Istanbul is amazing! I knew it would be a great city, but I didn’t expect to be blown away. As I started to write this Istanbul travel blog, I realized that Istanbul has surpassed Barcelona as my favourite European city.
Really, what is there not to like? The people were so friendly and helpful. I didn’t run into a single person who didn’t speak English– most of them spoke multiple languages. The city itself can be chaotic at times, but it’s very tourist friendly with its popular attractions, tasty cuisine, and laid back atmosphere.
All those fears people have about visiting Turkey are completely unfounded. Unless you plan on visiting the Syrian border, the country is 100% safe. My only regret is that I only visited Istanbul- it would have been great to see more of Turkey.
The Istanbul basics
Accommodations – The two most popular areas to stay in Istanbul are Sultanahmet (the old town) and Beyoğlu (popular for shopping). Both areas have good mid-range hotels for around $150-200CAD a night. What area you chose really comes down to preference, both areas are nice, but I personally chose to stay in Sultanahmet.
Airbnb will always be cheaper– apartments in Beyoğlu can be found for to $90-120 a night. Costs can add up in Istanbul so it’s a good option if you’re travelling in a group. If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, sign up with my referral link for a credit of $30 on your first stay.
Transportation – Istanbul has a fantastic public transportation that features trams, subways, funicular, buses and ferries. At first glance it can be intiidating to navigate the system, but once you arrive, you realize how simple it is. Purchasing an Istanbul Kart is a must since it’s a pre-paid contact-less card that allows up to 5 people to use the different modes of transportation.
Eat and drink – Turkish food is delicious, and it’s really not that different from what you would find in North America. Grilled meats, vegetables, fresh fish, falafel, and baked bread are vfound everywhere. A good meal will cost you under $20 a person, but be aware that near the tourist areas, many restaurants charge a premium, so don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Two staples can’t be missed are the fish sandwiches for $3 at Eminonu pier and Turkish coffee.
Attractions – Most of the historic sites are located in Sultanahmet and are even more beautiful when you see them in person. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are the are the most popular attractions, but be sure not to miss Galata Tower, the Basilica Cistern and Dolmabahçe Palace. The Grand Bazaar is a giant tourist trap, instead head over to the spice market where prices are listed. The Istanbul Museum Pass does offer value, but you should check to see if you’re interested in all the attractions before purchasing it.
Bosphorus Cruises – Some would consider a Bosphorus cruise the highlight of their trip, but travellers should know there are many different companies offering tours. You’re guaranteed to be approached by someone on the street offering cruises, so do your research and book in advance. These cruises aren’t cheap either, but through my affiliate link you can save on morning, dinner, and sunset Bosphorus cruises.
Here’s the rest of my Istanbul travel blog through pictures.