Why should I never visit Istanbul

City trip Istanbul: Our highlights & tips for the metropolis on the Bosphorus

Istanbul leaves you speechless. It's overwhelmed. Excited. Leaves a lasting impression. Istanbul is probably the city trip that we will remember most in its entirety. Admittedly, we were a bit skeptical before our trip. But within a very short time we were on fire for Istanbul.

Are you planning one too City trip to Istanbul? In this article on our travel blog you will find out what to expect in Turkey's largest city. We'll show you the most beautiful sights and of course we'll tell you ours too personal tips for your trip to the fascinating city on the Bosporus.


1. Fascination Istanbul: Our experiences & what to expect

So much in advance: Istanbul is a must-see. The pulsating flair of the metropolis can hardly be put into words. Istanbul exudes life like no other place.

At the same time, Istanbul is fascinating like no other city: it literally bounces here two worlds on top of each other. Europe meets Asia. Asia meets Europe. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world two continents. The Turkish city is divided into two parts. Two sides, two continents, two cultures. That makes them contradicting itself, but more than that, it makes Istanbul one of the most fascinating cities we have ever seen.

Is Istanbul Safe?

Unfortunately, Istanbul is by far not all beautiful. We are thinking, for example, of the terrorist attacks in 2016 and 2017, which resulted in a massive Slump in tourism have led. Then there is the tense political situation.

Nonetheless, reducing Istanbul to terror and the attempted coup would never do the city justice. Ultimately, Istanbul is a great city that made a lasting impression on us and that we will definitely see again.

Currently there is on the part of the Austrian Foreign Ministry no travel warning for Istanbul. You can find current information under the following link: Travel information Turkey.

How much time should I plan for Istanbul?

If you want to explore Istanbul as stress-free as possible, we recommend that you about 5 nights to stay. Then you have enough time to visit all the important sights and also to take a trip to the Asian side. Of course, more time is always good, no question about it. Even after a week you will still discover new corners in Istanbul.

Don't worry if your time is tight: even on one weekend you can visit the highlights of Istanbul, as most of the sights are quite close together.

Our tip: travel guide for Istanbul

We can recommend the Istanbul travel guide from Lonely Planet, which was published in 2017 and is therefore one of the newer ones. We like the clear layout of the Lonely Planet travel guide and the one about Istanbul is also quite successful. You can't go wrong with this travel guide.

You can buy the travel guide here:Lonely Planet Istanbul Travel Guide (May 2017 edition)

2. Places to visit and things to do in Istanbul

Many sights in Istanbul can be reached on foot. It is best to go directly to the historic Sultanahmet district in the Fatih district. Here in the old center of Istanbul are the top sights, including the world-famous Hagia Sophia.

Once you have crossed the Galata Bridge, you will reach the on the other side of the Golden Horn Beyoglu district - modern Istanbul. Sightseeing is no longer the focus here, it is more about the Turkish way of life. Nevertheless, there are also some places worth seeing here.

Hagia Sophia

Once the largest church in the world, then a mosque, now a museum: Hagia Sophia is probably the main landmark and one of the absolute highlights in Istanbul. Visiting the world-famous building is almost a must on a trip to Istanbul.

A note so that you are not disappointed: Part of the Hagia Sophia has been scaffolded inside for years (or even decades). It seems that Hagia Sophia is under permanent restoration.

Our tip: Hagia Sophia is one of the most visited sights in Istanbul and therefore (especially in high season) you may have to wait at the entrance. Depending on the time of day and time of year of your visit, we therefore recommend that you buy your ticket in advance.

Here you can buy your ticket in advance:Hagia Sophia with guided tour

Information about visiting the Hagia Sophia

Entry: 60 Turkish Lira
Location: In Sultanahmet in the Fatih district
Getting there: E.g. by tram 1 to the Sultanahmet station

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

Directly across from Hagia Sophia is the largest and without a doubt most imposing mosque in Istanbul: the blue mosque. With its six minarets, it differs from all other mosques in Istanbul.

As a visitor of another faith you can visit the mosque for free - but only outside of prayer times. You have to take off your shoes at the entrance. Women are also obliged to cover their hair with a cloth and to cover their clothes if they are too tight.

Information on visiting the Blue Mosque

Entry: Free
Location: In Sultanahmet in the Fatih district
Getting there: E.g. by tram 1 to the Sultanahmet station

Topkapi Palace

The third highlight in Sultanahmet is the opulent Topkapi Palace. It is located north of Hagia Sophia. The Topkapi Palace was once the residence and seat of government of the sultans - today it is one of the most important sights in Istanbul and a museum that shows exhibits from the Ottoman Empire.

The palace consists of several buildings with countless sumptuous rooms and a spacious garden. You shouldn't miss the highlight of the Topkapi Palace: the harem. You have to pay extra for this, but the 35 lira are well invested.

Information about visiting the Topkapi Palace

Entry: 60 Turkish Lira (35 Turkish Lira extra for the harem)
Location: In Sultanahmet in the Fatih district
Getting there: E.g. by tram 1 to the Sultanahmet or Gülhane station

Grand bazaar

Not far from Sultanahmet you come to a fascinating one covered alley labyrinth. The Grand Bazaar reportedly draws up to half a million people a day.

Whether the number is correct or not, it is certain that the Grand Bazaar lives up to its name. You can buy everything from leather and textile goods to jewelry and souvenirs to confectionery here. As with all markets, the following applies: Action is the order of the day. You can assume that you can reduce the offered price by around 50 percent.

Information on visiting the Grand Bazaar

Location: In the Fatih district west of Sultanahmet
Getting there: e.g. with tram 1 to the Beyazit station; or on foot in about 15 minutes from Hagia Sophia

Galata Bridge

The Galata Bridge crosses that Golden horn and connects the historic city center (Sultanahmet or Fatih) with modern Istanbul (Beyoglu). The bridge is two-story: the traffic flows at the top, and there are countless restaurants below.

The Galata Bridge is something like the lifeline of Istanbul. There is so much going on here at any time of the day. We personally would have Fishermen on the bridge to be able to watch forever. And something else fascinates here: the View towards the city center. From the Galata Bridge you have a spectacular view towards Sultanahmet, including the Suleymaniye Mosque and Rustem Pasha Mosque on one side and the New Mosque on the other.

Location: North of Sulanahmet; connects the two districts of Fatih and Beyoglu
Getting there: E.g. with tram 1 to the station Eminönü

Beyoglu: Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim Square

The city's most famous shopping street and promenade is in the modern Beyoglu district: Istiklal Caddesi. It stretches from the south near the Galata Tower (more on that later) to the north to the famous Taksim Square.

Right through the Pedestrian zone the red, historic tram their way through the crowds. Unlike other shopping streets, all hell is going on along Istiklal Caddesi in the evenings. Then life shifts to the nearby bars and restaurants.

Location: In the Beyoglu district
Getting there: E.g. with the metro to Taksim, from there you can walk south along Istiklal Caddesi

By boat across the Bosphorus

The Bosporus separates the European part of Istanbul from the Asian part. A boat ride across the Strait we can only warmly recommend it to you. Istanbul looks no less fascinating from the water. No wonder that every travel guide names a boat trip across the Bosphorus as one of the highlights.

There are countless providers, who offer shorter and longer boat trips. However, we have opted for what is probably the cheapest option. From the ferry that commutes between Europe and Asia, you also have a great view of Istanbul.

Ferries to Kadikoy(on the Asian side) drive from the ferry terminal Eminönü (at the southern end of the Galata Bridge) or Karaköy (at the northern end of the Galata Bridge).

Asian side of Istanbul

And if it's only for an hour or two - one Excursion to the Asian continent is simply a must on an Istanbul city break. Asia is just a stone's throw away. More precisely, it's just 20 minutes by ferry.

A good starting point to explore Asian Istanbul is Kadikoy. Suddenly international brands that you just saw on Istiklal Caddesi are a foreign word. The city is the same, but the flair on the Asian side is definitely different - we can promise that much.

Arrival to Kadikoy

Our recommendation: By ferry from either the Eminönü ferry terminal (at the southern end of the Galata Bridge) or Karaköy (at the northern end of the Galata Bridge).

3. The most beautiful viewpoints in Istanbul

Galata Tower

The probably the best panoramic view of Istanbul gives you the small viewing platform on the Galata Tower. Unfortunately, the tower is far from being an insider tip. Therefore the waiting time can easily be 30 minutes or even longer.

Nevertheless: It is definitely worth it! The 360 degree view is just spectacular. Incidentally, the viewing terrace is fairly easy to reach. A lift takes you almost to the top. You only have to walk the last two floors.

The viewing platform itself is very narrow, so it can get a bit tight at the top at a dizzying height. Our tip: Before sunset the rush is usually the greatest, but then the light is simply the most beautiful.

Information on visiting the Galata Tower

Entry: 35 Turkish Lira
Location: In the Galata district in the Beyoglu district
Getting there: E.g. by metro to Sishane station

360 Istanbul

Nomen est omen: you have one from the terrace of the 360 ​​Istanbul restaurant spectacular views over the city. Since the prices are quite high, we would recommend that you “only” come for a cocktail.

location: On Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu
Getting there: E.g. by metro to Sishane station

4. Eating & drinking in Istanbul: Our tips

In Istanbul and Turkey in general, food is very important - just the way we like it. The most important meal is dinner: this is where you usually meet with family and friends, and not before 8 p.m.

What we don't like is that an incredible amount of meat is eaten and it is sometimes difficult for vegetarians to find creative dishes. Nonetheless, the kitchen is very tasty.

Hafiz Mustafa Bakery: Baklava & other Turkish sweets

If you want to try Turkish desserts, then there is no way around the Hafiz Mustafa bakery. There are those reputedly the best baklava in Istanbul. Personally, we're not necessarily the biggest fans of the sticky-sweet dessert, but even we liked the baklava here.

The selection is huge, so the decision is really difficult. You can get through all Turkish desserts cost, including baklava in all variations, of course. There are now several locations in Istanbul (including near the Galata Bridge in the south or in Sultanahmet).

Nevizade Sokak

In the bars and restaurants of this one vibrant quarter It feels like half of Istanbul meets in Beyoglu in the evening to drink a beer (or more). Strictly speaking, Nevizade Sokak is the name of a specific street, but it is representative of the entire district.

The best thing to do is to secure a spot right on the street order an "Efes" (the most famous Turkish beer) and enjoy the lively nightlife Istanbul.

Location: Northwest of Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu (parallel to it)

More tips for eating and drinking in Istanbul

Privato Café: Cozy café near the Galata Tower. Great breakfast and lots of vegetarian options.
Mandabatmaz: "The place to be" if you want to try Turkish coffee.
Do not miss: Buy a Simit (sesame ring) at the Galata Bridge and then take the ferry to Kadikoy. You can't get more of that Istanbul feeling, that's a promise!

5. Our hotel tips for Istanbul

Whether you prefer to live near the historic center (Sultanahmet) or on the other side of the Galata Bridge in Beyoglu is A matter of taste.

in the Sultanahmet you have the advantage that you can reach the most important sights on foot. On the other hand, Sulanahmet is quite touristy. Beyoglu again scores with its authentic flair.

Option 1: Overnight in the historical center (Sultanahmet)

We can highly recommend the Hotel Miniature. The location could hardly be more central: You can walk to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in just over 5 minutes.

The entire hotel is very tastefully decorated. The rooms in particular, with their large amount of wood, correspond exactly to our taste. Another highlight is the small roof terrace. All in all highly recommended!

You can book the hotel here:Hotel miniature

Option 2: Overnight in Beyoglu

Here we recommend the stylish accommodation Karakoy Rooms. It is located in the south of Beyoglu near the Galata Bridge. With a little luck you will have a great view of the Bosphorus from the room.

Speaking of rooms: these are very spacious and tastefully decorated. The neighborhood is great too: there are a few restaurants within walking distance. You can also get to the historic center pretty quickly by tram. A little insider tip!

You can book the accommodation here: Karakoy Rooms

6. Map: All sights and tips at a glance

So that you can orientate yourself better in Istanbul, we have marked the most important sights and our personal tips for you on this map.

Transparency: Affiliate Links

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to Istanbul? How did you like it? Do you have any further tips for sights or restaurants? We look forward to your experiences!