City of Istanbul (İstanbul)

The city of Istanbul is included to the region İstanbul

Presentation of the destination

Introduction to Istanbul

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city with a population of 14,160,467.  The city was first founded in the year 660 BC and at that time went by the name of Byzantium.  Later the name changed to Constantinople in 330 AD and the city has been the capital of four different empires throughout its history: the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.  Istanbul straddles two continents- Europe and Asia.  Summer temperature highs in Istanbul reach 40°C (104°F) and lows in the winter drop to between 10°C and 12°C (50°F and 54°F).  Istanbul is in the time zone UTC +2 except for during Daylight Savings Time in the summer months when it is UTC +3.  The official language in Turkey is Turkish.  About 70% of the population are ethnic Turks, 18% ethnic Kurds and the rest of the population is other.  The currency used is the Turkish lira.

Points of interests / things to see

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has served various functions over the years.  It was built as a basilica for the Greek Orthodox religion in 537 and served as a cathedral until 1453.  It was later used as an imperial mosque during the years 1453 to 1931 and today it is a museum that opened in 1935.  The complete name of the Hagia Sophia translates as “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God.”  The architecture of the building was very influential on later structures in the area and it is a great example of traditional Byzantine architecture.  The Hagia Sophia heavily influenced later architectural styles in the Byzantine Empire.  For about 1,000 years, until 1520, it was the largest cathedral in the world until the cathedral in Seville, Spain was completed.  In 1453 the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II conquered the city and converted the cathedral into a mosque.  Many of the religious relics were removed and some of the Christian mosaics were either removed or covered up.  Islamic features, such as four minarets, were added to the building.  The Ottomans had been too impressed with the building to destroy it and instead just converted it for their own use.  The museum in the Hagia Sophia today includes various temporary exhibits. Address: Ayasofya Meydanı, Sultanahmet Fatih, Turkey Website: Phone number: +90 (212) 522 17 50 Opening hours: Every day except for Mondays.  Hours April 15- October 1 9:00-19:00; Hours October 1- April 15 9:00-17:00 Entrance fees: 30 TL

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly referred to as the Blue Mosque, is a mosque in Istanbul that was built from 1609 to 1616.  It received the name Blue Mosque because the tiles on the walls of the inside are blue.  It was built during the reign of Ahmed I and today is still used as a mosque.  The architectural style is a mix of Ottoman style and techniques incorporating some influence from the nearby Hagia Sophia.  The mosque consists of one main dome with eight lesser domes and a total of six minarets.  The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, was aiming for a mosque that had overwhelming splendor and size.  It was built by Sultan Ahmed I as a way to appease Allah.  The Ottomans had recently lost a war with Persia and the construction of the mosque was an attempt to calm Allah.  The site that was chosen for the mosque already had palaces standing on it and the Sultan first had to buy the palaces and then tear them down.  Women must cover their heads before entering (coverings are provided for free at the entrance) and everyone must remove their shoes before they go in.  The mosque closes to visitors for 90 minutes at each prayer time (5 times throughout the day) so visitors should avoid prayer times.  First prayer is at sunrise, last prayer at dusk. Address: Sultanahmet Cami, 34122 Sultanahmet, Fatih, İstanbul Phone number: +90 212 518 13 19 Entrance fees: Free

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is a palace in Istanbul that was used as the primary place of residence for the Ottoman Sultans during the years 1465-1856.  The palace was also used as a place for state events and other royal functions.  Today Topkapi Palace contains many important relics from Islam including the relics of the Prophet Mohammed’s sword and cloak.  The palace is built on a hill and from various places in the palace there are views out onto the Bosphorus.  During the peak time of the palace’s use, 4,000 people lived there.  The palace contained many different buildings including mosques, a hospital, a mint for making money as well as bakeries.  Starting in the 17th century, Topkapi Palace began to see a decline in use as other sultans preferred to use other palaces that had been built along the Bosphorus instead.  In 1924 the palace was decreed to be a museum of the imperial era.  Only some of the hundreds of different rooms in the palace are open to visitors today.  Many different artifacts are on display throughout the premises including weapons and armor, murals, treasures, jewelry, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts, porcelain and much more.  Email address: Phone number: (0212) 512 04 80 Opening hours: Open every day except for Tuesdays.  On the first days of religious festivals, it is closed in the morning.  April 15-November 1 open 9:00-18:45; November 1-April 15 open 9:00-16:45. Entrance fees: Museum 30 TL, Harem (must purchase an additional ticket) 15 TL

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is the biggest of many cisterns that were built in Istanbul.  A cistern is used to catch and store rainwater and is made with waterproof lining to be able to hold the water for a long time.  The Basilica Cistern is located near to the Hagia Sophia and was built during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century.  The cistern was originally built beneath a basilica, the Stoa Basilica and from there it got its name.  According to historical texts from the time of the cistern’s construction, 7,000 slaves were used to build the structure.  The cistern provided water for the Great Palace and other surrounding buildings.  It also was the water source for Topkapi palace from 1453 to modern times.  The cistern is held up by a total of 336 marble columns each measuring 9m (30ft) in height.  Some of the columns include carvings and many appear to have been reused after taking them from the ruins of other buildings throughout the empire and are made of different types of granite and marble and in different styles.  The cistern measures 9,800 square meters (105,000 square feet) and can hold a volume of water of 80,000 cubic meters (2,800,000 cubic feet). Email address: Phone number: 0212 522 12 59 Opening hours: 9:00-18:30 Entrance fees: 10 TL

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the entire world.  There are a total of 61 covered streets and more than 3,000 shops.  An estimated 250,000 to 400,000 visitors go to the Grand Bazaar every day.   The structure that houses the bazaar was started in 1455-56 soon after the Ottomans had conquered Constantinople.  The Ottoman leader, Sultan Mehmet II ordered constructed a building that would be devoted to trading different textiles.  The bazaar was completed a few years later in 1460-61.  Later another market was opened in the area and everything between the two bazaars became devoted to commerce.  The final shape and design of the Grand Bazaar was established in the beginning of the 17th century.  Istanbul enjoyed a key place for trade between Europe and Asia and the Bazaar became the center of Mediterranean trade.   According to the testimonies of European travelers who visited Istanbul throughout the years, there was no market in Europe that could compete with the Grand Bazaar in terms of the variety and quality of good available until the beginning of the 19th century.  Visitors today can continue to find a wide variety of goods at the Bazaar and can bargain and shop around to find the best price for whatever they are interested in. Opening hours: Monday through Saturday 9:00-19:00

Süleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque is a mosque found in Istanbul that was an Ottoman imperial mosque.  Today it is the largest mosque in Istanbul.  It is smaller than the Hagia Sophia but since the Hagia Sophia no longer functions as a mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque can claim the title of largest in the city.  The mosque was built between the years 1550 and 1558 during the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.  It was designed by the architect Mimar Sinan and combined both Islamic and Byzantine features.  It also has a large dome inspired by the one at the Hagia Sofia and multiple minarets.  The mosque has suffered damages over the years but was fully restored in 1956.  Various sultans and their family members are buried in mausoleums behind the main mosque.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums

The Istanbul Archaeology Museums is a complex of three archaeological museums in Istanbul.  The three museums are titled: the Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and Museum of Islamic Art.  In total, the three buildings contain more than one million objects that cover almost all periods of human civilization all over the world.  The idea for starting an imperial museum began in the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire as way to modernize the empire.  The first museum was founded in 1891 in the gardens of the Topkapi Palace and the collection started to grow quickly.  The museums contain many treasures including the Alexander Sarcophagus which is believed to have been designed for Alexander the Great, and the Kadesh Peace Treaty which was a treaty signed in 1258 BC between Egypt and the Hittite Empire and is the oldest known peace treaty in the world. Opening hours: 9:00-19:00.  Closed Mondays. Entrance fees: 10 TL

Chora Church

The Chora Church (full name Church of the Holy Savior in Chora) is a fantastic example of a traditional Byzantine church and is found in the Istanbul neighborhood of Edirnekapi.  Later when the Ottomans conquered the city, they converted the church into a mosque.  Then, in 1948, it was opened as a museum.  The inside of the church boasts many beautiful frescoes and mosaics.  The name Chora refers to the fact that the church outside of the walls and in the “country” or “fields.”  The church was built to be part of a larger monastery complex just outside Constantinople’s walls.  The very first church to stand on the site was built in the 5th century but the current church was built between the years 1077-1081. Website: Opening hours: April-October 9:00-19:00, November-March 9:00-17:00.  Closed on Wednesdays. Entrance fee: 15 TL

Golden Horn

The Golden Horn refers to an urban waterway that is part of the Bosphorus in Istanbul.  It is an estuary that is in the shape of a horn, from which it got its name.  It is at the point where the Bosphorus Strait meets the Marmara Sea.  The Golden Horn divides the historic center of Istanbul from the other parts of the city.  The harbor has provided natural protection to ships in the area for thousands of years.  The “horn” part of the name comes from the shape of the estuary, but it is not completely certain why it is termed “golden.”  There are two possible theories, in that it refers to all the riches that were brought into the city through trade or that when the sun sets, the yellow light hits the water and that is why it was dubbed “golden.”

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Time in istanbul

Local time

Local time and timezone in istanbul

Istanbul time
UTC +3:00 (Europe/Istanbul)
Summer time UTC +2:00
Winter time UTC +3:00


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Surrounding towns

  • Üsküdar ~5 km
  • Maslak Mahallesi ~12 km
  • Fatih ~4 km
  • Mimarsinan Mahallesi ~17 km
  • Sirkeci ~1 km
  • Alibeykoy ~9 km
  • Heybeliada Mahallesi ~18 km
  • Adalar ~20 km
  • Kınalıada Mahallesi ~13 km
  • Umraniye ~11 km

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How to get there ?


Citizens of most countries will need a visa to enter Turkey, which can be purchased at border entry points.  However, the price varies depending on the visitor’s home country.  The two main airports in the country are in Istanbul (Atatürk International Airport: and Ankara (Esenboğa Airport:  Train is another option for getting into the country with routes running from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Iran.  There are also options for busing into the country from the same countries with train routes into Turkey. Once in the country, the transportation system within Turkey is quite good- affordable and efficient.  Modern buses run between many cities at many different times throughout the day and offer reasonable prices.  Buses are well maintained and often offer snacks and tea on the route.  Some of the companies with the most route options are: Boss Turizm (, Kamil Koç (, Ulusoy ( and Varan (  Trains are convenient only on major routes and are run through Turkish State Railways (  Many of the lines are outdated and the government is working on modernizing the whole system but as of now, only major cities are connected by rail. Domestic flights are another option for getting around the country.  There is strong competition between many of the domestic airline companies which helps keep prices quite reasonable. Renting a car is another option for seeing Turkey.  The principal roads are in good condition and well-marked.  The roads along the Aegean Coast as well as along the Mediterranean Coast are in very good condition as these are the most common tourist routes.  A rental car also gives the driver flexibility with their schedule but the downside of driving in Turkey is that they have one of the highest rates of motor vehicle accidents. To explore Istanbul, visitors can use ferries to cross the Bosphorus to go to either the Asian or European sides of the city as well as just to enjoy the views of the city from the water. Istanbul has a metro/light rail system that travels to most of the major tourist destinations in the city as well as the airport.  Many of the major attractions (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Basilica Cistern) are within walking distance of each other.

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Hotels in Istanbul (İstanbul)