Istanbul Travel Guide & Information

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey is the cultural and financial center of Turkey. Chosen as the joint European Capital of Culture for 2010; Istanbul is fast becoming increasingly colorful based on its rich social, cultural and commercial activities. Sometimes described as the 'Crossroads of Europe and Asia', Istanbul, formerly Constantinople is a vast, heaving metropolis with an imperial history that dates back more than 1,500 years.

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Travel to Istanbul, a city with splendid, early architecture. Ottoman mosques, classical columns, Byzantine structures, ancient city walls, ruins and moments, as well as a breathtaking landscape; are just a few reasons why you should book flights to Istanbul, a city that promises that perfect blend of history and modern amenities. With restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs, the fun and entertainment never stops in Istanbul.

Described as a cosmopolitan city built on two continents, Istanbul offers visitors an opportunity to explore the remains of many ancient civilizations and their culture. From simple eateries and sidewalk cafes to posh culinary palaces, Istanbul has something to suit everyone's palate and budget. With so much variety, it's no wonder that Istanbul has become well worth visiting, a wonderful city of contrasts indeed.

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Things to do in Istanbul

Museums:

Istanbul has some wonderful museums with a variety of exhibits to browse.

Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts: was constructed in 1524. The collection at the museum includes notable examples of Islamic calligraphy, tiles and rugs, as well as ethnographic displays on various cultures in Turkey, particularly nomad groups. The museum's exhibits date back to the 8th and 9th centuries and up to the 19th century. A ‘must visit’ at the museum is an extraordinary collection of enormous antique carpets.

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Great Palace Mosaics Museum: hosts the mosaics used to decorate the pavement of a peristyle court, dating possibly to the reign of the Byzantine Emperor. The Great Palace Mosaic Museum is home to a series of shelters of 6th-century mosaics that once graced the floors of Byzantine Constantinople's Great Palace.

Istanbul Modern Art Museum: was created with the intent to share Turkey’s artistic creativity with all audiences and promote its cultural identity on the international art scene. Istanbul Modern has two floors. The museum's permanent exhibits, along with the shop and the restaurant are located on the top floor. The permanent collection as well as all temporary exhibits showcases the work of leading Turkish painters, located on the first floor.

Prominent Attractions:

Istanbul has several other attractions worth adding to a traveler’s itinerary.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque: popularly known as Blue Mosque is a historical mosque in Istanbul, built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, visitors can view a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan, Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia: a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica is now a museum in Istanbul. Famous, in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture, and to have revolutionized architecture. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value is its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.

Spice Bazaar: in Istanbul is one of the oldest bazaars in the city. The Spice Bazaar is an “L”-shaped building, consisting of 88 vaulted rooms, almost all of which are now divided into two floors. Today, visitors can wander through stalls filled white sacks of spices, as well as bags of fruit, nuts and royal jelly from the beehives of the Aegean Sea.

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Where to Stay in Istanbul

Istanbul offers visitors cheap hotels, 4-Star Hotels Under $99, extended stay hotels and quaint inns.

Beyoglu: is often known as the center of arts and culture, famous for art, entertainment and a thriving nightlife. Modern day Beyoglu is an entertainment and shopping district for people of all ages. The area is home to Taksim Square, a solid mile of shops, cafes, patisseries, restaurants, pubs, wine houses and clubs; as well as bookshops, theatres, cinemas and art galleries. Visitors who wish to stay close to many attractions and activities should consider this area.

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Eminonu: is a former district of Istanbul in Turkey. Most hotels here are conveniently located near the Sirkeci Train Station. During the day, behind the Spice Bazaar, the area is packed with merchants and customers, hordes of shoppers and many tourists. People come from all over the city looking for discount clothing, accessories, stationery, toys and much more. Travelers will find numerous hotels to choose from to suit all budgets.

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Passport & Visa Requirements

For US Citizens:

As per the latest travel information available to Istanbul, here are the following passport and visa guidelines to assist you further.

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* A passport and visa are required.

* Currently, holders of all types of passports, if they are traveling as tourists, can purchase a 90-day sticker visa at the port of entry.

* Visit the Embassy of Turkey website for the most current visa information.

For Canadian Citizens:

* A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit Istanbul.

* The passport must be valid for at least six months following the issuance of the visa.

* Canadians should be in possession of a visa obtained at the nearest Turkish embassy or consulate or upon arrival at any Turkish point of entry.

This requirement applies to all travelers, regardless of age, including children.

We recommend that you check the latest travel alerts, various airlines baggage policies and travel safety tips, so that you do not miss out on any of the fun while visiting Istanbul .

*Kindly note that we take the utmost care in providing you with correct information at all times. However, the passport and visa regulations are subject to change and we strongly urge you to check the requirements directly with the US passport office and, or the Canadian Passport Office before traveling.

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When to visit Istanbul

Istanbul is a great year-round destination. However, the busiest period to travel to Istanbul is during the months of June through October.

Budget travelers might want to book travel during the off season months, November through February. Though it’s the winter season, it’s easier to locate and book cheap flights and hotel rates.

Planning your Visit:

High season: (June to October)

Low season: (November to February)

Istanbul Weather

Istanbul has a temperate climate, but is located within a climatic transition zone between oceanic and Mediterranean climates.

* Summer is generally hot and humid.

* During the winter, it’s cold, wet and often snowy. Snowfalls tend to be heavy, but temperatures rarely drop to freezing.

Currency and Language:

Currency:

The official currency of Istanbul is Turkish Lira.

We advise you to exchange money before arriving in Istanbul and purchase travelers checks. Notify your bank with your dates of travel and find out what the fees are for cash withdraws.

Languages:

* Turkish is the official language.