Istanbul Travel Guide & best places to visit

Spread across 2 continents Asia and Europe, the one and only city Istanbul has become one of the most popular destinations for many good reasons. As its historically strategic location, the city is home to awe-spiring architecture, cultural mosaic and genuine hospitality. In this blog, I will show you my Istanbul travel guide and tips.



1. Everything you need to know about Istanbul

Before telling you my Istanbul Travel Guide, let’s me show you some you-may-not-know information about this city.


1.1. What makes Istanbul special?

Istanbul is the only city on earth that spread across Asia and Europe. For its strategic location, Napoleon once said “If the world was only one country, Istanbul would be its capital”.  

Although Istanbul is Turkey’s economic capital and the biggest industrial center, this city remains its authenticity and historic heritage. Spires and domes of mosques dominated the skyline and medieval architecture scattered throughout the city are what is typically seen in Istanbul. And every corner from the old town has a story to tell


1.2. You-may-not-know facts about Istanbul 

– Istanbul has about 3,113 mosques, which is home to the most mosques in Turkey. 

– Almost everyone mistakes Istanbul as the capital city of Turkey, but Ankara is. 

– The population of Istanbul reaches 13 million people, which is the same as that of Belgium.


istanbul travel guide


2. What to prepare before your Istanbul’s trip

2.1 Turkish E-visa

Replacing the old “sticker visa” visa from 2014, the Turkish E-visa makes it more accessible for visiting Turkey. All you need to do is submit the application online, print the E-visa and bring it along

You can find more details and apply for Turkish E-visa via If you wish to apply for Turkish E-visa, make sure to have these requirements: 

  • Travelling to Turkey for the purposes of tourism or business.
  • Valid visa OR valid residence permit from one of the Schengen Countries, USA, UK or Ireland.
  • Your passport covers the period that I will be staying in Turkey.
  • Round-trip ticket with Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Onur Air or Atlasglobal Airlines.


2.2. What to prepare

a. Sim card: Buy your sim card in advance (or at the airport) since you can’t get the cheap plan in tourist areas of Istanbul. 

All members of my group use Data Roaming and it is not budget friendly and convenient when traveling in Istanbul. So we went to a sim card store to ask for the tourist plan (we read the recommendations for sim card plan via Tripadvisor before)

The staff knew we were foreigners, so they introduced us a very high-price tourist plan. I asked them about a more affordable tourist plan which previously read on Tripadvisor, they said they don’t have that plan. 

b. Scrafs: Bring some scarfs (for women) to cover your hair when visiting mosques. You can borrow some before visiting any religious tourist places. But it is better to bring beforehand.


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3. Best time to visit Istanbul

You can visit Istanbul at different times of the year. However, Spring (March – May) and Autumn (September – November) are together 2 best times to visit Istanbul.

During these periods the days are longer, drier, sunnier but not as hot as summer, or as cold as winter. Moreover, spring will be a best time to enjoy the vivid beauty of blooming tulips.  

I travelled to Istanbul during the middle of October and the weather is nice (temperature ranging from 17 to 25°C). And you don’t need to wear too much clothes, I only wear a shirt/sweater and jacket during my trip.


mosque in istanbul


4. Istanbul best places to stay 

With more than 15 million residents spreading over 2 continents, choosing places to stay during your Istanbul’s trip is quite time-consuming. As every area of this city boasts its own charm and vibes.

Before traveling to Istanbul, I’ve read the recommendations from Tripadvisor. So I stay in Sultanahmet and Taksim, and here are some reviews about these two areas.

a. Sultanahmet: Housing Istanbul’s most popular places to visit namely Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet is inarguably the best places to stay in this city. However, this quaint district is not for nightlife lovers as it is pretty laid back and quiet after dark.

b. Taksim: Different from the memorizing atmosphere of Sultanahmet, Taksim offers dynamic vibes. This neighborhood lies within the Beyoglu European part is the main transport hub of the city.

However, be careful when strolling around this area at night. I will tell you my story. When I went back to my hotel that night, I passed through a group of 2 young men and women. They were talking normally but suddenly fought each other. And they threw their slippers at each other, but it didn’t hit anyone of them, but me. Me and my group go straight forward as quickly as possible because we don’t want to get hit by any other slipper again.


5. How to get around Istanbul 

Spanning across 2 continents, Istanbul offers a huge and diverse network of public transportations (metro, ferry, tram, funicular, bus, BRT,…). But you don’t need to use all these modes of transportation. I only use metro, tram and funicular during my 5N4D trip. 

However, staying in Sultanahmet area means you don’t need to use any mode of transportations as tourist attractions are only a few minutes walk away. And this will be the best way to save travel costs. 


  • Some taxi drivers don’t want to turn on the meter so don’t forget to make a bargain 
  • You can access the whole public transportation network via Istanbulkart. Don’t buy as this single transportation card can be used for many people. So make sure to calculate and top-up enough cash during your stay in Istanbul (because the remaining cash can’t be withdrawn).


istanbul travel style


6. Istanbul best places to visit

Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), Galata Tower are some of the best places to visit in Istanbul. However, there are more other amazing things waiting to be explored.


6.1. Sultanahmet Camii

Being built between 1609 – 1616 during the rule of Sultan Ahmet, Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) is one of the you-need-to-visit-place in Istanbul. Taking its name from the blue tiles of the dome, the mosque was built with the ideas to build a mosque that surpasses the magnificent Hagia Sophia.

As the mosque remains to be an active place to worship, all visitors are required to remove their shoes and women are required to cover their hair (you can borrow near the ticket booths).

  • Add: Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 18:00
  • Ticket Price: Free


6.2. Hagia Sophia

Used to be a Christian Church, then became a mosque, a museum and a mosque again, Hagia Sophia is one of the world’s greatest monuments as it reflects the religious changes over the centuries. 

Once the house of worship that serves several religions, there is a mix of both on Christian and Islamic architecture

  • Add: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 17:00 (mùa đông) & 09:00 – 19:00 (mùa hè)
  • Ticket Price: 30 TL


istanbul best places to visit

6.3. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace, which served as the administrative centre and main residence of the Ottoman sultans from 15th to 19th century, has become the best place to visit in Istanbul. 

This palace complex combined stunning scenery of the Bosporus and historical sites. It is recommended to take a glimpse of the harem where the wives and concubines of the sultans lived. But keep in mind that you’ll need to buy a dedicated ticket for the harem. 

  • Add: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 18:45
  • Ticket Price: Palace 40 TL + Harem 25 TL


6.4. Galata Tower

Rule Istanbul’s skyline since 1348, the nine-story Galata Tower still offers the best panoramic view of the old city. 

The Medieval stone tower used to be a watchtower, a prison and a navel depot in the past. Now it is renovated and becomes a popular tourist attraction. And the tower gets its name from the area where it is located. 

  • Add: Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 20:30
  • Ticket Price: 25 TL


galata tower

6.5. Basilica Cistern

Being built for the Byzantinum Emperor Justinianus I in the 6th century, Basilica Cistern is an underground water reservoir which used to provide Istanbul residents with water.  

Known as the “Shrinking Palace”, Basilica Cistern has become one of Istanbul’s splendid historical buildings. This place was made up by 336 Corinthian style marble columns rising from the water. And you will see the Medusa head which is mystically put in a reverse or lateral position. 

  • Add: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 17:30
  • Price ticket: 20 TL


6.6. Dolmabahce Palace

Lying next to the Bosphorus coastline is one of the most magnificent symbolic structures of the Ottoman Empire, Dolmabahce Palace. This imperial palace blends traditional Turkish architecture with European style. 

Splendid, luxurious and lush and are some of the adjectives to describe Dolmabhance Palace. And it was once compared to the Chateau of Versailles – Paris. 

  • Add: Vişnezade, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
  • Opening hour: 09:00 – 16:00 
  • Price ticket: 40 TL 


6.7. Grand Bazaar

Among Istanbul best places to visit, Grand Bazaar is definitely a must on every tourist’ itinerary. As Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest indoor markets in the world which offers like-a-local shopping experience. 

This “1001 nights” lookalike market houses over 4,000 shops in a total area of 30,700m². Don’t forget to make a bargain when shopping here. 


maiden tower

6.8. Maiden’s Tower 

Located isolatedly on a tiny isle to the southwest of Bosphorus, Maiden’s Tower is such a building which comes from ‘1001 nights’ tale. This iconic medieval tower that rises up from the water, has a rich history, along with a few legends adding to its fame.

Nowadays, it becomes a cafe restaurant during daytime and a special restaurant during nighttime. However the best way to enjoy the timeless beauty of this iconic landmark is taking the Bosphorus cruise at sunset.


7. Istanbul travel itinerary

My recommendation is spending at least 4 days to explore Istanbul as the city encompasses many historical sites,

You can see my Istanbul travel itinerary below (and please note that this itinerary is for reference only).

Day 1:

10:15 – 16:10: Flight London Gatwick – Istanbul Ataturk

18:30: Hotel check in

19:30: Stroll around Sultanahmet & Dinner


Day 2:

08:00: Topkapi Palace

11:00: Hagia Sophia

12:30: Lunch

14:00: Blue Mosque

17:00: Boat tour Bosphorus

19:00: Stroll around Sultanahmet


Day 3:

08:30: Hotel check out 

09:00 – 11:00: Basilica Cistern

11:15 – 12:30: Grand Bazaar

15:15 – 16:30: Flight Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen – Kayseri 

After that, I travelled to Cappadocia for 3 days


Day 4:

18:25 – 20:00: Flight Kayseri – Istanbul Ataturk

21:00: Hotel check in 

21:30: Take a stroll around Taksim


Day 5:

08:30: Hotel check out + Luggage storage

09:30 – 11:15: Dolmabahce Palace

12:00 – 13:00: Galata Tower 

13:30: Galata Bridge

15:00: Grand Bazaar

20:20 – 22:30: Flight Istanbul Ataturk – London Heathrow T2


istanbul travel itinerary


8. Istanbul travel budget 

You don’t need to worry much about Istanbul’s travel budget as it is a cheap destination when compared to other destinations in Europe.

It only takes me about 1419 TL (189 USD) for a 5D4N Istanbul trip while the flight ticket accounts for 30% of the total budget. 

You can see my Istanbul travel budget table below (and please note that this table is for reference only).


1.1. Flight ticket London –Istanbul (roundway) 548 TL * Depend on the journey being made
1.2. Taxi Airport –  Sultanahmet 17,5 TL
1.3. Taxi Taskim – Airport 90 TL
1.4. Istanbulkart 30 TL
Turkish EVisa 172 TL 45 USD
3.1. 2 nights stay in  Sultanahmet 128 TL
3.2. 1 night stay in Taksim 62.3 TL
4.1. Museum Card Istanbul 85 TL
4.2. Bosporus Cruise Tour 15 TL
4.3. Basilica Cistern 20 TL
4.4. Galata Tower 25 TL
4.5. Dolmabahce Palace 40 TL
Souvenir 90 TL
4-day eating cost 95.5 TL
TOTAL 1418.3 TL ≈188,98 USD


istanbul travel budget


9. Istanbul travel guide & tips

Buy Museum Card Istanbul to save money when visiting Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and many other tourist destinations in Istanbul.

This is my Istanbul travel guide & tips, hope you guys will have a good preparation for your upcoming Istanbul’s trip. If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me.



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