What to Do in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city of captivating contrasts. As diverse as it could be, Istanbul has multiple characters that can leave gasping for air. Whether you traveling for medical treatment or leisure, Istanbul will touch your soul in surprising ways. Straddling 2 continents, Istanbul is a magical meeting place of East and West–offering more than meets the eye.

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Ayasofya

Istanbul is home to plenty of historic establishments and important monuments—but the first area that comes to mind when mentioning sightseeing is Sultanahmet and Aya Sofya. The venerable structure of Aya Sofya— originally a church, commissioned by the great Byzantine emperor Justinain—was converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and declared a museum by Atatürk in 1935. Prepared to be awe-inspired. Ayasofya carries deep spiritual significance, evident in its architectural splendor, rich history, religious motifs and breathtaking beauty.

Address
Aya Sofya Meydanı 1
Telephone
+90 212 522 1750
Getting there
Tram: Sultanahmet
More information
www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr
Prices
Adult/child under 12yr TL30/free
Opening hours
9am-6pm mid-Apr–Sep, to 4pm Oct–mid-Apr

Blue Mosque

One of Istanbul’s iconic landmarks, the Blue Mosque was a grand project of Sultan Ahmet. The mosque features unique blue tiles—hence the name—surrounding the walls of interior design. It was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. Best way to marvel at its grand beauty and alluring architecture is to approach it from the Hippodrome (west side of the mosque).

Address
Hippodrome
Getting there
Tram: Sultanahmet
Opening hours
Closed to tourists during the 5 daily prayer times & Fri sermon

Grand Bazaar

Follow the smells of spice and mystical aromas to get to the Grand Pazar. This colorful and chaotic bazaar is located in the heart of the Old City and has been there for centuries. Starting out as a small vaulted warehouse built by order of Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, Grand Bazaar has grown to cover a large area—surrounded by markets, shops and hans (caravanserais).

Getting there
Tram: Beyazıt-Kapalı Çarşı
Metro: Vezneciler
Opening hours
8.30am-7pm Mon-Sat

Princess’ Islands

Did the city traffic and maddening crowd leave you weary and fuzzy? Hop on a ferry and head to the Princess Islands for a refreshing day trip. The Islands lie about 20km southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara, and make for a refreshing day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city. After landing on one of the islands, you will realize that there are no cars—a welcome respite from Istanbul’s traffic. There are nine islands in the Princess’ Islands group and the ferry stops at four of these.

There are fourteen ferries running to the islands each day from 06:50 to midnight, leaving from Kabatas Adalar Iskelesi dock. The most convenient departure times for day-trippers are 09:30, 10:00 and 11:30.

Getting Around Istanbul

First visit or the 100th to Istanbul, the very first thing that strikes you is the horrendous traffic. Istanbul is one of the busiest cities in Europe, plagued by horrendous traffic jam clogging every corner of the city. Every hour spend in Istanbul is a rush hour. Morning rush hour starts as early as 7 am and lasts till 10 am. City dwellers may get a breather between 2pm-4pm until it starts peaking again when schools are out to 9:30 pm. The good news is that city is serviced by an extensive network of public transport system that can get you from A to Z. With the following online applications and helpful tips, your commute around Istanbul can be comfortable and stress-free.

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BiTaksi

Taxi divers in Istanbul have developed a reputation for hustling tourists—and locals alike. Hailing a cab in Istanbul will always run the risk of tourist being hustled, overcharged or cheated. Taking the longer route—the oldest trick in the book. Being a clueless tourist, you don’t know the shortest route to get to your destination; and the classic excuse the driver will come with is—there’s a massive traffic jam on the shorter route. So the taxi driver can easily make an extra tour around the block and trump up the bill. This is where BiTaksi comes in: with a tap of button you can get a taxi within minutes—wherever you are in the Istanbul. Consider BiTaksi your lifeboat when you are drowning in ocean of traffic-cocked gridlock and a line of lurking taxi divers waiting at the earliest opportunity to scam you.

Here’s how Bitaksi works:

  • Tap the button and watch your taxi comes to you
  • Pay by cash, credit card, PayPal or BKM Express
  • The meter starts when you get in the taxi
  • No extra costs, you just pay the meter fare
  • You can rate the driver and submit your feedback
  • All BiTaksi drivers working are licensed driver and your trip data is recorded
  • Forgot something in the taxi? Fret not, you can connect the driver and pick you what you forgot 

Istanbulkart

Public transport system in Istanbul is very efficient, reliable and timely. Public transportation in Istanbul varies greatly. Municipality buses, (İETT), public buses, car ferries, metro and suburban railway and Metrobüs all vary in price and have either token or ticket fares to pay. If you decide to stay a few days in Istanbul after your medical treatment, it might be a good idea to buy an Istanbulkart for all public transport. It costs only 10 TL. The Istanbulkart is sold at İETT counters near major transportation hubs like Eminonu, Taksim and Besiktas.

How to use Istanbulkart

To charge the card, you can again use İETT counters and private vendors where there’s a “Istanbulkart (or Akbil) Dolum Noktası” sign on them. All you should is to give the shopkeeper the amount of money you would like to charge the card with and the actual card. You can also use Automatic Vending Machines (OSM) in or around transport points. All Automatic Vending Machines offer English and other languages options in them. In order to use your Istanbulkard on the metro or bus, you place the card on the electronic readers machines. For most transit modes, you will find electronic readers machines before you board the vehicle. Only if you are using a bus, the reader is usually next to the driver’s seat. The fare costs around TL 2.15 with Istanbulkart for city buses, Metro, tram, funicular, Tünel and ferryboats.

Note that you can still use your Istanbulkart for more than one person, but the second time costs you twice more.

TRAFI

Get around the city—fast, easy—with punctuality in mind. TRAFI wasn’t rated the most accurate & advanced public transport phone application for nothing! TRAFI is a smartphone application that provides the most accurate information on public transport in Istanbul including bus, metro, ferry, minibus, Dolmuş (yellow shared taxi) and other schedules. Not only does TRAFI provide up-to-date information about public transport schedules, it also tracks where the bus is in real time—allowing you to choose the most optimal route to your destination.

What TRAFI offers:

  • Route search
  • Schedules and timetables
  • News feed with live information
  • Interactive stops map
  • Real time information
  • Next arrival times in your stop
  • Favorites – you can save your frequently used stops, home and work locations for quick access

Yandex Navigation Application

Know the city of Istanbul like the back of your hand. If you are looking for a point of interest in Istanbul, forget Google Maps or Apple Maps. These popular apps– that are known to be accurate and effective in most countries–may not give you the same outcome in Istanbul. Yandex.Navigator is your application of refuge when you are looking up a restaurant’s address or locale in the great city of Istanbul.

Yandex.Navigator helps you plot the shortest and most convenient route to your destination. Taking traffic jams, accident and other road events into account, you can use voice prompts to guide you through your journey—and shows you your route on the screen. Also, you can always track how many minutes and kilometers you have to go. The application also functions through voice commands. For example, “Yandex, I would like to go to Taksim” or “Yandex, take me to Istanbul Atatürk Airport.” You can report road events to Yandex, simply by saying: “Yandex, there’s an accident in the right lane.”

Where to Stay in Istanbul

We recommend various alternatives for accommodation in Istanbul.
Please click for detailed information about each hotel.

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