The Ultimate Istanbul Travel Guide

Since the beginning of time, Istanbul has always been fascinating to its visitors due its diversity and vibrance of its character. Istanbul is the meeting point of Europe and Asia and when you add the fact that today’s condition of the city has been built on a huge amount of history and different cultures, Istanbul is no doubt the melting pot of cultures. Whether it is arts & crafts, gastronomy, commerce or sports, Istanbul has something to offer for everyone regardless of their background and interests. Read this blog post we have prepared about the ultimate Istanbul travel guide and visit Istanbul for a truly life changing travel experience.

Discover Istanbul

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TOP 41 Attractions In Istanbul

Since the beginning of time, Istanbul has always been fascinating to its visitors due its diversity and vibrance of its character. Whether it is arts & crafts, gastronomy, commerce or sports, Istanbul has something to offer for everyone regardless of their background and interests.

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Arasta Bazaar

A traditional Turkish Bazaar hosting a variety of Turkish shops selling carpets, souvenirs, spices as well as a photo studio where you can take photos with traditional Turkish clothing.

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Hagia Sophia

No explanation required for this wonderful building. One of the most important buildings ever constructed in the entire world.

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Basilica Cistern

The largest and the most famous ancient cistern among hundreds in Istanbul that was used to provide drinking water for Istanbul throughout the history.

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Besiktas Carsi

One of the prime locations of Istanbul. Besiktas is full of life with restaurants and shops. Not to mention the fact that it is the home to Besiktas Football team.

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Beyazit Square

A vibrant square of Istanbul full of hustle and bustle with many interesting shops around. It is only a walking distance from Grand Bazaar.

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Blue Mosque

Built in the early 1600s Blue Mosque is one of the most iconic buildings in Istanbul. The interior design is made out of blue tiles. Must see!

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Caferaga Medresesi

15 different art workshops, a large hall and a peaceful courtyard, it serves as an art center where Traditional Turkish Arts are taught, produced and exhibited and welcomes guests.

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Camlica Mosque

Camlica is the biggest mosque in Turkey with a capacity of 63000 people praying at the same time. This mega project with 16 minarets is a must see!

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Church Of St Stephen Of The Bulgars

An active Bulgarian Church in the heart of Istanbul. Today, the Iron Church Sveti Stefan remains one of the greatest symbols of the Bulgarian religious belief.

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Church Of The Monastery Of Christ Pantokrator (Zeybek Camii)

Originally a Byzantium Church that was converted to a mosque after the conquest of Constantionaple 1453. It has views of the Golden Horn.

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Cicek Pasaji

Home to plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes also known as the Flower Passage is a must see location in Istanbul.

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Column Of Constantine

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Divan Yolu Street

Tramway road between Sultanahmet Square and Beyazıt Square, was opened during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, and became a ceremony road where the sultans who returned to their lands.

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Dolmabahce Palace

In addition to its historical importance, magnificent architecture, Dolmabahçe Palace contains valuable items, innovative crystal artifacts, carpets, tile stoves and many more in its rooms and halls.

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Galata Bridge

The 490-meter-long Galata Bridge, located at the entrance of the Golden Horn and connects Karaköy and Eminönü, is famous for its unique history. One of the iconic places in Istanbul.

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Galata Tower

One of the icons of Istanbul, Galata tower was built in 500 A.D to defend the city from invaders and served as a watch tower.

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Grand Bazaar

Iconic historical shopping mall of Istanbul hosting over 3000 shops of jewellery, carpets, spices, and anything Turkish you can think of. A must see!

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Gulhane Park

One of the most beautiful parks in Istanbul. Gulhane means home of roses in Turkey, come here to see a lovely scenery of flowers and green.

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Hippodrome

This ancient hippodrome was the centre of life in Constantinople. It saw riots, political debates, horse races and theological discussions. It had a capacity of 100.000 spectators.

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Istanbul Archaeology Museums

This is the first museum in Turkey and one of the biggest and the best. It hosts a huge amount of Byzantium, Greek and Roman artifacts from history.

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İstiklal Caddesi

Istiklal Street is one of the first places that come to mind when it comes to Istanbul. It is surrounded by historical embassy buildings where nostalgic trams run along.

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Kariye Museum Chora Church

It is an impressive place where you can see the most outstanding examples of 14th century Eastern Roman and Byzantine painting art. It has the best preserved mosaics and frescoes.

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Kiz Kulesi

The Maiden's Tower, stands on a rock at the entrance of the Bosphorus, 150-200 meters off Üsküdar, is one of the most important and popular monuments and symbols of Istanbul.

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Kuzey Deniz Saha Komutanligi

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Museum Of Turkish Islamic Arts

In the museum, there are unique Turkish and Islamic artifacts such as handwritten Korans, miniatures, antique carpets in carpet, manuscript, wood, glass-metal-ceramic and ethnography sections.

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Obelisk Of Theodosius

It is an Ancient Egyptian obelisk located in Sultanahmet Square. It was brought from Egypt by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in 390 AD and erected in its current location.

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Rahmi M Koc Museum

A wonderful museum in Istanbul dedicated to the history of transport, engineering and industry including a military submarine you can visit.

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Rumeli Hisari

Built to block the supply routes to Constantinople during the siege. Absolutely stunning views and an important bit of history.

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Rustem Pasa Mosque

A lovely mosque built by Rustem Pasa in 1561 with absolutely fantastic tiling inside and outside the mosque.

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Seraglio Point

This location is called Sarayburnu and it is a headland where the Topkapi palace is located.

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Spice Bazaar

A trip to Istanbul is not complete without visiting the Spice Bazaar(Misir Bazaar). The most fragrant and colourful bazaar in Istanbul.

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Sublime Porte

Sublime Porte is where the governance of the Ottoman Empire and principal state departments were located.

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Suleymaniye Mosque

Located on the third hill of Istanbul, Suleymaniye mosque is one of the diamonds of Istanbul.

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Sultanahmet Archaeological Park

Excavations resulted in the revelation of the Grand Btzantian Palace, the park is now closed for the archaeological works to be completed.

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Tombs Of Suleiman The Magnificent and Roxelana

Beautiful tombs of the family of one of the best sultans in the Ottoman Empire. The tiling work inside is to die for.

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Topkapi Palace

Home to Ottoman Sultans and their family for over 400 years. Although most of the palace is not accessible, visiting this place is an absolute must!

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Beyoglu

A prestigious and diverse part of Istanbul where most of the consulates are located. Visit this place to enjoy clubs, shops and a lovely traditional tram.

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Kadikoy

Located in the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadikoy is one of the prestigious parts of Istanbul. Kadikoy has lots of attractions as well as being home to Fenerbahce Football club.

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Sultanahmet

Old part of Istanbul and it is home to plenty of attractions such as Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque.

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Uskudar

Uskudar is on the Asian side of Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus and the famous Maiden's Tower.

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The 10 Best Activities In Istanbul

The amount of activities one might involve in Istanbul is limitless. In this post we have listed our 10 best activities that one must take part in order to say I have indeed visited Istanbul. Do not leave before completing this list!

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Explore Sultanahmet and its surroundings

Sultanahmet, which is the most visited district in the Historic Peninsula by both local and foreign tourists, offers its visitors numerous beauties with its historical texture, architecture, culture and art activities, shopping and entertainment centers and lively streets.

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Explore Beyoğlu and its surroundings

For those who like to visit and see the lively and cosmopolitan city life, we recommend you to visit Beyoğlu district with its lively streets and nightlife, especially Galata and Taksim districts.

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Visit Galata and its surroundings

Galata, a district that is separated by the Golden Horn, located right across the Historical Peninsula and harboring both the historical and cosmopolitan city life of Istanbul, is a district that you should visit especially with its Galata Tower and its touristic lively streets around it.

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Taksim and its surroundings

Taksim is one of the most famous districts of Istanbul with its always lively and cosmopolitan city life, crowded streets, popular restaurants and cafes, shopping centers and shops, tourist attractions, live entertainment and nightlife.

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Have a fun day with your kids in amusement parks

Entertainment and theme parks, dolphin show centers and aquariums, which offer unlimited entertainment, adrenaline and exciting activities and leisure time, especially for families with children, are in a very popular location in Istanbul in recent years.

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Enjoy the Bosphorus Cruise by boat

Traveling and seeing the Bosphorus by boat is a very popular daily activity in Istanbul, especially for foreign tourists. We strongly recommend you to join the Istanbul Bosphorus Tour by boat, which is made by city lines ferries or private boats.

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Istanbul City Tour with Open Top Bus (Big Bus Istanbul)

It is possible to see all the popular historical and touristic places of Istanbul with this tour, which offers an unmissable opportunity especially for those who come to Istanbul from outside and which you can see as the City Sightseeing Bus in many cities of the world.

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Cafes And Restaurants

Istanbul offers unlimited possibilities for eating and drinking activities. It is possible to find all kinds of food and beverages in Istanbul, from the unique tastes of Turkish cuisine to all world cuisines.

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Discover live entertainment and nightlife

Entertainment and nightlife in Istanbul is very lively and unlimited. It is possible to find all kinds of entertainment and nightlife that last until the morning in Istanbul.

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Explore the shopping side of the city

There are many modern and world-class shopping malls, shops, traditional shops and local markets in Istanbul. There are shopping opportunities for every budget in Istanbul. So much so that you can go to Istanbul even just for shopping.

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Top 8 Festivals & Events in Istanbul

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Istanbul Film Festival

The Istanbul Film Festival, which has brought together hundreds of films with the audience on determined dates every year since 1982, is held in various cinemas. There are also two separate competitions, national and international, within the festival.

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Istanbul Jazz Festival

Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) in the first half of July every year since 1994, the Istanbul Jazz Festival is almost a musical feast. World-famous musicians are hosted in the festival, which is held in different concert and event venues in Istanbul.

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Istanbul Music Festival

Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) since 1972, the Istanbul Music Festival wipes the ears with concerts that enchant music lovers in different parts of the city. The event, which includes distinguished international communities, fascinates with its different concept every year.

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International Istanbul Opera Festival

The International Istanbul Opera Festival, organized by the General Directorate of State Opera and Ballet, helps to monitor different opera and ballet performances. The most talented actors of our country will take place in the festival held on Zorlu PSM Turkcell Stage.

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Chill-Out Festival

Chill-Out Festival, which is among the highly anticipated festivals of Istanbul, wipes the ears of music lovers every year. Stage performances of popular musicians, as well as attracting the attention of DJ performances in the festival is held in other regions of Turkey.

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One - Love Festival

One held every year since 2004 - Love Festival, also the favorite names of Turkey, as well as musicians from around the world with the performance of remarkable. The festival, held in different event venues in Istanbul, is the choice of those who want to have fun moments.

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Istanbul Biennial

The Istanbul Biennial, the art event organized by IKSV every two years, is among the festivals that many participants are eagerly awaiting. The Istanbul Biennial, which stands before art lovers with a different concept every year it is organized, draws attention with its high participation rates.

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Istanbul Nightlife

There are quality nightclubs in Istanbul that offer dinner and drinking followed by live music and entertainment with DJs. Below you can find our recommendations for the best nightclubs in Istanbul that we have compiled for you.

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Sortie Club – Kuruçeşme

Sortie, which is located right next to the Bosphorus in Kuruçeşme and consists of 6 restaurants and 3 bars, is among the popular clubs of Istanbul with its magnificent Bosphorus view, elite ambience, quality food and drink, music and entertainment.

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360Istanbul

Located on the top floor of the historical Mısır Apartment in Istiklal Street, 360Istanbul serves lunch and dinner from world and modern Turkish cuisine, accompanied by an impressive view of Istanbul, with its elite wine and rich bar menu.

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Ruby – Ortaköy

Ruby, located in a fiery and sparkling location overlooking the sea in Ortaköy, offers a brand new entertainment experience in Istanbul with its magnificent Bosphorus view and delicious menus. After dinner, you can experience unforgettable nights with dance and music in Ruby, either downstairs or upstairs, in the club sections until the first light of the morning.

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Klein – Harbiye, Şişli

Established at the location of the popular As Cinema of the 70's in Harbiye, within walking distance of Taksim, Klein is a popular place among Istanbul nightclubs with its unique architecture and interior decoration that will surprise you.

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Babylon Bomonti – Şişli

Babylon, which was opened in 1999 with the aim of bringing together the best examples of progressive music with music lovers in the highest region of Istanbul, moved to Bomontiada in 2015 with a new understanding to host its audience in a multi-purpose live performance center.

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Club XLarge İstanbul – Maslak

Located in Maslak and one of the most magnificent clubs of Istanbul, Xlarge Club offers unlimited musical enjoyment with Dj Mus-T, magnificent shows from professional go girl and go go boys, and a unique entertainment to its guests with famous artists.

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Nardis Jazz Club – Galata

Nardis, located close to Galata Tower, is a real jazz club and a place where jazz-oriented creative music is featured, where music and musicians stand out, and a concert environment where every performance is experienced in the comfort of a club and is a frequent destination for jazz lovers.

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Masquerade Club – Beşiktaş

Located in Gayrettepe, Masquerade Club brings Istanbul nightlife to entertainment lovers with its extraordinary performances, quality music, many world-famous artists and DJs and special architecture.

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Maestro Donizetti Jazz Club – Asmalımescit, Taksim

Maestro Donizetti Jazz Club, named after the famous Italian conductor Giuseppe Donizetti, opened on the ground floor of Palazzo Donizetti Hotel in the heart of Pera in Asmalımescit, welcomes its guests as one of the new and popular jazz clubs in Istanbul.

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Lucca Bar – Bebek

Located in the coastal district of Bebek, offering a café during the day and bar service in the evenings with its warm and impressive atmosphere, Lucca takes its place among the popular bars of Istanbul with its modern bistro and bar service.

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Bosphorus Brewing Company – Gayrettepe

Located in Gayrettepe on the ridges of Beşiktaş, Bosphorus Brewing Co. offers its guests the experience of pubs in England and Belgium with its GastroPub style cuisine menu, very special drinks, especially beer.

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My Moon Karaoke Bar – Taksim

Located between Istiklal Street and Tarlabaşı Boulevard in Taksim, My Moon Karaoke Bar, which started to serve as the first karaoke bar of Istanbul in 2004, has a quality and different service concept, local and foreign song repertoire, delicious cocktails, DJ performances.

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Best Restaurants In Istanbul

Istanbul is home to numerous restaurants of world-class beauty and quality, from the unique tastes of Turkish cuisine to all world cuisines. We have prepared a list of best restaurants in Istanbul for you to enjoy!

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Nicole Restaurant – Beyoğlu

Nicole Restaurant, a boutique restaurant located in the Beyoğlu Tomtom neighborhood, is one of the favorite restaurants in Istanbul with its seasonal menus consisting of local and fresh ingredients, the cellar focusing on castle-style wines and its experienced service team.

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Calipso Fish – Küçükyalı

Calipso Fish Restaurant, located on the Anatolian side of Küçükyalı coastal road, has been serving as one of the best fish restaurants in Istanbul since 2014 by its operators with 30 years of Seafood Gastronomy experience.

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360Istanbul – İstiklal Caddesi

360istanbul, which is located on the top floor of the historical Egyptian Apartment on Istiklal Street and has many international awards, serves lunch and dinner from world and modern Turkish cuisine, accompanied by an impressive view of Istanbul, with its distinguished wine and rich bar menu.

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Asmalı Cavit – Asmalımescit

One of the best taverns in Istanbul is located in a narrow street in Beyoğlu Asmalimescit. Asmalı Cavit is a simple yet authentic and very elaborate place, and an award-winning tavern. Here, taste comes first. Meyhane patties, chops, grilled calamari and liver are really different and number 1!

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Beyti – Florya

All spaces in Beyti Restaurant are decorated with inspiration from Ottoman and Turkish art. We recommend you to visit Beyti, where you will find the best meat in Istanbul.

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Mikla Restaurant – Beyoğlu

Chef and founding partner of Mikla Restaurant, an award-winning restaurant serving on the terrace floor of the Marmara Pera Hotel in Beyoğlu, Mehmet Gürs, while designing Mikla, reflected her Turkish and Scandinavian knowledge to the general texture with a striking balance.

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Neolokal – Karaköy

Neolokal, a fantastic restaurant located in Karaköy Bankalar Caddesi, aims to design and present the honest dish inspired by the mother earth and taking an example from its traditions.

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Healin Foods – Teşvikiye, Şişli

Healin Foods, which is suitable for everyone's taste and where all products are certified, also offers wide and healthy menus from world cuisines to Southeast Asian and Anatolian cuisine.

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Bi Nevi Deli – Etiler, Beşiktaş

Bi Nevi Deli is a quality vegan-vegetarian restaurant serving in Etiler. Bi Nevi Deli's kitchen consists of plant-based menus created using unprocessed or least processed (whole foods) products.

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Govinda – Mecidiyeköy

Worldwide famous vegetarian restaurant and the cafe is the only branch of Govinda Govinda's chain in Turkey, Turkey's first and only pure vegetarian and also located in Mecidiyeköy serving as Indian cuisine.

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Big Chefs – Tarabya

Big Chefs, an Ankara-based venue, is a peaceful restaurant that you must discover if you are on the Tarabya side. Tarabya branch of the restaurant, which has many branches in Istanbul, offers a magnificent view as well as delicious food.

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Deniz Yıldızı Restaurant – Çengelköy

Deniz Yildizi, one of the popular restaurants of the Anatolian side, has a brilliant view that will open you up. In addition, organizations such as birthdays and business meetings are also held in the restaurant. Let us also inform you that the restaurant, which hosts one of the most beautiful views of the city, is assertive in terms of appetizers as well as fresh fish.

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Fine Dine İstanbul – Sultanahmet

Famous for its view of the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, Fine Dine Istanbul also attracts attention with its delicious menu. Fine Dine Restaurant has a classic menu consisting of delicious dishes and desserts that have not changed for many years. Lamb shank and cherry baklava are the favorites of the restaurant.

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Shopping in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey’s described as the cultural and fashion capital. There are many modern and world-class shopping malls, shops, traditional shops and local markets in Istanbul. There are shopping opportunities for every budget in Istanbul. So much so that you can go to Istanbul even just for shopping.

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İstinye Park– Sarıyer

With 300 shops, Istinye Park is surrounded by a huge glass dome and glass ceilings, come and enjoy the best brands in the world.

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Kanyon – Levent

Kanyon is a huge shopping mall that has the best brands around the world as well as plenty of restaurants, health clubs and a canyon shaped shopping mall.

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Akmerkez– Etiler

Akmerkez is one of the oldest and most well-known shopping centers in Istanbul with 246 stores with Turkish and world brands, a parking lot for 1,500 cars, movie theaters, restaurants and cafes.

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Cevahir– Şişli

Cevahir offers a pleasant environment where visitors can visit with all their family members with its nearly 300 stores on 6 floors, cinema halls, cafes and restaurants, indoor themed playground.

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Emaar Square Mall– Üsküdar

Emaar Square Mall is the largest shopping mall on the Anatolian side and the third in Istanbul. Located in Üsküdar, the shopping mall is very advantageous with its central location.

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Kapalıçarşı – BEYAZIT

The Grand Bazaar, with its 550-year history, is one of the most popular places in the historical peninsula of Istanbul. It is one of the oldest and largest covered bazaars in the world.

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Mısır Bazaar – EMİNÖNÜ

The Spice Bazaar is covered with colorful spice stalls and is a spice market that attracts both local and foreign tourists. The Spice Bazaar is one of the popular places and bazaars in Istanbul.

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Arasta Bazaar – SULTANAHMET

Located at the back of the Blue Mosque, the Arasta Bazaar is a touristic bazaar that has the status of a mini-covered bazaar. Here you can find all kinds of tourist items from jewelry to carpets, rugs, leather, handicrafts and souvenir shops.

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Tarihi Bakırcılar Bazaar– BEYAZIT

The historical Bakırcılar Bazaar, located below the area surrounding the central walls of Istanbul University in Beyazıt, is one of the oldest bazaars in Istanbul. Here, there are shops selling handmade copper objects and works as well as souvenirs.

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Sahaflar Bazaar – BEYAZIT

The Sahaflar Bazaar, located near Beyazıt Square, is also one of Istanbul's indispensable places. Here you can find numerous book stores, second-hand books, antique stores and street peddlers.

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Best Hotels & Places To Stay In Istanbul

Istanbul has some of the best hotels in the world. Come and enjoy a luxurious and relaxing time in hotels in Istanbul. 

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Çırağan Palace Kempinski

This 5-star hotel is set in a 19th century Ottoman palace and features an infinity pool overlooking the Bosphorus. It offers stylish guest rooms with free Wi-Fi and a spa and wellness center.

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Hilton İstanbul Bosphorus

This five-star hotel provides service on the European side of Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus. The property has an indoor and outdoor pool, a lush garden, a traditional Turkish bath, and a choice of 7 restaurants and bars.

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Four Seasons Bosphorus

The renovated 19th century Ottoman palace on the Bosphorus has a historical architecture in harmony with luxurious details. The hotel has a heated outdoor pool with free parasols and sun loungers and an indoor pool. The seaside resort also has a garden and a large terrace with panoramic Bosphorus views.

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CVK Park Bosphorus

CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel Istanbul is just 150 meters from Taksim Square. With its stylish interiors, guests can benefit from 2 swimming pools and the comprehensive Safira Spa Center, which covers an area of 8,500 m². In addition, sauna, Turkish bath, steam room and massage facilities are available.

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The Ritz Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul, with picturesque views of the city and the Bosphorus; It is located in the heart of the city. Famous attractions of the old city such as Sultanahmet, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are just a 15-minute drive from this 5-star hotel.

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Swissotel The Bosphorus

Swissotel The Bosphorus is a luxury hotel that is also a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Situated in a beautiful location in the center of Istanbul, surrounded by extensive gardens, this 5-star resort offers magnificent views of the Bosphorus.

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The House Hotel Bosphorus

This carefully restored boutique hotel with a magnificent view of the Bosphorus combines contemporary design and 19th century architecture. It is located close to restaurants and shops in Ortaköy.

History Of Istanbul

Soon…

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

You can get a HES code by downloading Life Fits Into Home application and after registering you will be able to get a HES code. This code will grant you access to public transport, restaurants and more. During the global Covid-19 pandemic, rules and regulations can change rapidly. To get the latest information contact us.

Yes! Istanbul is a safe place. Just make sure you act with common sense like not going to dark streets in the evenings.

You should definitely avoid exchanging money in Hotels in Istanbul as the exchange rates are awful. You should also be careful with taxis in Istanbul as they might take longer routes once they realize that you are not local.

Istanbul is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visiting Istanbul is an absolutely must!

It depends on your programme but four days will pass quickly and you might be slightly overwhelmed as you will constantly be walking around and travelling from places to places. To get a digestible feel for Istanbul we recommend seven to ten days.

Most people will understand the basic level of English. Most shop representatives will definitely be able to speak English too.

When compared to London and Paris, Istanbul is much cheaper to travel.

Yes Istanbul is absolutely safe for female tourists. However please make sure you act with common sense.

Yes you should be able to drink tap water in Istanbul, however we recommend buying bottled water just to be on the safe side.

Most places in Istanbul are safe at night however please do follow some commonsense and do not walk into dark streets.

Istanbul has a huge variety of foods you can eat. Depending where you go, food in Istanbul can be expensive however there are also plenty of cheap places you can go. Just check the menu before you sit down to eat.

No, there is no requirement for any religious garment in Turkey. However if you would like to visit mosques, you will be required to wear a headscarf.

Most street food in Istanbul is delicious and has good standards. Just have a quick look in to the place and you can tell if its clean.

Turkish population is overwhelmingly Muslim country. However there are plenty of churches where you will be able to celebrate Christmas in Istanbul. 

Istanbul and Bodrum have the best nightlife in Turkey. 

Unfortunately Uber has been banned in Turkey in order to protect the yellow taxis.

Although some people do swim in the Bosphorus we generally do not recommend you to do so, as the water is not very clean.

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