The Ultimate Travel Guide for Visiting Istanbul, Turkey
There are certain things to know when visiting Istanbul, Turkey. Check out our awesome travel guide by clicking right here.
Visiting Istanbul is an experience incomparable to anything else. This sprawling city is rich in multiculturalism, extraordinary architecture, and activities you won’t want to miss.
Waking up in a luxury hotel in the heart of the city, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Istanbul is a hub of outstanding restaurants and tours to exquisite sites. During your stay, you’ll see a blend of Eastern and Western culture, the mish-mash that makes this city so memorable.
Exploring in comfort is easy in Istanbul and you can get swept around the city to see galleries, Byzantium buildings, first-class shopping, and iconic architecture. With top hotels offering sweeping views of the river, once you visit Istanbul you’ll want to return time and time again.
We’ve created this comprehensive guide so you don’t miss out on anything during your stay. Keeping reading to discover the true magic within this wonderful city.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Istanbul?
How many do you have? Istanbul is a large and varied city and it’s worth spending a good amount of time here to really embrace it. If you’re short on time, three days will allow you to see the top sights and eat phenomenal food.
To make the most of your time in Istanbul, spend five to seven days here. This will give you a chance to not only explore the city but also to take a couple of incredible day trips.
Arriving in Istanbul
Your vacation should begin the moment you step off the plane, not when you arrive at your hotel. By using an Istanbul airport VIP service, you’ll be met at the plane itself and escorted to an exclusive lounge. You can also try Fast Track Ataturk Airport service for a fast and easy experience.
There’s no need to worry about customs or baggage collection either, as those can be handled for you. All you need to do is relax with a drink until the airport processes are complete. With Istanbul airport fast track, your personal aid will collect you and take you to your private driver.
From the airport, you can choose to be driven to your hotel or wherever you want to go. Just sit back and they’ll whisk you off into Istanbul city.
Getting Around Istanbul with Ease
Public transport is hectic and busy in this thriving city. No matter where you want to go, though, it’s not hard to get around.
Straddling the stunning Bosphorous River, Istanbul’s heart is divided by water. There are several large ferries to ride on, offering fantastic views of the city and allowing you to get from the east to the west side easily.
The Metrobus system in Istanbul is comprehensive but extremely busy. It’s good for those who want to get around as cheaply as possible but if it’s comfort you crave, there are better ways.
The metro system is constantly expanding and rush hour can make for an uncomfortable journey. When it’s quieter, it’s a fast and easy way to move around. Hop on Tünel, the second oldest underground train in the world, for a unique experience.
When the last thing you want is hassle and crowds, a private driver is the best choice for getting around Istanbul. Explore the city on your own timetable, relax in comfort between sites, and stop for as long as you want.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
Istanbul has many elegant, luxury hotels across its districts and you’ll be spoiled for choice when picking one.
If you’re looking for utter luxury in a great location, the Shangri-La will meet and exceed your expectations. This five-star hotel has an elegant, palatial interior with the finest rooms. Take the time to relax in the Chi spa to experience a traditional Turkish Hammam (bath).
Pera Palace Hotel
When you arrange a booking at the Pera Palace Hotel you’ll be enjoying the same experience as figures like Ernest Hemingway and Greta Garbo. Stunning rooms and suites are on offer here and when you’re rested, visit the tea lounge or the in-house restaurant.
With a gym, spa, and swimming pool too, it’s easy to relax and treat yourself to some TLC.
A smaller but still luxurious hotel, the Yasmak Sultania is a laid back and beautiful place to stay. With a rooftop indoor restaurant and an excellent menu, dining here offers sweeping views of the city.
You’ll find a luxury spa here with a pool and a Turkish bath. There are plenty of sites within walking distance, including the Topkapι Palace museum.
The Best Places to See in Istanbul
One of the reasons why it’s best to spend a week in Istanbul is that there are so many things to see. With incredible architecture, just sitting in a street cafe and looking at your surroundings is a wonderful thing to do.
How could we start this section any other way? When you visit the Hagia Sophia, you’ll instantly see why this cathedral is so iconic. Formerly a Greek Orthodox Church and now a museum, wandering through the vast interior will blow you away.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (or Blue Mosque) is another phenomenal building in Istanbul that draws visitors from around the world. It’s still a functioning mosque, and when visiting you’ll be able to relish in the peace while marveling at the grand interior.
This extraordinary palace is now a museum, filled with intricate tiled walls and stories of empires past. Previously the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, here you’ll learn about this rich history and discover the grandeur that Istanbul is famous for.
Istanbul is a beautiful city, but it harbors amazing sites underground as well. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the many cisterns that lie beneath the city and it’s an unmissable thing to see during your stay.
Walk between its towering marble columns and see the incredible ancient carvings.
Unmissable Istanbul Restaurants
Thanks to its mix of cultures, Istanbul’s food scene is well worth embracing. With Middle Eastern, Greek, and Mediterranean influences, during your visit you’ll get to try exquisite dishes.
Built out over the Bosphorus, Rumelihisari Iskele has a fantastic location and an equally wonderful menu. Specializing in fresh seafood, here you can enjoy Turkish meze courses that are each as delicious as the last.
Run by a Turkish-Swedish chef, Mikla offers an innovative menu of food unlike anything else you’ll find in Istanbul. The tasting menu is perfect for adventurous foodies who love to try new things but eating a la carte will be just as sumptuous.
For dining with the best view, Banyan offers visitors Asian fusion dishes that bring out the cultures of Istanbul. You can eat indoors or out, and don’t forget your camera because the top floor views across the city help make this one of the best restaurants in Istanbul.
Activities in Istanbul
If you think all there is to do on a tour of Istanbul is wander around the great churches and museums, think again. This city is filled with activities you’ll want to make time for.
Shop at the Grand Bazaar
One of the biggest markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar is a place that deserves half a day to visit. This covered market has more than 3,000 stores where you can browse everything from jewelry to carpets. Wander freely around this vast space or take a guided tour to learn even more about its history.
Take a Bosphorus River Cruise
To get a real impression of the size of Istanbul, seeing it from the water is a wonderful activity. Book onto one of the many Bosphorus river cruises and hear about the sights you can see and how the city has developed over the centuries.
For added romance, take an evening dinner cruise and watch the city light up, glinting all around you.
Go Wine Tasting
Have you ever tried Turkish wine? It might not be world-famous, but that doesn’t mean Turkish wine is anything short of exquisite. There are several wine tasting opportunities in the city at one of the beautiful wine boutiques. You’ll also get to try them paired with a variety of delicious cheeses so make sure you haven’t just eaten lunch.
Visiting Istanbul Is an Experience You Won’t Forget
With tourists from all over the globe visiting Istanbul every year, this city has become well-known for being an eye-opening place to explore. History and culture fill every space and you’ll be spoiled for things to do.
With luxury hotels and restaurants easy to find, every day you spend here will be indulgent and memorable. See the grand mosques and vast bazaars, take a river cruise, and dine from a rooftop restaurant.
No matter how long you spend in Istanbul, one thing is for sure—you’ll fall in love with this mesmerizing city. We can help make your experience magical with our VIP service Ataturk Airport.
If you’d like to spend your vacation in comfort, check out our VVVIP chauffeur services. We’ll ensure you not only get from the plane to your hotel in style, but we’ll drive you around the city wherever you want to go.