Istanbul Tours

Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is a huge metropolis connecting two continents and stands as cultural and financial center of Turkey. Spread out on both sides of Bosphorus, in Europe and Asia, with its incredible history, magnificent culture and very hospitable people, Istanbul is definitely a not-to-miss spot, not just in Turkey but in whole region. Istanbul has between 12 to 19 million inhabitants (depends if you’re counting in the surrounding neighbours as well) and it is considered to be one of the largest cities in Europe and the world.

Guided tours visiting Istanbul

Interesting Facts About Istanbul

  • Istanbul is the only city in the world that is situated on two continents.
  • It used to be known as Constantinople.
  • Although it used to be ancient capital of many empires, just remember Roman and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey (it’s Ankara, actually).
  • The Grand Bazaar, with more than 3.000 shops, is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world.

When to visit Istanbul?

If you are thinking of the best time to visit Istanbul, think spring and autumn time. Ideally, visiting Istanbul is best from April to May and from September to November, as those are the periods when the climate is perfect. During summer it gets very hot and steamy and many people who live in Istanbul run down to west and south coasts during this time. In winter, you can expect cold and snow, however Istanbul is beautiful even under snow. (It doesn’t snow often in Istanbul, but when it does, it’s stunning.) Also, during the winter there are no crowds and prices are smaller so the bargaining is much easier as well.

Food in Istanbul

Don’t even think of leaving Istanbul without tasting the kebab. However, you shouldn’t stop there as Turkish people have many more delicacies. Meals always begin with meze (special type of starters in Turkey) consisting of different types of spreads and small snacks filled with vegetables. Tasting the fish at the Bosphorus shore is basically a duty for everyone visiting Istanbul. Fresh fish, grilled or fried, with fresh bread and salad is what makes a perfect meal. Deserts stand for quite special and unique experience here so let one of your to-do’s be to peek in some of numerous pastry shops. Trust us, you won’t be willing to leave soon!

When it comes to drinks in Istanbul, the most popular hot beverages are Turkish coffee and black tea. If you like beer, try Efes and with a good kebab we recommend ayran (Turkish version of Greek yoghurt). Tap water is not very good and it is recommended to drink the bottled one.

Istanbul Climate

For its location, Istanbul is a city with many different microclimates. Northern part of the city, and Bosphorus coastline as well, has characteristics of oceanic and humid subtropical climates, due to humidity from Black sea and relatively high concentration of vegetation.

The climate in the south part of the city, located on the Sea of Marmara coast, is warmer, drier and much less affected by humidity. So the annual precipitation in the northern part of the city is twice as much than in the southern part. There are also big differences in annual mean temperatures. For northern part it is 12.8 °C, while on south it is 15.03 °C. For the provinces that are a bit further away from the coastline, strong continental influences are manifested in night-day and summer-winter temperature differences.

Mythology

The legend of foundation of Istanbul comes from the classical mythology. According to the myth, Zeus fell in love with Io, the daughter of Inachus, King of the City of Argos and God of the River of Argos. The King of the Gods temporarily transformed the girl into a heifer in order to protect her from the wrath of his wife, Hera, Queen of the Gods. In her wanderings Io crossed the Bosphorus, giving the strait its name (''boos-foros'',''cow-ford''). After reassuming her original form, she gave birth to a girl, Keroessa. Later, Keroessa bore the son of Poseidon, sovereign deity of all waters from the Pillars of Hercules to the Hellespont. Keroessa's son, Byzas the Magerian, in time became the founder of Byzantium and named the Golden Horn (Chrysokeras ) after his mother.

What not to miss in Istanbul

  • Sailing on Bosphorus
  • Traditional shopping- visiting local markets (bargaining is the must!)
  • Enjoying delicious local food
  • Nargile smoking
  • Getting Scrubbed in a Hamam - One of the best pleasures to give yourself while in Istanbul is hamam visit. After all the shopping, eating and walking around, your body deserves this experience of god’s. Picture yourself wearing nothing but a cotton cloth and relaxing in a steamy room laying on hot marble, only listening to the echoes of running water. Afterwards, comes a brisk soapy body scrub followed by a sultan’s massage until your skin is smooth and soft.
  • There are several hamams you can visit in the city. Among the oldest are the (recently renovated) Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam and Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. The first is located on Sultanahmet Square, the latter is in Tophane-Karaköy, not far from Istanbul Modern and Witt Istanbul Hotel.

How to get there?

Istanbul is very well connected and it is easy to reach it by plane, train, ship or even by car. Turkish Airlines, the world’s fourth largest carrier, has its headquarters in Istanbul and majority of their flights actually make a connection from here. For more details, you can visit their website here - http://www.turkishairlines.com.

Public transport

At first, Istanbul’s public transit system may seem difficult to comprehend - maps are not easy to find and if you need a transfer you have to pay again in order to reach out your destination. However, if you put some effort to it, you can actually avoid taxis or walking around for too much. Istanbul has an extensive bus system, that includes city-run and private buses, as well as high-speed Metrobüs line; an extensive light rail system including four Metro (underground) lines, four Tramvays (aboveground), two Fünikülers (ascending/descending), two mini-lines called Teleferik, and the Marmaray (underwater) lines; and the ferries which travel the Bosphorus.

Important thing to know about public transportation in Istanbul is that late at night there are many private dolmuş minivans that follow prescribed routes and they usually wait up until they fill up before they depart. They usually cost 2 to 8 lira (£0.67 to 2.35, must be paid in cash) and the price depends on the route taken. So, if you happen to be out until 4am, a dolmuş is your easy way home. Simply look for the yellow minivans, and ask them where they're going ("néreye gidiyórsunuz?").

For using any mean of public transportation - tram, bus or boat you can use either token or a magnetic card (tokens are more expensive version). Tokens cost around £1 and you can buy them on newsstands or machine in the bus, railway and metro stations, and for this you can only use cash. Subway system in Istanbul doesn’t offer transfer tickets and that’s why each new line requires a new fare, unless you use an Istanbulkart or Akbil.

Places to visit in Istanbul

Read more about places to visid in Istanbul on our blog.

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