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Plan Your Trip to Istanbul: Best of Istanbul Tourism

A spellbinding city where cultures collide 
Over the centuries, many cultures have added their mark to Istanbul. Today, you can experience those influences firsthand by exploring its mahalles (neighborhoods). From the holy sites of Sultanahmet and the 19th-century European elegance of Beyoğlu to the high fashion of Nişantaşı, the vibrant cafe society of Kadıköy and the football-loving streets of Beşiktaş, it’s easy to see why travelers say that Istanbul isn’t just one city, but multiple cities within one.

Travel Advice

Essential Istanbul

Traveler Guides

How to shop in Istanbul, from the extravagant to the extraordinary

I've browsed, haggled, and drained my bank account while shopping on almost every continent. While the chill seaside markets of Costa Rica and sprawling mega-malls of Bangkok have a special place in my shopaholic's heart, Istanbul, with its fabulous fusion of high-brow and rare goods, calls me back every time. Straddling Europe and Asia, this city is full of epic finds and extraordinary deals.
Elizabeth Lavis, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Arasta Bazaar
    880
    If you love authentic, silky, roomy pashminas as much as I do, Arasta Bazaar is a fab stop. This is a smaller but substantial bazaar near Sultanahmet Square. It's easy to pop by before or after touring the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia. I picked up a sky-blue pashmina trimmed with gold and some loose tea on my last wander through Arasta, but you can also find jewelry and every color of plush Turkish towels.
  • Zorlu Center
    501
    Get your Gucci fix and your duty-free tax deduction at Zorlu Center, one of Istanbul's most luxurious shopping centers with fancy shops, tasty food, and stunning architecture. It's a multi-use complex, just over 20 minutes away from the popular Eminonu district (where I always stay) by metro. I love this spot because you have a galaxy of high-end options like Vuitton, Tiffany, and Dior, but there's also a huge Zara.
  • Grand Bazaar
    336
    Equal parts tourist destination, historical relic, and retail extravaganza, the Grand Bazaar offers varsity-level shopping at its finest. It's been part of Istanbul culture for nearly 300 years and contains 4,000 shops. It can definitely get hectic in there, but I always visit when I'm in Istanbul. Why? Two words: Turkish lamps. While you can buy absolutely everything in the bazaar, keep an eye out for the heavy lamps with deep, jewel-toned glass.
  • Istinye Park
    715
    I love Istinye Park because it mixes modernity and an authentic Turkish bazaar vibe with many airy, open spaces where you can chill, enjoy a Turkish coffee, and give your feet a break. High-end brands are king at Istinye, and it's a great place to get cosmetics and perfumes. My guilty pleasure is visiting the Rainforest Cafe on the first floor for a nostalgic hit and some post-shopping comfort food.
  • Mahmut Pasha Bazaar
    15
    Mahmut Pasha Bazaar is a superb option if you're in the mood to haggle and want the hustle and bustle of a bazaar without the total overwhelm. A modest 256 shops, this spot sits close to Eminonu and is packed with little cafes selling baklava, textile shops, and plenty of custom-made bath and plumbing stores. I've scored several gorgeous items over the years, including a button-down silk flowered dress that remains one of my faves.
  • Misir Carsisi (Spice Market)
    4,134
    Also known as the "Egyptian Bazaar," Misir Carsisi is the top place in Istanbul for Turkish ice cream and loose spices. You'll find loose teas, bright baskets of golden saffron, smoked paprika, and fragrant dried bay leaves. They also sell some of the cheapest and most authentic Turkish Delight here. The spices come in tiny bags, so I like to shop with a larger tote that I am okay with getting a little dirty.
  • Olivium Outlet Center
    279
    I love the Olivium Outlet Center for two reasons: it's convenient to get to by train, and you can find designer goods at outlet prices. It's the place to stock up on sportswear and sneakers, and I've seen good deals at both the Nike and Adidas outlets, especially when they're rolling out new seasonal fare. This mall runs regular sales that they advertise on social media, and it's open every day until 10 p.m.
  • Kanyon Shopping Center
    358
    Kanyon Shopping Center is one of the most stunning shopping complexes I've ever seen, with wide, well-lit corridors and a convex ceiling that perfectly marries the indoor and outdoor spaces. If you appreciate understated elegance, Kanyon hits those notes. There are upscale clothing shops, many dining options, and entertainment, but the top reason I visit Kanyon is for cosmetics. You'll find a mix of budget-friendly and top-of-the-line brands like NARS, Watsons, and Yves Rocher.

Istanbul Is Great For

Jaw-dropping mosques 

Addictive baklava

Pampering Hamams (Turkish baths)

Istanbul Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Istanbul

Oliver M
Bring earplugs so the dawn call to prayer, broadcast over speakers from the mosques, doesn't wake you.
isailthe7seas
Allow the call to prayer you hear throughout your day, be a reminder to stop and just take in the fact that you are in Istanbul. As a woman, know when you might be interacting with a more old fashion Islamic gentleman. If need be let the man traveling with you take the lead. Have toilet paper in your daypack. Practice the position of the Turkish toilet at home. you will probably need to use one at least once. **just because the toilet stall that is available is Turkish toilet, doesn't mean that ALL are. the one that is occupied could be worth the wait.

In the words of those who've been there before ...

sarikanarya
There are so many cliched phrases used to describe İstanbul - ancient and modern, where east meets west, old world blended with new world etc etc and they are all true. There is history, culture, shopping, sightseeing, museums, galleries, boat trips.There is SO much!
osumom311
Istanbul is a magnificent city...one full of beauty, history, spectacular architecture, amazing restaurants, views to die for, wonderful little family-owned hotels, exceptionally kind and honest people, fun filled nightclubs, exotic sounds, exotic smells, and many other fabulous things too numerous to mention.
Globe2
... too often we try to paint those places we love as bastions of perfection. I've been guilty of it, and so have others. No place, however, is perfect. And anyway, perfection is boring. Istanbul can stand proud and tall...even with her imperfections...and I hope we can all take a step back and realize that.

What is the best way to get there?

Flying:

The city of Istanbul is served by Istanbul International Airport.

Train:

Istanbul is home to two trains stations, Haydarpasa station on the Asian side and Sirkeci station on the European side. Trains from Haydarpasa are destined for cities and towns in Anatolia, while Haydarpasa serves as the gateway to major European destinations.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting Istanbul from overseas, check if you need a visa using the following website.

When is the best time to visit?

The best times to visit Istanbul are between March and May and September and November. April is particularly beautiful because poppies and tulips, which first originated in Turkey, are in full bloom. Average daily temperatures in springtime can be highs of 15 C/59 F and lows of 7 C/45 F and highs around 19 C/66 F and lows around 12 C/55 F in autumn.

Ferry:

The bridge that connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul is notorious for its traffic jams, making the best way to span the Bosphorus the vapur (ferry). The three main ferry stations on the European side are Besiktas, Kabatas, and Karakoy. Timetables are posted at each terminal.

Metro:

Istanbul has an underground metro network that spans both sides of the city. It runs from morning until late at night and covers all top attractions. It gets very crowded during the morning and evening rush hours.

For comprehensive train maps, follow this link.

Taxis:

There’s an abundance of taxi cabs in Istanbul, which makes hailing a ride a breeze. For ease, download the BiTaksi app, which sends the nearest taxi your way.

On the ground
What is the timezone?
The time zone in Turkey is GMT+3
What are the voltage/plug types?
The standard voltage in Istanbul is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz. There are two associated plugs types: type C, with two round pins, and plug F, which has two round pins and two earth clips on the side. For plug types, you can reference the international guide: https://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/
What is the currency?
Turkish lira (TRY)
Are ATMs readily accessible?
Yes.
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes, in hotels, restaurants, and bars but not smaller businesses.
Is it easy to find a bank?
Yes.
How much do I tip?
Bartender
5-10%
Restaurant
5-10%
Hotel Staff
5-20 lira
Turkish bath (hammam) attendants
10-20%

Are there local customs I should know?

Turkish people are generally very tactile
and, if you are of the same sex, are likely to touch you during exchanges.
Don’t point at someone
as this is considered rude in Istanbul.
Public displays of affection
such as kissing is considered disrespectful when in public. In public, you will rarely see members of the opposite sex touch one another.
Frequently Asked Questions about Istanbul



Istanbul is known for some of its popular attractions, which include:


If you're a more budget-conscious traveler, then you may want to consider traveling to Istanbul between March and May, when hotel prices are generally the lowest. Peak hotel prices generally start between December and February.