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Historically also known as Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul is one of the most populous city in Turkey. It is usually mistaken for the capital of Turkey because of being economically, culturally, and historically a big center of the country. Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities and ranks as the world's 7th largest city.

It is located right in at the interception of Europe and Asia. Basically it’s a transcontinental city which is straddling the Bosphorus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.

Even though the city is in a very strategic location which will allow you to arrive by sea, highway or railways usually the easiest way to arrive is by flying. Istanbul has two airports. Istanbul Ataturk Airport is the main largest airport which is located in European side of the city. Sabiha Gokcen is a smaller airport which is located at the Asian side of the city. Flights to Sabiha Gokcen Airport may be much cheaper but please keep in mind that most of the historical and cultural centers you would like to visit will be in European side and travelling from Sabiha Gokcen to Old City part of Istanbul may take up to 3-4 hours of drive with the famous traffic jam in Istanbul.

There are many Airlines operating in and out of Turkey. The following airlines can operate international flights aswell as domestic ones; Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Atlas Global, Sunexpress Airlines. Turkish Airlines usually offers direct flights from many countries. Stonepark Travel Agency would gladly arrange your flights suitable with your travel needs.

Istanbul has a mild climate which allows visitors to arrive to this beautiful city whenever they want. Turkey is blessed with 4 season and different climate changes. If you prefer to visit the country for cultural and historical purposes it will be best to visit the country in spring or fall. The weather will be mild; not very hot or not very cold. Summer time is ideal for sunbathing and seaside vacation purposes.  Istanbul will be best to visit in spring or fall. But can be visited in summer or winter time also.

Istanbul has a mild weather which is best at spring or autumn. As it’s surrounded by seas it has a humid climate which gets hot in summers and rainy in winters.

As one of the cultural and historical centers in Europe Istanbul offers many places to visit;

Hagia Sophia: Located at the very heart of Istanbul Old City, Hagia Sophia was a former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica (church) called as St. Sophia Church. Later it was turned into an imperial mosque, and for a long time now is open to visitors as a museum (Ayasofya Müzesi).

Blue Mosque: Originally known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Blue Mosque is mostly known as the Blue Mosque for its blue tiles. Even though it’s big attraction for visitors the mosque is still actively used for prayers.

If you’re a non-Muslim visitor it will be best to use the Hippodrome direction (West Side of the Mosque) to enter the mosque.

Topkapi Palace: Topkapı Palace was built upon a 700.000 squaremeters area on the old Byzantine acropolis, After Sultan Mehmed II, also known as the Mehmed the Conqueror; entered Istanbul city he ordered a new palace to be build. Topkapı Palace was started at the year 1460 and completed at 1478. From then the Topkapı Palace, was the administrative, educational and art center of the Empire for nearly four hundred years since Sultan Mehmed II, till Sultan Abdulmecid who was the thirty-first Sultan. 

Dolmabahce Palace: Located at the seaside in Besiktas district Dolmabahce Palace was build by the order of Sultan Abdulmecid who was the thirty-first Sultan. 

Basilica Cistern: As once it was laying underneath the Stoa Basilica this famous cistern is called the Basilica Cistern. It was commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532 using 336 columns. Basilica Cistern had the ability to store up to 80,000 cu metres of water delivered via 20km of aqueducts from a reservoir near the Black Sea, Renovated and opened again in 1987 this cistern is a big attraction center for every visitor.

Suleymaniye Mosque: As being the largest mosque in Istanbul, this Ottoman Imperial Mosque is one of the best-known sights of Istanbul. Suleymaniye Mosque was built by the order of Sultan Suleyman (aka Suleyman the Magnificent). It is also known because it’s the work of the architectural genius of Mimar Sinan". The construction began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557.

Chora Church: The Church od the Holy Saviour in Chora, is an extremely ancient Byzantine Greek Orthodox church which is open as a museum nowadays. It has been converted and used as a mosque in Ottoman era and became a museum in 1948.

Grand Bazaar: Meaning “Covered Market”, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the World. It has 61 covered streets and over 3000 shops.

Egyption (Spice) Bazaar: Mainly known as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is another large covered bazaar located in Eminonu-Fatih district. As you can understand from its name it’s famous because of the spice and herb shops located inside.

A city as lively as Istanbul offers many other attractions and entertainment too!

Bosphorus Cruise: Bosphorus has a 32 km long strait which offers a beautiful view of Istanbul. In 1,5 hours of Bosphorus Cruise you will be able to see many famous sightseeing places and buildings from the sea. Dolmabahçe Palace, Ciragan Palace, Yıldız Park & Palace, Ortaköy, the Bosphorus Bridge. Beylerbeyi Palace, Sarıyer are some of these places…

Bosphorus Dinner Cruise: One of the best ways to spend your evening would be to have dinner on a cruise which will allow you to see the 32 km long strait at night light and Turkish folk and belly dances accompaning your dinner.

Turkish Night Show: Istanbul is a lively city with many entertainment options. One of the best ways to have fun on an evening is to attend to a Turkish Nigth. This Show can either be  accompanied  by a delicious dinner with traditional Turkish food or only you can prefer only to watch the Show.

Most of the  museums and attraction centers are located in the Old City part of Istanbul. So it’s best to stay in Old City part of Istanbul like Sultanahmet, Beyazit, Fatih etc. Or you can choose to stay in Taksim-Sisli area which will be close to shopping and entertainment center in Istiklal Street and still close enough to sightseeing places also.

Istanbul is a very lively city with a lot of shopping centers. From small souvenirs to authentic carpets you can find many different things to buy. Especially Grand Bazaar offers you a large variety of souvenirs such as pashminas, evil eyes, silk vallets, Turkish style hats, nargile (hubble bubble), Turkish music instruments and CDs and much much more…

In Spice Market, as you can understand from its name, you can find thousands of different kinds of spices and herbs from all over the world.

you can also find many different spices and herbs.

Both Grand Bazaar and Spice Market is in walking distance from Sultanahmet and Beyazit. You can also find the most famous Turkish coffee, tea, apple tea and tulip shaped tea glass which will be calling your attention everywhere you go. Of course lets not forget the delicious Turkish Delights!

As hosted many different cultures through out the history Turkey has a very rich culture and cuisine. Turkish people enjoy meat very much and it’s a large part of our cuisine with famous kebabs but our cuisine is also very rich in vegetables and different kind of snacks so Vegetarians will also find a chance to benefit from our rich cuisine. Istanbul does contain many different cultures so you can find different dishes from all over the Turkey but doesn’t have a very special dish of its own.

While you’re in Istanbul don’t forget to taste the delicious “simit” which you won’t find anywhere else.

Ortakoy is the best place to taste the baked potatoes called “kumpir”. These giant potatoes are offered with endless combinations like butter, cheese, ham, corn, mayonnaise salad, peas and carrots etc.

“Doner” is originally coming from Bursa with its famous Bursa Iskender Kebab, but as Bursa is very close to Istanbul there are very good doner kebab places in Istanbul aswell. Doner sandwiches are cheap and tasty, don’t miss it!

Fish sandwiches known as “balık-ekmek” are mostly best to eat at Sariyer. As Istanbul is located in the middle of Marmara and Black Sea fish is a very important meal in Istanbul, especially in winter! But you can find “balık-ekmek” in Sarıyer at any time of the year.

“Lahmacun & Pide”, also known as the Turkish Pizza these tastes are usually coming from Central and Eastern Anatolia but can be found in Istanbul aswell. Usually Lahmacun can be found nearly at every corner but the best example can be tasted at Halil Lahmacun and Borsam Taş Fırın in Kadıköy and Fıstık Kebap in Arnavutköy.

“Midye Dolma” is more a snack more than a meal. It’s mussels on the half shell, mixed with spicy rice and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. Even though there are famous places like Sampiyon selling these it can also be found on a tray on every Street corner especially in Taksim and Kadıkoy.

Most of the touristic areas in Turkey will accept USD and EUR aswell as Turkish Liras. You can even exchange money at most of these places but make sure you ask the exchange rates and know the legal rates while travelling to Turkey.

If you will also visit non touristic places it will be best to carry some Turkish Liras with you as you may not always find an exchange center.

You can always use the banks or exchange offices to Exchange currencies but its best to use exchange offices as usually the banks give lower exchange rates. If you can’t find any exchange offices or banks around, you can always try goldsmiths. Try to exchange your currency in the week days or on Saturday as the goldsmiths and exchange offices may be closed on Sundays.

Local time
Turkey has the same time period through out the country. But we have summer time and winter time differences; GMT+3 hours (April-September) GMT+2 hours (October-March).

People & Language
Turkish people are usually very friendly and hospitable. And the nice part is, we have a good lot of people understanding and speaking English. Maybe not as much as to have a long conversation but at least as much as to be able to help you.

A Turkish Phrase book or Google tranlate will help you communicate with the people at non-touristic parts of Turkey but even though they don’t speak or understand English you will find a person eagerly ready to help you at every corner.

Giving tips in Turkey is customary at a rate of 10%-15% of the total. Especially for drivers and guides and establishments such as hotels and restaurants. 

220 volts AC/50 Hz. all over Turkey. (Industrial:380 V) Plug: European round/ 2-prong plug.

Metric System is used in all of Turkey

1 inch = 2.54 centimeters / 1 centimeter = 0.3937 inches
1 yard = 0,9144 meters /1 meter = 1.0936 yards
1 mile = 1,6093 kilometers / 1 kilometer = 0.6214 miles
1 pound = 0,4536 kilograms / 1 kilogram = 2.2046 pounds
1 acres = 0,4047 Hectares / 1 hectare = 2.471 acres
1 UK gallon = 4.546 liters /1 liter = 0.2199 UK gallons
1 US gallon = 3.7831 liters / 1 liter = 0.2643 US gallons

Things to be Careful About
Istanbul is mainly famous with its mosques but in many of the antique mosques the prayers continue (for ex. Blue Mosque). Being respectful to the dress codes in Islamic places will allow you to wonder around much more freely. The best way to respect the mosque and the ones pray there,  will be to cover your head and wear long sleeves. This is only inside the mosque outside you can dress as you please. But being modest will always give you the freedom to stroll freely.

In some museums, it is allowed to take photos without flash but it is forbidden to take photos of the military bases.

Taking photos of the local people is generally fine but in some countryside some people can be conservative. If you are in an area like that, it’s better to ask their permission before taking the photo. Even if they don’t understand your language they will understand your gestures. As most of the local people are very friendly, they also may come to you to take a photo with you.

As much as Turkish people are friendly and good willed, like in many countries we may have ill-minded people also. Don’t believe everybody or go places with them without searching or asking someone you would trust (your hotel or your travel agency for instance)

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