Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and has a population of over 10 million people. It is one of the largest cities in the world and is one of the largest urban settlements in Europe and the largest in the Middle East. The Turks renamed Istanbul to “Istanbul” which is probably derived from the Greek “to the city”. Istanbul is built on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium.
Where to go – What to see:
The city’s major sights include Hagia Sophia, the Eptapyrgion and the Byzantine walls, the Church and fountain of the Life-Giving Spring, the Patriarchate building, the Phanar as well as the Topkapi Palace, the Galatas Bridge and Tower, the Suleiman Mosque and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (“Blue Mosque”). Of course, don’t miss the famous bazaars of the city, such as the Grand Bazaar and others. Take a stroll through Taksim Square as well. Also take a boat ride on the Bosphorus and visit the Princes’ Palace.
What to eat – What to try:
The food options in Istanbul will drive you crazy. It is objectively one of the cities with the most street food. There you have to enjoy the flavours, the many spices in its cuisine and that sweet nostalgia that every bite of food has! Syrupy dishes (e.g. khunefew, baklava, etc.), lahmatzun and doner are the order of the day. What to eat when I go to Istanbul.
Where to eat:
You will find many restaurants in Istanbul. We have tried several and we definitely recommend Canim Cigerim for kebabs and Inci Pastanesi for profiteroles. For good syrups try Gulluoglu Confectionery or Mado Confectionery. Where to eat when in Istanbul.
Shopping – Bazaars:
You can’t go to Istanbul and not walk around its bazaars. The biggest and most famous one is the Grand Bazaar but you will find more if you wish. There you can buy everything from food, clothes and coats to decorations, fabrics and carpets. Buy what you want… the advice is just one! Do as many bargains as you can afford, because the Turks are very good at it!
How to go:
BY AIR: Flights from Athens and Thessaloniki to Istanbul airport are direct, with short flight times (less than 2 hours). The airlines you can travel with are Aegean and Turkish. The cost per passenger starts from 120€.
Plenty of transport is available for your travel to Istanbul. From metro, train, trams and buses to sea buses and ferries. Note that the Metro runs for very specific distances, while buses and trams are more common means of transport.
For more economical travel, buy Istanbul Kart, the prepaid transport card. You will find it at kiosks next to central stations such as Eminonu, Sultanahmet, Taksim Square, Beyazit/ Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar) etc – the easiest way to find it is at Eminonu. Buying it costs TRY6=€1 and from there you “load” it with rides (www.turkeytravelplanner.com).
Taxis in Istanbul are yellow and the small sign on the roof reads Taksi. When the driver “drops” the flag, the meter should read TRY 2.50=€0.42 and for every kilometre travelled he charges TRY1.40=€0.23. The fare is the same day and night. For the trip from Sultanahmet to Taksim Square (15-20 minutes), the cost is from TRY13-20=€2.20-3.40, from Sultanahmet to Ataturk Airport TRY32=€5.35 and from the Istanbul airport to Taksim Square TL40=€6.70 by the Istanbul airport taxi.
Be prepared, of course, as tourists’ taxi experiences in Istanbul are not so pleasant. For example, the driver may not accept you because the distance will seem too close, or he may direct you to your destination without opening the meter, drive you to the place you are heading, circling around to charge you more, etc