The Ultimate Guide to Istanbul

Travel Advisor Diana Popal in a pink floral dress with trees and water in the background.
Curated By

Diana Popal

Icon Share


  • Istanbul

  • Türkiye

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Group Travel

  • Luxury Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Sightseeing

  • Historical

large tower next to body of water with a colorful sunset
Curator’s statement

Istanbul is one of the most amazing cities I've been to in this world. There is so much culture to explore and embrace; from the food to the people to the sights to see. It is a city with a rich history and culture, and there are many things that make it a special and unique destination. Istanbul is home to many historical landmarks that reflect its long and diverse history. Some of the most famous landmarks include the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Galata Tower. Istanbul is located on the Bosphorus Strait, which is a narrow waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. The strait provides a stunning backdrop to the city and is a hub of maritime activity.

The Fora Difference

Book with Diana to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.

[object Object]
Killer perks

Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you

[object Object]
Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

[object Object]
Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in Istanbul

Previous slide

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul

This gleaming modern tower hotel is in a prime location beside the Bosphorus.

Fora Perks
  • Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability

  • Daily buffet breakfast for two guests per bedroom in restaurant

  • $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit utilized during stay

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At The Bosphorus

Storied accommodation with a Turkish soul featuring a traditional hammam, tea ceremonies and local cuisine in union with the excellence of the Four Season name.

Fora Perks
  • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

AC Hotel by Marriott Istanbul Macka

Located in a contemporary building in Istanbul's luxe Akaretler neighborhood, AC Hotel boasts modern rooms just steps from cafes and galleries.

Next slide
Travel Advisor Diana Popal in a pink floral dress with trees and water in the background.

Unlock perks by contacting Diana to book your trip.

Things to do in Istanbul

large brown building next to green lawn with blue skies

July is PRIME season in Istanbul. We have listed some of the main attractions within Istanbul. It may be wise to pre-pay for admission to some of these sites to save time in long lines.

  • Hagia Sophia (admission fee required).

  • Topkapi Palace (admission fee required).

  • Grand Bazaar (free admission).

  • Dolmabahçe Palace (free admission).

  • Galata Tower (If you want to go up to the top of the tower, an admission fee is required. There are many small shops and small cafes around the Galata Tower that are worth visiting).

  • Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque) (free admission).

  • Ibrahim Pasa Palace (Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum).

  • Basilica Cistern.

  • Istanbul Archaeology Museums.

  • Egyptian Spice Bazaar (free admission).

A note from Diana

Where to Exchange Currency:

Turkey’s unit of currency is the Turkish Lira (TL). You can exchange currency at popular tourist areas like Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar, around Taksim Square and Istiklal Cadessi, etc. Rates are said to be best at the Grand Bazaar and Sultanahmet but the differences may be insignificant. You won’t get the best rates at the airports so if you need to exchange currency to get into the city, then you should only change a small amount.

Another option is to withdraw TL from an ATM. It’s quicker than exchanging paper currency and the rates are comparable, some say even better. Just be sure to contact your bank before your trip as they may have to activate it for overseas use. I didn’t have any problems anywhere in Turkey.

NOTE: Some ATM machines may ask if you want to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion so your local bank does the conversion for you. Proceeding “with conversion” authorizes the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion, usually at very poor rates.

Places to eat & drink in Istanbul

colorful umbrellas over an alley with tables and chairs

Here are some great Istanbul restaurant recommendations:

  • Durumzade - Best Turkish döners! You may have heard of it from the world-famous, Anthony Bourdain. It is 100% worth it!

  • Van Kahvalti Evi (Turkish Breakfast).

  • Fuego Restaurant & Café (Lunch).

  • Guney Restaurant (Lunch or Dinner) - This place is right next to the Galata Tower.

  • Ciragan Palace Café - incredible views (Tea, Lunch, and/or cocktails).

  • CZN Burak (Burak will likely be at the Etlier location.

  • ULUS 29 - DInner.

  • Cesme vazlama kahvalti - Nisantasi.

Need to Know

There are many means of transport:

  • Private car - ideal and very affordable. I have many vendors I've worked with in the past.

  • Uber - I recommend using Uber to get from the airport to the hotel only. Uber is now run by taxis in Istanbul so you can get one with the Uber app.

  • Taxi (convenient for all other local attractions).

  • Bus.

In my experience, private car and Uber are the most sensible ways of getting from one point to the other. Upon arriving in Turkey from the airport, I would recommend using a Private Transport Car

Note: In order to enter the country of Turkey upon arrival, you must have a Turkish Travel Visa. They will not allow you to go through customs without a Turkish Visa. This process is very easy!

Travel Advisor Diana Popal in a pink floral dress with trees and water in the background.

Travel Advisor

Diana Popal

Get in touch with Diana

Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.

You can normally expect a response from Diana within a business day or so. You’ll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Türkiye.