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.
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).
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.
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.
Gumussuyu Mah. Kazanci Yokusu Cad. 11 Taksim Beyoglu, Istanbul
With no more than 20 rooms, Taksim Premier Suites is a small boutique establishment. Book a comfy 3-star room here. Galatasaray Hamam is just one of the attractions within a short distance. You may want to see Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center; both are close to this location. This area offers several museums, including the popular Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey. This lodging is not far from Miniature Park.
Hüseyinaga Mah. Ekrem Tur Sk. No 10 Beyoglu, Istanbul
With fewer than 20 rooms, Gravis Suites is more intimate than many Istanbul lodgings. The 4-star rating ensures a memorable stay here. Galatasaray Hamam is one of the easily accessible attractions from here. Near this accommodation, you'll find Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center. Both Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey are quite close. Highly recommended Miniature Park is just a short distance from here.
Küçük Ayasofya Caddesi Ogul Sok. No:17, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
On a budget? 2-star Istanbul Antique House is an excellent choice. You'll enjoy more personalized service thanks to the small size of this property. From here, you'll be conveniently close to Sirkeci Railway Station. You can walk to Cemberlitas Hamam, Cagaloglu Hamam and Wall of Constantinople from here. Nearby are numerous museums, including the fine Great Palace Mosaic Museum and Hagia Sophia collections. Miniature Park is just a short distance from here.
Inonu Mah, Uftade Sk No:34 Elmadag, Sisli, Istanbul
If you dislike giant hotels, Hotel Alfonso may be a good choice. Galatasaray Hamam isn't far from here and it's a must-see! Landmarks in the area include Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center. The young at heart will enjoy Miniature Park. From here, you'll be only 1.3 km (0.8 miles) from Galeri Apel.
Cihangir Mahallesi Purtelas Sok No: 42 Beyoglu, Istanbul
At the popular Levanten Hostel rooms go quickly thanks to its small size. If you're looking for an affordable rate, 2-star rooms are available here. Nearby Galatasaray Hamam might be the high point of your vacation. The well-known landmarks, Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center are walking distance from here. Nearby are numerous museums, including the fine Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey collections. This lodge is great for those planning to visit Miniature Park.
Its 2-star rating makes Cordial House Hotel a good option for budget lodging. The lodging is easily reached from Sirkeci Railway Station. Cemberlitas Hamam, Cagaloglu Hamam and Wall of Constantinople are all within walking distance from here. While in Istanbul, spend a few hours exploring Hagia Sophia or Great Palace Mosaic Museum. Children and adults will enjoy a visit to Miniature Park.
The small and cozy Route 39 - Hostel offers a homey ambiance. Here, great value for the money means you'll have more to spend on sightseeing, dining and other travel priorities. Take a leisurely walk toGalatasaray Hamam, a recommended attraction! You'll be centrally located near landmarks such as Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center. From this property you'll be close to Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey. Miniature Park is a popular attraction you can visit easily from this location.
Cankurtaran Mah. Akbyk Cad. Bayram Frn Sok. No:12 Sultanahmet, Istanbul
The affordable 2-star Big Apple Hostel & Hotel offers value for your budget. The rooms here are small in number and the hospitality is highly regarded. A practical option, as Sirkeci Railway Station can be easily reached from the property. From this area you can easily visit Cagaloglu Hamam, Cemberlitas Hamam and even Wall of Constantinople. Istanbul museums are delightful! Spend some time in Great Palace Mosaic Museum, or perhaps Hagia Sophia. You may enjoy a visit to Miniature Park, which is easy to reach from here.
Demirci Resit Sokak No: 13 Kucukayasofya, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
With its 4 star rating, Villa Sphendone Suites guarantees a comfortable stay. You won't get lost in a crowd here, as there are fewer than 20 rooms. Sirkeci Railway Station is the easiest station to reach by public transit. This is a great location for walking to landmarks such as Cemberlitas Hamam, Cagaloglu Hamam and Wall of Constantinople. Not to be missed in Istanbul are the museums Great Palace Mosaic Museum and Hagia Sophia. Not far away, Miniature Park offers fun times.
Bulbul Mah Duvarci Adem Sok. No: 35 Taksim Beyoglu, Istanbul
If you prefer a more intimate property, Yusufpasa Suites is a good option. Book a comfy 4-star room here. Galatasaray Hamam is just one of the attractions within a short distance. Landmarks in the area include Ogzala and Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center. Not to be missed in Istanbul are the museums Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey. Plan to visit Miniature Park? This property is a good choice!
Antique Hippodrome has 3 stars. With fewer than 20 rooms here, you'll avoid big hotel crowds. Sirkeci Railway Station is the nearest station to this property. You can walk to Cemberlitas Hamam, Cagaloglu Hamam and Wall of Constantinople from here. Nearby Great Palace Mosaic Museum and Hagia Sophia are recommended tour stops. Experience the thrills of Miniature Park.
Akbiyik Cad Terbiyik Sok No:15 Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Given its 2-star class, Marmara Guesthouse gives great value for the price. The number of rooms is low, the quality of personal service is high. Nearby, Sirkeci Railway Station is a good public transportation option. This property is centrally located near Cagaloglu Hamam, Wall of Constantinople and Cemberlitas Hamam. Nearby museum choices include Great Palace Mosaic Museum and Hagia Sophia. Children and adults will enjoy a visit to Miniature Park.
With no more than 20 rooms, Eva Residence is a small boutique establishment. Galatasaray Hamam is an interesting attraction just a stroll from here. Ogzala is a popular landmark found nearby, as is Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center. Miniature Park is just a short distance from here. In the immediate vicinity of this accommodation, you'll find the outstanding Galeri Apel and Jewish Museum of Turkey.