The only city in the world that spans two continents. The only city in the world that has been capital of two powerful empires. Istanbul, historically known as Constantinople, combines perfectly the East and the West. Filled with churches, mosques, towers and palaces, it is one of the most cosmopolitan places on Earth. Also a historical city, Istanbul offers a variety of Byzantine and Ottoman artistic treasures. The Bosphorus waterway which separates Europe and Asia is symbolic of the city and divides it in two continents. Istanbul is a vibrant and inclusive community filled with people whom you can join in tea gardens, cafés and taverns. Taste the traditional Turkish cuisine in the city with the best restaurants of the country. Istanbul is a magical place to visit and our guide will help you find out all the reasons why!

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When to Visit

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December – February Cheapest months to visit but Istanbul’s weather is rainy and snowy.

March – May Best time to visit Istanbul; tourist crowds are manageable and room rates are average.

June – August Peak season; accommodation prices are increased. The Istanbul Music Festival is the most prestigious music event in Turkey which welcomes artists of the national and international classical music repertoire.

September – November Ideal time to explore the city; affordable prices on hotels and comfortable temperatures. The Istanbul Design Biennal Festival takes place every year in September and includes art exhibitions by a number of international artists.


Hagia Sophia  

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Hagia Sophia, one of the most important architectural wonders, is a significant monument for both Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Constructed in 537 AD by Isidoros (Milet) and Anthemios (Tralles), this grand structure first served as a Greek Christian cathedral until 1453 and it was then converted into an Ottoman mosque. Since 1935, Hagia Sophia has been a museum ( Ayasofya Müzesi) and is regarded as the epitome of Byzantine architecture. Dedicated to the WisdomofGod, the basilica is famous particularly for its massive dome that sits in the center of the church. Visit this impressive building and discover why it has such an important place in the world of art!

Open: April-October 09:00AM-07:00PM daily (last admission 06:00PM)

November-March 09:00AM-05:00PM daily (last admission 04:00PM)

Price: 40 (TRY: Turkish Lira)

Hagia Sophia Museum is not available for visiting on Mondays and in the first days of Ramadan and Sacrifice Festivals for half time. If you need more information please visit www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr or call at (0212) 522 17 50. Keep in mind that Hagia Sophia Museum can be very crowded on Sundays. 

Bopshorus Cruises 

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The Bopshorus is a narrow, natural strait that connects the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea and separates the continents of Europe and Asia, but also Asian Turkey from European Turkey. Considered to be an important strategic waterway, it is the only passage from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean, along with the Dardanelles strait. Bosphorus, also known as Bogazici in Turkish, runs through the heart of Istanbul, past several Ottoman palaces (Dolmabahçe Palace), fortresses (Rumeli Fortress, Galata Tower) and villages with Ottoman architecture. In order to explore these historical sightseeing spots, it is advisable to take a Bosphorus tour. There are several sightseeing cruises organized by companies such as Bopshorus Tours Organization which offers City Sightseeing Boat Cruises that last 2.5 hours and cost €25. The prices vary depending on the type of cruise you wish to take; they can be sightseeing, private or dining cruises. For further information about Bosphorus Tours Organization's tours visit http://www.bosphorustour.com/index.html. Another trustworthy company is Zoe Yacht Istanbul, whose cruises you can explore here http://www.bosphorusyacht.com/.


Blue Mosque  

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Located next to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a popular tourist site constructed by Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa under the rule of Sultan Ahmet I. The building was completed in 1616 and Ahmet’s aim was to surpass Hagia Sophia. It has a cascade of domes and six slender minarets and as for the interior, blue İznik tiles decorate the walls and give the building it’s commonly used name.

Open: Daily

Closed: During praying times (Unless you are willing to pray)

For information about the Blue Mosque visit the official website
http://www.bluemosque.co/.


   Use the south door to enter the Blue Mosque; only worshippers are admitted to enter through the main door. The mosque is closed to visitors during the six daily prayer times: two hours before dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and right before the last light of the day.

Church of St. Saviour in Chora 

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Also referred to as Chora Church or Kariye Museum, the Church of St. Saviour in Chora is a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church located in the Edirnekapı neighborhood of Istanbul. However, during the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and it finally became a museum in 1948. It was reconstructed at least five times so what we can see today is not the original church as it was constructed during the last period of the Byzantine Empire. Famous for its magnificent mosaics and frescoes, the Church of St Saviour in Chora is home to fascinating insights of Byzantine art.

Open: November-March 09:00AM-05:00PM (last admission 04:30PM)

April-October 09:00AM-07:00PM (last admission 06:00PM)

Price: 15

There is a pleasant restaurant next to the site where you can taste delicious dishes of the traditional Ottoman cuisine. For more information visit  https://www.choramuseum.com/.

 



Topkapi Palace 

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Built after the Conquest of Constantinople between 1466 and 1478, the Topkapı Palace is one of the most popular sites in Istanbul. It is located on top of a hill in a small peninsula and it is the place where Mehmet the Conqueror lived until his death in 1481. The Harem was a complex apartment where the sultan’s mother, wives, and concubines lived. Today, it is a separate museum and only one of the complex’s six floors can be visited. Topkapı Palace was the political site of the Ottoman Empire, until they built the Dolmabache Palace.

Palace

Open: 
30 October-25 April 09:00AM-04:45PM (last admission 04:00PM)

15 April-30 October 09:00AM-06:45PM (last admission 06:00PM)

Price: 40

Harem

Open: 
30 October-25 April 09:00AM-04:45PM (last admission 04:00PM)

15 April-30 October 09:00AM-06:45PM (last admission 06:00PM)

Price: 25

If you want to visit Harem you have to buy a separate ticket from the ticket booths that stand outside of the museum or in front of the Harem  entrance.

Hagia Eirene

Open: 
30 October-25 April 09:00AM-04:45PM (last admission 04:00PM)

15 April-30 October 09:00AM-06:45PM (last admission 06:00PM)

Price: 20

There are two restaurants, one in the first courtyard and another one in the fourth. However, the second one can be crowded so we advise you to book a table in advance on (0212) 513 96 96. For more information about the palace please call at (0212) 512 04 80 or visit www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr.



 Dolmabahçe Palace 

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Sultan Abdül Mecit I decided to move his palace to dolma bahçe (filled-in garden) on the shores of the Bosphorus. Completed in 1856 by architects Nikoğos and Garabed Balyan, it is considered as one of the most glamorous and luxurious palaces in the world. However, the new modern palace tended to look more European than Ottoman and, as a result, the palace turned its back to its magnificence rather than celebrated it. This extravagant project hastened the bankruptcy of the empire and signaled the beginning of its end. 

Open: Daily between 09:00AM-04:00PM (except Mondays and Thursdays)

Price:  
Selâmlık adults 40/students 5

Harem adults 30/students 5

Common ticket for both 60

For more information about the palace please call at (0212) 236 90 00 or visit the official site www.dolmabahce.gov.tr.


   The entrance to Dolmabahçe Palace is only by guided tours: one for the Selâmlık and one for the Harem. You can take only one tour, unless you arrive before 3pm in summer or 2pm in winter, when you can buy a ticket for both tours.

Çemberlitaş Hamamı 

A complete stay in Istanbul should definitely be accompanied with a Turkish bath in one of the oldest Istanbul hamams dating back to 1584. Considered as one of the most beautiful hamams, Çemberlitaş was designed by Ottoman architect Sinan under the order of Nurbany Sultan, the wife of Selim II. Enjoy one of the best bathing experiences under the huge dome of this famous and most photographed place.

We advise you to take a small bottle of water with you because it is possible to feel dehydrated in such an atmosphere. For more information about the hamam and its massage offers please visit  www.cemberlitashamami.org or call at (0212) 422 79 74.


Galata Bridge 

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Despite the fact that it is not such a beautiful bridge, the present Galata Bridge was built in 1992 in order to replace a previous iron structure due to the fact that it was under equipped for modern traffic. Spanning the Golden Horn, the bridge has numerous restaurants and cafés underneath. Don’t lose the opportunity to enjoy a meal, beer or nargile while watching the ferries and fishermen. Also experience the amazing sunset of Istanbul while walking across the Galata Bridge!

Column of Constantine 

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Constructed by the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 AD, this column commemorates the moment on which Constantinople became the new capital of the Roman Empire. It is located in the neighborhood of ÇemberlitaşFatih, central Istanbul, and it is considered as one of the city’s most ancient historical places. Also known as the Burnt Column, or in Turkish Çemberlitas, the column was originally taller than it is today (35 meters) and used to have a statue of Constantine dressed as the sun god on the top. Due to a fire in 1779, the Column of Constantine was damaged but it has recently been restored.

Taxim Square 

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Considered the heart of modern Istanbul, Taxim, meaning ‘division’ or ‘distribution’, was the end of the water supply line created in 1732. Situated in Beyoğlu, Taksim Square is the meeting point for locals and a major tourist site filled with restaurants, shops and hotels. On the square, you can also see the Monument of Independence which commemorates the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and was erected in 1928.


 There are tours for major sights provided by travel agents in a huge variety of languages. They also offer tours by bus, boat, on foot or a mix of all three. However, do not forget to check the credibility of the guide! Prefer those accredited by the Ministry of Tourism or check the ID around the guides’ necks.

Archaeological Museum 

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Located in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the Archaeological Museum is divided in three sections: the main museum, the Tiled Pavilion and the Museum of the Ancient Orient. The main museum is a neoclassical building that houses a wide collection of classical statues and sarcophagi. The Tiled Pavilion is a beautiful pavilion built in 1472 and displays tiles and ceramics of the Seljuk, Anatolian and Ottoman civilizations and as for the Museum of the Ancient Orient, it houses a collection of pre-Islamic items. Visit this superb museum and explore the magnificent archaeological treasures of one of the world’s most ancient countries!

Open:
April-October 09:00AM-07:00PM Daily (except Mondays)

November-March 09:00AM-06:00PM daily (except Mondays)

Price: 20 (Children under 12 free entrance) 

Some galleries are likely to be closed due to continuous earthquakes. For more information about the museum please call at (0212) 520 77 40 or visit www.istanbularkeoloji.gov.tr.



 

Panorama 1453 

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Known as the History Museum, Panorama 1453 is a panoramic museum that depicts the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman armies in 1453. Situated next to the Theodosian Walls which were finally breached after the Ottoman siege, this historical museum displays panoramic paintings and pictures that contain 10,000 lifelike figures.

Open: 08:00AM-05:00PM Daily

Price:  adults 7.5/students 3

For more information call at (0212) 415 14 53 or visit www.panoramikmuze.com



Yedikule Castle  

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Situated in the Yedikule neighborhood of Fatih, Yedikule Fortress is a fortified historic structure that was built in 1458 by the order of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II. It is a seven-tower fortress and it includes the triumphal Golden Gate constructed by Byzantine Emperors Theodosius I and Theodosius II in 390.

Open: 09:30AM-06:00PM daily except Wednesdays

Price: 6

 

 

Fortress of Europe 

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Mehmet the Conqueror built the Fortress of Europe ( Rumelihisarı or Rumeli Fortress) in 1452 as he prepared for his final attack on Constantinople. Situated at the narrowest point of Bosphorus, the fortress aim was to cut the flow of supplies that were heading to the city. It consists of three great towers and after the conquest of Constantinople, the fortress of Europe served as a prison. Today theater performances take place here during the Istanbul Music and Dance Festival.

Open: 
April-October 09:00AM-07:00PM Daily (except Wednesdays)

October-April 09:00AM-05:00PM (except Wednesdays)

Price: 10

For more information about the fortress call at +90 (212) 263 53 05 or send an e-mail tohisarlarmuzesi@kultur.gov.tr.

 

Galata Tower 

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The Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower located north of the Golden Horn’s junction with the Bosphorus. Constructed in 1348 by the Genoese, it is an eleven-story tower (66.9 meters tall) and it used to be the tallest structure of the city when it was built. Use the lift to climb to the top balcony and enjoy the best panoramic views of the city! On the top, there is also a nightclub and a restaurant which hosts a cabaret with Turkish folk dance.

Open: 09:00AM-08:30PM daily

Price: adults 25/children 5

Keep in mind that the viewing balcony can be horribly overcrowded. For more information you can call at (0212) 293 81 80 or send an e-mail to iletisim@galatakulesi.org.

 


Leander's Tower 

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Leander’s Tower, or Maiden’s Tower, is situated on a small natural islet in the Bosphorus and it is regarded as one of the most emblematic images of Istanbul. One of the legends about this tower tells the story of two lovers; a priestess named Hero and a young man named Leander. They were in love and every night, Leander would swim from the land to the island to meet Hero, who used to light a fire in the top of the tower in order to guide him. However, one night the light was blew out by the wind and Leander could not find his way. As a result, he drowned and Hero decided to take her own life to be with him. There is an upmarket restaurant on the islet where you can taste delicious traditional Turkish food. There is also a museum with free entrance.

There is a bar named Kuledebar on the balcony of the tower which will offer you amazing views of the city. For more information about the tower or online reservations at Kuledebar visithttp://www.kizkulesi.com.tr/Home.

 Most places in Istanbul have squat toilets only. For your convenience, we advise you to carry tissues with you as it is probable that there will not be any paper. There is usually a charge of around 1 Turkish Lira to use the toilet. However, there are some places like sights or restaurants that provide Western-like toilets

Grand Bazaar 

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Considered as one of the largest and oldest markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar, or in Turkish Kapalıçarşı which means ‘Covered Market’, attracts thousands of visitors per day. Built by order of Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, it used to serve as the trading heart of the empire. It consists of 61 covered streets filled with banks, cafés, accommodation and over 4,000 shops. Visit this colorful and chaotic Grand Bazaar and discover all the reasons that make this place one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions!

Open: Monday-Saturday 08:30AM-07:00PM

For more information about the Grand Bazaar please visit the official site www.grandbazaaristanbul.org.tr.

  

 Other famous shopping places are: the Egyptian Bazaar, known as Spice Bazaar where you can find spices, dried fruit, nuts and many more, the Arasta Bazaar for authentic souvenirs and the Istiklal Street where you can find European-style clothes. The best malls in the city are Kanyon, the Zorlu Center and the City’s Mall.

Hippodrome

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The Hippodrome, located in Sultanahmet, used to be a public chariot racetrack. Structured in the 3rd century AD by Emperor Septimius Severus, it was the center of Byzantium’s life for 100 years and for Ottoman life for another 400 years. The word hippodrome comes from the Greek hippos which means ‘horse’ and dromos which means ‘path’ or ‘way’. Horse and chariot racings were very popular during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine era. Coronations, parades and ceremonies were taking place at the hippodrome as well. The three great monuments situated till today in the Hippodrome are the Egyptian Obelisk, the Obelisk of Theodosius (Dikilitaş), the Serpentine Column from the Temple of Apollo and the Column of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (Ormetas).  The Hippodrome is nowadays a peaceful park where you can enjoy your walk while admiring these beautiful artworks.


 No stay in Istanbul would be complete, without taking a cruise on the legendary Bosphorus. Enjoy one of the most popular cityscapes in the world from the deck of a boat on this waterway

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