Nova Roma, Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul – this city's got more names than Liz Taylor and more treasures than El Dorado. A legendary capital of two of the world's greatest empires, built on seven hills and spanning two continents, Istanbul is rich in history but with rapidly developing mod food and art scenes, plus that pretty situ on the glittering Bosphorus. Can you say Turkish delight?
Think of the glittering Bosphorus, Golden Horn and Sea of Marmara dividing Istanbul into an upside down ‘Y’. The top two segments are the European side; to the left is ancient Sultanahmet stacked with treasures; on the right are Beyŏglu, Taksim and Ni̧santa̧si with all their shopping and entertainment. The bottom segment is the residential but on-the-up Asian side.
Need to Know
- Weather: Summer season (and the best time to visit) is May-Oct, winter gets cold and snowy and many seasonal places move premises or close altogether. Check dates ahead to avoid Ramadan (date varies, currently around Aug/Sep) if you can, as the city fasts until sundown
- Visas: Can be obtained on arrival (EU exempt) – pay in US$ or euro, cash
- Transport: Taxis are cheap, plentiful and most drivers speak English, just make sure they put the meter on! There are two rates: ‘gündüz’ – day, and ‘gece’ – night (midnight-6am) which costs double; beware of rip-off cabs in Sultanahmet who often attempt to switch the rates
- Traffic: Can be heinous, even outside of rush hours. Always allow extra time for any journey
- Dress Code: Istanbul is very liberal, but modest dress, including head coverings for women, is required when visiting mosques
- Getting Around: Caddesi (Cad.) = road, Sokak (Sok.) = street
In the Know
- Talk of the Town: is Kadikoy the new Karakoy? The Asian side hip hood has a heap of cool cafes but the evening options aren’t quite as good...yet
- Get High: The view from Galata Tower is grand but better still is that from nearby Mikla rooftop bar
- Do: Cross the Bos. Staying on the Euro side only gives you one angle on this multi-faceted city
- Don’t: Bring your croc Birkin to the Grand Bazaar. It will render your attempts at bargaining quite superfluous, obviously
- Don’t: Eat out beneath the Galata Bridge. Make like the locals and grab a fish sandwich from the Balık Ekmek stall by Karaköy Pier instead