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215 215 9814

Istanbul Travel Guide: What to Do and See in Istanbul Turkey

February 01, 202312 min read.

Picture of Ibrahim Uzun on Unsplash

General Information About Istanbul

Istanbul (from Turkish, "to listen") is a transcontinental city, located in Europe and Asia between the Sea of ​​Marmara (Propontis) and the Black Sea. It is the most populous city in Turkey and the economic capital of the country. It has more than 15 million inhabitants, which makes it one of the most populous cities in Europe and even in the world.

The city of Istanbul is extremely cosmopolitan. In its streets and buildings, you can see different architectural styles and colors that reflect the mixture of cultures that coexist there. This will lead you to imagine ancient times and multiple places, such as European or Middle Eastern capitals.

Without a doubt, in this place, you will be amazed by the silhouettes of the mosques with their minarets that emerge in all directions, the seagulls crossing the photos, the bustle that emanates from the bazaars, the color of the Turkish delight in the windows, the smell of kebabs, the Valente aqueduct and the cars that pass over its arches and old walls.

Location of Istanbul

Bellow, we show you where Istanbul is located:

Map of Istanbul in  Google Maps

The History of Istanbul

Istanbul has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Originally called Byzantium, the city was founded by the Greek colonist Byzas in the 7th century BC. It later became the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and was renamed Constantinople.

The city was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and served as the capital of the Ottoman Empire until its fall in 1923. During this time, Istanbul became an important cultural, economic, and political center, with many buildings and some of the most important monuments.

Today, Istanbul is a major city in Turkey and continues to be a cultural and economic center in the region.

Main Istanbul Attractions

The beauty of Istanbul is made up of the geographical features that shape the Bosphorus Strait (also known as the Strait of Istanbul) and the Golden Horn that links bridges and ships.

In this city, we recommend that you visit Hagia Sophia, an old Orthodox basilica converted into a mosque; In front of this building is the Blue Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Istanbul, characterized by its blue mosaics.

Other Istanbul's major attractions include the Sultanahmet and Süleymaniye Mosques, Topkapi Palace, the Galata Tower, and the Hippodrome of Constantinople, a former sports and social center of the Byzantine Empire.

Greca offers travel and vacation packages to Istanbul from Latin America, the United States, Canada, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, and many other countries around the world. If you want to know more about our proposals, click here.

Activities To Do in Istanbul

Istanbul offers wonderful attractions and things to do for all types of travelers, be it for those who enjoy a pure adrenaline holiday, those who enjoy relaxing and contemplating the most beautiful landscapes, or the curious, lovers of history and history. culture.

Here we mention some of the most entertaining activities that you can carry out in this wonderful city.

Historic Day in Sultanahmet

For those who are true history enthusiasts and want to see the most iconic, important and significant places in the city, we recommend you to visit and appreciate the Sultanahmet neighborhood.

This is the best way to make the most of the sights, sounds, and scents of this wonderful city. Sultanahmet is home to all of Istanbul's most visited historical and tourist sites such as Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome), Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Archeology Museums, and Turkish Art Museum and Islamic meet here.

Bosphorus Cruise

The Bosphorus Cruise is one of the most popular and fantastic forms of entertainment that you can enjoy during your visit to Istanbul.

Typical Bosphorus cruises start a little east of the famous Galata Bridge and continue to Anadolu Kavagi, which is the entrance of the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, making numerous tourist stops along your adventure.

Istanbul by Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus

The Big Bus Istanbul tour is one of the cheapest ways to explore the popular areas of the city.

This extraordinary double-decker bus offers service to 19 stops and at least 46 attractions (28 landmarks, 15 attractions and 3 shopping venues) on two lines. In turn, it has pre-recorded informative commentary that is available in 8 languages.

Mystic Night at the Whirling Dervishes Show

The spectacle or ceremony of the whirling dervishes (sema, in Turkish) is one of the most visited attractions in Istanbul by tourists. It is because this ceremony is a very unusual event for tourists and when they find out about it, most of them try to watch this one hour spectacle and witness the miracle of whirling dervishes.

Visit the Charming Museums of Istanbulbul

If yours is culture and art, this guide is for you. The best of historical heritage, culture and modern art can be found in this wonderful city that has more than 80 museums and many art galleries exhibiting all culture, art and history; including painting, sculpture, photography and more.

The Istanbul Archeology Museums, the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Topkapi Palace Museum, the Istanbul Modern Museum, the Rahmi Koc Transportation Museum, and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art are just a few of the places that will leave you breathless. open mouth

Fun Day at Istanbul Theme Parks

The Turkish city offers great theme parks ranging from big attractions to aquariums, dolphinariums, theme museums and more.

Amusement and theme parks are not only places to have fun, but also excellent places for learning and developing your children's imagination. We recommend you to visit Istanbul, Aquarium Sea Life Istanbul and Istanbul LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

Enjoy the Best Views of Istanbul

You will find many excellent places and vantage points from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of Istanbul, from historical places such as towers, mosques and palaces, to rooftop terraces, groves and hills that will leave you speechless.

Enjoy the Istanbul Shopping Scene

The diversity of traditional and modern products that Istanbul has to offer in the historical bazaars of Ottoman origin and in the modern shopping centers make the city a center of attraction for shoppers.

The world famous Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi) is one of the largest historical shopping centers in the world, with more than 4,000 stores.

The Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) is also very popular. Your gaze will not reach you to enjoy the colours, smells and flavors of so many different spices, nuts, basketry, jewelry, curtains and haberdashery.

What to Eat and Drink in Istanbul

Istanbul is known for its diverse and delicious cuisine, which is influenced by its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, so in its dishes you will find the perfect communion between East and West.

One of its most traditional preparations, which we definitely recommend you order if you go to a restaurant, is the typical Meze, a variety of small dishes such as hummus, aubergine puree and stuffed vine leaves.

So we also invite you to try Kofta, some seasoned beef or lamb meatballs that are a true delight, or Doner kebab, a type of shawarma made with marinated meat cooked on a vertical spit.

Also, a great option is the Turkish pizza with several ingredients, you will see that it is very different from the Italian version of this dish, and without a doubt the Black Sea-style fish dishes.

To accompany your meals, especially those seafood recipes, we invite you to try Raki, a very typical anise liqueur from the area.

And if desserts are your downfall, we recommend trying Lokum, also known as Turkish Delight, a confection made of sugar, starch, and various flavors, or the famous Baklava, a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and honey or syrup.

You can find many street vendors, food carts, cafes, and restaurants offering traditional and international food options in Istanbul, so your eating budget is highly adaptable to your needs and expectations.

Transfer to Istanbul

How to Get to the City of Istanbul?

The most common way to get to Istanbul is by plane, unless you are taking a Greek Islands cruise or an Italy tour that combines their itineraries with this city.

Istanbul has two international airports, called Istanbul International Airport or Havalimani Airport (located 35 km from the city) and Sabiha Gökçen (50 km from the city). The first airport is the most chosen by large airlines and tourists.

How to Go From Istanbul International Airport to the Center?

Istanbul International Airport is about a 35-minute drive from the city center. To move from one place to another, you can take a taxi or private transfer. You can also take the public bus, although this option is more complicated since it can take up to almost 2 and a half hours to travel.

Of course the most comfortable option is to book a private transfer with Greca, with expert drivers who know the city like the back of their hand.

How to Move in Istanbul?

To move within Istanbul you can choose between different options (taxi, private transfer, public bus, tram, metro). In turn, the schedules of public transport in the Turkish city are usually punctual and work correctly.

In the event that you decide to use public transport in Istanbul, we recommend that you have the Istanbulkart card, a wallet-card to move around the city.

With it you will get discounts on each trip and transfers will be cheaper. You can buy it at the most important metro and bus stations, where you will also find machines to debit money digitally.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city of extremes. In summer it can be very hot and crowded with tourists, while in winter the winds are strong and it can snow. The ideal seasons to visit it are spring (April-June) and autumn (September-November).

In these mild months, the terraces of cafeterias and restaurants are full of life and the city exudes a very happy atmosphere.

Keep national holidays and religious holidays in mind when planning your trip, as accommodation and transportation across the country can be more expensive or more crowded. To learn more about public holidays in Turkey, you can click here.

What to Give If You Travel to Istanbul

If you are planning to travel to Istanbul and you are one of those who like to bring a gift to loved ones who are waiting around, you should know that in Istanbul you will find great options to satisfy different tastes.

A good option to carry a little piece of Turkey in your suitcase is to give a Turkish lamp, a practical object and at the same time full of the exoticism of this mystical land.

Also, we recommend the famous Turkish eye amulet, known for its protective properties against envy.

And if you want a very sophisticated gift, keep in mind Turkish silver and gold jewelry, known worldwide for its high quality, or perfumes, whose fragrances meet the most demanding standards.

Finally, very good alternatives are handmade ceramic products and rugs, or spices and Turkish tea that will bring the essence of Turkish cuisine to any kitchen.

Some Turkish Traditions You Will Find in Istanbul

The Turkish Bath

This tradition consists of a type of bath that is taken in facilities that date back to Roman antiquity. These bathrooms are places of socialization, where people go to clean themselves, relax and share with others.

To carry out this cleaning method, hot water and cold water are used. In turn, dead skin from the body is removed from an exfoliation that is performed by rubbing the skin with plenty of soap.

Finally, in these places massages are performed on request, especially in those more touristy. And would you take a Turkish bath?

The Turkish Coffee Ceremony

Coffee in Turkey is a very serious thing, as you will notice when you arrive in Istanbul that both its preparation and its consumption are orchestrated by a series of rituals.

This is so because beyond being a drink, almost always consumed after breakfast (because it is very strong and it is necessary to have something in the stomach before drinking it), Coffee implies a language in itself, with a great symbology that unfolds in moments of socialization.

In fact, Turkish coffee is prepared in very different ways depending on the occasion, so you will find that it tastes very different at a wedding than for an event with less festive connotations.

Even in the past, and sometimes today, when asking for a woman's hand in marriage, the bride-to-be was judged on her ability to make coffee.

Today coffee shops in Turkey are meeting places where men gather to drink coffee, play card games or backgammon, discuss politics and generally socialize.

So now you know, every conversation goes better with a coffee in hand!

The Spiritual Ceremony of the Derchives

The rite performed by the Dervishes consists of going round and round to reach a state of ecstasy and thus achieve contact with Allah, and then offer this connection to humanity. This rite is called Sema and its execution involves a series of steps.

At the beginning, a group of musicians and the Dervishes and the Seyh arrive, who are dressed in black to represent death, and a prayer to Muhammad is performed. Then the drums sound and then the flute, and the Dervishes and the Seyh begin a kind of dance in which their clothing and the way they carry their bodies change.

Towards the end of the ceremony, everyone wears white, symbolizing purity after having killed the ego and being reborn, and a joint prayer is held to achieve salvation. Without a doubt, it is a religious experience that deserves to be seen.

What are the requirements to travel to Istanbul?

The requirements to enter Istanbul are to have a visa with 90 days of issuance or for specific purposes.

What currency is used in Istanbul?

The Turkish lira is the official currency of all of Turkey, which is equivalent to about USD 0.05. There is no maximum limit of money to take to Istanbul.

How much money is needed to travel to Istanbul?

According to different travel portals, the total cost per person to stay and do activities in Istanbul is around USD 90 per day.

Where are they staying in Istanbul?

The best areas to stay in Istanbul, in our opinion, are on the European side of the city. Sultanahmet is the site most chosen by tourists, since most of the tourist attractions are located around it. Other areas that many travelers go to are Eminönü, Galata, and the neighborhoods near Taksim Square.

How soon should I book accommodation in Istanbul?

If you are planning your trip to Istanbul, we recommend that you make reservations for accommodation in the city about 5 months in advance. This will allow you to consider different hotel and room options, as well as save approximately 30% of money.

How many days are needed to tour Istanbul?

If you want to know the main attractions of Istanbul, 3 to 5 days are enough. However, you can choose to stay a few more days to explore the city in complete peace and visit places not so frequented by travelers, such as the Mehmet and Mahmut mausoleums.

Is it safe to travel to Istanbul?

According to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, traveling to Istanbul is safe for tourists. Being a city highly visited every year, security levels in Istanbul are very high. Its main sites of interest are guarded by police and military.

What are the costs of the trip to Istanbul?

To know the costs of travel packages and excursions in Istanbul with Greca, click here.

How do I book my trip to Istanbul?

To book your trip to Istanbul, you can contact one of Greca's sales representatives or contact us through our official website, completing the form for your site and date of interest.

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