Despite being the biggest city, it's not Turkey's capital. But with its old Christian and Muslim heritage, Istanbul is one of the most culturally-appealing cities in Europe and Asia - because the city is split between the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor.
Characteristic to Istanbul are the vast shopping districts, huge mosques, Turkish delicacies and, of course: unique geography - the city is cut in half by the Bosporus Pass and the Haliç Bay.
Population: 13.853.740 (in 2012) in City
Local language(s): Turkish
Other widely spoken or understood languages: German
Country, State: Turkey, Istanbul
Voltage info: 220 V, 50 Hz - Plug type: C, F
Time zine: EET (UTC+2)
Getting There & Away
Atatürk Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport are the two aerial gateways that you should consider. The latter is primarily for charter and low cost air carriers and is located on the Asian side of the city. Transfer to central Istanbul from there might take 3-4 hours even by a mix of road vehicles, ships. If you can afford, take a taxi - would be faster, but more costly.
Atatürk Airport is the bigger airport and it even has a subway line connecting it with the city.
Either from Europe of from Asia, Istanbul is very well connected through modern infrastructure, but it's not advisable to travel by car. Crowded roads and long waiting times. Not to mention, it might be exhausting.
There are trains are crossing the Balkans and arriving at Istanbul. Journeys can be enjoyable with some trains - there are connections with various Western European capitals, like Budapest, Paris and others...
Because it's on the Bosporus Strait, Istanbul can be reached in many ways by water. Cruise ships operate to Istanbul as well.
We recommend you to check out the cruises section and read a bit about how to obtain cheap cruise trips. Then, look up the cruise lines that serve Istanbul. Perhaps you could put together a trip that includes a stop-over at this great city!
See & Do
Hagia Sofia Mosque
The immense mosque is probably the most famous building of its kind in the entire World.
Before muslim times, the Hagia Sofia used to be a Byzantine Church. Inside you can still see the (preserved) depictions of Virgin Mary and Jesus on its walls.
The Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
Another mosque, just across the green area near Hagia Sofia. Its interiors has characteristic paintwork on its walls with abundant blue-painted motifs.
The Grand Bazaar
No trip to Istanbul is complete without checking out the Grand Bazaar. A covered area where you can wander and wander like in an Arab Souk endlessly... labyrinth.
Carpet sellers, souvenir sellers, gold sellers even (jewelry and bullion), but just about anything can be found at the Great Bazaar of Istanbul.
A "must see", don't leave it out. Perhaps it should be the main thing to visit while in Istanbul.
Indescribably beautiful treasures of gold, gemstones and various other objects and relics are held at the Topkapi Museum. You'll see Prophet Mohammed's tooth relics, parts of his beard, but even a rod that was supposedly Moses'. All these along with orange-size emeralds, even a huge entirely gold throne and others...
Eat & Drink
Especially if you're not from Europe, you must try the local delicacies. Turkish sweets are world-renowned and you'll love the colorful sights of the shop windows - filled with various local sweet delicacies.
Kebabs and Döner kebabs are a "must try" when in Istanbul. It can't get more original, it can't get more Turkish than in Istanbul.
Because the city is cut by water in the Bosporus, you will have to resort to ships for crossing. There are several bridges, of course.
The tram system in the old historic quarters covers the main attraction areas pretty well.
But the Istanbul metro system is still quite small, covering a very small portion of the mega city.
When to Visit Istanbul at Last Minute?
The warm period is May-September. But another swarm of visitors arrives during the New Year celebrations' period - for the sake of spending those few days in this magnificent city.
Istanbul might be cheaper during September and in May. In September many tourists will have left (the large crowds are no longer flocking the hotels) and as the number of clients decreases, prices on hotels follow the trend - it might be a good time to visit for less.
May is more ideal from the point-of-view of weather. And it's still the pre-summer period, so the "vacation frenzy" hasn't started in May yet. You might also take April in to consideration.
Some swindles, frauds and theft occur, but overall Istanbul is relatively safe.
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