Top things to see and do in Istanbul

Top 17 Things to Do in Istanbul

 

Who has never dreamed of visiting Istanbul, the bustling Turkish city at the crossroad of Europe and Asia? If you’re wondering how to visit Istanbul or what to do in Istanbul, wonder no more. This article is your ultimate guide on the best things to see in Istanbul.

 

top things to do in Istanbul

 

Istanbul is an incredible city in Turkey that blends European and Asian cultures. It’s a city that beautifully mixes architectural styles, different dishes, accents, and ethnicity.

 

Istanbul is at the crossroad of Europe and Asia and it’s divided by a narrow waterway known as the Bosphorus.

 

It’s difficult to sum up the beauty that is Istanbul in a few words. From it’s fascinating culture to its unique neighborhoods, the city is completely unique. Whether you’re a history nerd, a lover of fine architecture, a foodie, or someone who enjoys getting lost in a new city, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Istanbul.

 

Here you’ll find some of the best activities to do in Istanbul.

 

 

Is it safe to visit Istanbul?

 

Istanbul attracts more and more expats, students and travelers every year. It is very normal to ask yourself the question of whether Istanbul is safe for foreigners. I would say that it’s very safe to visit Istanbul.

 

Turks are usually super friendly and welcoming towards foreigners.

Because it sits at the crossroad of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has a big expat community and a vibrant international scene.

 

Is Istanbul safe for families?

Turks are usually super welcoming towards foreigners…

 

That being said, petty crime still exists in Istanbul and snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are not uncommon in certain neighborhoods after dark

 

Expats and travelers should be vigilant about their belongings, especially in crowded areas and markets of Istanbul.

 

Places, where you should watch out for pickpockets, are Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.

 

Is Istanbul safe

the Grand Bazaar is a place where you should be careful with your belongings…

 

The best solution to avoid being pick-pocketed is to stay very alert and aware of your belongings at all times. You should leave all your important and valuable items at your hotel and walk around only with what is absolutely necessary.

 

Keep your wallet in your front pocket or carry a money belt. Another great option is to travel with a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag. I would also recommend getting good travel insurance that covers theft.

 

Walking alone in the outskirts of Istanbul at night should be avoided. Foreigners can become targets for mugging.

 

Expats in Istanbul is a good Facebook group to become part of when moving to this city. There are hundreds of expats and locals in this group that can answer your questions concerning safety around the country and that can help you adapt to life in Turkey.

 

 

 

Top Things to do in Istanbul

 

1. Top Things to see and do in Istanbul in one day

 

1. Visit the Haga Sophia

It would be impossible to talk about the best things to see in Istanbul without mentioning the gorgeous Haga Sophia.

 

This place has been a church and a mosque and is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.

 

best things to see in Istanbul

 

The Haga Sophia was originally built in 537 AD as a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral. It served as a church for 916 years until it was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed.

 

how to visit Haga Sofia

 

Haga Sophia is now a museum and visiting it is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul.

 

The exterior is quite gorgeous but be sure to go inside to see the Christian mosaics that are revealed in pieces of the walls, the stunning calligraphy, the ancient tiles, and the sultan’s lodge.

 

Inside Haga Sofia - Best activities in Istanbul

The inside of the Haga Sofia is quite spectacular…

 

During the high season, there are some long queues to visit this site. I would recommend skipping the line with this guided tour.

 

If you’d rather visit the Haga Sophia on your own, it’s located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. I would recommend getting a hostel nearby or getting a room on Airbnb in that neighborhood so you can conveniently walk to Haga Sophia.

 

Here is where the ancient mosque is situated:

 

 

2. Visit the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque or as it’s sometimes called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is located on the other side of Sultan Ahmed park near the Haga Sophia.

 

It’s often called the Blue Mosque because of the color of its tiles.

 

Blue mosque in Istanbul - Best sites to visit in Istanbul

 

This impressive mosque has six minarets. It was completed in 1609 and its construction was ordered by the Sultan Ahmet I who wanted a building more impressive than the Hagia Sophia.

 

He definitely achieved his aim by creating a stunning mosque that is still in service today. Because this site of worship is still active, visitors need to be quiet and respectful when visiting the place.

 

This is where you’ll find the Blue Mosque in Istanbul:

 

 

3. Go for a walk on the streets of the grand bazaar

If there’s one place you shouldn’t miss while in Istanbul, it’s the grand bazaar. This busy market is home to more than 5000 shops spread around 60 streets and it’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.

 

From food products, lamps, and spices to common household goods, clothes, souvenirs, and even musical instruments, you’ll be surrounded by all the products you could possibly imagine.

 

Visiting a market is a great way to learn about a new culture and this bazaar really showcases awesome Turkish craft.

 

things to do in Istanbul

You’ll find some pretty amazing crafts and souvenirs in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul…

 

If you want to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Istanbul in a gorgeous setting, the grand bazaar is the place for you. Haggling and negotiating prices is very common and almost expected in this market.

 

On the most exciting things to do in Istanbul is getting lost in the chaotic little streets of this bazaar.

 

Although the shop keepers may call out to you to invite you to their stores, they’re a lot less pushy than other similar markets around the world such as the ones in Marrakech in Morocco.

 

This is the location of the grand bazaar in Istanbul:

 

 

4. Eat with the locals

The Turks are extremely generous and friendly. It’s not uncommon for them to invite foreigners they just met to share a meal or a Turkish coffee. If you speak a bit of Turkish, it will be even easier to bond and make friends in Istanbul.

 

If you don’t speak Turkish but would still like to eat with locals, I would suggest taking part in this Home-Cooked Dinner with a Local Family in Istanbul tour.

 

On this tour you’ll enjoy Turkish hospitality at its best with a visit to a family in Sultanahmet for some delicious home cooking. After dinner, you’ll take a stroll through the historic neighborhood with a local guide, sip tea, and play backgammon in an authentic teahouse.

 

fun activities in Istanbul

 

5. Walk into the beating heart of Istanbul: Istikal Avenue

Istikal Avenue is the most popular street in Istanbul. It’s comparable to Oxford street in London for its notoriety.

 

Istikal Avenue is visited by almost 3 million people every day who go there for its numerous cafes, boutiques, and nightclubs. While Cynthia and I are not big fans of shopping, this avenue would definitely be worth a visit just to people watch.

 

If you don’t feel like walking too much, there are historical red trams that can take you up and down the avenue.

 

activities in Istanbul - walking Istiklal avenue

 

Here is where you’ll find Istikal Avenue in Istanbul:

 

 

6. Visit the Topkapi Palace

This stunning palace is a jewel of Ottoman architecture and it’s one of the sites you should visit in Istanbul. The palace is famous for its gorgeous grounds, its stunning view over the Bosphorus, its collection of historical artifacts, and its fascinating architecture.

 

The palace is said to have a collection of artifacts that belonged to prophets of the Abrahamic religions, Moses, Joseph, and Muhammad to name a few.

 

While we usually prefer to visit places by ourselves, it’s hard to fully grasp the history of Topkapi Palace without a guide.

 

If you want to truly understand the history behind Topkapi palace, we recommend this tour. It’s a 3-hour guided tour during which you’ll be able to fully explore the palace and its harem in the company of a guide.

 

If you’d rather visit the palace without a guide, this is where you’ll find it:

 

 

Read this article to find out what are the opening hours and entrance costs of Topkapi Palace.

 

7. Go for a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus

Going on a cruise over the Bosphorus is one of the most overlooked activities to do in Istanbul. It’s easy to understand why with all the historical sites the city has to offer and so little time to visit all of them during a short holiday.

 

But setting a few hours aside to take a cruise on the Bosphorus is something you won’t regret. We ‘d recommend going on a sunset dinner cruise. Not many people can say they had dinner between two continents while admiring a fantastic sunset.

 

Going on a cruise over the Bosphorus is also a fun way to move from the European side to the Asian side of the city.

 

We recommend this dinner cruise on the Bosphorus.

 

cruise on the Bosphorus

Going on a sunset cruise will let you see a whole different side of Istanbul…

 

8. Enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee is some of the best coffee in the world. It has a higher caffeine content than other types of coffees and blends a mix of cardamom spice and sugar to the blend.

 

This type of coffee is synonymous with Turkish culture and you can’t go to Istanbul without trying it. It takes a lot of time to make a single little cup of this coffee but it’s totally worth it!

 

where to drink Turkish coffee in Istanbul

This type of coffee is synonymous with Turkish culture…

 

9. A walking tour of Istanbul

Istanbul is a gorgeous city full of little streets, hidden alleys and viewpoints, and cozy little parks. While it’s true that you can travel around the city by metro, taxi, cruise boat, and historical tram, the best way to discover Istanbul is on foot.

 

You’ll see locals going about their everyday lives and you’ll visit the city at your own pace. Going on a walking tour of Istanbul with a local guide will help you understand and appreciate the city.

 

Have a look at Walk in Istanbul for some of the best guides and walks around the city.

 

10. Play chess or backgammon with the locals

Turks love to play board games, they play them in cafes, pubs, and restaurants and their favorite board games are chess and backgammon.

 

Many cafes around Istanbul offer board games to their clients. All you need to do is sit down, order a coffee, and play backgammon with the locals for hours on end.

 

11. Sample delicious Turkish street food

The street food in Istanbul is absolutely delicious and safe for foreigners and the street food stalls there are usually very clean.

 

Although you won’t find as many street-food stands in Istanbul as you would in south-east Asia there are still plenty of options for snacking around the city. Turks are also fond of freshly pressed fruit juices and you’ll find plenty of stalls selling those around the city.

 

Some of the best street snacks you’ll find in Istanbul include corn on the cob, Simit (a pretzel with sesame seeds) and Kumpir (baked potatoes).

 

where can you eat street food in Istanbul

Make sure you try street food in Istanbul at night…

 

12. Spend some time in a Turkish bath

Turkish baths are quite similar to the traditional hammams you’ll find in Morocco. It’s a quintessential experience when visiting Istanbul.

 

Turkish baths are rooms filled with steam where you sit down and get a scrub and massage from a masseur.

 

When you enter the Turkish bath, you are usually given a pail that you can fill with boiling hot water at the different taps you’ll encounter in the saunas.

 

People are usually completely naked in Turkish baths. The different establishments that you’ll find in Istanbul will have separate rooms for men and women.

 

13. Smoke some Shisha

Smoking some shisha or hookah as it’s also called is something you should definitely try in Istanbul. Most cafes and restaurants in the city have hookah pipes available.

 

You’ll also see a lot of these typical water pipes standing on tables on outside terraces. These water pipes became very popular in Turkey during the 17th century and became a symbol of the upper class.

 

The shisha comes in various fruity flavors and because the smoke is cooled down by the water in the pipe, it’s not hard on the lungs at all.

 

smoking shisha in Istanbul - What are fun things to do in Istanbul

 

14. Climb the Galata tower

The Galata Tower can be seen from almost all over Istanbul as it dominates part of the skyline. Galata Tower was used as a watching tower to prevent enemy ships from entering the harbor.

 

The tower is open from 9 AM to 8 PM daily. You’ll have to pay a small fee to enter the tower but the view you’ll get from the top is just stunning!

 

places to visit in Istanbul - Galata tower

The Galata tower dominates the skyline of the old city…

 

You can either climb the stairs to the top or take an elevator. If you go there during the high season, try to go early in the morning otherwise you might have to wait in a long queue.

 

There is a small cafe and restaurant at the bottom of the tower where you can relax after coming down from the tower.

 

Top places to see in Istanbul - Galata tower

 

Galata Tower is located at the end of Istikal avenue in the old town. You can visit it with this great walking tour or by yourself.

 

If you want to visit it by yourself, this is where the tower is located:

 

 

15. Eat some fish sandwiches by the Galata Bridge

If you love to try typical dishes in the countries that you’re visiting, you’ll have to eat fish sandwiches from the fishing boats under the Galata bridge or from the restaurants nearby.

 

The Galata Bridge is a bridge that spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey. From the end of the 19th century, the bridge was featured in Turkish literature, theater, poetry, and novels.

 

As you walk by this bridge, you’ll instantly notice the fishing poles of men trying to catch fish in the Bosphorus.

 

fish sandwiches in Istanbul

 

Fishermen have always been heading to this bridge to try to sell their catch of the day. Eventually, someone came up with the idea of cooking and selling fish sandwiches directly on the dock and the tradition has continued since.

 

Istanbul fish sandwiches are still being served in the traditional boats tied to the dock, and also at restaurants underneath the Galata Bridge.

 

Istanbul fish sandwiches

 

While walking next to the bridge, you’ll hear restaurant waiters shout Balık ekmek and Buyrun (fish to eat, come in).

 

Here is where you’ll find the bridge:

 

 

16. See a whirling dervish show

The best place to see a whirling dervish show in Turkey is in Konya but there are some pretty amazing performances in Istanbul as well.

 

The Galata Mevlevi Museum is the most famous Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall in Istanbul and a great place to see the millennia-old tradition of whirling dervishes.

 

The museum is located at the end of Istikal avenue and you can watch a whirling dervish ceremony there every Sunday at 5 PM.

 

It’s only possible to buy tickets for the Sunday performance at the museum itself. Tickets start selling a day before, every Saturday around noon. The Dervish hall only has a capacity of 150 people and because of this, the show is often sold out.

 

I would advise buying your ticket for the performance as early as possible. Tickets are sold at 50 Lyra and children can go in for free if they can sit on their parents lap.

 

This is where the museum is located:

 

 

If you can’t go on a Sunday, have a look at this list of other popular whirling dervish performances in Istanbul.

 

17. Enjoy the Tulip festival in Taksim square

Every Spring, millions of gorgeous tulips bloom throughout the parks of Istanbul. If you happen to visit the Turkish city when the flowers are blooming, you’ll be treated to a beautiful show of colors and petals.

 

Istanbul even organizes a Tulip Festival every April.

 

Tulip festival in Istanbul

 

 

 

2. Things to do in Istanbul with kids

 

Parents often wonder if Istanbul is a good city to visit with children. They wonder if Istanbul is a kid-friendly destination and if it’s safe for families.

 

Istanbul is not only safe for children but the city also offers tons of kid-friendly activities. Here are a few that I would recommend doing if you’re traveling to Istanbul with kids.

 

Visit Istanbul Akvaryum

This is a fun aquarium to visit with kids while in Istanbul. The aquarium is divided into 17 pools where the fish and algae represent the species found in 17 types of different habitats.

 

There are approximately 1500 different species of fish and sea creatures living in this aquarium and we’re sure your kids will love learning about them.

 

The aquarium also has cafeterias. Tickets for this aquarium are 70 Lyra for adults and 50 Lyra for kids.

 

Here is where you’ll find Istanbul Akvaryum:

 

 

Go on a roller coaster at Isfanbul

Isfanbul is a fun amusement park for children and adults alike. This massive theme park has tons of exciting roller coasters and rides.

 

Isfanbul also has a luxury hotel and a shopping mall with more than 250 stores. Some areas of Isfanbul are modeled on iconic European cities, including Venice.

 

This is where the park is located in Istanbul:

 

 

There are free shuttle buses to Isfanbul for visitors staying in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. There are also city buses that go to the amusement park, and you can also take a taxi.

 

Another way to get there would be to book a tour that includes the admission ticket.

 

This theme park is open from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Friday and to 8 pm on weekends. It’s normally closed on Mondays.

 

See antique Toys At Istanbul Toy Museum

This quirky little museum is located in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul. Istanbul Toy Museum was started with toys that were purchased from auctions and antique shops from 40 countries over the course of 20 years.

 

Every room of the museum is decorated to match a certain theme. For example, the room of space toys is decorated with stars overhead, and the miniature train sets are exhibited in a real train compartment.

 

The museum is opened from Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 AM until 6 PM. On the weekends, it’s opened until 7 PM.

 

Tickets to enter the museum cost 13 Lyra for adults and 10 Lyra for children.

 

This is where you’ll find the museum in Istanbul:

 

 

Learn about dinosaurs at Jurassic Land

As a kid, I was fascinated with dinosaurs. Jurassic Land is a fun option for kids who want to learn more about these giants that once walked the earth.

 

Jurassic land is located inside the Forum Istanbul shopping mall at Bayrampaşa. This is actually the largest theme park in all of Europe and it covers ten thousand square meters.

 

Kids can see dinosaur skeletons and eggs inside the dinosaur museum, they can also see moving models of Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, and other dinosaurs.

 

Another awesome activity is taking a simulated helicopter flight through the seas, skies, and landscapes of these prehistoric giants at the 4D cinema.

 

Jurassic Land is normally open from 10 am to 8 pm every day.

 

This where you’ll find the dinosaur-themed park in Istanbul:

 

 

 

3. Istanbul City Tours

 

If you’re only going to be in Istanbul for a short amount of time, it might be a great idea to join a guided tour. It will help you make the most of your time and will help you quickly discover the best parts of the city.

 

Whether you want to visit the Haga Sophia and skip the line with a guided tour, go on a cruise over the Bosphorus, or Hop on a bus tour of the city, we got you covered.

 

Istanbul offers tons of amazing tours, have a look at this list of great guided activities we recommend in Istanbul.

 

 

4. Day trips from Istanbul

 

Istanbul is a huge bustling and chaotic metropolis. If you’re staying there for a while, sooner or later, you’ll feel like escaping the city.

 

What’s so great about Istanbul is that there is a huge amount of historical sights located just a few hours from the city. There are also some gorgeous islands and beaches to visit nearby.

 

Here is our list of the best day trips from Istanbul:

 

Prince Islands

The Prince Islands are 9 islands southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. they’re known in Turkish as Kizil adalar or the Red Islands from the coloring of the rocks that cover them.

 

The islands are mainly car-free and they’re popular for their horse-drawn carriages. I couldn’t recommend a better day trip from Istanbul.

 

These islands offer serenely beautiful scenery. Escaping the bustle and chaos of Istanbul and reaching this small paradise takes only thirty minutes by ferry.

 

While there are 9 islands to visit, two of them are much more popular.

 

Heybeliada Island is a popular getaway for people who want to spend the day tanning and swimming. This island is also popular for the different monasteries that are on it.

 

If you want an unforgettable visit to the Prince Islands, we recommend this boat trip. During this guided boat tour to the islands, you’ll see some Ottoman-era mansion, enjoy a tasty lunch at a seafood restaurant, and afterward take some time at your leisure to explore the island.

 

Troy

Few archaeological sites around the world are as popular as Troy. These ruins located not too far from Istanbul have a particular significance in Greek mythology. This site is supposedly the place where the Trojan War from Homer’s Iliad took place.

 

The site was declared to be Troy in the 1870s. Whether it is actually where the famous war took place or not, these ruins are important for many reasons.

 

The ruins are not of one city but many cities that were built on top of each other throughout different time-periods. These different cities date from the early Bronze Age right up to the Byzantine period. Because this is such a unique site, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

We recommend exploring the ancient ruins with this full-day tour.

 

Gallipoli war cemeteries

In a military disaster that took place during the first world war, 58 000 allied soldiers died in Gallipoli near Istanbul. A further 87,000 Ottoman Turkish troops died fighting the allies and at least 300,000 more on both sides were seriously wounded.

 

For a lot of people visiting Istanbul, going to Gallipoli is the most important day trip from the city. People come here to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers of World War I.

 

Scattered across the coast of this peninsula are the cemeteries of both Turkish and Allied forces, who fought against each other in the bloody battles of 1915’s Gallipoli campaign.

 

The site is particularly important for the Turks as this was where Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, first made his name.

 

The best way to reach this site, have a fun day visiting it, and then getting back to Istanbul is with this 18-hour tour from Istanbul. It includes transport in a comfortable minibus, guided tour to the cemeteries, and battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula and lunch.

 

Ephesus

Ephesus was at one point the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the entire Mediterranean region.

 

Throughout different time periods, Ephesus fell under the hands of different conquerors and it was even under Roman control at a certain point.

 

fun day trips from Istanbul - Ephesus

 

Getting there is quite a long trip and involves getting a flight from Istanbul to Izmir, a train south to Selçuk, and finally a bus to Ephesus. Although reaching the site involves a lot of logistics, I’d recommend it if you have a lot of time as this site is absolutely fascinating.

 

I would recommend getting there with this full-day tour that includes round-trip flights, bus transport to Ephesus, entrance and a guided tour of the ruins, a visit to St. Mary’s House, and lunch.

 

Best day trips from Istanbul

The ruins of Ephesus are easy to reach from Istanbul…

 

Bursa

Bursa is a stunning Turkish city. It’s famous for its peaches, colorful silk towels, and its hot springs. Bursa is such a lovely city that I could easily spend a week there without getting bored but if you don’t have much time, it’s a great day trip from Istanbul.

 

The city is surrounded by green lush mountains and is full of Ottoman architecture. It’s a city that is spread out a lot but luckily most historical sites are within walking distance from each other, directly in the central district.

 

Bursa has a stunning mosque, a grand citadel, tombs of sultans, and an Islamic art museum. There’s even a cable car that takes you for an aerial view of the city.

 

day trips near Istanbul

Bursa has some cable cars that take you to the hills surrounding the city…

 

Bursa is so close to Istanbul that it’s very easy to do a day trip between the two cities.

 

I would recommend this tour that includes transport from and back to Istanbul and a guided tour of Bursa’s highlights.

 

 

 

What are the best neighborhoods in Istanbul?

 

Istanbul is a big city. So big that each of its neighborhoods has a particular distinct feel. Each of the city’s districts offers something unique for travelers.

 

Maybe you’re wondering in which neighborhood you should book your Airbnb or where is the best neighborhood to stay in for vibrant nightlife and parties. Maybe, on the contrary, you’d rather stay in a quiet neighborhood. Whatever kind of environment you’re looking for, we got you covered with this list of the best neighborhoods in Istanbul:

 

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet is undoubtedly the most popular neighborhood in Istanbul. It’s where the old city is located and no visit to Istanbul would be complete without spending time in this district.

 

This part of the city has been the political center for the Ottoman, Roman, and Byzantine empire.

 

Most of the historical sites in Istanbul such as the Haga Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi palace are located in this district. Because this district is full of Ottoman architecture, it has a very particular skyline.

 

If you want to be located right next to the most interesting parts of the city while still being able to have a quiet night of sleep, this is the neighborhood where I would recommend staying in Istanbul.

 

best neighborhoods to stay in Istanbul

If you stay in Sultanahmet, you’ll be right next to the port…

 

Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

If you want a neighborhood that has great restaurants, pubs, bars, and a vibrant night scene, Taksim square and more particularly Istiklal street are the best places to stay in Istanbul.

 

This neighborhood is lively and vibrant the whole year round and has a lot of shops, stores, and great places to eat.

 

Beyoğlu

This neighborhood is very big. If you want to stay near cobblestone streets, tiny shops, cafes, and soap boutiques, I’d recommend getting an Airbnb room near the Galata Tower in the Beyoğlu district.

 

The tower is surrounded by tiny streets filled with boutiques and cute accessory stores.

 

A few sites worth visiting in this neighborhood are the Mevlevi museum where you can see whirling dervish performances and the museum of Turkish Jews.

 

Karakoy

This neighborhood is located right next to one of Istanbul’s biggest ports. It’s also right next to the Galata tower. Karakoy is one of Istanbul’s oldest and most historical district.

 

The oldest buildings in this district date back to the Byzantine empire. Because it received an influx of Italian immigrants, this part of the city is built in a way that resembles Italian coastal towns.

 

If you want an artsy Italian-looking neighborhood full of plants, little parks, and quirky little restaurants, Karakoy is the place for you.

 

Balat

Balat has been the Greek, Armenian, and Jewish district of the city for a long time and because of these different cultural influences, this neighborhood is full of colorful old houses, churches, and synagogues.

 

I would suggest visiting St Stephen Bulgarian Church in this neighborhood. It was made entirely of cast iron in Vienna and assembled in Istanbul.

 

Another thing that is great about Balat district is the huge amount of artsy shops and cafes around the neighborhood.

 

quiet neighborhoods in Istanbul

The Balat neighborhood in Istanbul has some colorful houses…

 

 

 

Where to stay in Istanbul

 

Istanbul is a city that you could explore for a whole week without seeing all that there is to see so it’s a good idea to plan on staying there for a while. A great option to stay in Istanbul is getting a room or a whole house in one of the city’s coolest district (see above).

 

If you feel like meeting other travelers, Istanbul offers a wide choice of hostels for people who want to save money to explore during the day and swap stories with fellow backpackers in the shared kitchen or bar in the evening.

 

Istanbul also has a good selection of guesthouses and budget hotels.

 

Here are some of the places we recommend in Istanbul:

 

Great Hostels and Guesthouses in Istanbul

 

Agora Guesthouse

A rooftop terrace that overlooks the Bosphorus, perfect location, comfortable beds, and friendly staff. It doesn’t get better than Agora Guesthouse.

 

The Haga Sophia and the Blue Mosque are both located less than a kilometer away from this hostel. Agora Guesthouse is right in the heart of the old city and most of the city’s attraction are nearby.

 

The highlight of this Guesthouse is the delicious breakfast served every morning on the terrace. All the rooms are very comfortable and the beds at Agora Guesthouse are extra soft.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Agora Guesthouse”

 

Archeo

This hostel is in a perfect location and all the interesting sights of the city are within walking distance. If you’re coming from the Tophane tram station, it’s just a short walk uphill to get there. The hostel is also located in a very calm part of the Karakoy neighborhood so you can expect long quiet nights of sleep there.

 

The private rooms there are extremely cozy and they have a balcony where you can admire a great view above Istanbul during the day.

 

The bunk beds in the dormitories are very sturdy so they don’t crack and shake as much as bunk beds you’d find in other hostels. They all have comfortable mattresses, pillows, and blankets.

 

Archeo is located above a small cafe so if you ever feel like snacking in the evening or enjoying great coffee with your friends you won’t have to go too far.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Archeo”

 

best hotels in Istanbul

 

Hostel Bahane

This is another very cozy hostel in Istanbul and like hostel Archeo (see above), it’s also located above a cafe. The location of Hostel Bahane is very good, it couldn’t be more centrally located than this. If you want to see all the attractions, bazaar, markets, and busy streets of Istanbul, this is where you should stay.

 

Because it’s ideally located Hostel Bahane is surrounded by great restaurants and cafes. The only downside of the hostel location is the fact that it gets quite noisy in the surrounding streets at night. If you have trouble sleeping in noisy places, this might not be the best hostel for you.

 

Hostel Bahane has a very good fully equipped shared kitchen where you can find free coffee, tea, and drinking water.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Hostel Bahane”

 

 

 

Where to eat in Istanbul

 

Istanbul has a really wide range of restaurants. There are options for all kinds of travel budgets. Whether you can’t wait to try local dishes at a great price or you crave international cuisine, eating in Istanbul won’t disappoint you.

 

Here are a few of the restaurants we recommend in Istanbul:

 

Novas Hagasophia

This restaurant is located right next to the Haga Sophia mosque so it’s an ideal place to have a meal after a visit to the Ottoman building. Although it’s next to one of Istanbul’s most important sites, this restaurant is actually in a very quiet back alley and you can enjoy a dinner on its terrace without facing a chaotic street.

 

Novas HagaSophia is one of the few restaurants in Istanbul that advertises Vegan options and apparently they are quite delicious.

 

The restaurant has a great selection of Turkish bread as well as pita bread served with tzatziki and hummus as an entrée. If you like to eat meat, Novas HagaSophia has some great chicken skewers served with rice, roasted vegetables, salad, and pitas bread.

 

If you want to finish your meal with some alcohol, the restaurant serves Efes (a Turkish beer) and Raki (an anise-flavored spirit).

 

This is where you’ll find Novas Hagasophia in Istanbul:

 

 

Istanbul Anatolian cuisine

If you want to try the best Anatolian cuisine in Istanbul, this is the place you want to visit! This restaurant has a great selection of fish, meat, chicken on skewers, and traditional Turkish dishes.

 

You get nice extras with your meals such as tasty bread and hummus. You also get baklava and tea as a dessert after you’ve eaten.

 

This is where the restaurant is located:

 

 

Myterrace Cafe and Restaurant

This restaurant has an incredible rooftop terrace that overlooks the old town and the sea. If you want a view of the Marmara sea while eating tasty food make sure to visit this cozy restaurant.

 

This restaurant has the best selection of fish and salads in all of Istanbul.

 

This is where you’ll find Myterrace cafe and restaurant:

 

 

 

How to get to Istanbul

 

How to get to Istanbul from the New Istanbul Airport

 

The New Istanbul Airport (IST) is the city’s main airport and it’s 40 km away from Taksim square. Before you leave the airport, I would suggest getting some Turkish Lyras at one of the ATM’s inside. Public transport options from the airport will not accept foreign currencies, debit, or credit card.

 

I would also suggest getting an Istanbul Kart from the airport and loading founds on it. This is a card that is used in Istanbul buses and metros.

 

Here are different options to reach the city center from the New Istanbul Airport:

 

Airport shuttle bus

There is a shuttle bus service that goes from the airport to different parts of Istanbul. It’s called the Havaist airport shuttle.

 

Trips from the airport to the city’s different districts takes generally around an hour and a half and costs 18 Lyra per person. Although the commuting time on these buses is long, the buses are equipped with wifi and USB plugs so you can get a bit of work done before arriving at your hotel or hostel.

 

The final destination of the shuttle bus is shown on the bus itself so it’s a pretty easy way to reach any part of Istanbul from the airport.

 

By taxi

Taking a taxi from the airport to the city center is a very costly option compared to the airport shuttle. If you’d still prefer this form of transport, walk to the official taxis located outside the terminal and avoid people offering you a ride inside the airport itself.

 

Always make sure the taxis have the meter switched on.

 

How to get to Istanbul

 

How to get to Istanbul from Ankara

Ankara is Tukey’s cosmopolitan capital. It’s a center for the performing arts, and home to the State Opera and Ballet. Ankara is at the heart of the Anatolian region and nor very far from Istanbul.

 

The best way to travel from Ankara to Istanbul is by taking a plane between the two cities. You can find flights for 20 USD and the flight time is just over an hour. If you’d rather not fly, here are different ways you can use to travel between the two cities:

 

Travel from Ankara to Istanbul by bus

Traveling between Ankara and Istanbul by bus is very convenient and tickets between the two cities are quite cheap. The only downside to traveling between Ankara and Istanbul by bus is the long commuting time. The bus journey is around 7 hours long.

 

The price of the tickets is generally between 50 and 80 Turkish Lyra ( 7 to 11 USD). The earliest bus leaves at 2:30 AM and the last bus leaves at midnight.

 

You can see the schedule of the buses departing from the main bus station in Ankara on this website.

 

This is where you’ll find the bus terminal with buses going from Ankara to Istanbul:

 

 

Travel from Ankara to Istanbul by high-speed train

This is by far the most convenient, comfortable, and quick option to travel between the two cities. The traveling time between Ankara and Istanbul is about 3 hours and a half.

 

The train stops at Sincan, Polatlı, Eskişehir, Bozüyük, Arifiye, İzmit and Gebze before reaching Istanbul. The Istanbul train station is in the Kadikoy district and from there it’s easy to reach other neighborhoods by bus or by metro.

 

There are 9 trains that go from Ankara to Istanbul every day. The earliest one is at 6 AM and the latest is at 10 PM. High-speed train tickets between the two cities cost 71 Lyra.

 

Have a look at this website for the train schedule. You can buy your ticket online but I would recommend reading this article before you do so as buying tickets for the high-speed train online can be a bit tricky.

 

This is where you’ll find the high-speed train station in Ankara:

 

 

How to reach Istanbul

 

How to get to Istanbul from Antalya

The best way to get to Istanbul from Antalya is to fly there. Flights between the two cities generally cost around 30 USD and flight time is just over an hour.

You can also get to Istanbul from Antalya by bus:

 

How to get to Istanbul from Antalya by bus

There are many buses that go from Antalya to Istanbul every day. The earliest bus is at 3 AM and the latest at midnight.

 

You can see the bus schedule, ticket prices, and buy your ticket online here.

 

This is where the bus station is located in Antalya:

 

 

I hope you enjoyed our guide to Istanbul. Have you visited Istanbul already or are you planning to visit this city soon? Let us know in the comments below.

 

fun things to do in Turkey

 

*This article contains affiliate links. If you book a hotel/hostel or purchase one of the recommended products through our website, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra costs for you. This way you’re helping us writing more informative and awesome guides like this. Thank you!

 

Read the rest of our articles for more travel tips for Turkey:

 

 

 

Follow Niko - Journal of Nomads:
I'm a vagabond and a lover of wild untouched nature. I travel around the world in pursuit of beautiful inspiring landscapes and fascinating cultures. I'm always trying to learn and master the languages of the places I visit.I've been bitten by the travel bug eleven years ago and haven't stopped traveling since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *