Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is Turkey’s financial and cultural hub, bridging Asia and Europe socially and physically. The array of ancient monuments like Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and several others reflects the influences of different eras including Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine. Accommodating culture and history together, Istanbul has loads to offer to amaze its travellers from across the world.
Best time to visit: April to May and September to mid-November are the best time to visit Istanbul.
Visa and Immigration: If you’re an Indian passport holder travelling to Istanbul, then you would be required to apply online for Turkey e-visa.
How to reach: Istanbul Grand Airport is the main international airport serving Istanbul, at a distance of about 25km (30minutes drive). IndiGo now provides flights to Istanbul with direct connectivity between Istanbul and Delhi, along with seamless connections to other destinations.
Getting around: With the Bosphorus strait dividing Istanbul into two parts, ferries and sea buses are the primary modes of daily transportation. The city also has a Metrobus connection, underground metro lines and taxi services.
This elegant restaurant serves a range of Ottoman dishes that are enough to make you crave for more. Their goose kebap or 'fatty apron' kebap with beef and lamb wrapped in caul fat and stuffed quince is must try.
This place specialises in Black Sea cuisine and serves delicious pilafs, hamsi dishes, leafy greens, pides – Turkish-style pizza and soups.
This restaurant is famous for offering traditional Turkish delights with exciting twists invented by Chef Maksut Aşkar. Enjoy stunning views of the old city and while satiating your gastronomical sense either at the dining room or terrace.
Quite famous for its delicious breakfast, Cuma is known to have the most loyal customer base in the city. It boasts of a healthy menu that is heavy on flavour and less on fuss.
Opened in 1949, Karaköy Güllüoğlu is a famous baklava shop and the first branch in Istanbul. There are ample other in the town, but this is the best in the city of all.
Dating back to the Ottoman era, Istanbul’s old bazaars, are located in the peninsula of the Old city. Shopping malls have been on the rise around New Istanbul and Western suburbs for the last three decades. So, as you head out in Istanbul for shopping, don’t forget to fill your bag with Turkish Delight (locally known as Lokum) especially the Pistachio one, Turkish tea, Rugs and kilims and jewellery made from semi-precious gemstone known as Chalcedony. If you are looking for some upmarket garments, then visit Bağdat Avenue in Asian Side or Nişantaşı in European Side.
Grand Bazaar: Walk down the narrow lanes to witness how artisans work while peeping through the doorways to discover the hidden gems of one of the world’s largest indoor marketplaces, Grand Bazaar. With 5000 shops selling beautiful jewellery, antiques, carpets and hand-painted ceramics, it’s a heaven for shopaholics. The market also boasts of two hammams, two mosques, four mountains and Cevahir Bedesten, the oldest part of the bazaar. Learn the art bargaining before entering this market.
Spice Bazaar: Turkey’s another biggest and famous market, Spice Bazaar is a must-visit. You can find almost every spice that you can imagine. Go for typical Turkish products and spices to keep Turkish memories alive even after your return. Spices like Sumac having citric tartness, Pul Biber – dried pepper flakes, Nar Ekşisi - pomegranate sauce, Çörek otu - black cumin and Saffron must be on your shopping list. Some of the most reputed shops in the market include Urfa Pazarı, Ucuzcular, Ayfer Kaur, Malatya Pazarı and Arifoğlu.
Reina: The most glamorous nightclub in Istanbul, Reina is known for its lavish parties and the elite posh crowd. It is a must-visit to enjoy the nightlife to the fullest.
Sortie: Another popular nightclub is Sortie, boasting of exquisite ambience, scenic views of the city, three bars and six restaurants.
Supperclub: With a wide range of cocktails, superb lightings, awesome live shows, all-white décor, this place is a must visit for party lovers and considered among the best nightclubs in Istanbul.
Anjelique: This club is known to be the best place to experience Istanbul’s nightlife at its best while enjoying an unmatched view of the Bosphorus.
X-Large: Night crawlers must visit this place. Here, the parties start at 2 am and goes till 5 am with a dramatic trance feel to the entire environment.
Gul Sultan Hotel Originally a residence, this place has a warm and homely feel to it. This boutique hotel boasts of traditional Turkish hospitality along with excellent, clean and comfortable accommodation.
Peyk Hotel If you want to stay close to the tourist spots then Peyk Hotel is a good option for you. Located within walking distance from several historic sites like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque, this hotel also provides airport shuttle services to the airport which is about 17.5 km.
Shangri-La Bosphorus It is ideal for those travelling in pairs and wants to stay in the heart of Istanbul. Located on the European side of the Bosphorus, this 5-star property boast of an indoor pool, rooms with modern décor and marble bathrooms with heated floors and Bvlgari toiletries.
Régie Ottoman Istanbul Located on the Historic Peninsula, Régie Ottoman Istanbul is in a 150-year old restored Ottoman building featuring wooden floors, stone walls, modern amenities in a traditional atmosphere. The rooms are well-furnished equipped with basic facilities like air condition, televisions, ironing facilities among others.
Princes’ Islands: Far from the chaos of the city, spend your day at this scenic location, situated in the Sea of Marmara. Princes’ Islands is a popular tourist spot, comprising of nine small islands, out of which only four are open for public – Büyükada (the most popular and the biggest one), Burgazada, Kinaliada and Heybeliada. The main highlight of this place is ‘the pin-drop silence.’ The only sound you will hear is of sounds of horse hoofs, and bicycle bells as all motorised vehicles are banned here. You can get there by regular ferries or the sea boats.
Galata Tower: Dominating Istanbul skyline, Galata Towers at the height of 219 feet, offers a fantastic view of the surroundings and the old city. Known as the Tower of Christ, the structure has been modified from time to time and while visiting if you get tired then relax some time at the restaurant, café and a nightclub in its upper part.
Dolmabahce Palace: Built along Bosphorus coastline in 19th century, Turkey’s most glamorous palace features quite a few unique things that are enough to make you awestruck; such as the most massive chandelier in the world (a gift from Queen Victoria) and amalgamation of exquisite traditional Ottoman architecture with European styles of Rococo, Neoclassical and Baroque. The palace is often compared with the Palace of Versailles and was home to six sultans.
One of the best ways to explore Istanbul is by cruising your way through the Bosphorus. There are two routes that you can choose from - Full Bosphorus Cruise and the Short Bosphorus Cruise. The Long Bosphorus Tour requires an entire day, starting from Eminönü going all the way to Rumeli and Anadolu Kavağı (two coastal peaks in Europe and Asia), and then heading to the Black Sea. Whereas, the Short Bosphorus Cruise is suitable if you don't have much time, taking you through the city and the strait.