A guide of Istanbul

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Things to see

  • Sultanahmet area
    • Aya Sofya (formerly a Christian church, first built in 532 AD)
    • Sultanahmet Camii (even better at night)
    • Cistern Basilica (underground water collector)
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Grand Bazaar & Spice Bazaar
  • Eminonu Area
    • Suleymanyie Camii (the largest mosque)
    • Rustem Pasa Camii (small and colorful mosque, highlighted by Lonely Planet, which means you can spot all the Lonely Planet-ers in there). You find it at the end of the nice Longmarket Street (Uzuncarsi Caddesi)
    • Yeni Cami mosque
    • Boats to all islands, etc depart from the Eminonu area, or just east of that. The Adalar (or Princes Islands) are very popular for a relax day among local folks
  • Dolmabahce Palace
    • Another sultan residency, which however has idiosyncratic opening times
  • Taksim area
    • This is the most westernized area. Isklikal Caddesi looks like the main street of any European capital (chain stores, and all the rest)
  • View from the Galata Tower (close to Taksim)
  • Kiz Kulesi island
  • Most attractions are west of the Bosphorus. The Asiatic part of Istanbul is essentially residential neighborhoods



Meat is ubiquous in Turkish cuisine: most dished that appear vegetable-based consist in fact of minced meat stuffings. If you are vegetatian, you will have a hard time as much as in a French restaurant.

The tastiest meal is the breakfast, which consists generally of olives, feta cheese, honey, jam, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread and watermelon.

Kiz Kulesi is an elegant restaurant on an island in the middle of the Bosphorus (the restaurant is essentially the whole island). They bring you in and back with a private boat. The food is quite ok continental cuisine with an ok price. Gorgeous views.

Tea is also ubiquous and good for all occasions

Istanbul has developed a tramway line that goes through all the important spots in town and runs until midnight. Very convenient and easy to use (just one line) as it means you don't need to sleep close to the touristic center

The Iskital Hotel was mainly visited by local folks and is ~10-15 minutes by tram from Sultanahmet

Smoking looks like it is integral part of breathing. People smoke everywhere. Just live with that

On visiting Topkapi Palace

The Ministry, or whoever, has invented one of the worst ticketing methods of all times for Topkapi Palace. Initially, you stand in line to buy the ticket for the palace. However, this does not include the ticket for the Harem (which is advertised as the one place to see). That is a separate ticket that you have to buy once you enter the palace, from an apparently lonely booth. There is no evident reason why the two tickets are decoupled. The net effect is that you stand in line twice instead of once. When you read on a guidebook that it takes nearly a day to visit Topkapi palace, that's because you spend a couple of hours just queuing up!


My guide of Cappadocia

Istanbul Pictures

Aya Sofya (outside)

Aya Sofya (inside)

Mosaic in Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya by night

Sultanahmet Camii from Aya Sofya

Sultanahmet Camii (inside)

Sultanahmet Camii by night

The Grand Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar

Istanbul University

Suleymanyie Camii (outside)

Suleymanyie Camii (inside)

Topkapi Palace - entrance

Topkapi Palace - ceiling

Topkapi Palace - Harem

Topkapi Palace - Harem decorations

Cistern Basilica

Another picture of the Cistern Basilica

View of Sultanahmet from the Galata Tower

Kiz Kulesi island & restaurant

Kebab time

Rustem Pasa Camii - inside

Sunset over Sultanahmet

People in Taksim Square

Dolmabahce Palace

Sunset on the Bosphorus


© Lorenzo Casaccia