Istanbul or Antalya? How about both?

When it comes to picking a travel destination, versus questions situate themselves among the most asked ones. We make comparisons of desired locations, listing their pros and cons so to make the best call. Though, such a process might get overwhelming with long hours of searching, trying to gather all the information. At that stage, we step in and tackle a popular destination dilemma: Istanbul or Antalya.

These major cities of Türkiye have long been compared but, in this blog, we provide you with the most up-to-date information on transportation, tourist attractions, activities, and dining options in these cities, including their costs as of 2022. We make it clear that Istanbul vs. Antalya is not a matter of one over the other but rather a matter of what suits you the best regarding your travel taste.

1. Transportation in Istanbul or Antalya

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First things first! If you are relatively foreign to these cities, maybe hearing about them for the first time, we suggest you visit our previous blogs of “Useful Information For Your Visit to İstanbul” and “Useful Information For Your Visit to Antalya” to get the first bits about these locations. Especially the sections on transportation might get handy since mobility in cities is among the most crucial to consider.

The good news is that Istanbul or Antalya do not have considerable differences in terms of transportation. For Istanbul, you can simply obtain an Istanbulkart, which is a transportation card valid in buses, metro lines, trams, ferries, etc. for about 3€ as of 2022. The maximum amount this card charges is about 1 € which is for the metro line, Marmaray, crossing continents under the Marmara Sea.

On the other hand, Antalya has its own transportation card, Antalyakart, that costs about1,5 € as of 2022 and an average route is around 0,5€ since Antalya offers buses and trams only. If you prefer to take a cab, the minimum distance costs about 1,5 € in Istanbul. There is no minimum distance cost for cabs in Antalya. After solving the transportation problem, let us plan our days in Istanbul or Antalya.

Comments and experience: Because Istanbul is a metropolitan city, it may seem intimidating in terms of transportation. But don’t worry. There are signs everywhere making it easy to get your destination.

2. Importance in terms of history

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Both Istanbul and Antalya are rich in history. Throughout the past, Istanbul has been the capital city of three empires, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and Antalya has been home to many ancient civilizations such as the Hittites and Lycians. Later on, Antalya fell under the reign of the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great, and the Kingdom of Pergamon. Accordingly, in the rivalry of Istanbul vs. Antalya, both cities offer plenty of historical attractions dating back to ancient times.

Comments and experiences: Both city are amazing and historic. Both of them will make you travel in time. Especially, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul takes you to the centruies before. See our post about Hagia Sophia from here.

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3. Tourist Attractions of Istanbul or Antalya

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Speaking of the history and historical attractions of the cities, Istanbul has the historical peninsula, for which you can find a detailed travel plan via this link, whereas Antalya has numerous ancient cities to visit among which Aspendos takes the lead.

Furthermore, Istanbul or Antalya do not fall behind the other concerning museums. In Istanbul, close to the historical peninsula, Istanbul Archaeological Museum displays works of art ranging from the oldest laws written on a stone tablet by the Babylonians to the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great. In Antalya, close to the Konyaaltı Beach, Antalya Archaeological Museum exhibits marvellous Hellenistic statues found in close by historical sites.

To enter both, all you need is a general museum pass worth 800tl as of 2022 which is valid for 5 days. Regionally limited museum passes are also available for lower prices. For example, Museum Pass Istanbul costs around 40 € , whilst Museum Pass the Mediterranean costs around 35 €.

4. Activities in Istanbul or Antalya

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Even though a journey to the past is deliverable by both, when choosing one among the options of Istanbul or Antalya, you might also want to take into account these cities’ climate and nature. Located in the southern region of Türkiye Antalya is warmer with high temperatures dominating. In the summer, the weather might get boiling hot, but Antalya’s famous beaches allow you to cool off when such is the case.

Besides, you can hide in nature by visiting Köprülü Canyon where trees offer you their shades to avoid the burning sun or you can undertake the activity of rafting, whilst swimming in rivers that are even cooler than the seawater since through them flows the melted ice, once on top of the mountains.

Unfortunately, Istanbul cannot catch Antalya in such activities, but for some, Istanbul’s Bosphorus is enough on its own, providing spectacular views by joining the continents of Europe and Asia. Istanbul can also leave Antalya behind with its cultural activities. Throughout the year, many festivals, events, and exhibitions take place in Istanbul, most of which you can attend without a charge.

Comments and experiences: When someone says activities in Istanbul, one thinks about Taksim–the heart of Istanbul right away! We love spending our time in Taksim, walking in Istiklal, and visiting the art exhibitions.

5. Cuisines of Istanbul or Antalya

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In terms of Istanbul vs. Antalya, we are lucky that both cities offer the internationally renowned “serpme kahvaltı” whose image you can see above. In this type of breakfast, you get to taste little from each, experiencing a delightful feast.

Moreover, most of these places work in the all-you-can-eat concept. For a fixed price, you can keep ordering and once you get full but cannot let go of these tasteful bits, then, you can buy their handmade products such as their marmalades. Moreover, in Antalya, since many locals make a living out of farming, you can come across counters placed by the roads, through which you can reach farmers’ freshly handpicked products of vegetables and fruits.

Indeed, Antalya is known for its oranges, and whilst there, you must taste them. After the sun sets, Antalya serves you freshly caught fish for dinner and as a side, you might want to try a local taste “tahinli piyaz” which can be translated as bean salad with tahini. Thanks to Istanbul’s diverse population, in Istanbul, almost every neighbourhood has its specialties and even the specialties of other cities.

Thus, it is only a matter of deciding which one to have, and a little warning is that no one told that such a decision would be easy among all that selection. So, why not try a different one in each meal?

Comments and experience: Turkish serpme kahvaltı is a must! We recommend you to let yourself try various tastes offered in this special breakfast, no matter you are in Istanbul or Antalya.

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