Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world to cross both the European and Asian continents. A staggering array of attractions, including the magnificent Byzantine church of Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), the formidable city walls, and the domes and minarets of the Ottoman mosques and palaces, Travel tips for Istanbul have been left to Istanbul as a result of its unique geographic position as the only city to serve as the capital of consecutive Christian and Islamic empires. This role has shaped the history of the region for more than 2500 years. The city is still the thriving economic, cultural, and intellectual center of contemporary Turkey, even if it is no longer its capital. It is a bustling, forward-thinking city where east and west truly collide.
Bearded men wearing skullcaps and baggy shalwar-style pants fervently answer the call to prayer in traditional neighborhoods like Fatih, while women wouldn’t dare leave the house with their heads uncovered. However, on the other side of the ocean, young Turks wearing designer jeans and sneakers who have never visited a mosque are among the sea of people rushing along Independence Street. In business districts like Işli, commuters use the metro to get to their high-rise office buildings, modern malls, and clubs where they can stay out until six in the morning on the weekends.
It takes time to come to know any city, whether it’s the Istanbul of the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace or the Beyolu nightclubs and posh rooftop cocktail bars. The main historical sites in Sultanahmet may be seen in three to four days, together with a ferry ride over the Bosphorus. However, if you want to thoroughly explore the alleyways of the ancient city as well as the surrounding suburbs and islands, plan on staying for a week or perhaps two.
Entertainment and Festivals in Istanbul
Istanbul hosts a respectable assortment of yearly cultural events and has an equally diverse artistic scene as other European cities. There is something happening virtually every night at venues throughout the city thanks to the state-sponsored theatre, opera, and ballet productions that keep tickets affordable for everybody. During the summer, there is a lot of music because there are so many international music festivals.
Bosphorus Boat Ride Istanbul
A highlight of any vacation to Istanbul is taking a boat excursion up the Bosphorus from the busy Eminönü quays to the peaceful fishing village of Anadolu Kava. The Boaz Ferry Terminal in Eminönü is where the lengthy Bosphorus Cruise, operated by the “ehir Hatlar” firm (t444 1851, wsehirhatlari.com.tr), departs from (daily: May–Oct 10.35am & 1.35pm, Nov–April 10.35am; one-way TL15, round-trip TL25).
Allow at least 30 minutes or, better yet, purchase your ticket a day or two in advance to avoid the lengthy lines that can form to purchase tickets during the summer, especially on weekends. Additionally, there are frequently large lines to board, which results in late arrivals getting the worst seats. Although rather dated, the boats are passably pleasant, and food and drink are available for purchase on board. It takes almost seven hours to travel round trip, including a two and a half hour lunch stop in Anadolu Kava.
Beşiktaş is the only stop on the way back; the other stations are in Yeniköy, Sariyer, and Rumeli Kava (all in Europe), Kanlca (in Asia), and Anadolu Kava (in Asia). The majority of tourists take the return voyage, although you can get off the boat at any of the landings to explore the shoreline or hinterland. There is a shorter route for TL10 that leaves from the same ferry station and travels the same distance without stopping (except from to pick up additional passengers at Üsküdar). The excursion leaves Eminönü at 2:30 p.m. and lasts around two hours (April–Oct daily; Nov–March Sun & public holidays).
Eating In Istanbul
The best restaurants in Turkey may be found in Istanbul, including some that devote time and skill to cooking traditional Ottoman dishes. Because of the city’s extensive coastline, fish is a mainstay on menus. Kebab vendors, bakery shops, fast-food restaurants, and cafés all across the city offer snacks to citizens, employees, and visitors alike. Restaurants around Sultanahmet, a popular tourist destination, are frequently of lower quality and more expensive than those located elsewhere in the city.
The calendar of annual festivals is rather jam-packed, especially between April and October. The International Istanbul Biennial, which takes place on odd-numbered years, is the most significant exhibition of modern art. It is put on by IKSV, the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (wiksv.org), and is held in locations including urban-chic warehouses and historic structures like the Topkap Palace.
The land walls
The land walls built by Theodosius II are among Turkey’s most intriguing Byzantine relics. Purists (and UNESCO) complain that much of the latest work done on the walls appears more like new-build than restoration, despite the fact that well-preserved remnants can still be seen along the entirety of their 6.5km length.
Construction on the land walls, which were given Theodosius II’s name, commenced in 413 AD. The walls of Constantine were extended by 2 km, from the Marmara to Tekfur Saray, to accommodate the growing population of the city. In view of the impending threat of attack from Attila the Hun, all citizens—regardless of rank—were forced to assist in the reconstruction after their collapse in the earthquake of 447 AD. The finished structure included the original wall, which was 5 m thick and 12 m high, as well as an outside wall that measured 2 m by 8.5 m and a 20 m-wide moat. All of these elements were adequate to stave off Atilla’s attack.
It takes around two hours to walk along the walls, but a whole day is necessary to thoroughly appreciate it and the nearby attractions. The majority of the outer wall and its 96 towers are still in place; access is limited to some of the rebuilt portions, but in other places it is possible to scramble along the deteriorating structure. Avoid this area at night, especially Topkap, as there are still a lot of dilapidated slums there.
The three main attractions can also be seen on their own. The best way to get to the Yedikule fortifications, which are near the southern end of the walls, is to walk up from the suburban train station there. From the Ulubatl M1 metro stop, the Pazartekke T1 tram stop, the Mihrimah Camii similarly, or take #28, #38E, or #336E bus from Eminönü to Edirnekap, the Kariye Museum, a former Byzantine cathedral holding some of the best-preserved mosaics and murals in the world, is easily accessible.