Istanbul Turkey Travel Guide A Vagabond Life
Istanbul Turkey Travel Guide
Istanbul is where east meets west and ancient collides with new. Straddling the Bosphorus the old town reflects the many cultures that have ruled the city. Originally settled in 660BC and called Byzantium, the Romans then ruled from 330BC and it became Constantinople. The city became Istanbul at the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.
Istanbul was very high on my ‘must see’ places for as long as i can remember. And like many things, or places one has really high expectations of, I was disappointed.
I don’t know if it was because the hostel we stayed in was pretty ordinary, or the two Americans we shared our room with were rude, or the fact I had the flu or because everywhere I went I felt like someone was trying to rip me off, I struggled to like Istanbul. Perhaps I need a re visit and a look through fresh eyes.
We went back to Istanbul in September of 2019, we stayed in a lovely hotel and ate in a resturant with stunning views of the Bosphorus, Blue Mosque and Sophia Hagia. While I fully appreciate the history and incredible culture that makes up Istanbul it is just not a city that I enjoy.
Table of Contents
Istanbul Turkey Map
Travel Tips Istanbul Turkey
Istanbul’s public transport system is as confusing as it is extensive. There is an huge bus system, including city-run and private buses, as well as one high-speed Metrobüs line; an extensive light rail system including six Metro (underground) lines, four Tramvays (aboveground), three Fünikülers (ascending/descending), two mini-lines called Teleferik, and the Marmaray (underwater) lines; and the ferries which travel the Bosphorus.
When using the istanbul public transport system you can either use a token for a single trip or buy an Istanbulkart. It is a good idea to buy and Istanbulkart if in Istanbul for more than a day and intend to catch public transport. It can be used as a ticket on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, and some cross-Bosphorus ferries. The cards can be re-loaded at designated booths located at any major bus, tram, and metro station.There are different booths for buying a card and for charging it…very confusing for visitors
While the Istanbul public transport system is confusing we found google maps very useful for working out what tram / bus / train we needed and when it departed.
When To Go To Istanbul
Jan – March can be cold with rain.
April – Warm and sunny with cool nights. The Istanbul Tulip Festiva; is held in April
June and July – Warm to hot with balmy nights. Jazz music festivals are happening around town
August – Hot, steamy and crowded.
September – The weather is milder and quite pleasant.
Oct – Dec – The days grow shorter and weather colder.
Istanbul Weather Averages
|Daily highs (°C)||7||8||10||15||20||25||27||27||24||19||13||10|
|Nightly lows (°C)||2||2||4||8||12||16||18||18||16||12||8||5|
- 2 pants, include one black pair that can double as ‘good’
- 1 shorts
- 1 x singlets – good for layering and sleeping in
- 4 short sleeve tee shirts or shirts.
- 1 x long sleeve sloppy joe or similar
- 1 x polar fleece jumper
- 1 x zip-up shell jacket
- 1 x lightweight windproof raincoat
- 3 x socks
- 5 x underpants
- 2 x bra
- 1 x Northface Dipsea
- I x warm hat (if there in winter)
- 1 x sun hat (if there in summer
- 1 x warm gloves (if there in winter
- 1 x pair walking shoes
- 1 x pair flip flops (great for showers)
- Travel Towel
- Lush Bar Shampoo
- Bar of Soap
- Brush / Comb
- Hair Ties
- 1 x Earbud headphones. Light and small,
- 1 x 6S iPhone loaded with music and podcasts
- 1 x power bank
- 1 x GoPro Hero 5
- 2 x Spare GoPro Batteries
- 1 x LUMIX TZ80
- Spare micro SD Card
- 1 x headlight or torch **essential
- 1 x Swiss knife
- 1 x medical kit
- Refillable water bottle
Things To See & Do In Istanbul Turkey
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
The Blue Mosque is covered in hand painted blue tiles which gives it the nickname. Built between 1609 and 1616 under the rule of Ahmed I it is still a functioning mosque with men praying daily at the call to prayer. The Blue Mosque has 5 main domes, six minarets and 8 secondary domes. All in. All the Blue Mosque is a pretty impressive building
I enjoyed Topkapi Palace set in lovely gardens it is in a fabulous location right on the Bosphorus its a pleasant way to spend day. Built in the 15th century as the home and headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans.
Topaki is big – it has 4 main courtyards and many small buildings. A visit to the Harem, where the Sultans wives lived is interesting. Topaki was transformed into a museum in 1923 at the end of the Ottoman Empire.
Hagia Sophia started its life in 537 as a Greek Orthodox Church, and at the time was considered an architectural marvel. The fourth crusaders converted it to a Roman Catholic Cathedral in the 1200’s and then in 1453 it became a Ottoman mosque and was the largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years until Seville opened in 1520. Hagia Sophia was secularised and re opened in 1935 as a museum
The Grand Bazaar is pretty cool. It is one of the oldest and largest markets in the world. Construction started in 1455 when the Ottomans took control of Constantinople, over the years the Grand Bazaar was ravished by fires and earthquakes with it being repaired after each disaster.
Today the Grand Bazaar is visited by 250,000 + people a day, so go early. While there find a cafe and have an apple tea – its suburb.
Basilica Cistern are impressive ancient cisterns deep beneath Istanbul. Commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532, the cisterns serviced the Great Palace and could hold up to 80,000 cubic metres of water via an aqueduct 20 kms away – amazing. It became abandoned forgotten about until 1545 but it took until the mid 1980’s for it to be fully restored. Excellent place to visit when it is very hot.
The Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower built in 1348 by the Genoese. At the time it was the tallest building in Istanbul and today is still a significant landmark. Galata tower is in the Galata quarter of Istanbul just north of the Golden Horn & Bosporus junction.