Things to do in Istanbul Old City
Soon the sun will be warmer, travelers are already started to search for new destinations according to their interests. For the last few weeks so many questions which are frequently about İstanbul are asked by our social media, Whatsapp and mail. It seems that Istanbul is rising among other destinations around the world. So let’s answer these questions in a short, sharp, and clear way.
Istanbul was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires for more than 1,500 years and those civilizations create a plentiful, diverse culture that can be traced to almost every corner of the city.
As a mosaic of cultures, Istanbul is like a bridge connecting two continents. Thanks to the two major airports in the city, this city can be reached from anywhere in the world.
Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey but its historical heritage accumulated for centuries carried it to the 17th place on “the most beautiful metropoles around the world” list (Independent/October 2019). Today it is a modern city surrounded by shopping malls, theme parks, nightclubs plus well-protected historical monuments from every religion and culture, making it a traveling paradise that can meet all expectations of travelers. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions such as; where to go…, where to shop…, what to see…, what to eat…, what to do…, how many airports…
1. Where is Istanbul? Asia or Europe?
his may be the first question that needed to be answered. İstanbul is not in Europe totally or is not in Asia. It connects each continent with 3 bridges on the Bosphorus.
The Bosphorus divides the city between the continents Asia and Europe while connecting the Black Sea to the Aegean. So half of the city is in Europe and the other half is on the Asia continent which means that The Istanbul old city, Sultanahmet, Grand Bazaar, Dolmabahce, Ciragan, Yildiz Palaces are on the Europe side, Kadikoy, Beylerbeyi Palace, Maiden’s Tower, Haydarpasa railway station is on the Asia side.
The transportation between those sides can be done by bus, metrobüs, ferries, and metro bus line (The Marmaray). You only should be careful not to be on the bridges between the hours 07:00-08:30 and 17:00-19:00 because of the traffic. Plus the transportation alternatives make it easy to travel inside the city, you just need an akbil (electronic ticket). Plus in metro bus lines and metrobüs, tram audio English notifications are done all the way. Still joining an Istanbul tour is the best way to explore the city because it is crowded and if you leave the main transportation line you can easily get lost.
Highlights Of Istanbul
According to historical resources, the first name of the city was Lygos, and the other names, Kostantiniyye, Constantinople, New Rome, Augusta Antonina, and Byzantium, were used during different reigns and periods over the centuries. The name Istanbul, on the other hand, is derived from the Greek phrase “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” which can also be spelled “s tim boli” which means “in the city“. Ottomans, since the 14th century, preferred to use this version and, in time, it shaded into Istanbul. Lastly, it is not the capital of the country.
2. Where to go in Istanbul?
Istanbul was a capital between the 4th and 20th centuries, almost along 16 centuries and at present, it is one of the biggest metropolises worldwide. Both modern and historically, countless places can be visited. Most favorite historical destinations are Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia Mosque in the old city’s ruined walls, known as Sultanahmet at the same time.
Highlights Of Istanbul
Princes’ Islands, Zeyrek Mosque, The Golden Horn, Ortaköy, Galata Tower, and Pierre Lotti are other most wished destinations. But if you are planning a tour to Istanbul it will be better to add the destinations belong; the palaces; Topkapi, Dolmabahce, Beylerbeyi, Yildiz, The Grand Bazaar, mosques; Suleymaniye, Eyup Sultan, Eminonu Yeni Mosque.
The best way to visit Istanbul is to join a tour because it is big and crowded, plus it is brimful with historical sights, museums, old and new fashion venues, street art, dozens of flavors, as well as various outdoor activities. You might be a humble backpacker, an energetic adrenaline junkie, or either luxury or romance might be your nickname; it does not matter, Istanbul has something for every taste.
i. The Bosphorus Tour in Istanbul: A Classic
How many cities around the world? The answer is only one. The Bosphorus is a unique aspect of the city. The blue pearl makes everything better, and for locals, it makes the city’s heavy traffic bearable. Once, Sultans used to stroll here, and since then, experiencing a Bosphorus Tour in Istanbul has been a classic for both natives and foreigners.
On a Bosphorus Tour, the palaces of Dolmabahce, Beylerbeyi, Ciragan, historical mansions, nightclubs, Maiden’s Tower, Anatolia, and Rumeli Fortresses can be seen on the tour, while the Bosphorus itself is another breathtaking view. Especially on warm summer nights, numerous native and foreign people have fun on a boat on the Bosphorus. So add the Bosphorus Tour to your itinerary no matter the season. While you can join a Bosphorus tour by boat throughout the day, most visitors prefer night tours. They spend their days seeing the old city, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and the other sights of the Sultan Ahmet peninsula, and choose to have fun with belly dances, dervish shows, DJ parties, and various classical Ottoman dishes at night along the Bosphorus.
A private yacht Bosphorus tour with a guide in Istanbul, allows you to enjoy the cool breezes of the Bosphorus while watching the sunset. A solitaire ring, a few glasses of champagne, and honey bees mostly prefer this. Keep in mind that a single private yacht tour on Bosphorus can be your day.
ii. Istanbul Luxury Tours: An Elegant Theme
Istanbul luxury tours, on the other hand, can provide luxurious accommodation and transportation services while all other touristic attractions are on the list. With the 3-day private luxury tour in Istanbul, you may even have a helicopter tour of the sky across the stunning view of the city if you prefer to stay in ıstanbul for 7-day luxury tour
A guided tour in Istanbul is a good alternative when it comes to seizing upon any details and discovering the surprising stories behind the historical sights. The city is around 5,800 years old when we count the prehistoric period and 3000 years old as a city. Throughout its history, it has stood up despite earthquakes, fires, floods, raids, and sieges. It is not going to be wrong to say that the city was rebuilt again and again over the centuries. So all the corners, historical sights, walls, and culture have epic stories that are worth listening to. So a guided tour to hear those like fairy tales, or we can call it 1001 Night Tales because the city has as many as stories as the book, would be perfect. Just remember that you can have a private guided tour in Istanbul, which is one of the best and most comfortable ways to discover the city.
iii. Istanbul Outdoor Activities
It should be underlined that while the city is rich when it comes to historical sights, it also has so much to offer when it comes to outdoor sports, adrenalin enthusiasts, and nature lovers. Various attractions in a rich activity pattern for instance Istanbul quad biking, rafting, trekking, Vialand Istanbul theme park visiting, horse riding, and jeep safari, are waiting for the adventurers. For the last few decades a great number of theme parks such as Isfanbul Vialand Theme Park, Marina Aquapark Waterland, and Istanbul Aquarium, can be perfect destinations for families with children.
iv. Hot Air Balloon Flights In Turkey Istanbul
In Turkey, hot air balloon flights have been popular since the 90s. The land of fairy chimneys, Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon, and the white travertines of Pamukkale Hot Air Balloon are the two best-known destinations to experience these hot air flights. However, in Istanbul, hot air balloon flights are not held. Nevertheless, you can add a hot air balloon flight to your Istanbul tour. As we mentioned, Istanbul is a great city and has two airports; one is on the Asian side of Istanbul and the other one is on the European side. You can fly from Istanbul airport to Nevsehir for around 70 minutes or fly to Denizli-Pamukkale for 60 minutes and experience a hot air balloon flight over the magnificent landscape. But please remember that the hot air balloon flights are held at around 5:30 a.m. and consider this while you are planning it or we can help you. Just enough to contact with us.
See also; 7 Day Eyes of Turkey Travel Package
The itinerary includes the destinations: Istanbul, Antalya and Cappadocia.
3. Where to shop in Istanbul?
The most popular shopping center is The Grand Bazaar. It is one of the largest and oldest bazaars in the world that have 61 streets covered over 4,000 shops plus it was one of the top of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions list in 2014. It received more than 90m visitors.
Roughly you can find jewelers and gold bracelets along Kalpakçılar street, furniture along Divrikli street, carpets along Sahaflar street, leather goods and casual clothes along Perdahcilar street.
Also Egyptian Bazaar or Grand Spice Bazaar is another worldwide known bazaar that all kinds of qualified spices and Turkish delight, Turkish coffee can be found.
Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar)
Istanbul, Eminonu, in particular, was a trade center throughout Bizantyns and Ottomans because it is at the passing point between the East and West, furthermore, its safe coves have been allowing maritime trade too…
Eminonu district (at the Old City, west of Golden Horn) is full of shops since Ottomans it is the center of trade that today all kinds of local goods can be found, but like Grand Bazaar, Eminonu is so big and all streets, inns are expert in single kind of goods. You may need help like us 🙂
In the last 2 decades so many malls, shopping centers are opened around the city, and so many travelers just arrange their visits focusing on those malls or allow extra time to visit those centers.
Most popular shopping malls list:
- Cevahir (Sisli)
- Istinye Park (Sariyer)
- Kanyon (Levent)
- Akmerkez (Etiler)
- Forum Istanbul (Bayrampasa)
- Metrocity (Levent)
- Emaar Square Mall (Uskudar)
- Capitol (Altunizade)
4. What to see in Istanbul?
When it comes to deciding what to see in Istanbul, travelers are spoiled for choice with numerous historical and modern attractions. The city boasts a wealth of palaces, museums, shopping malls, ancient bazaars, restaurants, pubs, and entertainment centers on both sides. Here is a list of the most popular places to visit, categorized into two sides of the city.
i. What to see in the European side of Istanbul?
ii. What to see in the Asian side of Istanbul?
5. What to eat in Istanbul?
From 5 star restaurants to street foods, there are countless alternative foods, vegetarian, non-vegetarian, local, and worldwide known tastes İstanbul is full of delicious foods. Kebap, lahmacun, baklava, sis kebap, zeytinyagli sarma, kunefe, mantı are known well around the world already. But take this list with you on your travel:
Turkish cuisine is deeply rooted in a love for food, and the importance of breakfast is highly cherished among Turkish people. A classic Turkish breakfast is a feast for the senses, showcasing a wide array of delectable delights.
A traditional Turkish breakfast features a rich assortment of bite-sized delicacies. It typically includes black and green olives, crisp cucumbers, savory cured meats, creamy dips and sauces, eggs prepared in various ways, fresh cheeses, juicy tomatoes, freshly baked bread, delightful fruit preserves and jams, luscious honey, delectable pastries, and creamy butter. Of course, a generous amount of freshly brewed black tea is a staple companion to complete the experience.
While there may be some regional variations in the breakfast menu, there are five fundamental elements that are shared throughout Turkey: bread, spreads, cheese, eggs, and black tea. Additionally, dishes like menemen (a flavorful egg and vegetable scramble), kuymak (a cheesy cornmeal dish), and otlu cheese (a herb-infused cheese) are just a few examples of the diverse local recipes that can be savored during a Turkish breakfast.
For Lunch & dinner
The roots of Turkish cuisine trace back to the Ottoman period, showcasing a delightful blend of flavors influenced by Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Central Asian gastronomic cultures. Primarily centered around meat, Turkish cuisine offers a diverse range of dishes that tantalize the taste buds.
One can indulge in mouthwatering plates such as “kebap” (minced meat skewers traditionally grilled over charcoal fire), “döner” (rotisserie meat), “lahmacun” (Turkish pizza topped with meat), and “ızgara köfte” (grilled meatballs) served alongside freshly baked “pide” bread and grilled vegetables. The streets are also adorned with numerous street food delights, awaiting your discovery.
For lunch or dinner, you might consider savoring home-cooked dishes like “manti” (Turkish dumplings), “kuru fasulye” (white bean stew), often enjoyed with fragrant pilaf-rice, or a variety of olive-based dishes such as “yaprak sarma” (rice-filled grape leaves), “dolma” (stuffed vegetables), and “fasulye” (green beans). Another delightful experience awaits at “meyhanes,” traditional establishments rooted in centuries of history, where you can relish Turkish drink “raki” (an alcoholic beverage made from twice-distilled grapes) accompanied by appetizers like “cacık” (yogurt and cucumber dip), “hummus,” “babagannuş” (smoky eggplant dip), “gavurdağı salatası” (a flavorful tomato and walnut salad), and “haydari” (garlic and herb yogurt dip), among many others.
In Turkey, it is a tradition to enjoy Turkish coffee accompanied by “lokum” (Turkish delight) after a satisfying meal. “Lokum” itself comes in a delightful variety of forms and flavors, featuring options like pistachio, rose, or pomegranate.However, there are numerous other delectable syrup-based desserts worth trying. Furthermore, during your trip to Turkey, you will have the opportunity to sample many other incredible local desserts. These include the world-famous “baklava,” “künefe,” “kadayıf,” “cezerye,” and “sütlaç,” which can be found in restaurants and cafes throughout the country.
6. Where to eat?
While Istanbul is brimming with restaurants offering a wide array of culinary delights, certain districts have gained fame for their exceptional flavors. Including these destinations in your itinerary will provide you with a taste of what you should try. Check where to eat list below:
Where to eat in Istanbul list;
- Suleymaniye – Kuru Fasulye (Haricot bean)
- Ortakoy – Kumpir (After the potato is cooked in special ovens, the skin is split and it can be topped with grated cheddar cheese, boiled sausage, Russian salad, corn, olives, peas, mushrooms, or various appetizers according to taste. )
- Spice Bazaar –Turkish Delight
- Beyoglu/Taksim – Chocolate
- Bosphorus (İstinye-Bebek) – Fish
- Vefa – Boza (Boza is a fermented malt drink crafted from a variety of grains.)
- Eminonu – Fish&bread
- Kanlica – Yoghurt
- Sultanahmet – meatballs
- Sariyer – local patty
- Pierre Loti – Turkish Coffe
7. What to do in Istanbul?
Istanbul is a city that seamlessly blends traditional and modern attractions, providing travelers with an incredible holiday experience. One of the key elements that sets Istanbul apart is the Bosphorus, a waterway that holds great significance in shaping the city’s offerings. Now, let’s explore a list of things to do in Istanbul, showcasing its unique charm.
What to do in Istanbul list;
- Dinner Cruise on Bosphorus; Embark on a captivating dinner cruise along the Bosphorus, where you can relish a delightful blend of Turkish cuisine, traditional dances, and lively DJ music. This enchanting experience allows you to immerse yourself in the magical ambiance of the Bosphorus, as you sail between the continents of Asia and Europe. Indulge in delectable dishes while being entertained by authentic Turkish dances, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
The Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Turkish Night Show has gained immense popularity among travelers, drawing them in with its captivating allure.
- Relax on a warm Turkish bath; Indulge in ultimate relaxation with a visit to a warm Turkish bath, as no trip to Turkey is complete without experiencing the soothing tranquility of a hamam. Let the bubbles envelop you, relieving you of the day’s tiredness and rejuvenating your senses. Don’t forget to explore TSG’s Turkish bath tour, where you can embark on a guided journey to discover the best hamams in the area.
See also; Daily Turkish Bath Istanbul Tour
Turkish bath is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul.
- Join a whirling dervish show: Whirling dervishes, a form of physically active meditation, have their origins in specific Sufi groups and continue to be practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. This customary meditation practice takes place within the sema, a worship ceremony, where dervishes engage in spinning to seek a deeper connection with God. The captivating music, the enchanting atmosphere, and the harmonious movements will guide you towards a fresh perspective and a profound appreciation of the world around you. Please visit Daily Whirling Dervishes Istanbul Show page for details.
See also; Daily Whirling Dervishes Istanbul Show
Prepare to be captivated by the mesmerizing ambiance of the Whirling Dervishes Show, as it transports you into a realm of mysticism and wonder.
- Dig for antiques in Ferikoy Flea Market: It also referred to as the Bomonti Antique Market, was established in 2009 and has grown to feature over 400 stalls. This vibrant market welcomes visitors every Sunday from 09:00 to 18:00. Here, you can discover remarkable objects that will complement your collection at highly affordable prices. Delve into the treasure trove of vintage finds, such as an Erkin Koray record from the bygone era, a Safiye Ayla stone record, or a rare ABBA longplay. The market offers a diverse range of items, including a wide variety of wristwatches, rosaries crafted from ivory, amber, pearl, or even fishing rod components.
- Have a dinner at Cicek Passage: Cicek passage is a 19th century bazaar which was converted to flower market during the Armistice years because of so many russian lady have started to sell flowers in the building. Next both Greek and Turkish taverns were opened and recently are still serivces in a traditional way.
- Get lost in Grand Bazaar: This historic bazaar is renowned as one of the oldest in the world, with each street specializing in a particular product. Explore a wide array of handicrafts, jewelry, and herbs as you wander through its bustling lanes. When fatigue sets in, take a break and recharge at one of the cozy cafes or restaurants within the bazaar.
8. How many days in Istanbul?
Without a doubt, a week or less would not be sufficient to explore the countless sites, museums, and attractions that await you in this city. There are numerous captivating places to discover, ensuring that your time in Istanbul will be filled with awe and wonder.
9. Istanbul weather year-round?
Istanbul is known for its mild climate, with cold temperatures being rare. Apart from the winter season, you can comfortably visit the city and enjoy its attractions throughout the year.
10. Istanbul and Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is one of the most visited cities 759 km far from İstanbul. There are flights from İstanbul International airport and Sabiha Gökçen airport often. By bus, it will take 10 hours. You can go to Nevşehir by train but you will need a bus transfer from Kayseri station which will last about an hour. But you can choose to join one of our cappadocia tours so you do not miss the other attractions on the route.
The destinations Istanbul, Cappadocia plus Ephesus, Pamukkale and Sirince village are included to the itinerary.
11. Is Istanbul bigger than London?
Yes. Istanbul is bigger than London and Paris as an area. Istanbul is 5.461 metersquare and London is 1.572 metersquare.
12. How many airports are there in Istanbul?
In Istanbul there are two airports are serving passengers. The Istanbul International Airport, on the Europe side, and Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asia side, are working 7/24 for domestic and abroad flights.
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We had a wonderful tour of Turkey
We had a wonderful tour of Turkey, which included Anzac day at Anzac cove, our guide & driver were excellent & we only had a small number on our bus. Hotels were 4 star or more, but were out of towns. Food was good mainly buffets. Great value for money. Turkish people were lovely.
Excellent value and comprehensive tour of top sights.
Excellent and experienced guide Oscar was a wealth of knowledge and fun to travel with.MC
The airport pickup and departures were smooth and well organized. Hotels were all of good quality though some were a distance from the cities visited. Lunch/dinner buffets were fairly repetitive in content, but you could always find something good and one never goes hungry. The vehicle used, a minibus, was modern, clean and “Fati” was a safe and excellent driver. There are some quite long driving days to cover so much territory, but in 10 days you will have seen many of Türkiye’s most famous and beautiful sights. Very good value for money and a responsive and communicative travel company to work with. I look forward to future adventures with TravelShop.
A trip of a i will never forget with Travelshop Turkey
What an amazing experience with TravelShop Turkey .We did a Cappadocia and Istanbul tour and Loved every moment of it. From the Airport meet and Greets and Transfers to the Hotel which ran smoothly in aircon vans. The Selection of hotels which where suberb with amazing breakfasts and clean spacious rooms. The private guides where very knowledgable , friendly and accommodating to everyones needs . This was a trip i will never forget and will definately recommend Travelshop Turkey without hesitation.Kim Moir
TravelShopBooking is the best
Thank you so much for arranging top notch tour.Aman Ahtasam
I must say TravelShopBooking is the best for turkey. And Special thanks to Ms Gulizar. She was very helpful in arranging and helping the package as well as she takes daily updates too.