you often need an appropriate visa. This one is usually purchasable at the border and on airports, but for most countries you can also get it online before you go. Vaccinations might also be necessary, make sure that you visit a professional regarding vaccinations before you go. Even though Istanbul is partly in Europe, it is already quickly more than 2000 kilometres away from the Netherlands for instance. It will take you more than a day and a half to reach if you decide to travel by bus or car from here.
You can also take the train, although it will probably take you double the time compared to taking a bus or the car. Train journeys do have its charm however, and you will see a lot of Europe. A direct flight might be a better option if you are coming from afar and do not want to spend too much time traveling to Istanbul. You will arrive on the airport Istanbul Atatürk or Istanboel Sabiha Gökçen and from there the travel company IETT will take you to the centre. You can of course also rent a car, this can be handy as Istanbul is a very big city.
In Istanbul you will pay with the Turkish lira. At the time of writing the exchange rate is 3,29 lira per one euro. You can exchange money beforehand, on the airport or in the city itself. Know the exchange rate before you go to make sure that no one is taking advantage of you. Of course you can pay with your credit card at a lot of places and use the local ATM to get cash.
And what about the weather in Istanbul? The city is under the influence of a Mediterranean Sea climate. From November to January it can snow quite a lot, and until March it is often quite cold and rainy. The best periods to travel to Istanbul are April to June and September to October. If you can stand a bit of heat, then you can also go in the middle of the summer, Juli and August.

Public transport in Istanbul

In Istanbul the public transport is very busy. The city knows a metro, bus and tram, and if you want to cross the river Bosphorus then there are ferries to take you to the other side. The metro network is modern but not very extensive. The old neighbourhoods have unfortunately not been connected yet, which does go for the bus and tram. A ticket for public transport always costs the same, it does not matter how far you travel. Outside of rush hour the taxi is a good alternative: then they are quick and the prices are not too high.

Sights and museums in Istanbul

Istanbul is a very old city and there are many sights to see. One of the most beautiful buildings in the world is the Hagia Sophia, that finished construction as far back as the year 536. It began its life as a church, was later transformed into a mosque and since 1934 it is a museum. It knows an impressive dome; only the Saint Peter's in Rome is bigger. Within the structure you can admire the Byzantine mosaics. The Hagia Sophia is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The islamic counterpart of the Hagia Sophia is the Blue Mosque from the beginning of the 17th century. The big dome is surrounded by half domes and the mosque knows six minarets: it delivers a fine sight of symmetry. The mosque is covered on the inside with 20.000 red-brown, green and blue tiles. The marble prayer niche with fine wood carvings is an impressive sight. Admission is free. Be attentive, during the prayers the mosque is not open for the public.
Also worth a visit is the Topkapi Palace, where multiple sultans resided during their reign. It is a typical eastern palace with impressive interior design. Nowadays the building houses a museum and a tour through the harem is an interesting experience. You can also admire the treasures of the sultans: jewels, jewellery and a number of emeralds of more than 3 kilos.
One of the bigger museums of the world is the Archeological Museum. There are more than a million objects: art of the Ottoman Empire, ceramics, sarcophagi and many more items and artefacts. The building also houses another two museums that are worth visiting.

Shopping in Istanbul

Istanbul has enough to offer on the terrain of shopping. In the neat neighbourhood of Nişantaşı there are many art shops and boutiques to be found. You will also find more expensive brands such as Prada and Chanel there and mainstream brands such as Zara and H&M. In the shopping mall Astoria you can easily spend half a day: there are many luxurious shops here and even a pool and a spa, the Anantara Spa. Another recommendation is the Cevahir Mall, an impressive shopping mall that houses more than 300 shops.
Istanbul is primarily the city of bazars with an eastern flavour. The biggest is the Grand Bazar, a labyrinth housing well over 4000 businesses. You can buy more expensive souvenirs, bags, jewellery and carpets here. The paths are about 16 kilometres long in total. Know that bargaining is the norm here, never settle for the price they name at first. A smaller and more easily navigated bazar is the Arasta Bazar where you can buy clothing, jewellery, bags and handwoven carpets.
Then there is also the Egyptian Bazar, where you can buy many different spices. It is very colourful and a feast for the nose. Besides spices you can score souvenirs and jewellery.

Eating in Istanbul

On the culinary level there is a lot to experience in Istanbul. In the neighbourhood Tünel many restaurants and eateries are located with dishes from across the world. Turkish dishes you can eat at Doy-Doy, think about Turkish pizza, kebabs and Turkish salads. You can also eat your heart out desert wise, such as Turkish fruit and Baklava. At Çiya Sofrasi you can also enjoy delicious Turkish food. The chef gets his ingredients from all over the country and he changes the menu on a weekly basis.
A mix of mediterranean and Turkish foods you can eat at Cezayir, a stylish restaurant that knows multiple sitting areas. You will also find a covered terrace and a bar. Are you craving delicious Italian food? At Mezzaluna you can enjoy, according to some, the best pizzas and pastas of Istanbul. If you want to dine in luxury you can go to the Four Seasons. The menu is varied and you can go there during the whole day.

Nightlife in Istanbul: enough to experience

In Istanbul the night is over before you know it. At Taksim Square in the European neighbourhood you can find plenty of bars and clubs and in the summer there are many events happening in the open air. If you want to see a show of real belly dancers, we can recommend you Çalik, as well as the Orient House. Sucking an authentic water pipe is possible in the neighbourhood Tophane, where many water pipe bars are situated. The atmosphere is often homely and intimate.
A very fancy club is Blacck. The Turkish jet set likes to come here and have a drink. Stylish black is the primary colour and there is many art hanging on the walls. Surprisingly enough there are many swimming pools. In the weekend you do not just come in and thus reserving entry is key. Club Sortie is also a business where a lot of the Turkish jet set likes to spend time. It is big, hip and you can also dine here.
And then there is the Reina, a big club with a view on the Bosphorus. You can also dine here and every night the public is entertained by talented DJ's. The Reina is very popular amongst the young Turks. Do you want to go to a club where they also play live music? Then club Babylon is the place to go. The same goes for the popular Peyote Nevizade. They serve delicious drinks and snacks and the music is varied: from Turkish rock to jazz.

Booking a trip to Istanbul

Are you thinking about booking a trip to Istanbul? You can easily do this online, and it is fast too. Many travel agents offer different trips to Istanbul. A simple hotel or a hotel with all the luxuries, an airplane ticket or train ticket, everything is possible. You can of course also decide to simply book everything yourself, this could save you some money of the intermediaries. Whatever you choose, Istanbul will surely make a big impression on everyone that visits this magnificent ancient city!


Article written by: roybor
Times read: 1481x
Added: 23-01-2017 14:43
Last modified: 05-04-2017 21:26

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