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Istanbul Travel Guide

Istanbul Travel Guide

Istanbul was one of the most important cities in the world throughout history and it still maintains this feature today. This city, dominated by many different civilizations, bears the traces of all the civilizations it has hosted on its lands. Dozens of historical artifacts in the city have turned Istanbul into an open-air museum. Of course, the places to visit in Istanbul , which can encounter a different beauty in every district and even in every district,  do not end with counting. Many natural and historical destinations, especially mosques, palaces, museums, fortresses, parks and gardens, are among the must-see places.

Let’s take a closer look at Istanbul, which is the most populated and most populated city in Turkey.

Where is Istanbul

Located at the point where the Asian and European continents meet, Istanbul is a city with land parts belonging to both continents.

Located between the cities of Tekirdağ and Izmit, Istanbul is located on the shores of Marmara and Black Sea.

The Prince Islands and Yalova are located right across from Istanbul.

How to go to Istanbul

Istanbul, which is highly developed in many ways and has a very dense population, can be reached by sea, road, air and railway.

Airplane:  It is possible to reach Istanbul by air from many cities of Turkey and the world. If you are going to Istanbul by plane, you can choose one of the 2 existing airports (Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport).

It is possible to provide transportation to Istanbul, where it is possible to reach Istanbul within 1-2 hours on average on domestic flights, for an average of 150 TL – 500 TL depending on the company from which you will buy the flight ticket.

Bus:  There is a bus transportation option to Istanbul from almost all cities in Turkey. You can reach Istanbul by bus for an average of 70 TL – 200 TL, depending on the company you bought the bus ticket from and the city you are in.

The transportation time from some cities to Istanbul by bus option is as follows;

  • Transportation from Ankara to Istanbul by Bus: 6 – 8 hours.
  • Transportation from Izmir to Istanbul by Bus: 8 – 10 hours.
  • Transportation from Bursa to Istanbul by Bus: 3-5 hours.
  • Transportation from Adana to Istanbul by Bus: 14 – 18 hours.

Seaway :  It is possible to reach Istanbul by sea from different parts of Turkey.

If you want to go to Istanbul by sea buses;

  • Avsa Island – Bostanci
  • Avsa Island – Yenikapi
  • Marmara Island – Bostanci
  • Bursa – Kadikoy
  • Eskihisar – Topcular
  • Yalova – Yenikapi
  • Bursa – Yenikapi

You can use the sea bus lines.

As of December 2021, you can use the sea buses that provide transportation to Istanbul, with an average cost of 50 TL. For up-to-date information about the current ticket prices of the lines, you can check the official website of IDO.

Train:  There is a high-speed train transportation option from Arifiye, Gebze, Sapancı to Istanbul.

Also, if you wish;

  • Istanbul – Ankara
  • Istanbul – Konya
  • Istanbul – Eskisehir

There is also the option of transportation by train.

You can check the official website of TCDD for information about current ticket prices and train times.

Istanbul Attractions

In order to make your trip to Istanbul easier, we have prepared a list of places, historical places and museums you should see in Istanbul. First of all, we start with a map of places to visit in Istanbul. 

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

There are many places that can be put on the list of places to visit in Istanbul, but the place that deserves the first place is definitely Hagia Sophia. 

Hagia Sophia, built in 360 by the Eastern Roman Emperor Constantius, is one of the oldest cathedrals in the world .

This building, which was called Megale Ekklesia at the time it was built and called  Hagia Sophia in the 5th century , carried this name until Istanbul was conquered in 1453. After conquering Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet ordered Hagia Sophia to be a mosque and the minarets of the building were built by Mimar Sinan . Hagia Sophia, which became a museum in 1935, was reopened for worship in 2020 .

You can visit Hagia Sophia every day of the week except Monday .

Visiting hours

  • Summer: 09:00-19:00
  • Winter: 09:00-17:00

2. Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

The Blue Mosque, which was built by the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa , one of Mimar Sinan’s students, by the Ottoman Sultan Sultan Ahmed I between 1609 and 1617, is the most famous mosque in Istanbul, perhaps even in Turkey . One of the first places that all local and foreign tourists visit in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is known by foreign tourists as the Blue Mosque . The reason for this is that the interior of the mosque is furnished with 21 thousand Iznik tiles and has a deep blue appearance.

These 16 balconies in the Blue Mosque, which has 16 balconies, symbolize that Sultan Ahmet I is the 16th ruler of the Ottoman Empire . The dome of the Blue Mosque, located directly opposite Hagia Sophia, is 43 meters high and its diameter is 23.5 meters.

Since the mosque is open for worship, it can be very crowded on Fridays and religious holidays. For this reason, if you intend to visit the mosque to see the mosque from an architectural point of view, it may be a better choice to choose quieter days.

3. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi palace

Another building that deserves to be at the top of our list is Topkapı Palace , located in the Historical Peninsula, the most touristic area of ​​Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace, built after the conquest of Istanbul, is located in the Sarayburnu district of Fatih district . Topkapı Palace, which served as the administrative center for 400 years of the 600-year history of the Ottoman Empire , was turned into a museum on April 3, 1924, and with this feature, it is also  the first museum of the Republic of Turkey .

It is one of the largest palace museums in the world, as it covers an area of ​​300,000 square meters and hosts approximately 300,000 archival documents. When you go to visit the museum, you can see the Harem section, the Cardigan-ı Saadet Office, the Privy Room, Babü’s Saade and the Garden of the Mansions. You should also visit the Istanbul Library, which houses the portraits, clothes and weapons of the sultans.

Topkapı Palace is open to visitors between 10:00 and 17:30 on weekdays , except Tuesdays, and between 10:30 and 17:30 on weekends.

4. Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Another of the most popular stops of the Historic Peninsula in Beyazıt is the Grand Bazaar.

We can say that the Grand Bazaar, which was built during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror and has continued its existence for 550 years, is the oldest bazaar of Istanbul with this feature . It is famous for its streets that you will get lost in and the jewelers that direct the world gold market . Besides shopping at the Grand Bazaar known to foreigners as the Grand Bazaar, you will see that everything sold here reflects the ancient spirit of Istanbul.

The bazaar, which aimed to increase the income of the Ottoman Empire at the time it was built, grew over time and became the most important trade center in the region. Considered the oldest shopping center in the world, the Grand Bazaar is also one of the largest shopping centers in the world , with an area of ​​45,000 square meters . The Grand Bazaar, which is also mentioned in Evliya Çelebi’s Travel Book, is also mentioned in other travel books with its size and shops inside.

Home to about 4000 shops , the Grand Bazaar is famous for its jewelers, as we mentioned before. In the Grand Bazaar, besides jewelers, you can find spice shops, Turkish delight shops, carpets, rugs and fabrics. Even if you are not going to buy anything from the Grand Bazaar, you should definitely wander through the shops because it would not be possible to go back without feeling the nostalgic atmosphere of old Istanbul.

5. Galata Tower

Galata tower

Galata Tower is one of the first structures that comes to mind when Istanbul is mentioned and forms the silhouette of Istanbul .

From the Galata Tower, which is the symbol of the city, you can see the magnificent view of Istanbul from 70 meters high , 360 degrees . Galata Tower welcomes so many tourists during the day that it is very possible to see long queues in front of it .

Galata Tower, which is among the oldest towers in the world , was built in 545 AD at the request of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, but after this tower was destroyed, it was rebuilt by the Genoese in the 1350s. The tower, which was destroyed by fire and earthquakes, was restored by the Ottoman Empire. The last repair of the tower was made in 2020. (previous repair 1967) The tower, which offers a wonderful view of Istanbul when you climb to the top;

  • Between 10:00 – 22:00 in summer
  • Between 10:00 – 19:00 in winter

you can visit.

The Galata Tower entrance fee was increased by more than 200 percent as of July 2021.

Accordingly, Galata Tower entrance fees, which were 30 TL during the BELTUR period of IMM, were increased to 100 TL as of July 1, 2021 .

6. Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is one of the most valuable structures in Istanbul from the Byzantine Empire period .

The Basilica Cistern, which was built in 532 by the order of Emperor Justinianus, is also known as “Basilica Cistern” because of the presence of the Stoa Basilica in its place. The cistern, which was used for the water needs of the palace and the people in the years it was built, continued to be used as a water source for a while after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire.

The Basilica Cistern , which is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide , has a depth of 9 meters . The most mysterious artifact in the Basilica Cistern, which has a water storage capacity of around 90,000 tons , is the Medusa Head . The Medusa Head statue, located under two columns in the northwest of the cistern, is one of the most important works of the Roman Period.

The Basilica Cistern  is open to visitors all days of the week .

  • Between 09:00 – 17:30 in the winter period
  • In the summer period , between 09:00 – 18:30

you can visit.

The entrance fees to the Basilica Cistern, for which the Müzekart is not valid, are as follows;

  • For Adults: 15 TL
  • Students and teachers: 5 TL
  • For Foreigners: 30 TL

7. Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square

It would not be a lie to say that this is the most important square of Istanbul , which is the meeting point of people, where dozens of important works are located today, as the starting point of touristic trips in Istanbul.

The other name of Sultanahmet Square  , which was used as a hippodrome in the Roman Empire  and later Byzantine periods , is Horse Square for this reason . As it is today, it has maintained its importance for a very long time as the meeting, entertainment, excitement and sports center of the city. The Imperial Palace, known as the “Great Palace”, started from the Hippodrome and stretched down to the seaside. Today, obelisks such as the Serpent Column , Knitted Obelisk and Obelisk, whose remains can still be seen , were used to divide the hippodrome into two. These works are among the most important elements of the photographs taken in Sultanahmet Square today.

Sultanahmet Square, as you can imagine, takes its name from the Blue Mosque located in the square . After the Blue Mosque was built in 1616, it started to be called Sultanahmet Square.

After seeing the square, you should definitely visit the Blue Mosque. Afterwards, you should continue with places to visit such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Ibrahim Pasha Palace, German Fountain and Hagia Irene Church. Of course, you can’t do without tasting the famous Sultanahmet meatballs.

8. Spice Bazaar

The Egyptian Bazaar

Spice Bazaar is one of the places that best reflects the old atmosphere of Istanbul.

The Spice Bazaar, built in the 17th century , was one of the centers of trade in the Ottoman Empire . The Spice Bazaar, which was known by names such as Yeni Çarşı (because it was built next to the New Mosque) and Valide Bazaar in the first years of its construction, started to be known by its current name with the sale of spices from Egypt over time. The Spice Bazaar, which is easily accessible because it is located in Eminönü, one of the most active areas of Istanbul, is one of the places frequented by tourists .

9. Gulhane Park

Gulhane Park

Gülhane Park, which was used as the outer garden of Topkapı Palace during the Ottoman Empire , contained a grove and rose gardens. The Tanzimat Edict , which is accepted as the first concrete step in the history of Turkish democratization, was read by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mustafa Reşit Pasha in Gülhane Park on November 3, 1839, during the reign of Abdülmecit .

Gülhane Park, which is one of the cleanest parks in Turkey , which houses the Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar Library and the History of Islamic Science and Technology Museum, is also a frequent destination for tourists. The tea gardens in the park are the right choice to cool off under a tree and relax after visiting the Historic Peninsula.

10. Maiden’s Tower

Maiden's Tower

The Maiden’s Tower, famous for its legends, which has hosted many civilizations, has a history of 2500 years .

The Maiden’s Tower, one of the symbols of Istanbul, is 200 meters from the beach , with a 5-storey and 9-meter-high tower .

Today , Maiden’s Tower, which serves as a cafe restaurant during the day , serves as a private restaurant in the evening.

Access to the Maiden’s Tower is provided by boats departing from the beach .

The most well-known legend about the Maiden’s Tower, of which various legends are told, is as follows;

The Eastern Roman Emperor dreams that his beloved daughter will die. He has a tower built in the middle of the sea to protect his daughter. He thinks that this way he will protect his daughter from all harm. One day, the young girl dies as a result of the bite of the snake that came out of the fruit basket brought to the tower and according to the legend, this structure is called the Maiden’s Tower.

11. Taksim Square

Taksim square

Taksim Square is, of course , the most famous square in Istanbul after Sultanahmet Square. Taksim Square, one of the liveliest spots in Istanbul, is a circular square with the Republic Monument in the middle . The Republic Monument in Taksim Square was built in 1928. One side of the monument symbolizes the War of Independence and the other side symbolizes Turkey after the proclamation of the Republic. On the side of the War of Independence, Atatürk is standing next to the soldiers, while on the other side İsmet İnönü and Fevzi Çakmak are standing in civilian clothes.

12. Istiklal Avenue

Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is one of the most popular and iconic places in Istanbul . Istiklal Street, located in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul , starts from Taksim Square and ends in the tunnel. The street, which took its name with the proclamation of the Republic in the 20th century , gained its current appearance in the 19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdulaziz. There are many must-see spots such as Galatasaray High School and Emek Cinema on Istiklal Street, which is one of the streets that is lively at every hour in Istanbul.

13. Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque, another of the places that will impress the visitors of our list of places to visit in Istanbul, is one of the most important works of Mimar Sinan. Süleymaniye Mosque, which is the work of Mimar Sinan during his journeyman period, is located in the Beyazıt district of Istanbul. As can be understood from its name, the Süleymaniye Mosque, which was built by his order during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent , has 4 minarets due to the fact that Kanuni is the 4th sultan to the throne after the conquest of Istanbul, and 10 balconies due to the fact that he is the 10th Ottoman sultan in total. 

Architect Sinan thought every detail very carefully when he was building the Süleymaniye Mosque, which he built between 1551 and 1557 . For example; He has used empty cubes for weeks for his acoustics and has made many attempts to tune the acoustics in the best possible way. He also used ostrich eggs to prevent possible insect and scorpion infestation in the mosque .

14. Rumeli Fortress

Rumeli Fortress

Rumeli Fortress is one of the most popular historical buildings in Istanbul. Rumeli Fortress, which was built in 90 days to prevent aid from the Black Sea to Byzantium in order to facilitate the conquest of Istanbul by the order of Mehmet the Conqueror, is also known as Boğazkesen Fortress, in accordance with its purpose.

Rumeli Fortress, located directly opposite Anadolu Hisarı at the point where the two shores of the Bosphorus converge, is a magnificent structure with its three big towers and ramparts. The Rumeli Fortress, which hosted many outdoor events such as the “Rumeli Fortress Concerts” for a while, now welcomes its visitors as a museum, and the cannons, cannonballs used in the conquest of Istanbul and a part of the chain that is said to close the Golden Horn are exhibited.

15. Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace, which is used as a museum today, was built by Sultan Abdulmecid , the 31st sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahçe Palace, which was started to be built in 1843 and completed in 1856, was built on a huge area of ​​​​250.000 square meters.

The palace, one of the most important landmarks of Istanbul , has a magnificent appearance bearing traces of western architecture.

Dolmabahçe Palace, which has a special moral value because Atatürk spent his last days , is among the largest palaces in Turkey.

The entrance fees of Dolmabahçe Palace, which is open to visitors every day of the week except Monday, between 09:00 and 16:00 , are as follows;

  • Selamlık Full Ticket: 50 TL
  • Harem Full Ticket: 40 TL
  • Selamlık + Harem: 80 TL

The Museum Card is valid only in the Harem section of the Dolmabahçe Palace.

16. Anadolu Hisarı

Anatolian Fortress

Built in 1395 during the reign of Yıldırım Beyazıt, Anadolu Hisarı is located right across the Rumeli Fortress with all its splendor . Anadolu Hisarı , also known as Güzelce Hisarı, located in the “Anadolu Hisarı” district of Istanbul , is built on an area of ​​approximately 7,000 square meters . Anadolu Hisarı, which was built and used for this purpose in the period to control the ships passing through the straits, was of great importance for the Ottoman Empire to control the ship traffic in the straits, but lost its importance over time after the Rumeli Fortress was built. The road passes through the middle of Anadolu Hisarı, some parts of which have been destroyed today.

17. Belgrad Forest

Belgrad Forest

Located on the European side of Istanbul, the Belgrad Forest is one of the places that people in Istanbul visit to get away from the crowd and stress of the city and to breathe. You can take a morning walk / jog on the 6 km track of the Belgrad Forest, which is almost the oxygen source of Istanbul, or you can bring your breakfast items and have your breakfast at the picnic tables in the forest accompanied by bird sounds. If you are going to enter the Belgrad Forest, which is heavily visited by visitors especially on weekends, with your car, the entrance fee is charged as 30 TL with the increase of April 2, 2022.

18. Yildiz Palace

star Palace

III. Yıldız Palace, which was built by the order of Selim’s mother Mihrişah Sultan, is located within the borders of Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. Yıldız Palace, II. It was used as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Abdülhamit. II. During the reign of Abdülhamit, he was particularly interested in the expansion and decoration of the palace.

Yıldız Palace, which fascinates its visitors with its impressive and elegant architectural structure, has the distinction of being the last palace work from the Ottoman Empire. In this respect, it has a different place from other palaces.

Yıldız Palace has taken its final form with many additions made over the years. For this reason, there are many buildings and structures with different characteristics on the palace grounds. These buildings and structures are as follows;

  • Great Mabeyn Mansion
  • Fence Pavilion
  • Pigeon Building
  • Auxiliary Mansions
  • Sultan’s Office
  • Theater and Opera House
  • Chalet Mansion
  • Harem Apartments
  • Marangozhane
  • Palace Library
  • Yildiz Hamidiye Mosque
  • Observation Lodge
  • Little Mabeyn Mansion
  • Porcelain Production House
  • Palace Museum
  • City Museum

The parts of Yıldız Palace, located in a grove surrounded by greenery, are among the must-see places for those who want to witness the last period of the Ottoman Empire.

You can visit Yıldız Palace, which is open to visitors every day of the week except Monday, between 10:00 and 17:00. (Tolls close at 16:00)

NOTE : Yıldız Palace is under restoration and closed to visitors for a while. There is no definite information about when it will open to visitors.

19. Ortakoy Mosque (Great Mecidiye Mosque)

Ortakoy Mosque

The “Great Mecidiye Mosque”, popularly known as the “Ortaköy Mosque”, is located on the edge of the Bosphorus, close to the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge. Ortaköy Mosque, the main character of the famous Ortaköy photographs, was built in 1853 by Sultan Abdülmecit.

Ortaköy Mosque, which has quite large windows, receives a lot of light in this way. Designed in Neo Baroque style, the mosque manages to impress its visitors both with its interior and exterior. Ortaköy Mosque, which has recently undergone restoration, is now open for worship.

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