Insider tips for Istanbul

How to navigate taxicabs, ticket lines, and bazaars... and to enjoy the four-footed visitors to your cafe table.

Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Soon after conquering Constantinople and defeating the Byzantines in 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II commissioned the beginnings of the Grand Bazaar to reinvigorate trade with the city. More than 550 years later, the bazaar is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, with a labyrinth of 61 streets connecting over 4,000 shops selling all manner of treasures and souvenirs, from jewelry to silk carpets. Make a beeline for Sivasli Istanbul Yazmacisi, whose quality textiles are popular with interior decorators. Looking for currency exchange shops? You’ll find the best rates in Istanbul here.
Istanbul, Turkey
One morning outside Sultanahmet I saw what I believe to be a suffi. He looked somewhat like a Turkish version of Santa Claus (which was odd because it was late December), but I don’t really know what else he would be with that beard.
Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Beyoğlu, the heart of contemporary Istanbul, is the city’s most popular entertainment, art, shopping, and nightlife district. Bisecting the area is the pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi lined with cafés and shops that attract over three million people per day. Explore the quieter backstreets such as Mesrutiyet Street for gourmet food, photo-worthy French Street, Çukurcuma for antiques, Boğazkesen Street and Istanbul Modern for contemporary art, and Nevizade Street for nightlife.
Divan Yolu Cd., Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Travel from Europe to Asia for 2.15TL? Yes you can—with an Istanbulkart aboard a Bosporus ferry. If you’re planning to use public transportation in Istanbul, then it pays to buy an Istanbulkart. The swipe card provides discounted fares for Istanbul’s Metro (train), Marmaray, trams, funiculars, ferries and buses. Instead of paying 4TL (US$2.00) per person per trip for a jeton (token/ticket), pay only 2.15TL—sometimes less—with an Istanbulkart. That’s a significant saving if you’re staying for a few days, and it’s the cheapest ticket for travel from Europe to Asia! To buy the card, look for magazine and confectionary kiosks near tram and Metro stations displaying the words ‘Istanbulkart’ or ‘Akbil Dolum Noktası' (Refill Point). Ask the shopkeeper for an Istanbulkart, pay 10TL for the card, and add credit for your journeys. One card can be used for up to five people. To board a tram, Metro, Marmaray, funicular or ferry simply swipe the card for each person at a turnstile near the platform/port. A screen on the turnstile will display your ticket price and the credit remaining. Buses do not accept cash fares, so swipe the card at the machine at the front of the bus as you enter. When credit wanes, top-up at selected ticket machines near tram and train platforms or at the kiosks. Note: The price above is for an adult fare (people aged over 7 years) for most journeys. Special journeys, such as those to the Princes’ Islands, will charge more. Children under 7 are free.
Istanbul, Turkey
If you plan to conquer Istanbul in 72 hours or less, then you might like to check out the feasibility of buying the 85TL Museum Pass. The pass gives you queue-jumping privileges and discounts on some museums, attractions, and tours around town for up to 72 hours once the pass is activated at the first museum. Before buying, do check if the locations listed are where you want to go. To give you an idea of potential savings, as of October 2013, the price of a single entry ticket (per person) were: * Chora Museum - 15TL * Hagia Sophia Museum - 25TL * Topkapı Palace Museum - 25TL (Harem is 15TL) * İstanbul Archaeological Museum - 10TL * İstanbul Mosaic Museum - 8TL * Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts - 10TL (closed until December 2013) * Galata Mevlevi House Museum - 12TL * Yıldız Palace Museum - 8TL * Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam - 5TL More details about the Museum Pass can be found on the website below. The photo above is of Chora Church in Edirnekapı, Istanbul.
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