Accommodation & places to visit in Istanbul

The city of Istanbul is one of the most remarkable in the world. Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, with an estimated population between 12 and 19 million inhabitants. When you visit Istanbul, you'll find a city of wonders that offers a wealth of opportunities. It is a cultural hub in the region, featuring historic sites from human history. But it is also a modern financial hub that features progressive attractions. Perhaps its greatest allure is its position in the world. Straddling both sides of the straight between the Black Sea and Marmara Sea, Istanbul is a bridge (physically and culturally) between Europe and Asia.

  • When to visit
    If you enjoy being out and about when you travel, the best time to visit Istanbul comes in late spring and early autumn. The weather is accommodating, and it allows you the opportunity to explore the city through a variety of different tours. One popular tour is the Bosphorus cruise. Many companies offer this cruise across the Bosphorus Strait, which divides the city itself, and Europe from Asia. The safest option is offered by the state-run Sehir Hatlari, which offers a 3-hour cruise exploring both sides of Istanbul.
    Additional options include the Theodosian Wall walks. In total, these self-guided walks cover 4 miles (7 km) of ancient fortifications that protected the city from 408 AD when Constantine ruled, and stood as critical defense points for the Eastern Roman Empire and the subsequent Ottoman Empire. There is also the inspirational opportunity to view the city's Jewish heritage. The Jewish Heritage Tour covers important landmarks and sites within the city dating back to the deportation of Jews from Spain in 1492.
  • Weather
    Turkey as a whole, and Istanbul in particular is dominated by a temperate oceanic climate, which is also influenced by a continental climate. The summer months are characterized by hot, humid weather, with cold, wet, and sometimes snowy winters. If you want to spend your time outdoors exploring Istanbul on foot, the best times of year to visit fall between March and mid-May, and September-October.
    The summer months are generally hot, with an average daily high of 80 F (27 C) and an average daily low of 64 F (18 C). Summer months are dry, but with intense humidity setting in from June to August, the high temperatures feel even more oppressive. Winter months are colder with late autumn and winter boasting the wettest periods of the year. Average daytime highs in winter hover around 44 F (7 C), with lows near 35 F (2 C).
  • To Do
    A critical piece of Istanbul's cultural heritage is the Turkish bath. Known as hamams locally, a visit to one of these Turkish baths is a must if you are going to spend any significant amount of time in the city. Pay close attention to the quality of the hamam you visit as cleanliness can vary greatly from one to the next.
    Another central activity in Istanbul's social and political life, more so in the past, is the nargile. Known more commonly as a Turkish water pip, locals are still fond of visiting dens where they can smoke a nargile. If you visit Istanbul between late March and mid-April, look for the city's famous tulips to be in full bloom. Once associated with a period of overspending by state elitists, large gardens of tulips have regained their former popularity among modern-day residents of Istanbul.
  • To See
    Istanbul has served as the capital and primary hub of numerous empires throughout human history. The Romans, Byzantines, and Ottoman Turks all called the city home, and you'll find a variety of historic monuments awaiting you on your travels to Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern are located in or around Sultanahmet Square.
    If you want to look back in time to the daily life of Istanbul residents under Ottoman rule, head west from the central old city to the neighborhood of Eyup. If you prefer a glimpse at the life of wealthy residents of the city in empires gone by, visit the city's eastern neighborhoods along the banks of the Bosphorus. Here you'll find waterfront mansions and palaces that once belonged to the city's elite during the Roman and Ottoman Empires.
  • Tips & Recommendations

    • Shops in Istanbul use the national currency, the Turkish Lira (TL). However, the Euro and US dollar widely accepted in tourist areas.

    • Shops across the city are closed on Sundays. Don't be shocked to see security checkpoints at malls that you'd only see at airports in the Western world.

    • The city's historical bazaars feature amazing ambiance and the chance to shop for spices, clothes, and more.

    • Istanbul has separate phone codes for the European and Asian side of the city. 212 in the West, 216 in the East.

    • As you would on any trip, avoid Istanbul's slums. The residents of these neighborhoods are particularly aggressive toward outsiders.

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