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Book the best 5 Star Luxury Hotels in Istanbul

RITZ CARLTON ISTANBUL

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The Ritz Carlton Istanbul in the stunning lands of Istanbul is an ideal location for guests. This luxurious five-star hotel is near the azure waters

FOUR SEASONS BOSPHORUS

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This 19th-century mansion is on the European bank of the Bosphorus. The Four Seasons Bosphorus has given it a new lease on life. Attractive features

PARK HYATT ISTANBUL MACKA PALAS

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With its European location in the Nisantasi area of Istanbul, Park Hyatt Istanbul Macka Palas is a popular destination for eating, shopping, and socializing. The

RAFFLES ISTANBUL

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You may have heard of the famous Raffles Istanbul hotel in Turkey. It is renowned for its impeccable sense of luxury. While the original has

CIRAGAN PALACE KEMPINSKI

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Istanbul, the connection where Asia and Europe come together, is the site of Ciragan Palace Kempinski. It is a stunning two-hundred-year-old castle that houses travelers

SHANGRI LA BOSPHORUS ISTANBUL

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  • Romantic

The Shangri La Bosphorus Istanbul is one of Turkey's most elegant luxury hotels. It is an ultimate blend of modern and traditional facilities, with soft

CONRAD ISTANBUL BOSPHORUS

  • 553
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The Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus is a luxury 5-star hotel overlooking the Bosphorus Strait. It is one of this top-class global hospitality brand's finest properties. Built

AJWA HOTEL SULTANAHMET

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The Ajwa Hotel Sultanahmet is in Istanbul's historic district. It offers a unique blend of traditional Ottoman architecture and modern amenities. In this review, we

ST REGIS ISTANBUL

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You will indeed create memories at the magnificent luxury hotel St.Regis, standing in the heart of Istanbul - a city rich in cultural heritage. Stay

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Istanbul

Good to know about Istanbul

Istanbul has a vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and incredible cuisine. For those planning to visit Istanbul but don't know where to start, this guide will help you make the most of your trip. From the best places to stay to the must-see attractions and the best foods, this travel guide has everything you need to know to make the most of your Istanbul experience.

History 

Istanbul is a major tourist destination in the world. The city's most famous tourist attractions include the Hippodrome and Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, and Topkapi Palace. Each structure was constructed at a different time.

However, it can be hard to tell the cultural history of buildings in Istanbul's history because there are so many layers. For example, the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace were all built during the Roman period.

The three cultures of Istanbul, which are Greek, Roman, and Turkish, are interdependent. The architectural characteristics of the different buildings can affect each other. Istanbul's history began as an Ancient Greek city called Byzantium during the Byzantine and Roman periods. 

Best Time to Visit 

Istanbul's best months to visit are March-May and September-November. These are the best times to visit Istanbul. The city's attractions will be less crowded, and the daytime temperature will be between 60 and 70 degrees. Peak season, which runs from June through August, sees temperatures soar to the low 60s and low 80s. December and February are the most affordable months to visit Istanbul, but you must dress in cold weather and bring an umbrella.

Things to Do and Places to Visit

These are some of the best things to do and places to visit in Istanbul.

The Hagia Sophia 

Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for almost a millennium, until the completion by Seville Cathedral in 1520. It was the Eastern Orthodox Church's central point before they converted into a mosque in the 15th century and then into a museum by 1935.

The Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul's most iconic historical sites. It is a magnificent, transcendental dome that you can admire for hours. The walls are decorated with Byzantine mosaics that depict portraits of past emperors and representations of Christ.

Topkapi Palace 

Topkapi Palace sits high above the Marmara Sea and Golden Horn. It was the Ottoman sultans' primary residence for over four centuries. Topkapi's fascinating objects, impressive rooms, and chamber houses make it one of the most important museums on the historical peninsula. It is also home to an extensive collection of weapons and religious artifacts. A rotating set of temporary exhibitions complements its permanent collections.

Eminonu Square

Eminonu is a bustling and chaotic area. It is on the Golden Horn, a well-known waterway through Istanbul. Eminonu is also a great place to visit famous Istanbul restaurants and mosques. Enjoy the sights. Istanbul is alive and well, bustling with activity every day.

Bosphorus Strait

Istanbul is the only city that spans both Asia and Europe. The Bosphorus River separates these two continents. Besides, if you have the time and desire to see more of the city, cruise on the Bosphorus Strait.

The cruise departs Eminonu in the morning and heads north towards the Black Sea. Lunch in Anadolu Kavagi, a small fishing village, is available at midday. Then, take a 15-minute walk uphill to Yoros Castle from Anadolu Kavagi. You will enjoy spectacular views of the Black Sea from this location.

You will return to Istanbul's Golden Horn by 5 pm. This day is low-key, and great to stop halfway through your city tour. You can also watch Istanbul as it glides by while you cruise along the Bosphorus.

The Walls of Constantinople

These massive walls were built during the 5th century. They run for 3.5 miles between the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. They keep intruders from Constantinople. You can also walk to some of these walls while in Istanbul. Besides, you can see the Fener neighborhood from here. This gives you a unique view of Istanbul.

The Spice Bazaar 

The Spice Bazaar has a lot of stalls selling spices and sweets, dried fruits, and tea varieties, among other things. This is also a great place to buy souvenirs. It's also visually stunning as spice vendors proudly display their colorful wares on large pyramid-shaped mounds. The bazaar is full of herbal remedies. You'll also find edible seeds and spices that improve memory, immune system, digestion, and overall well-being.

Culture and Customs 

Istanbul's primary language is Turkish. However, there is a lot of international activity in Istanbul, so don't be surprised if you hear conversations in English, Arabic, or Farsi while exploring. Even if you don't speak the language, most Turks are friendly and will offer to help you. Moreover, shop owners in Sultanahmet often invite visitors to share a cup of black tea with them. Also, it is not uncommon to feel uncomfortable in this crowded city. So don't be surprised if someone stands too close to your face while you wait for the bus.

You shouldn't confuse the water that flows through the city with a river. Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Sea of Marmara (and the Mediterranean) with the Black Sea, is a major shipping route. As a result, it is common to see large container ships passing by your commuter ferry.

Istanbul is Turkey's largest city, but Ankara is central Anatolia's capital. The Bosphorus also has plenty of palaces, remnants of Istanbul's Ottoman Empire status as the capital. However, Ankara is the place where politicians do business.

What to Eat 

Turkish cuisine combines Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian flavors. Mezes and kebabs are very popular in Istanbul. Most dishes are also heavy on meats, beans, fresh vegetables, nuts, and other healthy ingredients.

A main ingredient in Turkish cuisine is yogurt. Yogurt can be used as a complement to many meat entrees or bread. Both residents and visitors love street food such as doner, a typical dish made of lamb meat. Simit is also a bread-like snack you can take wherever you go. Turkish coffee is also a great choice to keep you going sightseeing. Besides, Turkish delight candies are a good option for dessert.

Istanbul also has a wide range of dining options. There are high-end restaurants featuring well-known chefs, chaotic meyhanes (traditional Turkish restaurants and bars), and hole-in-the-wall kebab shops. You should also try raki, a national licorice-flavored beverage made from anise plants and served with chilled water. The liquids react to form a milky white color, which gives the drink its name, Aslan Sutu (or Lion's Milk).

Where to Stay

These are some of the best places to stay in Istanbul. The city has a wide range of accommodation options when you are looking for butler service, an Ottoman palace, floor-to-ceiling windows, or outdoor swimming pools. 

Taksim 

The Taksim area is much more pleasant to walk around. The huge Taksim Square pedestrian plaza is the starting point for a street network with plenty of boutiques and gardens. A pedestrian street is best because it's jam-packed with shops, restaurants, and places to eat. It runs southwest for 1 mile before heading down through Galata to reach the bridge to the old town.

Although the streets are narrow, many shops and stalls are in the old city. However, most sell souvenirs. Taksim is also home to the best shops in a compact area. You will also find plenty of shopping places along the mile-long pedestrian street between two metro stations.

Cihangir 

Just a few minutes away from Taksim Square's party-filled nightlife is the bohemian and sophisticated neighborhood of Cihangir. This area is an excellent option for travelers who don't want crowds but still want to be near Taksim's shopping and nightlife.

Cihangir was also a hub for Istanbul's intellectuals and artists in the 1970s. Today, the bohemian atmosphere created by these people is still evident. However, it's home to many excellent outdoor cafes, bars, and quiet streets that will make one forget they live in a city of 15,000,000 people.

Cihangir is also close to the T1 Metro stop that takes you into Sultanahmet. Moreover, it is just a short walk from the Kabatas ferry terminal on the Bosphorus Strait. Cihangir is also known for its popularity as a neighborhood with cats.

Sultanahmet

The Blue Mosque is the most visited area in the city for its history and ambiance. It also has easy access to four other attractions, including the Hagia Sophia (an ex-Greek cathedral), the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Topkapi Palace, and the surrounding gardens. Grand Bazaar is also the largest bazaar in the world, with over 4,000 stalls. These sights and the many places to eat and drink are easily accessible from most hotels in Sultanahmet.

You can also use the metro to explore other areas. Although narrow streets can feel crowded and clogged with traffic, Sultanahmet retains a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. There are very few luxury hotels. However, many old buildings have been converted into boutique-style guesthouses.

Karakoy & Galata

These adjacent areas are across the bridges of the northern peninsula. They offer a delightful combination of old and new. These streets are narrow, but they are well away from the overcrowded old town. There is also a youthful and wealthy vibe in the shops and cafes. Moreover, the views from the Galata hills and the coast at Karakoy are some of the best in Istanbul. There is also a wide range of accommodation options available.

The famous Galata Tower marks Galata as Istanbul's historical and modern intersection. Visitors can tour the historic sites before moving on to the "modern" Istanbul to experience the vibrant nightlife and shopping.

Galata is also alive at night. People come to enjoy outdoor cafes and restaurants that offer views of the illuminated Galata Tower. You will also find excellent cafes, vintage shops, and boutique hotels. However, it is difficult to tell Galata from the neighboring Karakoy. Both have the same colonial architecture as well as independent establishments.

Kabatas

This is Istanbul's most attractive area in terms of history, convenience, setting, and location. However, there are very few places to stay. The area between the Bosphorus Strait and the main road has fantastic museums. It's also home to beautiful waterside bars and restaurants. Besides, there are many shops uphill from the water, and it is easy to get around the area by metro, funicular, or bus to Taksim and Besiktas.

Macka & Nisantasi

Although not as historical as Sultanahmet, as convenient as Taksim, or as vibrant as Kabatass, Macka, and Nisantasi, there are upmarket residential areas in the Lower Peninsula. The majority of mid-range hotels are geared toward business people and tourists. However, there are also many attractions. Moreover, the views over the Bosphorus Strait and city streets are breathtaking.

You will also find a variety of high-end boutiques and hotels that rival European cities in parts. The suburbs connect to the fantastic teleferik to Taksim. Taksim is a major shopping area with a Metro station.

Sirkeci

This area of the southern peninsula has both the old and the new. Nearby Sultanahmet district, you can reach four significant attractions by metro or within walking distance. Hotels are also close by. Sirkeci is not as crowded as Sultanahmet with tour groups and buses.

However, there are a few metro stops and a central ferry terminal that crosses the Bosphorus Strait. There's also a station for suburban trains. The prices in the shops, bars, and restaurants are generally more residential than touristy. However, there are few luxurious options available.

How to Get Around 

Multiple metro lines are well-signposted and have modern cars. These cars can also connect to an elevated tram line and two funiculars. The metro line crosses the continent and runs under the Bosphorus Strait. It combines the European and Asian sides of the city and has been expanded recently to reach the suburbs. The best way to travel from Europe to Asia is by ferry. Multiple ferry lines run between stations throughout the day.

You can also take buses. These are paid for by the IstanbulKart, which also gets you on the metro, Marmaray, and ferries. If no buses run to your destination, you might consider a Dolmus. This yellow van runs along a fixed route but stops when a passenger requests it. It then leaves when the van is full. You can also find minibusses in light blue that travel on different routes around the city. Minibusses and Dolmus are paid in cash. The price depends on how far you travel.

Taxis are also abundant, especially in tourist areas. BiTaksi is a helpful app that allows you to call taxis directly. In addition, hotel staff is usually more than happy to arrange a taxi for you if one is unavailable.

How to Stay Safe 

In 2016 and 2017, Turkey was on the scene of numerous terrorist acts, including suicide bombings and shootings. Turkey is also experiencing a rise in anti-American sentiment. Terrorist organizations target foreigners, including American tourists, for kidnappings or assassinations.

As such, be aware of what is happening around you when you travel to Istanbul. Terrorist attacks are most common at tourist sites, transport hubs, and popular locations (like restaurants or nightclubs). Also, avoid protests, demonstrations, and rallies, and stay informed about local news.