Istanbul, Turkey truly IS what you would expect it to be and more!
This city does not disappoint the discerning traveler. Especially when you hear the call to Mecca over loud speakers as it gently echoes throughout the city; or as you inhale the delicious scents at the spice market and so on.
A quick Istanbul City Overview:
Istanbul’s uniqueness from other cities is vast, but what stands out is the fact that it is the only city in the world to be spread over two continents, Asia and Europe. Both sides of Istanbul are separated/split in half by water known as The Bosphorus Straight.
Ferries are plentiful in Istanbul, and need to be- it’s home to almost 15 million people!
If you are lucky enough to have Istanbul as a port of call on an upcoming Mediterranean Cruise or a Black Sea Cruise (as we did with Crystal Cruises recently… check out our Crystal review here) you will be docked close to the Galata Bridge (more on this below), and a short distance from Old Town Istanbul where you will spend much of your time exploring.
“What Not To Miss In Istanbul”:
Blue Mosque. This Mosque is famously known in Istanbul. But it’s not till you see it for the first time, in the flesh, that you understand why. She is an architectural beauty! The exterior is not colored, but it is the blue ceramic tiles that fill the interior that make her known as the Blue Mosque. It’s FREE to enter although both men and woman will need covered knees and shoulders to enter.
Grand Bazaar Built in 1461, it has approximately 4,000 shops, covering 60 streets. It’s one of the largest covered shopping markets in the world. You will find quality textiles, carpets, Turkish ceramics, fashion wear, jewelry and more.
Spice Market is 350 years old and has fragrant scents and colorful spices, nuts, teas, dried fruits and more. Don’t miss a stroll through when in Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia (pronounced “hi-ya sophia”) was an Istanbul community Cathedral, then a Mosque and now a Museum. It was built in the 6th Century and is famous for its impressive size, incredible architecture, beautiful mosaics and frescoes. Cost 20TL (approximately $10) to enter.
Topkapi Palace is one of the top museums in Istanbul. It was built by “Mehmet the Conqueror” as the Sultan’s Palace and Royal residence. See how Istanbul royalty lived, the famous Harem plus one of the greatest 16th century collections of treasure in the world. Cost: 20TL (approximately $10) to visit.
Underground Cistern is a unique spot to visit. It is an underground water storage constructed using columns from ruined Istanbul buildings. It is quite mystical to walk through & nice place to cool down in when in Istanbul. 10TL (approx $5) to visit.
Galata Bridge is close to where you will dock & it’s a walkable bridge offering great views of Old Town Istanbul. It spans the Golden Horn which divides Old Town (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) & New Town Istanbul and has restaurants and shops underneath to explore… very unique!
Day Cruise the Bosphorus Straight which takes you up through the Bosphorus Straight which cuts through Istanbul and gives you some of the best views of Istanbul. If you’re doing a Black Sea Cruise like we did though (see our review here) this will be part of your sailing.
BEST 8 Istanbul, Turkey Tips
Now that you have a good overview of what not to miss in Istanbul Turkey, here are some tips to make you a smarter tourist while on vacation in this diverse city:
- Most shops will take Euros, just be sure to know currency exchange rates (so you’ll know the actual costs of items) before you start shopping as most items will be Turkish Lira or TL for short. NOTE: But to visit the Istanbul Underground Cistern, if it interests you (we liked it), they only take Lira.
- Browsing through the Grand Bizarre and Spice Market is “a must” when visiting Istanbul, BUT if you want to get the best price on an item, you may want to make your purchases outside these venue walls…Wink. Wink…. just sayin’ 🙂
- Need a washroom break? Touristy Istanbul places will charge and frequently will be a hole in the floor, but McDonald’s, Burger King and Hotels will be free and clean and more what you’re used to back home.
- Washrooms at the fast food chains in Istanbul are found usually on the very top floor, meaning you will have to go up a few flights of stairs to reach them. So if you have walking issues, it may be best to find a hotel.
- Banks in Istanbul Turkey do NOT change money from one currency to another (weird right?) but you will find many exchange stores around the city and the exchange (at the time of writing) is reasonable. Hotels will exchange for you, but it will cost you more.
- Wear sturdy walking shoes in Istanbul as cobblestone and uneven roads and walkways are common here.
- It is generally HOT on sunny days in Istanbul, so prepare well for this (have plenty sunscreen & water on hand). But the evenings are SO pleasant and comfortable to walk about in Istanbul and to enjoy dinner too; so don’t forget to get out in the evenings to enjoy some sightseeing as well. The darkness gives the landscaping a new perspective.
- Purchase and wear a money belt for your own peace of mind. While crime is low in Istanbul, pick-pocketing is not. A money belt (that goes inside your pants), for us, was one of the best purchases for our trip to Europe plus the small bag we carried at the front of our body with less valuable items gave us more control. Carrying a “back”pack or big purse makes you a target for theft. **Practicing safe travel practices is wise and prevents unnecessary drama and disappointment while on vacation.**
So, now that you are armed with great Istanbul travel tips and have new knowledge about the area and what to see in Istanbul, it may be time start planning your cruise to this area. Simply Contact Shawn as he’ll be Happy to share more of our experience with you and will help you get that perfect Cruises Vacation planned & booked.
Check out our pictures & videos of our “Black Sea” Cruise we did that sailed through the “Bosphorus Straight” that cuts right through Istanbul- the views were incredible! And, don’t miss reading our “Black Sea Cruise Port Review” blog, it’s all about what we experienced before we made our way back to Istanbul for 3 days.
We appreciate you!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!