Though the Bosphorus physically separates Europe and Asia, its shoreline and scenery draw both tourists and residents together spiritually. It offers Istanbul a reason to come together and a path forward. This is best demonstrated at the $1.7 billion Galataport, a three-quarters-mile-long, subterranean cruise terminal, retail center, pedestrian promenade, and art museum situated along the strait.
The Peninsula serves as a center. The 177-room hotel, which opened in February 2022, immediately attracts attention. It is made up of three iconic buildings from 1910, 1912 and 1937, as well as an extension. It is characterized by its excellent amenities, walkable location and prompt service.
The lobby and atrium, with their art deco flourishes, used to welcome hundreds of people from cruise ships, beginning in 1940. This makes the hotel’s gleaming new toys all the more impressive.
The Paket Postanesi, an airy domed building from 1911 that served as a customs office, passenger lounge and post office, is a five-minute walk away and houses Kaprol’s kaftan boutique.
Combined with the sensory overload of the Grand Bazaar, which really is a labyrinth, it’s a great place to explore slowly. Luxurious candles and fragrances are the specialty of Atelier Rebul, a traditional cosmetics company founded in 1895. Charms, bracelets, and fashionable amulets are available in the Juju Mood Store.
Renzo Piano’s Istanbul Modern, a five-story building that opened in June, is another center for Turkish heritage and culture. As part of the renovation of Galataport, the unattractive customs warehouse that once housed the old museum has been removed.
The small but friendly museum showcases Turkish modern art, with a special focus on photography. There is currently an exhibition of 22 large-format pictures by filmmaker Nuri Tan Bilge. The whole experience is made even more enjoyable by the spacious courtyard of the Restaurant Modern on the waterfront.
It can be said that Istanbul now has a luxury hotel industry that is in no way inferior to that of London or Paris. There are two brand-new restaurants, and the accommodation features tasteful, subtle nods to Ottoman history. The two-year-old Mandarin Oriental, Bosphorus in Beşiktaş attracts a well-traveled international crowd with its chic, modern rooms and Michelin-starred Hakkasan branch.
6 Places to visit around Istanbul
Princes’ Islands: A short ferry ride from Istanbul, these islands are a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle. With their charming Victorian cottages, car-free streets, and tranquil beaches, they offer a serene atmosphere. Büyükada, the largest island, is particularly popular for its historical buildings and scenic beauty.
Edirne: Located near the borders with Greece and Bulgaria, Edirne is known for its Ottoman heritage, particularly the stunning Selimiye Mosque, a masterpiece by the famed architect Mimar Sinan. The city’s historical significance and architectural wonders make it a captivating day trip.
Bursa: Often referred to as ‘Green Bursa’, this city is famous for its mosques, historical sites, and lush greenery. It was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and is known for the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami) and the Tombs of Ottoman Sultans. Additionally, Bursa is renowned for its thermal baths and Mount Uludağ, a popular skiing destination.
Gallipoli Peninsula: A site of immense historical significance due to the WWI battlefields and memorials, Gallipoli is a poignant place to visit. It’s an essential trip for those interested in history, offering a somber yet important look into the past.
Iznik (Nicaea): Known historically as Nicaea, Iznik is famous for its ancient walls, Roman theater, and the Hagia Sophia Church. The town also played a significant role in Christian history, being the site of two ecumenical councils.
Sapanca and Maşukiye: These neighboring areas are perfect for nature lovers. Sapanca Lake offers a tranquil setting, while Maşukiye is known for its waterfalls and lush green landscapes. They provide a refreshing break from city life with options for hiking and picnicking.
What travelers should know about visiting Istanbul?
Cultural Diversity: Istanbul’s rich history as a crossroads between Europe and Asia has left it with a diverse cultural heritage. From Byzantine churches to Ottoman mosques and palaces, the city is a living museum.
Language: Turkish is the official language. While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, learning a few basic Turkish phrases can enhance your experience.
Currency and Payments: The Turkish Lira is the currency. While credit cards are accepted in most places, carrying some cash is advisable for smaller purchases.
Transportation: Istanbul has an extensive public transport system including metros, trams, ferries, and buses. Purchasing an Istanbulkart, a rechargeable smart card, makes traveling easier and more economical.
Cuisine: Turkish cuisine is a highlight, with a variety of dishes from different regions. Don’t miss trying local specialties like kebabs, baklava, and Turkish tea or coffee.
Dress Code and Etiquette: Turks are generally relaxed about dress, but modest attire is recommended, especially when visiting mosques. Shoes should be removed before entering a mosque, and women are often required to cover their heads.
Shopping: From the Grand Bazaar to modern shopping malls, Istanbul offers a shopping experience like no other. Haggling is expected in bazaars but not in fixed-price stores.
Safety: Istanbul is generally safe for tourists, but like any major city, it’s wise to stay vigilant for pickpockets and scams, especially in crowded areas.
Seasons and Weather: Istanbul experiences four distinct seasons. Spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit, while summers can be hot and winters cold and rainy.
Cultural Respect: Understanding and respecting local customs, such as during Ramadan, can greatly enhance your experience and interaction with locals.