East meets west in beautiful Istanbul

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East meets west in beautiful Istanbul

By Vivien D'Costa   |   Posted on March 12, 2015
Image Credits: weekendblitz.com, bezienswaardighedenistanbul.nl, Flickr-Kuzeytac, Flickr-sabientje48, Flickr-joeeisner
 
Istanbul
Air
2496 km
4 hr
Rail
Road
3199 km
30 hr
 
Fact File
Country: Turkey
City: Istanbul
Currency: Turkish Lira (TL) {some hotels and restaurants accept credit cards as well as Euros or Dollars}
Language: Turkish and English
Visas for Non-EU/Non-UK citizens: Variable from country to country. [Scroll down for eligibility]
Visas for EU/UK citizens: E-Visa
Emergency Number: Health Emergency/Ambulance: 112 ; Police: 155; Tourism Police: (0212) 5274503
Best time to visit: April – May or September - October
 

east-meets-west-in-beautiful-istanbul

Visa

Turkey’s visa requirements differ on the basis of the nationality of the tourist. For example: citizens of the UK and US can avail of three month multiple entry visas but citizens of Afghanistan and India who already have a Schengen or OECD visa can avail of a one month single entry visa provided they meet certain requirements. Learn about visa eligibility here, apply for an e-visa here. For information, you can always get in touch with Turkish representatives in your country.
 

Travel Information

There are several ways to travel from London to Istanbul, but any form of travel besides flight requires time. Travelling by rail, bus or road is possible but the journey itself could take as many as three days; that said, if you are looking to take a long road trip or have an “Eat, Pray, Love” style multi-country adventure, this would be one of the best ways to do it. Those who are keen on hassle-free travel should stick to taking a flight.
By Air:
Istanbul is served by two airports, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport which is on the Asian side of the city and Istanbul Atatürk Airport which is on the European side. You can get flights from Gatwick and Heathrow to either of these airports but flights to Sabiha Gökçen are considerably fewer than those to Ataturk. Both British Airways and Turkish Airlines promise non-stop flights that should take four hours or so, but flying Turkish Airlines falls much cheaper with ticket prices as low as £136.
By Train:
There are several ways to make the journey by train, you can explore different routes in thorough detail on WikiTravel and Seat61 and pick the journey that appeals to you the most. Remember that you will incur the cost of travelling through several countries and it might not be as economical as you think. Additionally if you plan to travel by road you must check your visa status in each country. UK Citizens do not need a visa for Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria.

Accommodation

Even just £25 - £30 can get you a comfortable living space if you’re looking in the right place. Start with Airbnb listings, as here you can easily find a place that’s both affordable and unique.

If you want a more luxurious experience you can always opt for a well-established hotel chain such as the Four SeasonsRitz-Carlton or the Shangri La. Such hotels offer an English speaking staff, tourist assistance and plenty of other luxe facilities. The downside of course is that you’ll be shelling out more than £300 a night.

For about £60 a night you can get a warm bed and breakfast at the Sub Hotel Karaköy with edgy industrial décor and that all important free-wifi. The location is great too, so you can sightsee to your heart’s content. Sub offers double and twin rooms only, so it’s best to stay here if you’re travelling with a companion or in a group. Breakfast includes local favourites like pastries, eggs, cheese and much more.

At the Djem boutique hotel room rates are around £50 per night for a double room including breakfast. They offer a free shuttle service if you make reservations in advance and pay cash. But if you’re really looking to stretch your pound notes, look no further than the Bunk Hostel at Beyoglu. They offer double rooms at around £26 and dorm beds for as little as £10 per night and that includes wi-fi, breakfast and access to a roof terrace and sunbathing deck among other benefits.

Aya Sofya [Hagia Sophia]
 

Sightseeing

  Istanbul is a history buff’s paradise and if you’re fond of architecture then you’ll      love this city. Its ancient mosques, unique churches and exotic bazaars will  delight travelers.

Start with the Süleymaniye Mosque located on one of the seven hills of Turkey. This is a landmark destination, built between 1550 and 1557 and is one of the grandest and most beautiful of the Ottoman mosques. The mosque complex includes other buildings like a hamam, soup kitchen, hospital etc. Get directions here. Remember to be respectful at religious sites.

The Aya Sofya [Hagia Sophia] is the next must-visit site in Istanbul. This building has had many lives, it was commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Justinian and consecrated as a church in 537, later in 1453 it was converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror and in 1935 it got a new lease as a museum. This building is uniquely situated as a site of aesthetic, historic and religious value.

The Topkapi Palace should also be on your must-see list for its stunning exterior and beautifully planned courtyards. Buy an extra ticket to visit the harem and check out interesting exhibits at the museum. The Chora Church might be a little out of your way, but is another site of historic and religious importance that will blow you away with its glittering mosaics and detailed frescoes.

The Blue MosqueBasilica Cistern and Istanbul Archaeological Museums also warrant a visit.
Shop for handmade artefacts and fun gifts like clothing, ceramics and jewellery for your friends back home at the historical Grand Bazaar. The popular Spice Bazaar also offers much to the incorrigible shoppers.

Interiors of Aya Sofya

Restaurants

Istanbul’s restaurant scene is well developed and you’ll never be bored by the local food. Eat in style at Mikla- a rooftop bar and restaurant where Scandinavian and Turkish cuisines collide. Meze by Lemon Tree is another high end pick serving up food that is refined and comforting at once.

Journey is a café style eatery where breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Come here for yummy pancakes, scones and toasties. Their lunch menu is filled with familiar favourites like pizzas and pastas.

Antica Locanda serves up delicious Italian food while Karaköy Güllüoglu is the right place to satisfy your sweet tooth.
 

A cafe just below Galata Tower 

Where to Party

11.11ArafOff Pera and Indigo are all memorable clubs in Beyo?lu with varied offerings from electro to indie.

Ortaköy also boasts a number of clubbing venues including Reina which is a glitzy and high
end place.

Iskele Street and Kadife Street in the Kadiköy district have several street pubs to catch your fancy if you’re looking to stay on the Asian side.

Hamam

An opportunity to experience a treatment at a Turkish bath is too good to pass up! Get some much needed info about the spa like treatment before you opt for it.

The Oruculer Hammam is supposed to be one of the cleanest in the city. If you are a first timer consider the Cagaloglu or the Galatasaray as these are very tourist friendly.


 TIP: When visiting a religious site, do take care to look up the dress code in advance to avoid the disappointment of being turned away once you arrive.
 
east-meets-west-in-beautiful-istanbul
Topkapi Palace




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