Istanbul is a city in Turkey, quite possibly one of the most interesting countries in the world. Istanbul is the city that connects Europe and the Middle East. Its unique location, the city where cultures merge, that makes Istanbul one of the most interesting cities in the world. It is a fast and cool city where your senses are in for a wild ride. Spectacular architecture that gives you a glimpse into the regal opulence of old empires. Bazaars selling aromatic spices Turkish sweets, and endless cheese. Art galleries where the art is bold and bright. The sound of streets that never seem to stop moving. Incredible colour everywhere. And hamam experiences for soothing your entire body. When you experience the unique chaos of a holiday in Istanbul, you will never be able to forget it. South Africans will need an eVisa to visit Istanbul or anywhere else in Turkey.
There are so many things to do in Istanbul that will make you fall in love with the unique culture and colour of Turkey. Its colourful antique streets are famous, so simply wandering through them is one of the most interesting things to do in Istanbul. Put on some comfortable shoes and just walk around. A holiday in Istanbul is all about eating good food, marvelling at the incredible architecture that is everywhere, and just experiencing the unique rhythm of a city where two continents meet. Some of the best things to do in Istanbul are gaze in awe at buildings like the Hagia Sophia, which is often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. Wandering through the Grand Bazaar, a market of over 5000 shops that was a trading post back in the 15th century. The Basilica Cistern, the largest of hundreds of ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. And Dolmabahçe Palace, a gorgeous building that is a real architectural wonder. When you aren’t starting up in awe at palaces and wandering through ancient halls, discover spices you have never heard of before, and get to know the corner simit seller, because those sesame seed covered pretzels are going to be your new favourite food during your holiday in Istanbul. If you are interested in the food scene, a food tour is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Walking tours and secret food tours are a fun way to get to know the food.
Shopping in Istanbul is good for travellers who like exploring streets markets and quirky little hidden stores selling strange and curious things. The shops in Istanbul are as eclectic as the rest of the city, and that’s is what makes it such an interesting way to spend a day or two. The Grand Bazaar is stuffed to the seams with gorgeous Turkish treasures like plush rugs, unusual jewellery, and colourful lamps. There are many other markets that are worth checking out, but be sure to visit the sublime Mısır Çarşısı for spices and Haci Bekir for real Turkish delights and other treats. The currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira. A typical meal at an inexpensive restaurant is about R80 and a meal at a decent restaurant in Istanbul is about R200, but there is great local fast food and street food in Istanbul, so you can eat cheaply too. A beer costs about R40 and an average bottle of wine is about R100. The istanbulkart is only about R15 unloaded. The cost of accommodation in Istanbul can range from R400 for a hostel to R1700+ for a boutique hotel.
The city has a good, reliable public transport system, so getting around Istanbul is easy. To get from the European side of the city to the Asian side, you can hop on a ferry. There are four main ferry stations on the European side: Beşiktaş, Kabataş, Karaköy, and Eminönü. The metro system is the best option for getting around Istanbul. There are lines connecting each of the major neighbourhoods. If you are travelling around late at night, a taxi is the best way to get around Istanbul. The istanbulkart is an all-round transportation boarding pass that you can use to get around Istanbul using the buses, metros, ferries, funiculars, and trams. You can buy one from the airport.
Spending a night or two in Istanbul is one of the best parts of the trip and you are spoiled for choice when it comes to where to stay in Istanbul. Swanky hotels in skyscrapers overlooking the glittering city. Luxurious boutique hotels and Bohemian bed and breakfasts in quaint buildings along cobbled streets. And hostels along old artsy streets. The accommodation in Turkey is an indulgence all on its own. Some of the best places to visit in Istanbul are:
• Grand Bazaar for families
• Galata for nightlife
• Arnavutköy for first timers
• Beyoglu if you are on a budget
• Karakoy stay somewhere trendy
Direct flights to Istanbul are available from Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban on Turkish Airlines. Connecting flights to Istanbul depart from all the major towns and cities in South Africa. Non-stop flights to Istanbul from Cape Town are about 11 hours, non-stop flights to Istanbul from Johannesburg are about 10 hours, and non-stop flights to Istanbul from Durban are about 12 hours and 30 minutes. Flights land at one of the two international airports in Istanbul: New Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European side of the city or Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) in Kurtkoy on the Asian side of the city. Major airlines operating flights to Istanbul are Turkish Airways, Qatar Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa.
Istanbul is a large city made up of districts, which are made up of neighbourhoods, which are home to some of the most beautiful streets in the world. Each of the streets in Istanbul have their own personality and secret spots that will lure you in with tasty treats or ornate Turkish trinkets. You can walk through one of the streets in Istanbul and experience a side of Turkey that is humble and traditional, while another is made up of trendy bars, art galleries, and cafes. Some of the most beautiful streets in Istanbul are Galip Dede Street in Karaköy, French Street in Beyoğlu, Merdivenli Yokuş in Balat, and Serdar-ı Ekrem Street in Galata.