It’s easy to lose yourself In Istanbul’s grandiose history, but modern Istanbul is a simmering metropolis, well worth a visit in its own right. The shopping is world class and the nightlife pulsates around not one, but several districts. Even though Istanbul is no longer the capital, it’s still the country’s business and cultural centre, still the city where new trends are created.
Turkish Lira, TL1 = 100 kuruş
The official opening hours for shops are 9am–6pm. However, most traders and shops stay open until midnight.
Most hotels will have at least one 24 hour restaurant.
Approximately 15 million in greater Istanbul
Constantinople, the centre of the Byzantine Empire which lasted over a thousand years, later became Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years. The city is a mixture of Europe and Asia, a unique urban composition. A stroll around Sultanahmet, inside the city walls, among mosques, museums and the Great Bazaar is a trip through both history and daily life.
Modern Istanbul is on the other side of the Galata Bridge in Beyoğlu. The city is at its busiest from the Karaköy ferry terminal, through the always happening and youthful Cihangir, along the main tourist shopping İstiklal street and all the way to the famous Taksim square.
Istanbul’s Asian side has avoided much of the international tourism and have retained a more humdrum character. Moda district is brimming with cafes and bars frequented by local hipsters, while a bit more traditional Üsküdar caters to visiting families.
Waterways play a central role in the life of the city and boat traffic on the Bosporus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara is running like clockwork. Along the banks you can find small cafes where you can enjoy a glass of tea and magnificent views over the town.
Istanbul is a vibrant city whose grandiose history is utterly fascinating. Take a stroll around the city and admire the amazing mosques, museums and the Great Bazaar, or even visit an authentic Turkish bath.
A meal often begins with meze—a number of small dishes such as aubergine purée, börek, various salads and cheese. Filling vegetables such as tomatoes, paprika, aubergines and zucchini with rice and minced meat is typically Turkish (dolmasi). There are special restaurants that only serve kebab or köfte, meatballs, look for Kebabci or Köfteci. Simpler restaurants are called Lokanta.
Coffee has played an important role in Turkish lifestyle and culture so there is no wonder that Istanbul offers many old and new cafés. Why not try a cup of traditional Turkish coffee or tea which is served in a tiny gracious cup?
The really trendy places are outside the city centre, in Etiler, Levent and Ortaköy, but there’s also plenty to do around Taksim.
Formerly, the various guilds had their own special areas in the Great Bazaar, Kapali Çarsi, now it’s mostly leather, carpets and gold. The Bazaar has over 5.000 shops and haggling is essential.
Atatürk Hava Limani - Airport
The international airport, Atatürk Hava Limani, lies near the Sea of Marmara, around 25 km from the city centre. Buses run to Taksim Square every 30 minutes, journey time 45 min. The simplest and quickest journey is by Metro to Aksaray and takes around 35 minutes.
+90 212 465 55 55
Istanbul’s other airport, Sabiha Gökçen, is on the Asiatic side and is used mostly by domestic flights and some smaller airlines. There is no direct transport between the airports - change at Taksim.
+90 216 585 50 00
There is one public and one private bus network, IETT and Halk Otobus, respectively. The underground, Tünel, runs from Karaköy till Istiklâl Cad in Beyoglu and takes a few minutes. There is also a museum tram up toward Taksim Square.
Another tram route goes from Kabatas via Galata bridge and the Spice Bazaar to the south-western suburbs. The Metro goes from Taksim north to Levent and from Aksaray to Otogar in Esenler, where buses depart for other parts of Turkey and Europe and to the airport.
Dolmuses are minibuses or large taxis that depart when they are full, and stop where you want them to. They are the cheapest form of transport.
Ferries between Europe and Asia leave from Eminönü, Karaköy and Besiktas to Üsküdar, Kadiköy and Harem.
Akbil is a type of payment card that can be loaded with various sums and used on buses, boats and trams. Can be bought at major junctions.
Taxis are yellow in the inner city and lilac in the suburbs. There are numerous taxi companies. Different hotels work with different companies and can book your transport to the airport. It’s best to hail a taxi on the street, or go to a taxi rank and ask for a business card.
Istanbul Taxi Service
+90 212 518 1518
City Transfer Istanbul
+90 212 517 0090
The main post office is on Yeni Posthane Cad., near the railway station Sirkeci. Other PTT-offices are on Taksim Square and Istiklâl Cad. Open 09.00-17.00 Closed Sundays.
Pharmacy is called Eczane in Turkish. In the window of the pharmacy there is the address and telephone number of the current duty pharmacy.
Asmalı Mescit, Beyoğlu
+90 212 244 2618
Next to Taksim Square
+90 212 244 4325
Country number +90
Area code: 212 and 216