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Tourism in Istanbul: The Bridge Between East and West

Istanbul is a charming city full of historical sites complete with warm, friendly locals. It is so rich in history, its former names ⁠—Byzantium and Constantinople⁠—  may take you back to history class. Tourism in Istanbul can likely owe its steady flow to the architectural masterpieces, including remnants of both these empires, that still stand tall in the heart of the city.

The Bosphorus river runs through the heart of the city. This river not only divides Turkey but also runs along Europe and Asia’s continental border.

The strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. It is also the world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation.

While you are planning your trip to Istanbul, make sure to verify whether you are required to carry a Turkey e-Visa in order to enter the country.

What is Istanbul Famous For?

This magical meeting place of East and West boasts sightseeing that will even impress the most monument-weary visitor.

One of the world’s greatest cities, Istanbul has been coveted by empires throughout centuries. After serving as the Byzantine Empire’s great capital of Constantinople and after the Ottoman conquest of the city, it was officially renamed Istanbul after the founding of the Turkish Republic.

After successfully standing the test of time, Istanbul is still abundantly scattered with glorious remnants of its long and illustrious history such as Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar.

Make sure to leave sufficient time after visiting the 4 places mentioned above, to also see other interesting locations scattered throughout the farther reaches of the city.

And speaking of making the most of your time in Turkey… Visitors wishing to avoid long queues upon their arrival tend to prefer the convenience of getting a Turkey Tourist Visa before their departure so they can get to the fun part of their trip as soon as they arrive. Nevertheless, Turkey also offers eligible passport holders the option to wait in line at the airport in order to get a Turkish visa on arrival.

Worthwhile Tourist Attractions in Istanbul

Istanbul strikes a seemingly perfect balance between the timeless charm of its historical sites, and the much more modern feel of its skyscrapers, and malls. There are countless cool spots to discover in and around the city as well as places that offer breathtaking views of the city and the Strait.

Here are some ideas on what sites to visit when in Istanbul:

  • Archaeology Museum
  • Basilica Cistern
  • Beylerbeyi Palace
  • Blue Mosque
  • Camlica Hill
  • Dolmabahce Palace
  • Galata Tower
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
  • Istanbul Archaeological Museum
  • Kadikoy
  • Kariye Museum (Chora Church)
  • Pera Museum
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Turkish Islamic Arts Museum

What to Do in Istanbul?

If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, you may be wondering about things to do and see in Istanbul. Although there are countless options, here are a few often overlooked hidden gems to whet your appetite:

  • Attend the Whirling Dervishes Dance worship service.
  • Take a scenic cruise down the Bosphorus river.
  • Visit Bebek and Ortaköy villages.
  • Enjoy Istanbul’s bustling nightlife.
  • Visit local markets.
  • Get scrubbed in a Hammam.

How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Istanbul?

The number of days you need in Istanbul will differ depending on your interests. If you would like to visit most of its mosques and churches then you will likely require 5 to 7 days in the city. If you just want to see a few historical and cultural sites in Istanbul, then you can get by with 2 to 3 days in the city.

Another aspect that will determine the amount of time you need to see Istanbul is the kind of rhythm you enjoy most during your travels. Take a moment to ponder the following questions:

  • Are you the kind of traveler that wants to rush to see absolutely everything a city has to offer in as little time as possible?
  • Or, would you rather savor the city calmly, get some rest, and go off the beaten path?

Another option to consider while planning your trip to Istanbul is taking little day trips by bus to surrounding cities. Edirne, the beautiful second capital of the Ottoman empire is only a 2 and a half hour bus ride away, on the border of Greece and Bulgaria. Another worthwhile day trip around Istanbul could be visiting Gallipoli, also a 2 and a half hour bus ride away.

Is Istanbul Safe?

Turkey has been deemed a generally safe country as it starts to rebuild its tourism sector after a number of prior warnings on visiting Turkey have been lifted.

Nevertheless, it is common sense to be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places, as you would while visiting other locations.

In general, most of Turkey, including Ankara and Istanbul, are considered safe for travel, with the exception of a few regions.

Visitors to the major tourist attractions of Istanbul should also avoid wearing valuable jewelry, and look out for street robbery and pick-pocketing, which tend to be common in the area.

Should you come across police checkpoints on main roads, please be advised not to attempt to take photographs or record videos of any sensitive military facilities. Security measures may apply to flights departing from Turkey to Europe, so travelers are advised to cooperate with security officials.

Tourists must also be aware that they are likely to face arrest should they insult the Turkish nation or deface the national flag or currency. These offences are gravely punished with prison sentences of between 6 months and 3 years.

Although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, some parts of Turkey remain socially conservative. It is for this reason that foreign nationals visiting Istanbul, or any other region in Turkey, are advised to avoid public displays of affection, since they may lead to unwelcome attention or offend the locals.

Whether Istanbul has long been on your bucket list, or you’ve just decided to go to Turkey on vacation, remember that you may be eligible to apply for a visa online, from the comfort of your home or office. Fortunately, the Turkey e-Visa application is quick and easy, and is approved in most cases within an average of 24 hours.