The uniqueness of your Istanbul tour will show you various features of this amazing city. The biggest attraction points for travelers coming to this megalopolis all the time are its geographic position, historical significance, and architectural diversity.
Istanbul is the only city in the world that spreads across two continents (Europe and Asia). The city accesses two seas (Black and Marmara) and has a strait inside (Bosphorus)… Today, there are three intercontinental bridges connecting Europe and Asia. In addition, there are several additional historical bridges, such as the one at the Golden Horn Bay, that you could visit as well.
Moreover, Istanbul is located in an area where numerous clashes throughout history have occurred. Here, various effects of these clashes have left unique imprints on its architecture, local folklore, and the way of living.
The Touristic Areas
The city’s European part is the most attractive side for the tourists. This is because of the fact that the main historical and commercial areas are located on this side of Istanbul. You can see the best examples of the great unity of religions, cultures, and habits throughout history in Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula. These examples originate from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras.
The Historical Peninsula
The Historical Peninsula itself can be segmented into a few major areas. Archaeological Park, the Suleymaniye Quarter, and the Zeyrek area.
You can easily explore the Historical Peninsula on foot, or with the help of occasional tram rides. And this area is where you’ll find the most convenient accommodation. You can take it either according to proximity to the city’s main landmarks or your budget.
The Major Sites
Archaeological Park has buildings from the oldest times of Byzantium. The major sites of this section of the city are:
- Hagia Sophia, former Christian temple and Ottoman mosque, and present museum.
- Blue Mosque, across the square from the Hagia Sophia, a masterpiece of the Ottoman Imperial architecture.
- Topkapi Palace, from where the Ottoman sultans ruled 350 years, now a museum where the opulence of the once-mighty empire is emphasized.
The Suleymaniye quarter, centered on the Suleymaniye Mosque and Grand Bazaar, is where the best shopping in Istanbul can be experienced. Train your bargain capabilities for the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. The Suleymaniye Mosque was designed by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan and is one of the major landmarks in Istanbul.
Visiting the Zeyrek area in your Istanbul tour
The Zeyrek area is generally a poor neighborhood, with several quite worthy sites to see. Some of these are the Zeyrek Mosque (former Pantocrator Church) and the remains of the former Byzantine Blachernae Palace.
Defensive walls had protected the city throughout the centuries. These walls were penetrated only twice in history. It should be a special delicacy for the history buffs. The Yedikule Fortress, which oversees the Marmara Sea, is somewhat away from the main tourist areas. But it is well worth the visit. The fortress represented the southern stronghold of Constantinople’s defensive system.
In the Historical Peninsula, you can see various authentic structures. Balat and Fener districts are the best neighborhoods for that. The best views on the Historical Peninsula and the Golden Horn are at the Pierre Loti Café, which is in the Eyup district.
Receiving Help From Tourist Information Centers
There’s a number of Tourist Information Centers throughout Istanbul. The best ones for tourists are those in the vicinity of the Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia Museum.
The Historical Peninsula is by far the best neighborhood for the tourist population. However, other parts of the city are also amazing if you have enough time, or if you are attracted to authenticity. For example, Galata is an excellent example, located on the other side of the Golden Horn. Here, there are a lot of attractive shops and nightlife facilities. If you aren’t used to waking up too early, try to avoid accommodation places close to the mosques. Because the calls for an early prayer can be frustrating to those, who are unaccustomed.
Using public transportation in your Istanbul tour
The public transportation system in Istanbul can be somewhat confusing to the newcomers. An especially popular way of transport is using a kind of minibus called dolmus. These minibusses operate even during the night when public transportation doesn’t. Fares are between 2 and 10 Turkish Liras, depending on the final destination.
You can easily recognize Minibuses, featuring yellow and white color and distinctive markings on themselves. For crossing from the European to the Asian side, the most convenient crossing will be by boat. If you wish to save money, try avoiding the usage of taxis, if you don’t have to. Because some of them apply different tariffs for tourists. The locals also do not welcome this behavior, but unfortunately, some of the taxis do it.
The Magnificent Bosphorus and Istanbul Tour
An unavoidable part of any Istanbul experience is the Bosphorus cruise tour. Certain companies organize cruise tours and differ both regarding the pricing and duration of the cruise. Along the cruise, you’ll have an opportunity to see numerous sites. In other words, you will be able to see the amazing places named Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace, the Fortress of Anatolia, and Naval Academy.
The best months to visit Istanbul are May and September. During these months, high precipitation levels of winter and the heat and humidity of summer will be away. The winter tends to be somewhat colder due to frequent and strong gusts, with a small chance of freezing.
High tourist seasons in Istanbul are from April to mid-June and from mid-September throughout October, when the prices are at their peak. At this time, people will book the hotels, and lines for museums and other tourist attractions will be in their longest times.
Summer is less crowded and the prices are more acceptable. The biggest benefits of the winter period, in general, are the opportunity to book the accommodation unit that suits you best without pressure, the lowest prices, and admissions to top sites without a waste of time.
Safety during your Istanbul tour
Despite its huge population (around 18 million inhabitants), Istanbul is a surprisingly safe city for tourists. Additionally, the local people will be committed to helping tourists to find their way or with any other issues. But, like in all other major tourist centers and destinations, you should be aware of scammers.
In addition, there’s nothing you should prepare yourselves in advance for, just take basic precautions (have tight control of your wallets, jewelry, and other valuables). And use common sense (don’t accept imposed “free” favors and various invites from strangers, and be sure which banknotes you handed to pay, especially in taxis). According to that, there shouldn’t be any problems.