Bridging East and West – Asia and Europe – İstanbul possesses a richly complicated heritage. Once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, this city’s prestigious history has left us with a lot of monuments to cherish. Plus, it integrates its past and present to make a unique mix of architecture; a glass skyscraper next to a Byzantine church and a colorful bazaar in the shadow of a shopping mall.
Bridging East and West – Asia and Europe – İstanbul possesses a richly complicated heritage. Once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, this city’s prestigious history has left us with a lot of monuments to cherish. Plus, it integrates its past and present to make a unique mix of architecture; a glass skyscraper next to a Byzantine church and a colorful bazaar in the shadow of a shopping mall. The natural landscape is also fascinating. The Bosphorus, a narrow strait, cuts the city in 2 and connects the Marmara Sea in the south to the Black Sea in the north. Visitors will see a skyline of domes, steeples and modern towers from the blue waters.
Although Istanbul seems serene from a far, the inner atmosphere is wonderfully chaotic. Explore the active streets and busy bazaar stalls that have characterized the city for hundreds of years. Drivers will jockey for position; storekeepers will barter in an avalanche of chatter; and you will be struggling to digest all of the sights, sounds, and smells. Talking of smells … along with your searching, taste the distinctly Turkish treats off the streets, including döner, Istanbul’s version of fast food. And when the sun goes down, you will see that Istanbul sheds some of its conservative facades to reveal a growing nightlife. At the intersection of continents and civilizations for centuries, Istanbul amazes visitors with its fast pace, its ancient history, and its today culture.
Best Times to Visit Istanbul
The best times to visit Istanbul starts from March to May and from September and November. That’s when crowds at the Istanbul’s attractions are manageable, room rates are average and daytime temperatures usually sit in the 60s and 70s. Peak season starts from June to August, sees temperatures soar into the low 60s to low 80s, and bed prices increase to match the demand from incoming tourists. December through February, meantime, are the cheapest months to visit, however, Istanbul’s rainy, snowy and chilly conditions (temperatures are in the high 30s to high 50s) mean you will have to don cold weather attire and lug an umbrella during your visit.
Best Things To Do in Istanbul
Touring Istanbul’s fancy houses of prayer and palaces could keep history lovers and culture hounds busy for days. A lot of attractions come together in the Fatih zone, in spite of districts like Beyoglu where Taksim Square resides, and Besiktas which features Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortaköy is no less exciting. The Hagia Sophia Museum and Blue Mosque are essential, but simply exploring the street traffic and observing daily life here is equally charming. Meals are a central part of the culture, so menus should be studied just as severely as a map. And you should check out a lot of bazaars around the city when looking for souvenirs, but if you have less time, be sure to visit the largest and most famous: the Grand Bazaar.
What to Eat in Istanbul
Turkish cuisine can be defined as a fusion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian flavors. In Istanbul in particular, kebabs and mezes (little, tapas-like plates) are famous and popular. Dishes are usually heavy on meats, fresh vegetables, beans, and nuts. Also, Yogurt is the main component of much Turkish cuisine and can generally be found as a companion to many meat entrees and bread. Street food, including döner which commonly made from lamb meat, and simit (a bagel-like bread that serves as a convenient portable snack), is also very famous among residents and out-of-town visitors. Turkish coffee can keep you going strong for all of the sightseeing, and for dessert, you can try some Turkish Delight candies.
You can find, a large variety of dining establishments in Istanbul, from high-end restaurants run by famous chefs to chaotic meyhanes (traditional restaurants and bars in Turkey) and no-frills, hole-in-the-wall kebab joints. Meyhanes are generally loud and boisterous spaces where alcohol flows along with mezes. While you are here, be sure to try raki, the national licorice-flavored drink made from the grape and anise plant and served with a glass of chilled water. When the 2 liquids make contact, it forms a milky white color, giving the drink its nickname, Aslan sütü. Aslan sütü means lion’s milk.
Avoid the Sultanahmet area for the most authentic experience. The tourist-heavy neighborhood’s restaurants, generally, serve high priced and mediocre food. You can take a short trip on the tram north across the Golden Horn to Beyoglu, where you will find a mix of simple home cooking, as well as some of the trendiest options in İstanbul. Famous Turkish restaurants in Beyoglu include Babel Cafe and Restaurant, Nicole and Meze by Lemon Tree.
Getting Around Istanbul
The best ways to get around Istanbul are the trams and buses, which conveniently cover the touristy zones. But don’t forget, buses do not have maps inside and drivers do not announce stops, so you will need to remain vigilant and see where you are going. Also, the metro is a reliable and cheap means of getting around; but, stops are farther apart and not as well-positioned for seeing the sights. İtanbul’s metro and bus networks can also be used to go to downtown from Istanbul Atatürk Airport. When visiting Eminönü and Sultanahmet, walking between the zone’s attractions is doable, but you will need to rely on another mode of transportation to reach other neighborhoods. Driving is not adviced since road signs are in Turkish and accidents are highly common. Ferries are also present to get to the Princes’ Islands and between the Asian and European sides.