Istanbul straddles both Europe and Asia and for centuries has been a physical bridge between the Orient and West. The former capital of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, Istanbul was known throughout the ancient world as Constantinople. With its views of the Bosphorus Straight and Sea of Marmara, orange tiled rooftops, and Islamic minarets, it is a stunning city. Visit for the delicious Mediterranean food, shopping in the Grand Bazaar, and gorgeous architectural antiquities including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Istanbul is a delight to visit in warm weather. Go anytime spring through early summer or in the autumn. To see all the sights and fully enjoy the city, we recommend at least three days.
Be sure to check Visa requirements before visiting Turkey. Online visas can be applied for here.
From the airport, take the M1A Yenikapı - Atatürk Airport subway line to the city center. Alternatively, cabs are an option but heavy traffic can make the journey take twice as long. We would only recommend this if you arrive early morning or late in the evening.
Antiochia Hip, brick-walled restaurant in Beyoğlu with amazing food. Great spot for dinner.
Cemil Dulda'nın Yeri Mardin Meat and kebab hall next to the Grand Baazar. Try the Iskander kebab and eggplant kofte.
Hocapasa Pidecisi Humble little lunch spot in Hocapasa serving up excellent pide (Turkish pizza). It is very near the Gülhane Parkı Çeşmesi park.
Hünkar Turkish and Ottoman food in the Nisantasi neighborhood.
Meze by Lemon Tree Diner Excellent Turkish food near Taksim Square. Go for dinner.
Tarihi Karadeniz Döner Kebab sandwiches in the Besiktas neighborhood. Great option for lunch on the go.
Be sure to try the local tea, called çay, and Turkish coffee.
Anadolu Nargile Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medresesi This 300 year old, former Islamic school is now a hidden shisha bar near the Grand Bazaar. This spot has an authentic, local vibe, though as with most shisha bars in Islamic countries, it does not serve alcohol.
Istiklal Caddesi There are lots of great places for drinks in the narrow streets that flow from Istiklal Caddesi, a main street near Beyoğlu and Taksim Square. Nevizade Sokak is a particularly good side street.
Mikla Trendy roof-top bar (and restaurant) in Beyoğlu. Go for cocktails and watch the sun set over the Bosphorus.
For visits to the mosques and other monuments, we recommend buying tickets in advance. The lines are a cluster and often warrant long wait times.
Dolmabahce This is the former palace and place of death of Atatürk, the Turk hero who brought down the Ottoman Empire.
Galata Kulesi (Galata Tower) Medieval tower in Karaköy quarter of the city. Historically, this was the city watchtower and now welcomes visitors to see a 360 view over Istanbul at the top of the tower.
Hagia Sophia This must see Orthodox church was converted into a mosque by Muslims. After you have toured the interior, grab a Turkish coffee on the terrace of nearby restaurant Seven Hills for the best views.
Kapali Carsi Grand Bazaar. Some of our favorite shops include:
Koç In need of a leather Jacket? They have two shops, one in front of the other, but try the smaller shop. The seller speaks good English.
Recep Karaduman Beautiful Turkish Carpets, worth the visit even if you are not looking to buy.
Kiz Kulesi (Maiden's Tower) Go by ferry and enjoy the beautiful views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus from the top of the tower.
Sultanahmet Known as the Blue Mosque, this active place of worship is famous for its blue tiled interior and architecture. It is a 10 minute walk from the Hagia Sophia. Free entry.
Taksim Square The heart of the trendy Beyoğlu neighborhood, this is a hot spot for cafes, bars and people watching.
Topkapi Palace This old Ottoman palace overlooking the city which was the center of Istanbul.
Turkish Baths There are many. Don’t miss trying one!
Sultanahmet is a neighborhood close to most of the major sites but does not offer many restaurant options. We enjoyed Hotel Niles Istanbul, a tiny, boutique hotel with a lovely roof terrace that is a few blocks from the Grand Bazaar.
Otherwise, check out Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş or Nişantaşi neighborhoods. Beyoğlu is known for its proximity to bars, restaurants and shopping.