The Ultimate Guide to Istanbul, Turkey

The fabulous city of Istanbul should always stand on your top-five list of splendid destinations. Being a prior capital of empires, the city will fascinate you with its historical heritage, lace-like Bosphorus, and the mythological story of the Golden Horn. You will find all you need for a unique trip in our Istanbul travel guide.

How To Get to Istanbul

Istanbul is accessible for travelers by different transport schemes including flights, bus, ferry, and train journeys. There are three large-scale airports located in the northern and eastern districts.

Istanbul Airport on the European side and Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Anatolian side serve as the two international hubs for passengers. You can have direct flights to Istanbul from more than 125 domestic and international destinations.

To give you an idea, your Istanbul flight from London will take 3 hours and 50 minutes, from Dubai 4 hours and 35 minutes, from Moscow 4 hours and 15 minutes, and from Münich just 2 hours and 35 minutes. You can always plan your trip to any destination with Istanbul flight connections. 

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Accommodation in Istanbul is cheap and highly comfortable. You can find a variety of choices ranging between B&B, budget hotels, and luxury hotel chains. It is also possible to rent a cozy apartment in a short-mile area around popular hubs.

For entertainment, you should prefer Beşiktaş and Taksim hotels whereas Sultanahmet and Karaköy are the favorites of history fans. For business commuters, there are a multitude of hotel and convention centers in Yeşilköy. If you prefer a more peaceful but still affordable area, Kadıköy will perfectly suit your needs.

What to Eat in Istanbul

City explorers may taste Turkish cuisine and intercontinental food recipes in Istanbul. You will be astonished by the variety of rich starters including vegetable soups. You shouldn’t miss the chance to try appetizing stuffed vegetables (dolma) and grape leaf rolls. No need to mention the fame of Turkish kebab and meatballs which are served with fulfilling side dishes. You can crown your meal with baked sütlaç or different juicy flavors including baklava and kadayıf. In Istanbul, you shouldn’t skip these three street food alternatives:

  • Try Turkish-style fish with fresh bread in Eminönü.
  • Have your lunch with midye dolma at Kadıköy harbor.
  • Get the appetizing odor of kokoreç and have a satisfying dish of it.

Public Transportation in Istanbul

Istanbul public transportation is fast, easy, and safe. You can travel to all parts of Istanbul by taking either a bus, metro, Metrobus, or Marmaray. Ferry is another option if you travel between continents or would like to see Princess Islands. Metro and public buses also have connections to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

For commuter buses, you can go to Central Coach Station by metro. As the city covers an area of 5461 km2, be aware that you should transfer between lines on some of the popular hubs like Kadıköy and Üsküdar on the Anatolian side, Taksim-Osmanbey, Yenikapı, Zeytinburnu, and Bakırköy on the European side.

In order to get on a vehicle, you should have an Istanbul pass (Istanbulkart) which you can buy at one of the stations.

Transportation from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport to Downtown Istanbul

If you have a flight ticket to Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, there are various routes to get to downtown Istanbul. The airport is 12 km. away from Kurtköy and 40 km. away from Kadıköy, which means you need to drive on the TEM highway.

Passengers who prefer public transportation are able to use the recently opened airport metro. You can take the M4 metro line directly to Kadıköy, where you can take a ferry or a bus in different directions. If you are going to the European side, you can transfer to Marmaray at Ayrılıkçeşmesi to get to Taksim and Yenikapı. Pendik High-Speed Train Station will allow you to transfer to Anatolian cities with no need to go to the Coach Station. Airport metro entrances are available on both domestic and international terminals.

Another option is taking a public bus to the airport. You can go to Kadıköy by E9 and E10, to Bostancı by E11, to 4. Levent (on the European side) by E3 and 122H buses. Alternatively, Havabus shuttles will take you directly to the Taksim Divan Hotel stop on the European side and Kadıköy Point Hotel on the Anatolian side. Although these buses have less frequent time intervals, they accept cash in TRY and EUR. 

Best Time to Visit Istanbul

Istanbul is a timeless destination for visitors. You can find a reason to travel to Istanbul during any season. Historical spots host tours all over the year.

There are a large number of events and festivals held in spring, summer, and autumn. The climate is semi-arid with Mediterranean effects. Due to transitional features, snow is scarcely seen and freezing days are not common.

You can enjoy open-air activities in Sultanahmet and Taksim even on winter days. If you want to schedule your flight ticket booking according to the top festivals in the city, here are some suggestions for you:

❖    Istanbul Film Festival, held in April. 

❖    Istanbul International Dance Festival, held in March and April 

❖    Istanbul International Tulip Festival, held in April.

❖    Istanbul Jazz Festival, held in June and July. 

❖    Istanbul International Music Festival, held in June.

❖    Istanbul Shopping Festival, held in September

❖    Istanbul Theatre Festival, held in October and November.

❖    Istanbul International Puppet Festival, held in October and November.

❖    Istanbul Book Fair, held in October and November

Top Tourist Attractions in Istanbul

This seven-hill city will fascinate you with its rich history and architecture depicting Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman imperial glamor. Get inspired by our Istanbul sightseeing tour ideas for your top visiting list.

  • Take a ferry to Üsküdar and catch the best sunset shots of the Maiden Tower, just 200 meters away from the coast. 
  • Visit the Galata Tower Museum to see how an original Genoese tower has transformed into a significant building in the urban history of Istanbul. Watch the beautiful scenery of Beyoğlu, Karaköy, and the historical peninsula from the top.
  • Read the mythological knot between the Golden Horn and the Goddess Hera while taking a sip from your Turkish tea during your break at Pierre Loti Hill.
  • Take a historic tour of Sultanahmet by walking around the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, Gülhane Park, and the Hagia Sophia.
  • Take a shopping tour to the Grand Bazaar to see antiquities, and alluring pieces of jewelry before stopping at the Spice Bazaar to taste local delicacies and buy herbs.
  • Take a Bosphorus Boat tour at Beşiktaş ferry port and enjoy the artistic silhouette of the Strait hosting ornamentally built palaces and mansion houses. 

Istanbul offers more and more challenging spots and events for all purposes – city tours, business conventions, nightlife, and others. Keep your route to start with a cheap Istanbul flight to experience a fantastic trip.

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