Istanbul

Istanbul

The city of Istanbul, 5461 square kilometers, is the largest city in Turkey and one of the crowded in Europe. Capital of two empires is also one of the four cities in the world and certainly the most spectacular, that stands over two continents: Europe and Asia, limited by the Bosporus Strait, the only maritime route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black sea, across the Sea of Marmara.

Istanbul has an enviable and strategic geographical location, inserted in the famous Silk Road and the main railway networks in Europe and the Middle East, besides having Bosporus and the Golden Horn (estuary that penetrates the city and has become an important way of transportation, commerce, navigation and tourism). Although no longer the capital of the country (moved to Ankara with the establishment of the Republic in 1923), Istanbul is the main protagonist of the life and spirit of Turkey.

With a population of over 17 million people, according to official figures popularly believed as much lower than the actual population, Istanbul is one of the largest conurbations in Europe and the world in general. Its population is mostly Muslim, although there are Christian and Jewish minorities and functions as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church.

For its amazing contrasts and intercontinental character, Istanbul is one of the world’s most fascinating cities: ancient and modern, European and Asian, demure and liberal, a city of mystery and magic, incredible history and rich culture, a city that that have inspired countless works of art and one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Istanbul’s historical peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 which has been an important witness to world history, is the heart of ancient Istanbul. Four major empires were ruled from this point. As you can guess, there are many historic places on the peninsula such as mosques, churches, palaces and even more of which only traces remain.

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia was built as a cathedral in 537 and converted to a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans. It was secularized in 1935 and reopened as a museum.

2. Topkapı Palace

Built in the 1470’s, Topkapı Palace was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. The Ottoman Empire was ruled from Topkapı Palace for 380 years. It is now a museum.

3. Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque is an Ottoman imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. It is the largest mosque in the city and one of the most famous sights of Istanbul.

4. Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square was a circus which formerly served as the sporting and social center of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı where a few fragments of the original site’s Byzantine-era Hippodrome remain.

5. Gülhane Park

Gülhane Park is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul. It was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace. It has been used as a public park since 1912. Extending from Topkapı Palace to the Bosphorus, it is a nice alternative for a walk and a coffee break when the weather is nice.

6. Basilica Cistern

This world-famous underground cistern was built in the 6th century and is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that still lie beneath the city. It has a size of 143 by 65 meters, with a capacity to hold 80,000 cubic meters of water.

7. The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest closed markets with more than 4,000 shops. It is renowned for its jewelry, pottery, spice, leather and carpet shops.

8. Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi)

Boasting the status of an Istanbul landmark, Maidens Tower or Leander’s Tower, is built up on a rock facing Üsküdar at the mouth of the Bosphorus. According to the myth narrated by the Roman poet Ovid, young Leander fell in love with Hero, a priestess devoted to Aphrodite, and swam to the island to join her every night. However, one evening the light of the lighthouse was extinguished by storm and Leander drowned in the dark waters of the strait. The next day Hero found her lover’s corpse and,  filled with grief, commited suicide. The story, originally based in the Dardanelles, found its way into Istanbul mythology in the 18th century. Ever since then, the tower has been called Leander’s Tower in Western literature.
This tower has been in service as a lighthouse, a watchtower, a traffic control center and a prison in its lifetime and after it’s restoration now it is open as a several flats tower for tourist attraction… an observation terrace, gift store, a small Bosphorus Museum, tea/coffee house and restaurant.

9. Galata Tower

The tower was built in the 14th century by the Genoese who had semi-independence from the Byzantines. It was part of their fortification. The tower was used as a prison and a fire tower during the Ottoman era. The nine-story tower is 66.90 meters tall and was the city’s tallest structure when it was built. The elevation at ground level is 35 meters above sea-level. According to Evliya Çelebi, Ottoman historian and traveller, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early aviator using artificial wings from the tower to Üsküdar. The Sultan at the time initially taught of rewarding him, then changed his mind and sent him to exile in Algeria.
Today the observatory deck has a 360 degrees view of the city, from here you can observe the monuments that sit on the seven hills of historical peninsula.

10. The Tiled Kiosk

The Tiled Kiosk is a pavilion set within the outer walls of Topkapı Palace and dates back to 1472, as shown on the tile inscription above the main entrance. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II as a pleasure palace or kiosk. It is located in the most outer parts of the palace, next to Gülhane Park. It was also called the Glazed Kiosk.

11. The Bosphorus Bridge /İstanbul

The Bosphorus Bridge is no ordinary bridge. Connecting two continents and carrying nearly 200,000 vehicles a day, it is the most famous landmark of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. Completed in 1973, the nearly 1.5 km (1 mile) long suspension bridge spans the Bosphorus Strait, connecting Eastern Europe to Western Asia.
The Bosphorus Bridge is one of two bridges that spans the Bosphorus Strait, connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. It stretches from Ortakoy on the European side to Beylerbeyi on the Asian side and is sometimes referred to as the First Bosphorus Bridge.
At 1560 meters long, the Bosphorus Bridge was the fourth longest suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1973 and was the first bridge to connect Europe and Asia since a bridge spanning the Dardanelles in 480 B.C. Today, it is the 21st longest suspension bridge in the world.

12. The Golden Horn Bridge/İstanbul

The Golden Horn, or Haliç in Turkish, is a horn-shaped fyord on the European side of Istanbul and is fed by two small streams. It is a natural harbor where Byzantine and Ottoman fleet and commercial ships were anchored. Today, it’s surrounded by parks and promenades with ancient sites around it. Its name comes from the color of the water when at sunset it shines with a gold color because of the reflection of the sun.
The Golden Horn was the ancient natural harbour of Istanbul. The name “Golden Horn” is derived from the ancient Greek name Chrysokeras. Once the Byzantine & Ottoman naval ships docked here.

Public Transport To And From The Airports

A. Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport is located on the European side, between Tayakadın, a neighborhood on the Black Sea coast, and Akpınar villages. Istanbul Airport is 35 km from the city center. “Havaist” buses go to many central, easy-to-reach spots, such as Taksim, Beşiktaş, Yenikapı, Bahçeşehir and Kozyatağı. For more information on schedules take a look at Havaist page (https://hava.ist/en). You can also reach the city center from the airport with İETT buses. You can find more information on bus lines on İETT page (https://www.iett.istanbul/en).

About Istanbul Airport

Turkey’s third international airport (the world’s largest) Istanbul Airport, which is the largest infrastructure project in the history of the Turkish Republic, opened for service on October 29, 2018; since April 6th 2019, the airport is operational with all units and at full capacity. Covering an area of 76,5 million square meters, the new airport serves as a global hub between Asia, Africa and Europe.

Once all phases of the airport are operational, the facility is expected to achieve a capacity of 200 million passengers.

The elliptical tower’s shape is inspired by a tulip, a centuries-old important cultural symbol in Turkish lore (see below).

Where is the Istanbul Airport?

Located on the European side of Istanbul, by the Black Sea shore, the new airport is situated at the junction of Çatalca- Göktürk-Arnavutköy, between the Tayakadın and Akpınar villages. The Istanbul Airport can be easily accessed by public transportation such as busses and airport transfer shuttles, as well as taxi and private vehicles. On the European side, the airport is 36 kilometers from Levent, and 40 kilometers from Taksim. On the Anatolian side, total distances are 47 kilometers from Üsküdar and 52 kilometers from Kadıköy. There are also connections to the Istanbul Airport road from The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge and The Northern Marmara Highway.

Flights to and from the Istanbul Airport

With its dedication to impeccable service, the Istanbul Airport serves travelers on both domestic and international flights. Presently, flights take off to 45 cities domestically; on international routes, travelers can reach 249 cities in 110 countries from the international terminal at the Istanbul Airport.

About Turkish Airlines

Turkey’s “rising star”, Turkish Airlines, began its’ journey back in 1933 with 5 planes. Today, Turkish Airlines boasts a fleet of 343 aircrafts (passenger and cargo). With its growth figures, Turkish Airlines is a global brand among the top-ten airlines in the World. Opening the doors of the world to its passengers with its 312 destinations, and 124 countries, flying to more international destinations and countries across the world than any other airline, the company has the goal of becoming a leader in global aviation.

Flights from Istanbul to many countries across the world are possible via Turkish Airlines. Some of the flight durations from Istanbul to other cities of the world are given below as an example:

Flight time from Istanbul to many cities of Europe is around 2-4 hours.

Flight time from Istanbul to Iran is around 3 hours.

Flight time from Istanbul to Africa continent is around 5-6 hours.

B. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport

Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport is 46 km from the city center Sultanahmet, where you can find “Havataş” buses, metro, and tramway. By “Havataş” bus, it costs TRY 9 from Sabiha Gökçen Airport from Kadıköy and TRY 14 from Taksim. You can reach Kabataş via Taksim by taking the Kabataş funicular for TRY 2.40. It would take around 2.5 hours for you to reach Sabiha Gökçen Airport from Sultanahmet. You can then transfer from Kabataş with tram for TRY 1.45.

Average time from airport: A: 120 minutes | B: 150 minutes

Distance from airport: A: 35 km | B: 46 km

Taxi:

A. Istanbul Airport
It takes around 30 minutes to reach the city center from Istanbul Airport by taxi, and costs around TRY 100-There are taxis in front of the international and domestic terminals.

B. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport

There is a 24/7 taxi service from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Sultanahmet. It takes about 1 hour, and costs around TRY 100.

Average taxi price: A: TRY 100-110 | B: TRY 100