Whether or not you are already hooked by Turkey’s incredible culture, you must put Istanbul on the top of your bucket list! Well known as the city where Europe meets Asia, Istanbul is full of vibrant Turkish culture, friendly faces and the hustle and bustle of modern city life. Tourism is always high in the city, with over 13 million visitors from all over the world during 2018, the busiest months in the city are June, July and August. Winter months are a lot quieter, however the weather is a hit and miss, time it well, and you might even experience Istanbul in the snow! So if you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Istanbul, summer gets VERY hot and VERY busy, winter is a lot cooler and quieter. Either way, make sure Istanbul is on your bucket list and get stuck into the colourful, cultural vibe all over the city. Scroll down to find out how to spend a weekend in Istanbul including things to do in this stunning city, how to get around and a few places to eat and drink in Istanbul. Enjoy!
How to Get Around in Istanbul
Walk: The best way to get around Istanbul is on foot. It’s free, so won’t affect your travel budget, and it’s the best way to catch every cute coffee house, gorgeous rug shops and more. Make sure you take some comfy shoes though, as some tourist attractions are quite far from each other.
Tram & Bus: There are so many trams and busses that travel very often throughout the city, and they won’t break the bank either. You’ll need to grab an Istanbulkart, which you can buy from one of many machines by the stations around the city. They cost 6TRY and you can top them up as you need them. You can use one card for up to five people, and just scan it on the machine for each person as you go through the entrance gates.
Taxi: You can of course get taxis anywhere around the city, you can find a number for them online or just flag one down as you see them driving – someone will stop for you! Just be careful that you are not over-charged, as this is pretty common in the city.
Must-Do’s in Istanbul
What to do in Istanbul? There are countless amazing things to do in Istanbul, from exploring outstanding Mosques, to Grand Palaces and famous bridges, you could spend a whole week going from one place to the next and still not do it all! There are lots of amazing museums to visit in Istanbul so if you enjoy a bit of history, make sure you visit a few during your stay. Here are a few places that you MUST SEE during your visit to Istanbul..
Dolmabahçe Palace was built in the 19th century as the administrative centre for the Ottoman Empire, and was home to Abdulmecit and his family. The beautiful palace became a museum in 1952, where visitors can now explore the grounds and admire the stunning architecture. Prices start from 60TRY per person.
The Blue Mosque & Hagia Sofia
The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are probably the first thing you think of when you hear about Istanbul. The two beautiful mosques stand opposite each other and both the architecture and gardens are so outstanding. You can visit both sites but please research the requirements beforehand and respect that this is a place of worship for many people.
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is a huge market selling pretty much anything you can think of. It is so easy to get lost down all of the narrow, crowded lanes so stick together! This is where you’ll find the best spices, lanterns and jewellery. The Grand Bazaar started all the way back in the year 1455, and there are currently over 4,000 shops within the market, so you’ll be spoilt for choice!
The Basilica Cistern is an underground structure made out of 336 columns, not far from the famous Hagia Sophia. It is a popular attraction for tourists and is home to multiple medusa heads. There is so much history on the site and makes a great place to stop on your day. Entry price is 20TRY per person.
Galata Tower is a great place to go if you want fantastic views over Istanbul. You’ll need to get there early or visit outs of peak season as the queues for entry get very long, very quickly. Galata Tower is made from stone and is completely surrounded by cute little streets with lots of shops and cafes to stop by.
Balat is a gorgeous, colourful town in Istanbul and is often missed from people’s travel lists. The town is easy accessible by a bus and has got a choice of really sweet cafes and gift shops. Also, it’s filled with cats! The streets are really steep around Balat, so make sure you pack your walking shoes! Read my full blog post about Balat here.
Where to Eat and Drink
Wondering what type traditional food they serve in Istanbul? There are so many restaurants, bars and cafes to visit in Istanbul that serve the most amazing Turkish cuisine. Turkish food is a must-try during your stay, you can’t leave without trying their famous köfte, adana, chicken shish, casseroles, pide, gozleme, the list just goes on! Eating out in Turkey isn’t as expensive as most European cities, which makes it easier to try out every dish on the list!
- Roof Meze 360
- Mivan Restaurant Cafe
- Deraliye Ottoman Cuisine Restaurant
- Sultanahmet Buhara
- Şeyhmuz Kebap Salonu
- Buhara 93
- Arasta Cafe & Restaurant
- Dervish Cafe
- Cafe Rumist
- Elif Cafe
- Semaver Cafe Hookah
- Harab’be Cafe
Enjoy your Turkish adventures and don’t forget to let me know what you get up to in the comments!
As always, love Elise x