It is estimated that the settlement in Istanbul dates back to 3000 years with the recent excavations. The city was engraved in the memory of world history with the name of Constantinople during the prehistoric times and the period of foundation. The city was also home to the Eastern Roman Empire. Istanbul was raided many times throughout its history, and has finally been conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet in 1453 and with this conquest, a New Age started.
Today’s Istanbul, which is home to millions of people, is regarded as the center of history, trade, literature, and culture. So if you are planning a holiday to Istanbul, we recommend you to spend a couple of days in this city. We remind you that even with a 1-week program, you can visit a very small part of the city of Istanbul.
Cuisine and Weather
You do not have to go for a time limit to visit the city of Istanbul because you can have many options throughout the year. However, the most beautiful period of Istanbul is usually described as the spring months. Istanbul, which is indispensable for writers and artists, offers springtime opportunities especially in terms of natural beauties. However, Istanbul, which is also beautiful in autumn, has a mild climate that you can visit for 12 months of the year, especially with its winter activities and summer programs.
Classical Istanbul cuisine is generally fed from the Ottoman palace cuisine. However, today you can find all the world cuisines in terms of food culture in the city where many different cultures and nations have passed. But if you want to taste authentic flavors, you can visit different districts of Istanbul, like Aksaray district is popular with Hatay – Şanlıurfa kebab shops, whereas the historical peninsula is popular with restaurants of the same family for decades. You will find the traces of seafood culture in the shores, especially in European side. Sarıyer district is popular for Black Sea cuisine. Meanwhile, do not forget to try some street foods.
Places to Visit
If you are planning an itinerary for sightseeing in Istanbul city, you need at least a 3-day itinerary, as mentioned above, which will only allow you to see the highlights of Istanbul. Our advice is to travel to Istanbul for a 1-week or 10-day excursion program. If you make separate programs for the European side and separate programs for the Anatolian side in your travel programs in Istanbul, you will save time. In particular, try to consider the traffic problem of Istanbul when preparing your travel programs.
- Mosques: One of the most important objects adorning the Istanbul city skyline is the historical mosques. Many of these mosques, called “Selatin mosques”, were built by sultans or viziers. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Kalender House Mosque, Fatih Mosque are the must-see art-works. In addition, the courtyards and living areas around these mosques bear the traces of the Ottoman period.
- The Bosphorus: The Bosphorus is an indispensable place for both the bridges that bring the two sides together and the spectacular sea views. Especially Ortakoy, Beylerbeyi, Anadolu Hisarı around the Bosphorus are also ideal for day trips. If you have an extra day, you can visit the Prince Islands.
- Hagia Sophia: The Hagia Sophia Museum is one of the most important works in the history of world architecture. Hagia Sophia, which was built as a church during Constantinople, is one of the most important symbols of the city. The Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque with the conquest, has been working as a museum in the square named after it since 1935.
- Galata Tower: The Galata district, which is considered the memory of the historical city of Istanbul, is home to many important historical buildings from the Genoese era, especially the Galata tower. You can watch the Historical Peninsula from the tower, which is accepted as the place where Hezarfen dropped himself into the void.
- Topkapı Palace: The historical palace will be indispensable for you if you are visiting Istanbul, especially if you are interested in Ottoman history. The palace, which was completed at the end of the 17th century, is located on a very large area. The palace, which was built during the reign of three different sultans, is now used as a museum, and contains holy relics, harem and many other important places.
- Dolmabahçe Palace: Dolmabahçe Palace, which was built in the mid-19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit, is considered one of the most important and beautiful works of baroque architectural style. Republic of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk used the Palace as office during his last term, and also died here. The touristic visits are accompanied by a guide on a half-day program.
- Istanbul Archeology Museum: The museum, one of the richest museums of our country, was founded in 1869 under the name of the muze-i humayun. Çinili Köşk (tiled kiosk) inside the museum is quite remarkable. In addition, the artifacts exhibited in the museum have very important historical value.
- Basilica Cistern: One of the most authentic places in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is built by Justinian in the Byzantine period. The cistern, which has a water holding capacity of 100 tons, attracts attention with its fish floating in the water on the floor and the Medusa which is located on the bottom of the cistern.
- Kariye Museum: Kariye Museum, also known as Chora Monastery, was built in 534 by Justinian. It is considered as one of the most special works of art of its period. The mosaics in the museum are especially appreciated. There is a nearby restaurant, which servest authentic Ottoman royal recipes.
- Maiden’s Tower: The Maiden’s Tower, which is one of the symbols of the Bosphorus, was used as a quarantine center in the cholera epidemic during the Byzantine period.
- Grand Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar, located in the center of Beyazıt and Nuru Osmaniye districts, hosts thousands of different shops. It is still regarded as one of the most authentic places for tourists with its historical buildings dating from the period of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.
- Sahaflar Bazaar: This second-hand bazaar is an indispensable center for antique books and rare works since the Ottoman period.
- Rumeli Fortress: The first of the works initiated by Sultan Mehmet to conquer the city is to build Rumeli Fortress in front of Anadolu Fortress. It adds a distinct beauty to the Bosphorus along with the Anatolian Fortress, which was built by Beyazıt I in the 14th century.
- Atatürk Arboretum: Founded for the enrichment of plant heritage in Turkey in 1916, Ataturk Arboretum has quite nice nature reserve spread over a wide area in Belgrade forest of Istanbul.
- Taksim Square and Beyoğlu: Taksim Square, which is indispensable for artists and film lovers, and Beyoğlu, located right next to it, are among the important centers that keep the pulse of Istanbul’s nightlife.
- Kadıköy – Moda: A cool neighborhood in the Asian side. Start your walk from the boat terminal, visit Fish Market, hit to the Bahariye Street and visit art-shops and books shops, hang-out in cool cafes, and see Barış Manço Museum.
- Emirgan Park: This urban park, where the Tulip festival is held in April, is home to a green texture where you can breathe comfortably in a big metropolis like Istanbul.
- Çamlıca Hill: Çamlıca hill is one of the most important places especially for photographers with its panoramic view.
- Gülhane Park: Once served as a zoo, Gülhane Park creates a very nice green texture between Sarayburnu and Topkapı Palace.
- Ortaköy: Ortaköy, where many mosques, churches and synagogues are found, exhibits a cultural mosaic and attracts attention with its street foods and artists.
How to Get There
Main gateways to Istanbul are Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. The city is a common stop among cruise lines, with its Karaköy port. Also you can reach Istanbul through railways from Europe. The city’s bus terminal serves all cities in Turkey. Intra-city transport is done through well connected metro, train, bus and ferry network.