Istanbul has a special value for Turkish people. Having a population of 16 mio, it is the economical capital of Turkey. You’ll find different types of lifestyles here and because of that, there are contrasts like in no other city. And that’s exactly the city’s charm. Every district has its own values and atmosphere. So according to your point of view, it is a european Orient or an oriental Europe. That’s why Istanbul belongs to my top favourites in the category of cities as you also can spend 5-6 days.

 

What else to visit in Turkey

If you want to stay longer in Turkey, you should see cities like Bursa (first Capital), Antalya (beach holidays), Konya (cultural Capital) or regions like Cappadocia (rock formations), black sea coast (forests and tea plantation), Pamukkale (Antique Pool).

 

Arrival from the Airports Istanbul (IST) and Sabiha Gökcen (SAW)

    • Turkish Airlines provides a free check-in within 24 hours. A menu for vegetarians is provided. This has to be requested 72hrs before the flight though. Besides this, you get usually have the choice between meat and pasta.
    • For the beginning, it is enough to exchange 20 Euros at the Airport. If you need to exchange money, you should do that in banks or exchange offices until 4pm. After that you get a worse rate.
    • From the new Istanbul Airport, I recommend to take the bus called HavaIst leaving every 30 minutes. Therefore, you need to get an Istanbul-Card for like 6 TL at offices directly in front of the busses. The ride to the center takes about 60 minutes and costs like 25 TL, so charge it directly with at least that amount. This card can be used for almost all types of transport. Make sure you catch the right bus, there are like 16 destinations. Please check the current rates from the link below.
    • From the Istanbul Airport, you can also use the taxi which costs around 150 TL. Please check current rates from the link below.
    • From Sabiha Gökcen Airport, I recommend you to take the bus called Havatas. They also leave every 30 minutes. Please make sure you catch the right bus as there are two destinations. They go to either Kadikoy or Taksim. In Taksim, there is a metro line, in Kadikoy, you’ll find the ferry. The ride takes about 50 minutes and costs like 14 TL. Please check the current rates from the link below. You can also pay cash here.

 

What to see

    • Dolmabahce Museum closes at 4pm und has closed on Thursdays and Sundays. Muze-Card is not valid here.
    • Grand Bazaar has closed on Sundays
    • Depending on the number of museum visits, the purchase of a Muze-Card should be considered (see link below).
    • Shops have opened on Sundays, opening a bit later though.
    • Turkish people usually don’t have food when walking. Many restaurants have the food prepared already, so you usually don’t wait for food.
    • If possible, visit the Galata Tower around sunset. You’ll hear the prayer call from all the city. You should prepare yourself for long waiting times though.
    • Women are offered head scarfs when visiting mosques. Please consider getting your own one. You can’t visit the mosques in hotpants or shorts.
    • The best way to cross the Bosphorus is the undersea metro called Marmaray. Please validate the Istanbul-Card also at the destination.
    • For good weather, I highly recommend a ride by ferry. For me, this is the best atmosphere in Istanbul. You’ll miss something if you leave Istanbul without a ferry ride.
    • There are street dogs controlled by the administration, they are harmless. Usually, they don’t even bark.
    • On Sundays and TUrkish holidays, you should avoid the biggest touristic places. Sounds paradox but on Sundays you’l see tons of local tourists.
    • If you want to attend a prayer, I recommend the evening prayer. It is short and prayed loudly. You can sit in the back of the mosque and listen. A smaller mosque might be more convenient.
    • On Fridays, mosques close one hour before the Friday prayer. The streets are mostly free of men, so enjoy 🙂
    • Please ignore(!) beggars. Don’t give them money, just go on talking to your friend. Do not take roses, even if they say it’s for free.

 

Transportation in Istanbul

    • Metro
    • Marmaray: connecting Europe and Asia within 6 Minutes. It’s an East-West-Line.
    • Bus
    • Metrobus: Bus with an own line. Mostly full, even in the night. Not recommended.
    • Taxi: Minimum fare is 15 TL. You should note the license plate having the format 34 Txx xxxx. You can calculate the rate in advance (see link below). There are yellow cabs and turquoise ones. The turquoise ones are more comfortable but also more expensive. I recommend the app BiTaksi for this, if you should use taxis often. You set call a taxi online by setting your location and destination. You directly see the price.
    • Ferry: Between Europe: Eminonu, Besiktas, Kabatas and Asia: Uskudar, Kadikoy, Bostanci.
    • Sari-Dolmus: Yellow transporters. They leave as soon as all seats are full (in opposite of the blue ones which by name, they are overfilled). Stops when verbally requested.

 

Links

 

Music

 

My drone footage

Most interesting sightseeing spots in Istanbul

In my opinion, it’s better to get a hotel around Eminonu. From there, it is easier to travel to different places as you have the Tram, Bus, Marmaray, Boats and Ferries. But I assume your hotel is around Blue Mosque, so I use this as my starting point for the following itinerary:

 

Day 1

From the Tram-Station Sultanahmet/Blue Mosque, you can visit these places by foot:

    • Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya, free, Shorts und Hotpants not permitted)
    • Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet camii, free, Shorts und Hotpants not permitted)
    • Lunch: Kofte @ Sultanahmet Köftecisi (There are two restaurants with similar names. Go to the one nearer to the tram station)
    • Dessert/Turkish Mocca @ Hafiz Mustafa
    • Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi, free with MuzeCard)
    • Gulhane Park
    • Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)
    • Dinner @ Ziya

 

Day 2

You can either have a 15 minutes walk or use the Tram until Station Bayezid:

    • Grand Bazaar (closed on Sundays)
    • Spice-Bazaar (reachable with a long walk downwards from the Grand Bazaar)
    • Lunch: Fish in Bread (Balik Ekmek) in Eminonu
    • Galata-Bridge (this is not the bridge between Europe and Asia)
    • Baklava @ Gulluoglu (reachable by walk at the end of the Galata Bridge on the right side)
    • Karakoy (in the side streets, there are lots of cafes, bars and restaurants with a European touch. You can get back by Tram from Karakoy to Sultanahmet)

 

Day 3

It’s difficult to get from The Blue Mosque to Istiklal Street in Taksim. The easiest way is to take the Tram to the terminal station Kabatas and from there to take the Füniküler to Taksim. It is the shopping streets with a lot of shops, cafes and bars in the side streets. In the morning hours it’s less crowded but usually it’s crowded even in the nights.

    • Istiklal-Street / Taksim
    • St. Antonius Church
    • Galata Mevlevihanesi (small museum abour art from the Ottoman Empire)
    • Galata-Tower
    • Lunch @ Konak Café
    • Mihrimah-Moschee in Uskudar (walt to Karakoy and take the ferry to Uskudar. The mosque is located directly at the Bosphorus and was built by the architect Mimar Sinan who also built the Suleymaniye Mosque)
    • Maiden Tower (15 mins walk along the coast)
    • Dinner @ Filizler (across from the Maiden Tower)
    • From the coast in Uskudar, you can have a glass of tea and enjoy the view on the European Skyline or Haghia Sophia
    • You can get back by Marmaray to Sirkeci or the Ferry to Eminonu. In both cases, you can take the Tram to Blue Mosque

 

Day 4

    • Dolmabahce Palace (15 mins walk from the Station Kabatas. I highly recommend this museum)
    • Ortakoy (45 mins walk from Dolmabahce Palace, you can also take the bus or a taxi)
      • Idyllic view on the mosque at the second Bosphorus-bridge
      • Artisanal streets
      • Lunch: Kumpir-potatoes or fish
    • Bebek (from Bebek you can walk at the Bosphorus. Reachable by Taxi from Ortakoy)
    • Dinner @ Kebapci Etiler in the Nispetiye Street (one of the many high class restaurants. Reachable by Taxi from Bebek)
    • You can get back by Metro from Nispetiye. At the terminal station Levent, you need to take another metro to station Vezneciler. From there, you can take the Tram to Blue Mosque after a few mins by walk.

 

Day 5

    • Princess Islands (Büyük Ada. From Eminonu, you can take a boat to the Islands. The ride takes about 60 mins. You can enjoy the island and the view from there. Usually, people go there to escape from the city)
    • Suleymaniye Mosque (most important mosque, built in seven years by the architect Mimar Sinan, the most famous architect of the Ottoman Empire. The style and the acoustics of the mosque is unique as there are no bearing walls. They are used for acoustic reasons. Sultan Suleyman had requested this mosque that has lots of stories to tell. I recommend you to read about its architectural design.
    • Dinner: White Beans with Rice @ Erzincanli Ali Baba (behind the Suleymaniye Mosque)
    • Drink @ Husnu Ala (10 mins by walk from the Suleymaniye Moschee. The cafe provides a nice sight on the Bosphorus)
    • You can get back by taxi or by a 20 mins walk to the Tram in Bayezid.

 

Day 6

    • Boat Tour Bosphorus (by Tram to terminal station Kabatas. Take the short route by Provider Dentur. The ride back is mostly windy so you should have a light jacket)
    • Emirgan-Park (reachable by Boat Tour mentioned above)
    • Lunch @ Sutis in Emirgan
    • Besiktas (reachable by ferry)
    • Nisantasi (reachable by bus or Taxi. Modern shopping district)
    • You can get back by Metro from Osmanbey to Vezneciler, and have a 15 min walk from there or take the Tram from Bayezid

 

Optional

There are lots of different quarters without an Eiffel Tower but still having a special atmosphere:

    • Eyup and Fatih (more religios quarters offering more culture. In Eyup you’ll find the platform Pierre Loti, a mosque and little streets with small shops. From Sirkeci, you’ll reach Eyup by bus or ferry. Fatih with the first built mosque in Istanbul is reachable by bus or Metro)
    • Balat (is a historic quarter of Armenians. Most famous sight is the Orthodox church which was newly restored. Reachable by bus from Eminonu or ferry from Karakoy)
    • Kadikoy (full of shops, cafes and bars)
    • Kuzguncuk (small quarter with a nice ambience with nice street cafes on the Asian side)
    • Panorama 1453 (Museum)
    • Sapphire Tower (with good weather, you have the best sight on the city. Reachable by Metro descending at Station 4. Levent)
    • Miniaturk (Museum with miniatures of sights from Turkey and the world)
    • Whirling Derwis-Dance in Sirkeci
    • Rumeli Hisar (near second bridge, reachable via per Taxi. Fortress on the European side. You can have a nice walk at the Bosphorus there)

Sightseeing in Istanbul

    • Blue Moschee (Sultanahmet)
    • Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
    • Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
    • Spice-Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)
    • Suleymaniye Moschee (Süleymaniye Camisi)
    • Galata Tower(Galata Kulesi)
    • Galata Bridge (Gatala Köprüsü)
    • Istiklal Street (Istiklal Caddesi)
    • Eminonu (Eminönü)
    • Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)
    • Ferry
    • Gulhane-Park (Gülhane Parki)
    • Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
    • Maiden Tower (Kizkulesi)

 

What to eat

    • Baldir in Sirkeci (Meat / Baldir)
    • (V) Fasuli in Sirkeci (White Beans / Kuru Fasülye)
    • Hafiz Mustafa in Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Uskudar or Taksim (Desserts/ Baklava)
    • Huqqa in Ortakoy (Brekfast, directly at the Bosphorus, Shisha)
    • Konak near Galata-Tower (Sight)
    • (V) Ali Baba in Suleymaniye (White Beans / Kuru Fasülye)
    • Asiyan in Uskudar (Cafe)
    • Mihrimah in Uskudar (Cafe)
    • Filizler in Uskudar (Meat balls / Köfte)
    • Nevmekan Sahil in Uskudar (Cafe in Library)
    • (V) Bodrum Mantisi in Akasya or Bagdat Caddesi (Filled Dumplings / Citir Manti)
    • Pasta Sanati in Besiktas (Dessert / Magnolya Oreo)
    • Sultanahmet Köftecisi (Meat Balls / Köfte)
    • Etiler Kebap (Meat / Kebap)
    • Zeki Bey in Uskudar (Breakfast and Kebap)
    • Cimen in Uskudar (Breakfast)
    • Kukis in Acibadem (Dessert)
    • Ceviz Agaci in Kosuyolu (Dessert)
    • Sazeli in Kisikli (Cafe with terrace)
    • Emirseyh in Maltepe (Meat / Kebap)
    • (V) Tarihi Karadeniz Pide ve Döner in Besiktas (Oven made pita and White Beans / Pide ve Kuru Fasülye)

 

Vegetarians in Istanbul

In Turkey, lots of meat is consumed. You’ll find it in most meals. Turkish cuisine is made of either Kebap or home made food. If you’re not into Kebap, go to restaurants that provide meals in form of buffet. You recognize them as the food is visible from outside. Just ask there for vegetarian food.

List of vegetarian food:

    • Pide (several vegetarian versions, e.g. cheese)
    • Manti (Tortellini, meatless versions)
    • Kuru Fasulye (White Beans, ask if there is a non-meat version)
    • Pirinc Pilavi (Rice)
    • Bulgur Pilavi (Wheat groats)
    • Falafel (Chickpeas)
    • Cig Kofte (Chickpeas Wrap)
    • Yesil Fasulye (Green beans)
    • Nohut Yemegi (Kirchererbsen)
    • Gozleme (“Wrap” in several versions, e.g. cheese, spinache, potatoes)
    • Ispanak (Spinache)
    • Kumpir (Huge boiled potatoes)
    • Corbalar (Soups)
    • Meze (Starters)

 

Shopping in Istanbul

    • Akasya in Unalan (modern mall, Metro or Metrobus)
    • Cevahir in Mecidiyekoy (9th biggest mall in Europe, Metro)
    • Bagdat Caddesi in Kadikoy (shopping street)
    • Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim (the shopping street in Istanbul)