First Trip to Istanbul? Here is All You Need to Know!

This amazing city offers a mix of Asian and European cultures that you won’t find anywhere else. Admire the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and listen to the daily call to prayer. Shop at Grand Bazaar and have a coffee break at one of the many cafes.

1. About the Destination

First Trip to Istanbul - About the Destination

Istanbul is a large city with lots to offer. The turquoise waters of the Bosphorus divide the city into two even-sized areas; the European and the Asian. You can walk almost anywhere in the centre, but if you want to save energy, there’s a well-developed public transport with buses, trams, and a Metro. And there’s regular boat traffic between different parts of the city too. Sultanahmet is Istanbul’s tourist quarter, with several hotels and famous tourist attractions. Located in the centre of Istanbul, Taksim Square connects the historic with the modern. Here you’ll find the shopping street Istiklal with shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs. In the Marmara Sea lies the nine Prince Islands, of which Büyükada is the largest. There are beautiful beaches, pine forests, high altitudes, playful villas and monasteries, and a boat trip out to the islands that lasts around 2 hours.

discover-heytripster-trip-plans-img

LOOKING FOR MORE UP TO DATE INFORMATION?

Let the locals take you to where they go. More than just a suggestion page, HeyTripster is a local-focused adventure platform built on up-to-date trusted information from the experts of the city.

TRY NOW

2. Best Time to Travel to Istanbul

Best Time to Travel Istanbul

So, when is the best time to visit Istanbul? Local meteorologists often say the offseason is the most favorable time to visit the ex-capital of Turkey as there’s less rain and the temperature is comfortable. But the choice of the season depends on the purpose of your trip. If you want to relax on the beach, spring and summer are most suitable, but if it’s a cultural visit, combined with shopping trips and visiting Istanbul Shopping Fest, it would be better to visit in autumn or winter.

3. Public Transport in Istanbul

Public Transportation in Istanbul

Public transport in Istanbul is well-developed and covers an area of over 5700 sq. km. It includes buses, trams, the Metro, trains, ferries, and cable cars. Naturally, there are also taxis. To travel in Istanbul, it’s best to purchase an Istanbul Kart, which is accepted on buses, Metro, trams, commuter trains, and ferries. The speed tram, Metro, funicular, and ferry can also be used, by buying a token from the vending machine next to the departure point.
Prices change about once a year due to inflation. For current prices check the official website.
The route number and destination of regular buses are indicated above the windshield and the main stops are listed on the side of the doors. Operating hours are from 06:30 to 23:30.
For trips to the airport, it’s most convenient to use the Shuttle Havaist (Istanbul Airport) and Havabus (Sabiha Gokcen Airport).

4. Accommodation in Istanbul

Accomodation in Istanbul

As in any other city known for its attractions, it can be difficult to find suitable accommodation in Istanbul during the tourist season so it’s best to book accommodation in advance. Naturally, it’s better to choose based on your own preferences and financial capabilities. There are different types of accommodation to suit every taste and budget<. Before you start looking for suitable accommodation in Istanbul, you should choose the area in which you want to stay. Istanbul is a huge city and there can be quite a distance between attractions so choose your location based on the purpose of the trip. Istanbul is located on two continents at the same time. The European and Asian parts of Istanbul are separated by the Bosphorus. Most tourists prefer to stay in the European part of the city as it’s where the most famous sights and interesting places in the city are concentrated. Fatih is the most popular area for travellers. This is where the majority of the most popular historical attractions of Istanbul are to be found. The Fatih district includes neighborhoods such as Sultanahmet, Laleli, Beyazit, Aksaray, and Sirkeci. Beyoglu County is the centre of the city and a centre of culture. Beyoglu is known as the entertainment capital of Istanbul and attracts up to a million people every day.

5. Best Turkish Dishes in Istanbul

Istanbul, being one of the most visited cities in the world, is ready to offer its guests extensive gastronomic delights. In the metropolis, there are thousands of restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Prices vary but it would be a mistake to believe that all businesses in tourist areas deliberately overestimate the cost of food. In the historical quarters, there are a considerable number of cafes, ready to greet tourists with delicious, but cheap food.

Soups

Turkish Food - Soups - Istanbul

Creamy Soup of Red Lentils (Mercimek Çorbası): Very tasty with a consistency reminiscent of Moroccan soup. Cheap and hearty. If you’re tired of pastries and omelettes for breakfast, this is a great alternative!
Chicken Soup (Tavuk Çorbası): The usual homemade chicken noodle soup, as in Europe.
Tripe Soup (İşkembe Çorbası): Looks like a milky soup.
In general, if you don’t like eating guts, hooves, brains, etc., be careful when ordering soups. Some look very attractive (for example, iskembe) but it’s best to ask what’s in the soup before ordering.

Kebabs

Kebabs in Istanbul

Kebabs are the main national food in Turkey and the first thing you should know is that meat kebabs are more expensive than chicken kebabs. Secondly, if the weight is specified in the menu (50-200 grams), don’t worry; it’s not the weight of the dish, but the weight of the meat. Kebabs are served in bread, cake, and pitta bread on the plate.

İskender Kebab

The famous dish from Bursa; meat on pieces of flatbread, served with tomato paste and yogurt. Very tasty, and one that you must try in Istanbul! The price depends on the portion and the type of meat.

Kokorec

A very special dish made of lamb giblets, which are fried on a spit. Some believe this tastes better than doner, and it is definitely worth a try.

Street Foods

Street Food Istanbul - Midye

  • Balik Ekmek

The famous fish sandwich with vegetables, which everyone advises to try in Istanbul on the pier Eminonu.

  • Kumpir

Giant stuffed baked potatoes. There’s so much stuffing in there that it falls out.

  • Simit

Popular street food in Turkey. It’s a crispy sesame bagel.

  • Kestane

Very nourishing, but dry. It’s best to have water with it. Great snack on the run between museums!

  • Midye Dolma

Filled with rice and spices, and a piece of lemon to sprinkle over the filling. Sold both on the street and in restaurants. Delicious, but nothing special.

Turkish Sweets

Turkish Sweets in Istanbul

Turkish sweets are beyond praise. They absolutely must be tasted in Turkey and make a great gift to take back for friends and family.

  • Sutlac

Milk rice pudding baked in a clay pot and sprinkled with hazelnuts. Full, sweet, like rice porridge.

  • Tavuk Gogsu

A pudding of chicken breast. Sounds strange but it’s an interesting dessert we recommend trying.

  • Baklava

Needs no introduction, there are a lot of varieties such as cocoa, pistachios, walnuts, etc.

discover-heytripster-trip-plans-img

PLANNING A TRIP TO ISTANBUL?

Whether you’re after the best restaurants, bars or clubs nearby or on a mission to discover the local (hidden) treasures, HeyTripster offers an easy way to explore the city with up-to-date and true information. Get inspired, try one of HeyTripster covid-friendly trip plans designed by locals!

TRY NOW

6. Top Tourist Attractions in Istanbul

Istanbul is the vibrant multicultural city in Turkey where East meets West. Here you’ll find fragrant bazaars, cool mosques and a beautiful river that flows through the city. Check out our tips on what to see and do, ahead of your trip!

One Of The World’s Most Famous Buildings

One of the World's most famous building
The most famous building in Istanbul is Hagia Sophia whose minarets and 56 metre high dome are visible for several kilometers. The church of Hagia Sophia was completed in 537 and was one of the world’s greatest buildings. Next to the pink Hagia Sophia is the 17th-century Blue Mosque with six minarets.

Hagia Sophia became a mosque again in 2020 with the Presidential decree. On 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again after 86 years. Visitors wish to see the Hagia Sophia can enter without an entrance fee from now on. Please keep in mind that there are five prayer times for a day, you might want to visit the Hagia Sophia besides these times. Don’t forget that know it’s a mosque again women and men have to wear according to Islamic rules. For men and women, legs and arms need to be covered, no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight fitting. And women have to cover their heads.

Historical Palace

Historical Palace in Istanbul

One of Istanbul’s largest historical buildings is the Topkapi Palace. The palace is a huge complex which was once home to more than 4,000 people. One of the most notable parts of the palace is the harem.

Classic Steam Bath

Classic Steam Bath Istanbul
Istanbul boasts some of the world’s oldest steam baths. While you’re in a hammam, you can also order a scrubbing where a master soaps you and then scrubs your body.

Wander Through History

Wander Through History Istanbul
The Old City Centre of Istanbul is surrounded by a defensive wall that is more than 1,500 years old. The wall is called the Theodosius wall after the Byzantine emperor who built it. You can walk on a seven-kilometer stretch of the best-preserved parts of the wall.

Bargain Carpets, Precious Stones, And Confectionery

The best shopping is in Istanbul‘s many historic bazaars, all within the city walls of the Old Town. Here you’ll find lots of shops selling spices, real carpets, and semi-precious stones such as agate, onyx, and carnelian. While you bargain, you can try (and buy) Turkish tea and Turkish confectionery, “lokum”. If you want to shop in a modern shopping centre, you’ll need to go to one of Istanbul’s suburbs.

Super Cheap Fast Food

Cheap Fast Food in Istanbul

Istanbul has so many different types of fast food that you’ll never need to go to a restaurant. Fast food is also very cheap. When you’re in Istanbul, you must try the kebab; this is where it was created. On Istiklal Street there are kebab stands open most of the day. The fish sandwiches ”balik-ekmek” (fried fish with onions and tomatoes) are served all year round in Eminonu while the anchovy sandwich ”hamsi” is only available in autumn/winter.

Tours in Istanbul

Tours in Istanbul

Sightseeing tours in Istanbul show you places where civilizations were replaced, great empires rose and fell, Christianity grew and great philosophers, generals, and emperors lived. Visit the places where history was made.

History

History - First trip to Istanbul

During the trip, you’ll be able to visit all the main sightseeing places such as palaces of the sultans and the harem, magnificent mosques, Hagia Sophia, take a boat ride on the Bosphorus, breathe in the aromas of Turkish coffee and try Turkish sweets.

Beauty

Beauty of Istanbul - Cisterns

Get a vivid impression of the Byzantine walls, weeping columns, underground palaces, and rare mosaics. And you’ll be able to take an incredibly beautiful selfie.

Relax

Relax in Istanbul - First trip to Istanbul

Relax with a fragrant hookah, see the whirling dervishes, go shopping, or be pampered the traditional way in a historical Hammam.

discover-heytripster-trip-plans-img

PLANNING A TRIP TO ISTANBUL?

Uncover the top hidden gems of the city, suggested by locals themselves. Get in-depth local knowledge and skip the tourist traps with covid-friendly and up-to-date trip plans designed by locals with HeyTripster!

TRY NOW

Leave Comment