Dialling code
+90 212 ( European Side )
+90 216 ( Asian Side )

Time zone
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

220 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin plugs are standard.

Average January temperatures
5°C (41°F).
Average July temperatures
28°C (82°F).
Annual rainfall
654mm (25.8 inches).

Istanbul is Turkey's most populous city as well as its cultural and financial hub. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 15 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world.

Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Halic) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are Galata, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Kadıköy is the major district on the comparatively less visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.

Expanding the ancient Roman colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for nearly a thousand years the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire. It was finally conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on 29 May 1453, an event sometimes used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. It was the nerve centre for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial centre. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in First World War and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Atatürk moved its capital to the city of Ankara. However, Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically; today its population is approximately 16 million and increases at an estimated 400,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown.

Ataturk Airport;
Most planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IATA: IST), 20km west of the city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into Istanbul: you can take a taxi (about TRY60 to Taksim. There is no night fare in Istanbul anymore the price would be the same at midnight or midday. About the same to Sultanahmet), Then, there is the metro (06:00-00:05) (signposted "light rail" in the airport, when you get outside the baggage claim it's about a 10 minute walk in the airport to the metro line. Just follow the signs).


When entering the metro station, you need to buy a jeton (token) for TRY4. Just hand the cashier TRY4 and he'll give you a token, or use the automatic dispenser (Jetonmatik), which accepts banknotes (TRY5, TRY10, TRY20) as well as coins. Use 'select' to choose the number of jetons and then push 'ok'. They don't accept credit card or foreign currency here. This will get you on the red metro line (towards Aksaray). From this line, if you are going to Sultanahmet, you can transfer atZeytinburnu and buy another jeton (TRY4) - see the section on "Istanbulkart" if further travel within Istanbul's metro system will be undertaken. Note that the jetontoken here is different than the first one. From Zeytinburnu, take the blue tram line T1, towards Kabataş which passes by: Sultanahmet, Eminönu and Tophane. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about 45min.


Various private operators offer internet bookable shared minibuses to central locations a good choice when arriving late. A typical price being €25 for 4 people to a hotel in Sultanahmet ( Marifet Travel ).


To get from Ataturk to the Asian side of Istanbul, the quickest way is to take a taxi to Bakirkoy IDO Iskele (ferry pier), which takes about 10m and costs 20TL, and then take an IDO high-speed catamaran to Kadikoy (20m) or Bostanci (40m) for 7TL. This is much faster and cheaper than a taxi, which could take up to 2 hours if there is a lot of traffic. The boat runs from 7am to 9pm.

Sabiha Gokcen Airport;
Istanbul also has a second airport, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (IATA: SAW), located in the Anatolian side of the city.
The cheapest way to arrive from Sabiha Gökçen to the European side of Istanbul is by bus (E10 or E11 lines, from Sabiha Gökçen to Kadiköy) + ferry (from Kadiköy to many ferry stations, including some in the Sultanahmet area). Using Istanbulkart or Akbil (see below), the price is less than TRY7. That's about €2.50 in total. Every other option priced at €10 and above (TRY23 and above by Feb 2013 rates) makes sense ONLY if you can't use this. Be aware that last ferries are between 10 and 11pm, yet the E10 continues throughout the night. Various private operators offer internet bookable shared minibuses to central locations a good choice when arriving late. A typical price being €75 for 4 people to a hotel in Sultanahmet ( Marifet Travel ).

SIM Cards;
Prepaid SIM cards can be bought (for around 40 TL with 5TL usable balance) at Vodafone, Avea or Turkcell kiosks at the airport or in shops around town. At the Airport, the Avea, Vodafone and Turkcell shops are respectively to the left, right and across from the exit. For about 90TLY Avea offers a 250 minute in Turkey, 100 minute to Europe, 1GB of data plan, the other two have similar plans. Ask the salesperson to set it up for you and check by calling his phone and opening up a webpage. For iPhone, it may be necessary to download Turkish script before the phone can be used. They ask to make a copy of your passport. However, to be able to use your phone you need to get it unlocked for use in Turkey. With a bit of luck the guy in the shop can do it for you, though that may violate the rules of your contract, depending on the country you are from. Having your phone unlocked officially can happen through your operator in your home country.

Stay Safe;
As with most European cities, but especially in crowded areas of Istanbul, watch your pockets and travel documents as pickpockets have devised all sorts of strategies to obtain them from you. Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy Square etc. are observed by security cameras monitored by police 24/7 nonstop. Also be wary of men in Taksim who splash water on the backs of your neck. When you turn around, they will try to start a fight with you as another man comes in and robs you. These men tend to carry knives and can be very dangerous.

Slums which host number of scammers are located between Suleymaniye and Ataturk avenue. Appearance in these areas even during daylight could result in aggressive behavior of locals who could try to throw away strangers from their territory. Avoiding these dangerous urban blocks is highly recommended.

Istanbul is home to three of the biggest clubs in Turkey and arguably European football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. It is advisable not to wear colours associating yourself with any of the clubs--black and white, blue and yellow, and red and yellow, respectively--particularly on the days of matches between the sides due to the fearsome rivalry they share.

Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Don't put it on places where people sit or stand, don't drag it, don't wrinkle it, don't contaminate it, don't use it as a dress or uniform. Not only will Turks be very offended, furthermore the desecration of the Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely important and well respected in Turkey

Bar / Club Scams
Be aware of high-drink price scams in "night-clubs" (located mostly in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas). These clubs can charge overpriced bills (hundreds or thousands of lira) based on a replica of the original menu or even simply a menu lying upside down on the table.
Be especially aware of "friendly" young men/groups of young men/male-female couples inviting you to a "good nightclub they know"this is frequently a prelude to a scam. Scammers often work to earn your trust, striking up a conversation or even taking you to a legitimate restaurant and covering the bill. In another variation, the scammer will talk to you in Turkish, and when you reply in your own language, they will be "surprised" you're not Turkish and offer to repay you for their accident with a beer. Note that some scammers are very, very patient, working for hours to gain your trust before finally taking you to a bar.

The conversations may start very naturally that you may lose your scene of awareness. Scammers may dress very smart and look high educated. They also pretend to be a tourist like you, not the local with the same interest to discover Istanbul and inviting you too. Believe me, you will be surprised with various ways of stating a conversation with you: “Do you have a lighter? Could you help me to take a photo? In the middle of a walking conversation, they may stop in an exchange office to change some Euros to Lira just to make you believe that they are also tourists like you. Normally, the key question to get ‘access’ to you is “Where are you from?”.
In any of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police (dial #155), the club managers may resort to physical intimidation. In general, use caution: scams in Taksim are becoming more serious, and organized crime may be involved.

Tourism Police;
Istanbul PD has a "Tourism Police" department where travelers may report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity by which they are victimized. They have an office in Sultanahmet and can reportedly speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet (in the yellow wooden building between Hagia Sophia and the entrance of Basilica Cistern, few meters away from each), ☎ +90 212 527 45 03 (fax: +90 212 512 76 76). 

Food / Drinks
Tap water may not be safe depending on where you drink it. Although the tap water itself is clean, many local water tanks are not maintained properly, and one should try to avoid tap water if possible. Locals widely prefer bottled water and the same applies for the restaurants. Expect to pay for water in restaurants (around 2TL).

Food and drinks are mostly of international standards. Some Turkish foods are known to use a variety of spices which may affect international tourists who may not be accustomed to such ingredients, although most of it is edible for any tongue.

Use common sense when buying certain foods, particularly from street vendors. Delicacies such as "Firin Sutlac" (a kind of rice pudding) can go bad rapidly on a hot day, as can the oysters occasionally for sale on the streets.


Depending on nationality, foreigners arriving in Istanbul may need to purchase tourist visas (around 20 nationalities including USA and some EU citizens). This can be done either online at  (pay for your visa on-line and print it out at home prior to your trip) or in one of the automatic machines before clearing the immigration (the price should be the same whether you purchase it online or in the airport but several travellers reported that the machine in the airport charged him 20 TLY (around 10 USD) instead of 20 USD as it displayed). Visa can also be purchased in the visa office in the airport but it's reportedly more expensive.

Argentina, Tepecik Yolu 58, Etiler, ☎ +90 212 257-70-50
Australia, Asker Ocağı Caddesi 15, Elmadağ, ☎ +90 212 243-13-33
Austria, Köybaşı Caddesi 46, Yeniköy, ☎ +90 212 363-84-10
Belgium, Sıraselviler Caddesi 39, Taksim, ☎ +90 212 243-33-00
Brazil, Askeroğacı Caddesi, 6 - Süzer Plaza 4th floor - Elmadağ, Şişli, ☎+90 212 252-00-13
Bulgaria, Ahmet Adnan Saygun Caddesi 44, Ulus-Levent, ☎ +90 212 281-01-15
Canada, İstiklal Caddesi 189/5, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 251-98-38
China, Ahi Çelebi Cd. Çobançeşme Sk. 4, Tarabya, ☎ +90 212 299-21-88 fax: +90 212 299-26-33
Denmark, Meygede Sokak 2, Bebek, ☎ +90 212 359-19-00
Egypt, Cevdet Paşa Caddesi, No. 12, Bebek, ☎ +90 212 3242160 9:00 AM - 16:00 PM
Finland, Cumhuriyet Caddesi 71, 8th floor, Elmadağ, ☎ +90 212 296-95-49
France, İstiklal Caddesi 4, Beyoğlu-Taksim, ☎ +90 212 334-87-30
Germany, İnönü Caddesi 10, Gümüşsuyu-Taksim, ☎ +90 212 334-61-00
Greece, Turnacıbaşı Sokak 22, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 393-82-90 fax: +90 212 252-13-65
India, Cumhuriyet Caddesi 18, Dörtler Apt. 7th floor, Elmadağ, ☎ +90 212 296-21-31
Iran, Ankara Caddesi 1, Cağaloğlu, ☎ +90 212 513-82-30
Italy, Tomtom Kaptan Sokak 5, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 243-10-24
Japan, Büyükdere Caddesi 209, Tekfen Tower 10th, 4.Levent, ☎ +90 212 317-46-00
Republic of Korea, Piyalepaşa Bulv. 73, Ortadoğu Plaza, 18th floor, Okmeydanı, ☎ +90 212 368-83-68
Macedonia, Inönü Caddesi. Üçler apt. 20/5 Gumussuyu/Taksim, ☎ +90 212 251-22-33 fax: +90 212 293-77-65
Mexico, Balmumcu Mahallesi, Barbaros Bulvarı, Gamze Apartmanı 76/5, Beşiktaş, ☎ +90 212 274-24-64
Netherlands, İstiklal Caddesi 197, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 393-21-21
New Zealand, İnönü Caddesi 48/3, Taksim, ☎ +90 212 244-02-72
Norway, Bilezik Sokak 4, Fındıklı, ☎ +90 212 249-97-53
Pakistan, Cengiz Topal Cad. Gülşen Sok. No: 5, Beyaz Ev 3. Etiler, ☎+90 212 358-45-06
Romania, Yanarsu Sokak, Narin Sitesi 42, Etiler, ☎ +90 212 358-05-15
Russia, İstiklal Caddesi 443, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 292-51-01
Spain, Karanfil Aralığı Sokak 16, 1. Levent, ☎ +90 212 270-74-10
Sweden, İstiklal Caddesi 247, Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 334-06-00
Switzerland, Büyükdere Caddesi 173, 1.Levent Plaza A-Blok 3rd floor, Levent, ☎ +90 212 283-12-82
Syria, Maçka Caddesi 59/3, Teşvikiye, ☎ +90 212 232-67-21
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Meşrutiyet Caddesi 34, Tepebaşı-Beyoğlu, ☎ +90 212 334-64-00
United States of America, İstinye Mahallesi, Kaplıcalar Mevkii No.2, İstinye, ☎ +90 212 335-90-00

Special Events:
New Year’s Day, 1 Jan, national holiday, throughout the city

Kurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice), religious holiday

International Film Festival, in April National Independence and Children’s Day, 23 Apr,

International Theater Festival, May, Ataturk Kultur Merkezi, Taksim

Youth and Sports Day, 19 May, national holiday, throughout the city

International Istanbul Music Festival, Jun, various venues International Bosphorus Festival, Jun, yacht races and regattas

International Jazz Festival, Jul, various venuesZafer Bayram (Victory Day), 30 Aug, national holiday, throughout the city

International Istanbul Biennale, Sep-Nov, biannual art festival, various venues

Cumhuriyet Bayram (Republic Day), 29 Oct, national holiday celebrating Atatürk’s proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, throughout the city

Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, Oct, Üsküdar to Taksim

Akbank Jazz Festival, early Oct, Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall, Babylon and Venue Maslak

Ramadan, Muslim Holy Month of Fasting, with the end of the fast marked by a three-day national holiday, Ramadan throughout the city

Seker Bayram (Sugar Holiday or Eid Al Fitr), religious holiday,throughout the city Istanbul

Haghia Sophia
Haghia Sophia, known as Aya Sofya and translated as ‘Church of Divine Wisdom’, is considered the world’s finest example of Byzantine architecture. Consecrated in 537AD, its vast dome rises to 56m (183ft), designed to appear suspended in space and thus representative of heaven. So impressed was Mehmet the Conqueror that when he took the city in 1453, he dedicated it as a mosque, and it remained so until declared a museum when the Turkish Republic was founded. Highlights include Byzantine mosaics and huge Ottoman circular shields containing calligraphy of Koranic verses.
Sultanahmet, in front of Topkapi Palace.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 0900-1700 (winter), 0900-1800 (summer).

Topkapi Palace
Originally built as a summer residence and the seat of government, Topkapi Palace was home to harem, state administration and military personnel in the 16th century, with around 3,000 residents. Sultans abandoned it for Dolmabahçe Palace in 1855, but many of the sumptuous jewels of the original treasury (including the Topkapi dagger, and gold-plated throne of Murat III), the armory, silk ceremonial robes, Chinese ceramics and the collection of manuscripts, all convey the old Ottoman decadence. Near the Imperial Gate is Haghia Eirene Museum, venue of concerts during the International Istanbul music festival. The prison-like Harem, comprising several dozen ornate rooms which once housed up to 300 concubines, is only open to guided tours and requires a separate ticket (and separate queue). Weekends and holidays are more crowded.
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 0900-1700 (winter); Wed-Mon 0900-1800 (summer).

Kapali Carsi (Covered or Grand Bazaar)
The famous and vast bazaar is the best known of Istanbul’s markets. It was instated shortly after the 1493 Conquest and contained the slave market, as well as the hans, or caravanserais of old, where Silk Road traders could rest themselves and their camels, as well as sell their goods. While the ornate ceilings and labyrinth-like layout still hark back to the past, these days the vast number of stalls (more than 4,000 of them, in over 60 streets) sell mainly tourist-friendly goods, including carpets, gold, leather and ceramics. The complex also contains two mosques, money change offices, a police station, cafes and an information point. Haggling is essential at most stalls. Beyazit Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1900.

Misir Carsisi (Egyptian or Spice Market)
This L-shaped market, facing the Golden Horn, was built in the 17th century as an extension to Yeni Camii (New Mosque), and financed by the money paid as duty on Egyptian goods. Originally famed for its exotic spices and oils from the Orient, these days it also sells dried fruits, caviar and Turkish delight, as well a plethora of souvenirs. Its surrounding streets are a hub of commercial activity, with local craftspeople, traders and a great selection of cheeses and olives. Eminonu Opening hours: 0800-1900.

Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque)
The Blue Mosque was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet (1603-1617), as Islam’s answer to Haghia Sophia, and remains the symbol and center of religious demonstrations and Istanbul’s only mosque with six minarets. Blue Iznik tiles dominate the interior, and blue light shines through more than 250 windows. The interior is stunning, from the vast central dome designed to lift all eyes heavenward to the latticework-covered Imperial Loge and the mihrab (prayer niche) containing a piece of sacred black stone from Mecca. At dusk during summer there is a Son et Lumière (sounds and lights) show. The Imperial Pavilion also contains a state-run Carpet Museum with Usak, Bergama and Konya samples, dating between the 16th and 19th centuries. (The mosque is undergoing restoration until early 2007).

Archeoloji Müzeleri (Archaeological Museums)
Istanbul’s Archaeology Museums are located in three separate buildings, once part of the Topkapi Palace complex. The main building houses the famous fourth-century Alexander sarcophagus discovered in Lebanon, as well as the facade of the Temple to Athena from Assos, Byzantine mosaics and sarcophagi. The interior of the Çinili Kösk (Tiled Pavilion), built in 1472, is covered in Iznik tiles and contains the 14th-century royal blue Karaman Mihrab (prayer niche). The Museum of the Ancient Orient includes the Treaty of Kadesh, drawn up between the Egyptians and Hittites in 1269BC, plus a magnificent frieze of a bull from Babylon.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 1000-1700.

Yerebatan Sarayi (Basilica Cistern)
Sometimes referred to as the Sunken Palace, the Basilica Cistern was the reservoir for water required for the Byzantine Great Palace, and thought to date back to AD532. This huge atmospheric structure, measuring 140m (460ft) by 70m (230ft), still contains a few feet of water, over which wooden walkways have been constructed. Many of the 335 columns supporting the cathedral-like ceiling have been recycled from pre-Christian temples - such as the Medusa heads that are used as column bases, pilfered from the Temple of Apollo in Didyma (Didim). The cistern was used as a film set for the James Bond film, From Russia With Love (1963). Opening hours: Daily 0900-1730.

Kariye Muzesi (Kariye Museum)
Originally an 11th-century church (and sometimes still referred to as Chora Church) this contains Istanbul’s finest Byzantine mosaics, as well as superb 14th-century religious frescoes. Although converted to a mosque after the Conquest, the mosaics were merely whitewashed over, and have been preserved for display in what is now a secular museum. Opening hours: Thurs-Tues 0930-1630.

Turk ve Esleri Müzesi (Turkish and Islamic Art Museum)
Originally the 16th-century palace of Süleyman the Magnificent’s most able Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, this museum contains more than 40,000 items dating from between the seventh to the 19th century. Its famous carpet display contains Turkish carpets depicting Holbein paintings and fragments of 13th-century Selçuk rugs. Further highlights include Ottoman Koran cases and stands, illuminated manuscripts and tiles, and the basement contains an exhibition of the evolution of the Turkish house - from nomadic tents to 19th-century palaces.

Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi
The square is the nucleus of Istanbul’s modern European side, which many tourists unfortunately miss. In the south-west corner is the Monument of Independence, where the busy Istiklal Caddesi starts and cuts through Beyoglu area. This 1.5km (1 mile) pedestrianized boulevard is lined with shops, cinemas, markets and restaurants, and especially crowded at night. Its 19th-century European consulates, churches and ornate buildings are evidence that Beyoglu was once the centerpiece for an art nouveau belle époque, and later the hang-out for bohemian artists and intellectuals. Highlights include the stained glass at the entrance to Cicek Pasaj (Flower Passage), the imposing Galatasaray Lisesi (High School) and various contemporary art galleries (free). Opening hours: Most shops open till 2100, later on Fri-Sat.

Istanbul Modern
Located in a restored old waterfront warehouse and opened in 2004, the huge Istanbul Modern has a fine collection of contemporary arts from Turkey and around the world. Specialising in painting and photography, with a cinema screening world films in the basement, the gallery hosts exhibitions that include 20th-century home-grown talent to try to encourage Turkish art. The entire venue is fresh, spacious and well laid-out, with a fine restaurant/café on the ground floor overlooking the Bosphorus.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 1000-1800; Thurs 1000-2000.

Yildiz Park
Rising above the area of Besiktas, Yildiz is a welcome relief from the noise of the city, with woodland and landscaped gardens. Sultan Abdul Hamit built them for the Ciragan Palace (now a 5-star hotel over the main road) where Sultans strolled and hunted since the 17th-century. It is now more popular with courting couples and picnicking families and is busiest at weekends. At the top are Malta Kosk and Cadir Kosk, two attractive 19th-century pavilions originally part of the palace, whose guests included Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, and now operating as restaurants and cafés. The park also houses Yildiz Palace Museum, Imperial Porcelain Factory and City Museum. Opening hours: Daily, dawn till dusk.

Suleymaniye Mosque
Although fewer tourists make it here than to the Blue Mosque, this is even grander and more peaceful, and one of the finest creations by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The huge 53m-high dome and pencil-slim minarets from each corner of the courtyard are an exquisite example of symmetry and elegance. Built in the 1550s, the site also contains the tombs of Sinan, Sultans Suleyman II and Ahmet II decorated with intricate tiles, the original apartments of the mosque astronomer, charitable foundations, caravanserai and fountain, all set around a tranquil courtyard. There are several outdoor tea-houses in a row behind the mosque.

Opening hours: Daily 0930-1730. Closed to non-Muslims during prayer times.