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City trip Istanbul: Our highlights & tips for the metropolis on the Bosporus

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Istanbul leaves you speechless. It overwhelms you. Excited. Leaves a lasting impression. Istanbul is probably the city trip that we remember the most in its entirety. Admittedly, we were a bit skeptical before our trip. But within a very short time we were hooked on Istanbul.

Are you also planning a city trip to Istanbul? In this article on our travel blog you will find out what awaits you in Turkey’s largest city. We will show you the most beautiful sights and of course we will also tell you our personal tips for your trip to the fascinating city on the Bosporus.

1. Fascination Istanbul: Our experiences & what awaits you So much in advance: Istanbul is a must have seen. The pulsating flair of the metropolis can hardly be put into words. Istanbul exudes life like no other place.

At the same time, Istanbul fascinates like no other city: literally two worlds collide here. Europe meets Asia. Asia meets Europe. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world on two continents. The Turkish city is divided into two. Two sides, two continents, two cultures. That makes it contradictory, but more than that, it makes Istanbul one of the most fascinating cities we have ever seen.

Is Istanbul safe? Unfortunately, Istanbul doesn’t only have beautiful sides. We are thinking, for example, of the terrorist attacks in the years 1200 and 2017, which have led to a massive slump in tourism. Added to this is the tense political situation.

Nonetheless: Reducing Istanbul to terror and the attempted coup would never do justice to the city. Ultimately, Istanbul is a great city that left a lasting impression on us and that we will definitely see again.

There is currently no travel warning from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ) for Istanbul. You can find current information under the following link: Travel information Turkey.

How much time should I plan for Istanbul? If you want to explore Istanbul as hassle free as possible, we recommend you to stay about 5 nights. Then you have enough time to visit all the important sights and also to take a trip to the Asian side. Of course, more time is always good, no question. Even after a week you will still discover new corners of Istanbul.

Don’t worry if you’re short on time: You can also visit the highlights of Istanbul on a weekend, as most of the sights are quite close together.

Our tip: travel guide for Istanbul We can recommend the Istanbul travel guide from Lonely Planet, the 801 has been released and is therefore one of the newer ones. We really like the clear layout of the Lonely Planet travel guides and the one about Istanbul is also quite successful. You can’t go wrong with this guide.

You can buy the guide here: Lonely Planet Istanbul Guide (May Edition )

2. Sights and Activities in Istanbul Many sights in Istanbul are within walking distance. The best thing to do is to go directly to the historic Sultanahmet district in the Fatih district. Here in the old center of Istanbul are the top sights, including the world-famous Hagia Sophia. Once crossing the Galata Bridge, you reach the district of Beyoglu on the other side of the Golden Horn – modern Istanbul. Sightseeing is no longer the focus here, but rather the Turkish attitude to life. Nevertheless, there are also some places worth seeing here.

Hagia Sophia Once the largest church in the world, then a mosque, now a museum: The Hagia Sophia is probably the most important landmark and one of the absolute highlights in Istanbul. Visiting the world-famous building is almost a must on a trip to Istanbul.

A note so you are not disappointed: part of the Hagia Sophia has been inside for years (or even decades). scaffolded. It seems that the Hagia Sophia is constantly being restored.

Our tip: The Hagia Sophia is one of the most visited sights in Istanbul and therefore can it happens (especially in high season) that you have to wait at the entrance. Depending on the time of day and season of your visit, we therefore recommend that you buy your ticket in advance.

You can buy your ticket in advance here: Hagia Sophia with a tour

Information on visiting the Hagia Sophia Entry: 30 Turkish lira

Location: Located in Sultanahmet in Fatih District

Getting there: e.g. with tram 1 to Sultanahmet

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) Directly opposite the Hagia Sophia is the largest and without a doubt most imposing mosque in Istanbul: the Blue Mosque. With its six minarets, it differs from all other mosques in Istanbul.

As a visitor of another faith, you can visit the mosque for free – but only outside prayer times. You have to take off your shoes at the entrance. Women are also required to cover their hair with a cloth and to cover their clothing if it is too tight.

Information on visiting the Blue Mosque Admission: Free
Location: Located in Sultanahmet in Fatih District

Getting there: e.g. with tram 1 to Sultanahmet station )

Topkapi Palace The third highlight in Sultanahmet is the opulent Topkapi Palace. It is located north of Hagia Sophia. Once the Topkapi Palace was the residence and seat of government of the sultans – today it is one of the most important sights of Istanbul and a museum showing exhibits from the Ottoman Empire.

The palace consists of several buildings with countless magnificent rooms and a spacious garden. Don’t miss the highlight of Topkapi Palace: the Harem. You have to pay extra for this, but the 35 Lira are well invested.

Info for visiting Topkapi Palace Entry: 60 Turkish lira (35 Turkish lira extra for the harem)
Location: In Sultanahmet in Fatih District

Arrival: eg with Tram 1 to Sultanahmet or Gülhane Station

Grand Bazaar Not far from Sultanahmet, you will enter a fascinating covered maze of alleyways. The Grand Bazaar is said to attract up to half a million people a day.

Whether d Whether the number is correct or not, one thing is certain: the Grand Bazaar lives up to its name. You can buy everything here from leather and textile goods to jewelery and souvenirs to confectionery. As with all markets, Bargaining is the order of the day. You can assume that you will get around the offered price percent.

Info on visiting the Grand Bazaar Location: In the district of Fatih west of Sultanahmet

Arrival: eg with tram 1 to Beyazit station; or on foot in approx. 03 Minutes from Hagia Sophia

Galata Bridge The Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn and connects the historic city center (Sultanahmet or Fatih) with modern Istanbul (Beyoglu). The bridge has two floors: traffic flows at the top, countless restaurants are located below.

The Galata Bridge is something like the lifeline of Istanbul. There is a lot going on here at any time of the day. We personally could have watched the fishermen on the bridge forever. And something else fascinates here: the view towards the city center. From the Galata Bridge you have a spectacular view towards Sultanahmet including the Süleymaniye Mosque and Rüstem Pasha Mosque on the one hand and the New Mosque on the other side.

Location: North of Sulanahmet; connects the two districts of Fatih and Beyoglu

Arrival: eg with the tram 1 to the station Eminönü

Beyoglu: Istiklal Street and Taksim Square

The most famous shopping street and promenade of the city is located in the modern district of Beyoglu: the Istiklal Caddesi. It stretches from the south near the Galata Tower (more on that later) to the north to the famous Taksim Square.

The pedestrian zone paves its way through the middle the red, historic tram made its way through the crowds. Unlike other shopping streets, all hell breaks loose along Istiklal Caddesi in the evenings too. Then life shifts to the nearby bars and restaurants.

Location: In the district of Beyoglu

Getting there: e.g. by metro to Taksim, from there you can walk south along Istiklal Caddesi

By boat across the Bosphorus The Bosphorus separates the European part of Istanbul from the Asian. We can only warmly recommend a boat trip across the Straits. Istanbul looks no less fascinating from the water. No wonder that every travel guide mentions a boat trip across the Bosphorus as one of the highlights.

There are countless providers, offering shorter and longer boat trips offer. However, we have opted for what is probably the cheapest option. You also have a great view of Istanbul from the ferry that commutes between Europe and Asia.

Ferries to Kadiköy (on the Asian side) example drive from the ferry terminal Eminönü (at the southern end of the Galata Bridge) or Karaköy (at the northern end of the Galata Bridge).

Asian Side of Istanbul Even if it’s just for an hour or two – a trip to the Asian continent is simply a must for a city trip to Istanbul. Asia is just a stone’s throw away. To be more precise, it’s just 20 minutes by ferry.

A good starting point to explore Asian Istanbul is Kadiköy. Suddenly international Brands that you just saw on Istiklal Caddesi, a foreign word. The city is the same, but the flair on the Asian side is definitely different – we can promise that much.

Arrival to Kadikoy Our recommendation: By ferry either from ferry terminal Eminönü (at the southern end of Galata Bridge) or Karaköy (at the northern end of Galata Bridge).

3. The most beautiful viewpoints in Istanbul Galata Tower The probably best panoramic view over Istanbul is from the small viewing platform on the Galata Tower. Unfortunately, the tower is by no means an insider tip. Therefore, the waiting time can easily 20 minutes or even longer.

Nevertheless: It’s definitely worth it! The 360-degree view is simply spectacular. Incidentally, the viewing terrace is fairly easy to reach. A lift takes you almost to the top. You only have to walk the last two floors.

The viewing platform itself is very narrow, so it can get a bit cramped at the lofty heights. Our tip: Before sunset the rush is usually greatest, but then the light is simply at its most beautiful.

Information about visiting the Galata Tower Entry: 35 Turkish lira Location: In Galata district in Beyoglu district Arrival: e.g. by metro to Sishane station

35 Istanbul Nomen est omen: From the restaurant terrace 360 Istanbul you have a spectacular view over the city. Because the prices rec ht are high, we would recommend that you “only” come for a cocktail.

Location: On Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu

Getting there: e.g. by subway to station Sishane

4. Eating & drinking in Istanbul: Our tips In Istanbul and Turkey in general, great importance is attached to food – just the way we like it. The most important meal is dinner: this is where family and friends usually get together and not before 20 h.

Which we don’t find it so great: An unbelievable amount of meat is eaten and it is sometimes difficult for vegetarians to find creative dishes. Nevertheless, the kitchen is very tasty.

Bakery Hafiz Mustafa: Baklava & other Turkish desserts If you want to try Turkish sweets, there is no way around Hafiz Mustafa Bakery. There they supposedly have the best baklava in Istanbul. Personally, we are not necessarily the biggest fans of the sticky-sweet dessert, but even we liked the baklava here.

The selection is huge, so the decision is really difficult. You can taste all Turkish desserts , including of course baklava in all variations. There are now several locations in Istanbul (including near the Galata Bridge in the south or in Sultanahmet).

Nevizade Sokak In the bars and restaurants of this vibrant district in Beyoglu, evenings get together half of Istanbul to have a beer (or more). Strictly speaking, Nevizade Sokak is the name of a specific street, but it stands for the entire district.

It is best to secure a seat directly on the street, order Have an “Efes” (the most famous Turkish beer) and enjoy the lively nightlife of Istanbul.

Location: Northwest of Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu (parallel to it)

More tips for eating & drinking in Istanbul Privato Cafe: Cozy cafe near Galata Tower. Great breakfast and lots of vegetarian options.

Mandabatmaz: “The place to be” if you want to taste Turkish coffee.

Do not miss: Buy a simit (sesame ring) at the Galata Bridge and then take the ferry to Kadikoy. More Istanbul feeling is not possible, I promise!

5. Our hotel tips for Istanbul Whether you prefer to be near the historic center (Sultanahmet) or on the other side the Galata Bridge in Beyoglu is a matter of taste.

At Sultanahmet you have the advantage that you can reach the most important sights on foot. But Sulanahmet is quite touristy. Beyoglu, on the other hand, scores with its authentic flair.

Option 1: Overnight stay in the historical center (Sultanahmet) We can highly recommend the Hotel Miniature. The location could hardly be more central: you can walk to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in just over 5 minutes.

The entire hotel is very tastefully decorated. The rooms in particular correspond exactly to our taste with all the wood. Another highlight is the small roof terrace. All in all: Highly recommended!

You can book the hotel here: Hotel Miniature

Variant 2: Overnight stay in Beyoglu Here we recommend the stylish Hotel DeCamondo Galata. It is located in the south of Beyoglu near the Galata Bridge. From the roof terrace you can enjoy a great view of the Bosphorus.

These rooms are very tastefully decorated. The neighborhood is great too: there are a few eateries within walking distance. You can also get to the historic center pretty quickly with the tram. A little insider tip!

You can book accommodation here: Hotel DeCamondo Galata

6. Map: All sights and tips at a glance So that you can find your way around Istanbul better, we have put you in This map shows the most important sights and our personal tips.

Transparency: Affiliate Links This Blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Istanbul? How did you like it? Do you have any other tips for sights or restaurants? We look forward to hearing about your experiences!