+90 212 517 00 29
+90 212 ( European Side )
+90 216 ( Asian Side )
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in
220 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin plugs are standard.
Average January temperatures
Average July temperatures
654mm (25.8 inches).
Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city as well as its
cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the
narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges
Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is
estimated to be between 15 and 19 million people, making it also one of the
largest cities in Europe and the world.
Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus
Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the
estuary of the Golden Horn (Halic) bisecting the western part and the Sea of
Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are
concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of
the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are
Galata, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Kadıköy is
the major district on the comparatively less visited Anatolian side of the
city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.
Expanding the ancient Roman colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman
Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for
nearly a thousand years the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later
termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire. It was finally conquered by the
Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on 29 May 1453, an event sometimes used to mark the
end of the Middle Ages. It was the nerve centre for military campaigns that
were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500s, Istanbul,
with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political,
and commercial centre. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in First
World War and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of
Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Atatürk moved
its capital to the city of Ankara. However, Istanbul has continued to expand
dramatically; today its population is approximately 16 million and increases
at an estimated 400,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as
tourism has grown.
Most planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IATA: IST), 20km west of the
city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into
Istanbul: you can take a taxi (about TRY60 to Taksim. There is no night fare
in Istanbul anymore the price would be the same at midnight or midday. About
the same to Sultanahmet), Then, there is the metro (06:00-00:05) (signposted
"light rail" in the airport, when you get outside the baggage claim it's
about a 10 minute walk in the airport to the metro line. Just follow the
When entering the metro station, you need to
buy a jeton (token) for TRY4. Just hand the cashier TRY4 and
he'll give you a token, or use the automatic dispenser (Jetonmatik),
which accepts banknotes (TRY5, TRY10, TRY20) as well as coins.
Use 'select' to choose the number of jetons and then push 'ok'.
They don't accept credit card or foreign currency here. This
will get you on the red metro line (towards Aksaray). From this
line, if you are going to Sultanahmet, you can transfer
atZeytinburnu and buy another jeton (TRY4) - see the section on
"Istanbulkart" if further travel within Istanbul's metro system
will be undertaken. Note that the jetontoken here is different
than the first one. From Zeytinburnu, take the blue tram line
T1, towards Kabataş which passes by: Sultanahmet, Eminönu and
Tophane. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about
Various private operators offer internet
bookable shared minibuses to central locations a good choice
when arriving late. A typical price being €25 for 4 people to a
hotel in Sultanahmet (
Marifet Travel ).
To get from Ataturk to the Asian side of
Istanbul, the quickest way is to take a taxi to Bakirkoy IDO
Iskele (ferry pier), which takes about 10m and costs 20TL, and
then take an IDO high-speed catamaran to Kadikoy (20m) or
Bostanci (40m) for 7TL. This is much faster and cheaper than a
taxi, which could take up to 2 hours if there is a lot of
traffic. The boat runs from 7am to 9pm.
Sabiha Gokcen Airport;
Istanbul also has a second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International
Airport (IATA: SAW), located in the Anatolian side of the city.
The cheapest way to arrive from Sabiha Gökçen to the European
side of Istanbul is by bus (E10 or E11 lines, from Sabiha Gökçen
to Kadiköy) + ferry (from Kadiköy to many ferry stations,
including some in the Sultanahmet area). Using Istanbulkart or
Akbil (see below), the price is less than TRY7. That's about
€2.50 in total. Every other option priced at €10 and above
(TRY23 and above by Feb 2013 rates) makes sense ONLY if you
can't use this. Be aware that last ferries are between 10 and
11pm, yet the E10 continues throughout the night. Various
private operators offer internet bookable shared minibuses to
central locations a good choice when arriving late. A typical
price being €75 for 4 people to a hotel in Sultanahmet (
Marifet Travel ).
Prepaid SIM cards can be bought (for around 40 TL with 5TL
usable balance) at Vodafone, Avea or Turkcell kiosks at the
airport or in shops around town. At the Airport, the Avea,
Vodafone and Turkcell shops are respectively to the left, right
and across from the exit. For about 90TLY Avea offers a 250
minute in Turkey, 100 minute to Europe, 1GB of data plan, the
other two have similar plans. Ask the salesperson to set it up
for you and check by calling his phone and opening up a webpage.
For iPhone, it may be necessary to download Turkish script
before the phone can be used. They ask to make a copy of your
passport. However, to be able to use your phone you need to get
it unlocked for use in Turkey. With a bit of luck the guy in the
shop can do it for you, though that may violate the rules of
your contract, depending on the country you are from. Having
your phone unlocked officially can happen through your operator
in your home country.
As with most European cities, but especially in crowded areas of
Istanbul, watch your pockets and travel documents as pickpockets
have devised all sorts of strategies to obtain them from you.
Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy
Square etc. are observed by security cameras monitored by police
24/7 nonstop. Also be wary of men in Taksim who splash water on
the backs of your neck. When you turn around, they will try to
start a fight with you as another man comes in and robs you.
These men tend to carry knives and can be very dangerous.
Slums which host number of scammers are located between
Suleymaniye and Ataturk avenue. Appearance in these areas even
during daylight could result in aggressive behavior of locals
who could try to throw away strangers from their territory.
Avoiding these dangerous urban blocks is highly recommended.
Istanbul is home to three of the biggest clubs in Turkey and
arguably European football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and
Galatasaray. It is advisable not to wear colours associating
yourself with any of the clubs--black and white, blue and yellow,
and red and yellow, respectively--particularly on the days of
matches between the sides due to the fearsome rivalry they share.
Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Don't put it on places where
people sit or stand, don't drag it, don't wrinkle it, don't
contaminate it, don't use it as a dress or uniform. Not only
will Turks be very offended, furthermore the desecration of the
Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely
important and well respected in Turkey
Bar / Club Scams
Be aware of high-drink price scams in "night-clubs" (located
mostly in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas). These clubs can
charge overpriced bills (hundreds or thousands of lira) based on
a replica of the original menu or even simply a menu lying
upside down on the table.
Be especially aware of "friendly" young men/groups of young men/male-female
couples inviting you to a "good nightclub they know"this is
frequently a prelude to a scam. Scammers often work to earn your
trust, striking up a conversation or even taking you to a
legitimate restaurant and covering the bill. In another
variation, the scammer will talk to you in Turkish, and when you
reply in your own language, they will be "surprised" you're not
Turkish and offer to repay you for their accident with a beer.
Note that some scammers are very, very patient, working for
hours to gain your trust before finally taking you to a bar.
The conversations may start very naturally that you may lose
your scene of awareness. Scammers may dress very smart and look
high educated. They also pretend to be a tourist like you, not
the local with the same interest to discover Istanbul and
inviting you too. Believe me, you will be surprised with various
ways of stating a conversation with you: “Do you have a lighter?
Could you help me to take a photo? In the middle of a walking
conversation, they may stop in an exchange office to change some
Euros to Lira just to make you believe that they are also
tourists like you. Normally, the key question to get ‘access’ to
you is “Where are you from?”.
In any of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or
try to call the police (dial #155), the club managers may resort
to physical intimidation. In general, use caution: scams in
Taksim are becoming more serious, and organized crime may be
Istanbul PD has a "Tourism Police" department where travelers
may report passport loss and theft or any other criminal
activity by which they are victimized. They have an office in
Sultanahmet and can reportedly speak English, German, French,
Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet
(in the yellow wooden building between Hagia Sophia and the
entrance of Basilica Cistern, few meters away from each), ☎ +90
212 527 45 03 (fax: +90 212 512 76 76).
Food / Drinks
Tap water may not be safe depending on where you drink it.
Although the tap water itself is clean, many local water tanks
are not maintained properly, and one should try to avoid tap
water if possible. Locals widely prefer bottled water and the
same applies for the restaurants. Expect to pay for water in
restaurants (around 2TL).
Food and drinks are mostly of international standards. Some
Turkish foods are known to use a variety of spices which may
affect international tourists who may not be accustomed to such
ingredients, although most of it is edible for any tongue.
Use common sense when buying certain foods, particularly from
street vendors. Delicacies such as "Firin Sutlac" (a kind of
rice pudding) can go bad rapidly on a hot day, as can the
oysters occasionally for sale on the streets.
Depending on nationality, foreigners arriving
in Istanbul may need to purchase tourist visas (around 20
nationalities including USA and some EU citizens). This can be
done either online at
https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ (pay for your visa on-line
and print it out at home prior to your trip) or in one of the
automatic machines before clearing the immigration (the price
should be the same whether you purchase it online or in the
airport but several travellers reported that the machine in the
airport charged him 20 TLY (around 10 USD) instead of 20 USD as
it displayed). Visa can also be purchased in the visa office in
the airport but it's reportedly more expensive.
Tepecik Yolu 58, Etiler, ☎ +90 212 257-70-50
Australia, Asker Ocağı Caddesi 15, Elmadağ, ☎ +90 212 243-13-33
Austria, Köybaşı Caddesi 46, Yeniköy, ☎ +90 212 363-84-10
Belgium, Sıraselviler Caddesi 39, Taksim, ☎ +90 212 243-33-00
Brazil, Askeroğacı Caddesi, 6 - Süzer Plaza 4th floor - Elmadağ,
Şişli, ☎+90 212 252-00-13
Bulgaria, Ahmet Adnan Saygun Caddesi 44, Ulus-Levent, ☎ +90 212
Canada, İstiklal Caddesi 189/5, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 251-98-38
China, Ahi Çelebi Cd. Çobançeşme Sk. 4, Tarabya, ☎ +90 212
299-21-88 fax: +90 212 299-26-33
Denmark, Meygede Sokak 2, Bebek, ☎ +90 212 359-19-00
Egypt, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi, No. 12, Bebek, ☎ +90 212 3242160
9:00 AM - 16:00 PM
Finland, Cumhuriyet Caddesi 71, 8th floor, Elmadağ, ☎ +90 212
France, İstiklal Caddesi 4, Beyoğlu-Taksim, ☎ +90 212 334-87-30
Germany, İnönü Caddesi 10, Gümüşsuyu-Taksim, ☎ +90 212 334-61-00
Greece, Turnacıbaşı Sokak 22, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 393-82-90 fax:
+90 212 252-13-65
India, Cumhuriyet Caddesi 18, Dörtler Apt. 7th floor, Elmadağ, ☎
+90 212 296-21-31
Iran, Ankara Caddesi 1, Cağaloğlu, ☎ +90 212 513-82-30
Italy, Tomtom Kaptan Sokak 5, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 243-10-24
Japan, Büyükdere Caddesi 209, Tekfen Tower 10th, 4.Levent, ☎ +90
Republic of Korea, Piyalepaşa Bulv. 73, Ortadoğu Plaza, 18th
floor, Okmeydanı, ☎ +90 212 368-83-68
Macedonia, Inönü Caddesi. Üçler apt. 20/5 Gumussuyu/Taksim, ☎
+90 212 251-22-33 fax: +90 212 293-77-65
Mexico, Balmumcu Mahallesi, Barbaros Bulvarı, Gamze Apartmanı
76/5, Beşiktaş, ☎ +90 212 274-24-64
Netherlands, İstiklal Caddesi 197, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 393-21-21
New Zealand, İnönü Caddesi 48/3, Taksim, ☎ +90 212 244-02-72
Norway, Bilezik Sokak 4, Fındıklı, ☎ +90 212 249-97-53
Pakistan, Cengiz Topal Cad. Gülşen Sok. No: 5, Beyaz Ev 3.
Etiler, ☎+90 212 358-45-06
Romania, Yanarsu Sokak, Narin Sitesi 42, Etiler, ☎ +90 212
Russia, İstiklal Caddesi 443, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 292-51-01
Spain, Karanfil Aralığı Sokak 16, 1. Levent, ☎ +90 212 270-74-10
Sweden, İstiklal Caddesi 247, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 334-06-00
Switzerland, Büyükdere Caddesi 173, 1.Levent Plaza A-Blok 3rd
floor, Levent, ☎ +90 212 283-12-82
Syria, Maçka Caddesi 59/3, Teşvikiye, ☎ +90 212 232-67-21
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Meşrutiyet
Caddesi 34, Tepebaşı-Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 334-64-00
United States of America, İstinye Mahallesi, Kaplıcalar Mevkii
No.2, İstinye, ☎ +90 212 335-90-00
New Year’s Day, 1 Jan, national holiday, throughout the city
Kurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice), religious holiday
International Film Festival, in April National Independence and
Children’s Day, 23 Apr,
International Theater Festival, May, Ataturk Kultur Merkezi,
Youth and Sports Day, 19 May, national holiday, throughout the
International Istanbul Music Festival, Jun, various venues
International Bosphorus Festival, Jun, yacht races and regattas
International Jazz Festival, Jul, various venuesZafer Bayram (Victory
Day), 30 Aug, national holiday, throughout the city
International Istanbul Biennale, Sep-Nov, biannual art festival,
Cumhuriyet Bayram (Republic Day), 29 Oct, national holiday
celebrating Atatürk’s proclamation of the Turkish Republic in
1923, throughout the city
Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, Oct, Üsküdar to
Akbank Jazz Festival, early Oct, Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall,
Babylon and Venue Maslak
Ramadan, Muslim Holy Month of Fasting, with the end of the fast
marked by a three-day national holiday, Ramadan throughout the
Seker Bayram (Sugar Holiday or Eid Al Fitr), religious holiday,throughout
the city Istanbul
Haghia Sophia, known as Aya Sofya and translated as ‘Church of
Divine Wisdom’, is considered the world’s finest example of
Byzantine architecture. Consecrated in 537AD, its vast dome
rises to 56m (183ft), designed to appear suspended in space and
thus representative of heaven. So impressed was Mehmet the
Conqueror that when he took the city in 1453, he dedicated it as
a mosque, and it remained so until declared a museum when the
Turkish Republic was founded. Highlights include Byzantine
mosaics and huge Ottoman circular shields containing calligraphy
of Koranic verses.
Sultanahmet, in front of Topkapi Palace.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 0900-1700 (winter), 0900-1800 (summer).
Originally built as a summer residence and the seat of
government, Topkapi Palace was home to harem, state
administration and military personnel in the 16th century, with
around 3,000 residents. Sultans abandoned it for Dolmabahçe
Palace in 1855, but many of the sumptuous jewels of the original
treasury (including the Topkapi dagger, and gold-plated throne
of Murat III), the armory, silk ceremonial robes, Chinese
ceramics and the collection of manuscripts, all convey the old
Ottoman decadence. Near the Imperial Gate is Haghia Eirene
Museum, venue of concerts during the International Istanbul
music festival. The prison-like Harem, comprising several dozen
ornate rooms which once housed up to 300 concubines, is only
open to guided tours and requires a separate ticket (and
separate queue). Weekends and holidays are more crowded.
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 0900-1700 (winter); Wed-Mon 0900-1800 (summer).
Kapali Carsi (Covered or Grand Bazaar)
The famous and vast bazaar is the best known of Istanbul’s
markets. It was instated shortly after the 1493 Conquest and
contained the slave market, as well as the hans, or
caravanserais of old, where Silk Road traders could rest
themselves and their camels, as well as sell their goods. While
the ornate ceilings and labyrinth-like layout still hark back to
the past, these days the vast number of stalls (more than 4,000
of them, in over 60 streets) sell mainly tourist-friendly goods,
including carpets, gold, leather and ceramics. The complex also
contains two mosques, money change offices, a police station,
cafes and an information point. Haggling is essential at most
stalls. Beyazit Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1900.
Misir Carsisi (Egyptian or Spice
This L-shaped market, facing the Golden Horn, was built in the
17th century as an extension to Yeni Camii (New Mosque), and
financed by the money paid as duty on Egyptian goods. Originally
famed for its exotic spices and oils from the Orient, these days
it also sells dried fruits, caviar and Turkish delight, as well
a plethora of souvenirs. Its surrounding streets are a hub of
commercial activity, with local craftspeople, traders and a
great selection of cheeses and olives. Eminonu Opening hours:
Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque)
The Blue Mosque was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet
(1603-1617), as Islam’s answer to Haghia Sophia, and remains the
symbol and center of religious demonstrations and Istanbul’s
only mosque with six minarets. Blue Iznik tiles dominate the
interior, and blue light shines through more than 250 windows.
The interior is stunning, from the vast central dome designed to
lift all eyes heavenward to the latticework-covered Imperial
Loge and the mihrab (prayer niche) containing a piece of sacred
black stone from Mecca. At dusk during summer there is a Son et
Lumière (sounds and lights) show. The Imperial Pavilion also
contains a state-run Carpet Museum with Usak, Bergama and Konya
samples, dating between the 16th and 19th centuries. (The mosque
is undergoing restoration until early 2007).
Archeoloji Müzeleri (Archaeological Museums)
Istanbul’s Archaeology Museums are located in three separate
buildings, once part of the Topkapi Palace complex. The main
building houses the famous fourth-century Alexander sarcophagus
discovered in Lebanon, as well as the facade of the Temple to
Athena from Assos, Byzantine mosaics and sarcophagi. The
interior of the Çinili Kösk (Tiled Pavilion), built in 1472, is
covered in Iznik tiles and contains the 14th-century royal blue
Karaman Mihrab (prayer niche). The Museum of the Ancient Orient
includes the Treaty of Kadesh, drawn up between the Egyptians
and Hittites in 1269BC, plus a magnificent frieze of a bull from
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 1000-1700.
Yerebatan Sarayi (Basilica Cistern)
Sometimes referred to as the Sunken Palace, the Basilica Cistern
was the reservoir for water required for the Byzantine Great
Palace, and thought to date back to AD532. This huge atmospheric
structure, measuring 140m (460ft) by 70m (230ft), still contains
a few feet of water, over which wooden walkways have been
constructed. Many of the 335 columns supporting the cathedral-like
ceiling have been recycled from pre-Christian temples - such as
the Medusa heads that are used as column bases, pilfered from
the Temple of Apollo in Didyma (Didim). The cistern was used as
a film set for the James Bond film, From Russia With Love
(1963). Opening hours: Daily 0900-1730.
Kariye Muzesi (Kariye Museum)
Originally an 11th-century church (and sometimes still referred
to as Chora Church) this contains Istanbul’s finest Byzantine
mosaics, as well as superb 14th-century religious frescoes.
Although converted to a mosque after the Conquest, the mosaics
were merely whitewashed over, and have been preserved for
display in what is now a secular museum. Opening hours: Thurs-Tues
Turk ve Esleri Müzesi (Turkish and Islamic Art Museum)
Originally the 16th-century palace of Süleyman the Magnificent’s
most able Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, this museum contains more
than 40,000 items dating from between the seventh to the 19th
century. Its famous carpet display contains Turkish carpets
depicting Holbein paintings and fragments of 13th-century Selçuk
rugs. Further highlights include Ottoman Koran cases and stands,
illuminated manuscripts and tiles, and the basement contains an
exhibition of the evolution of the Turkish house - from nomadic
tents to 19th-century palaces.
Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi
The square is the nucleus of Istanbul’s modern European side,
which many tourists unfortunately miss. In the south-west corner
is the Monument of Independence, where the busy Istiklal Caddesi
starts and cuts through Beyoglu area. This 1.5km (1 mile)
pedestrianized boulevard is lined with shops, cinemas, markets
and restaurants, and especially crowded at night. Its 19th-century
European consulates, churches and ornate buildings are evidence
that Beyoglu was once the centerpiece for an art nouveau belle
époque, and later the hang-out for bohemian artists and
intellectuals. Highlights include the stained glass at the
entrance to Cicek Pasaj (Flower Passage), the imposing
Galatasaray Lisesi (High School) and various contemporary art
galleries (free). Opening hours: Most shops open till 2100,
later on Fri-Sat.
Located in a restored old waterfront warehouse and opened in
2004, the huge Istanbul Modern has a fine collection of
contemporary arts from Turkey and around the world. Specialising
in painting and photography, with a cinema screening world films
in the basement, the gallery hosts exhibitions that include
20th-century home-grown talent to try to encourage Turkish art.
The entire venue is fresh, spacious and well laid-out, with a
fine restaurant/café on the ground floor overlooking the
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 1000-1800; Thurs 1000-2000.
Rising above the area of Besiktas, Yildiz is a welcome relief
from the noise of the city, with woodland and landscaped gardens.
Sultan Abdul Hamit built them for the Ciragan Palace (now a
5-star hotel over the main road) where Sultans strolled and
hunted since the 17th-century. It is now more popular with
courting couples and picnicking families and is busiest at
weekends. At the top are Malta Kosk and Cadir Kosk, two
attractive 19th-century pavilions originally part of the palace,
whose guests included Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle,
and now operating as restaurants and cafés. The park also houses
Yildiz Palace Museum, Imperial Porcelain Factory and City Museum.
Opening hours: Daily, dawn till dusk.
Although fewer tourists make it here than to the Blue Mosque,
this is even grander and more peaceful, and one of the finest
creations by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The huge 53m-high
dome and pencil-slim minarets from each corner of the courtyard
are an exquisite example of symmetry and elegance. Built in the
1550s, the site also contains the tombs of Sinan, Sultans
Suleyman II and Ahmet II decorated with intricate tiles, the
original apartments of the mosque astronomer, charitable
foundations, caravanserai and fountain, all set around a
tranquil courtyard. There are several outdoor tea-houses in a
row behind the mosque.
Opening hours: Daily 0930-1730. Closed to non-Muslims during
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