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It’s easy to lose yourself In Istanbul’s grandiose history, but modern Istanbul is a simmering metropolis, well worth a visit in its own right. The shopping is world class and the nightlife pulsates around Taksim Square. Even though Istanbul is no longer the capital, it’s still the country’s business and cultural centre, still the city where new trends are created.
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Do and see
Istanbul is a vibrant city where you can lose yourself in Istanbul’s grandiose history. Take a stroll around the city and admire the amazing mosques, museums and the Great Bazaar or why not visit a Turkish bath and get very clean!
Turkish Baths
It’s said that if you’ve never tried a Turkish bath then you’ve never been really clean. The visitor moves through several hot rooms and finally arrives at the massage table for a real going over. Men and women bathe separately, exceptions are made at certain times for tourists. Here is one recommended bathhouse: Çemberlitas Hamam. Situated near the Bazaar, this is the oldest hamam in town and was reputedly built by the master architect Sinan.
Topkapi Palace
The palace of the sultans with its many courtyards and gates brings on a nostalgia for times forgone. There are several special museums in the area; highlights include the Treasure Chamber, where the famous dagger and Spoonmaker's diamond are true stars of the collection, and the harem, where the sultan’s wives and children lived (the two are not included in the ticket price to the palace).
Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya is a remarkable mixture of Christianity and Islam, a church with minarets and a mosque with pictures of the Virgin Mary. The building is one of the wonders of world architecture which was only surpassed after a thousand years by St. Peter’s church in the 16th-century.
Sultanahmet or The Blue Mosque
Built at the beginning of the 16th-century, this is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets. The building was given its name by the 20.000 blue Iznik tiles used in its construction.
Süleymaniye is the largest mosque dating from 1557 and also contains the mausoleum of sultan Süleyman and his wife Roxelane. The master architect Sinan built many of Istanbul’s mosques during the 1500s and is buried next to the mosque.
Chora Monastery / Kariye Camii
The Monastery was founded in the 5th century and contains wonderfully beautiful frescos and mosaics dating from 1000-1300 representing the Virgin Mary and the life of Jesus.
Great Bazaar
The Great bazaar attracts many people – far too many if you come at rush hour. It’s a good idea to arrive early in the morning and enjoy a cup of tea in one of the cafés whilst the bazaar comes to life. There are thousands of stalls, selling virtually everything, carpets, gold, cloth, spices. The bazaar is a world of its own and it’s easy, but fun, to get lost in the teeming alleyways.
Boat trips
Boats travel along the shores of the Bosporus from Eminönü, they chug quietly under the bridges that connect Europe and Asia. One hour away is Anadolukavagi, a little Asian fishing village with lots of pleasant restaurants. You can travel to the largest of the Prince Islands with a Seabus, departing from Kabatas below the Dolmabahçe Palace. If you want to visit more of these islands, you can take the ordinary boat from Eminönü.
Atatürk Hava Limani - Airport
The international airport, Atatürk Hava Limani, lies near the Sea of Marmara, around 25 km from the city centre. Buses run to Taksim Square every 30 minutes, journey time 45 min. The simplest and quickest journey is by Metro to Aksaray and takes around 35 minutes. +90 212 465 55 55 www.ataturkairport.com Istanbul’s other airport, Sabiha Gökçen, is on the Asiatic side and is used mostly by domestic flights and some smaller airlines. There is no direct transport between the airports - change at Taksim. +90 216 585 50 00 www.sgairport.com
Public Transport
There is one public and one private bus network, IETT and Halk Otobus, respectively. The underground, Tünel, runs from Karaköy till Istiklâl Cad in Beyoglu and takes a few minutes. There is also a museum tram up toward Taksim Square. Another tram route goes from Kabatas via Galata bridge and the Spice Bazaar to the south-western suburbs. The Metro goes from Taksim north to Levent and from Aksaray to Otogar in Esenler, where buses depart for other parts of Turkey and Europe and to the airport. Dolmuses are minibuses or large taxis that depart when they are full, and stop where you want them to. They are the cheapest form of transport. Ferries between Europe and Asia leave from Eminönü, Karaköy and Besiktas to Üsküdar, Kadiköy and Harem. Akbil is a type of payment card that can be loaded with various sums and used on buses, boats and trams. Can be bought at major junctions.
Taxis are yellow in the inner city and lilac in the suburbs. There are numerous taxi companies. Different hotels work with different companies and can book your transport to the airport. It’s best to hail a taxi on the street, or go to a taxi rank and ask for a business card. Istanbul Taxi Service +90 212 518 1518 City Transfer Istanbul +90 212 517 0090
The main post office is on Yeni Posthane Cad., near the railway station Sirkeci. Other PTT-offices are on Taksim Square and Istiklâl Cad. Open 09.00-17.00 Closed Sundays.
Pharmacy is called Eczane in Turkish. In the window of the pharmacy there is the address and telephone number of the current duty pharmacy. Istiklal Pharmacy Asmalı Mescit, Beyoğlu +90 212 244 2618 Itır Eczanesi Next to Taksim Square +90 212 244 4325
220 volt
Country number +90 Area code: 212 and 216
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