Istanbul - information for a trip to the metropolis on the Bosporus
With just under 16 million inhabitants, Istanbul is one of the four largest and most populous cities in the world after Mexico City, Shanghai and Beijing. As the only city in the whole world, Istanbul is located on two continents at the same time - Europe and Asia. For many people it seems like a mixture of an oriental fairy tale and a European metropolis. Istanbul is often referred to as the secret capital of Turkey. It had to give up this status to Ankara when the Turkish Republic was proclaimed in 1923, but Istanbul has remained a cultural and economic center to this day.
The Boğaziçi Strait (Bosporus) divides the city into two parts, but connects the Black Sea with the Marmara Sea. The people in Istanbul have been waiting for this for a long time - since October 2013 the Marmaray tunnel has been connecting the two parts of the city with an S-Bahn line. As a result, the daily traffic jams on the motorway bridges used by thousands of commuters were reduced and the impending traffic gridlock in the city was somewhat prevented.
If you want to explore Istanbul on your own and are in this city for the first time, you should definitely take several days. Because for most tourists, orientation and actually finding your way around Istanbul first take a while. Especially in the huge metropolis on the Bosporus, it makes sense to discover the city with an insider, i.e. a city guide. You can get to know the city much better and better in a short time.
The big boat tour across the Bosphorus is one of the most beautiful activities Istanbul has to offer. On the way you pass modern architecture and historical sights, chic residential areas and charming fishing villages - and see the green slopes on the shore in all their glory. On the long tour (Uzun Bogaz Turu), the city ferry takes 95 minutes from the Bogaz Hattı pier in Eminönü in the north to Anadolu Kavagı. She stays here for several hours. The short tour (Kısa Boğaz Turu) leads from Eminönü to Ortaköy. If you then want to continue: Two-hour tours to the north start from here. A moonlight tour (Mehtap Gezisi) takes place on Saturdays: from Eminönü, from Üsküdar and from Beşiktaş to Anadolu Kavağı. There is a break for dinner there. At 10.30 p.m. the ferry returns via the stations mentioned.
History & Landmarks - Sightseeing in Istanbul
Due to its history as the former capital of the Eastern Roman-Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul has a great historical heritage. Istanbul is a city of contrasts: wealth and poverty, hectic and calm, modernity and tradition, you can find everything in this city.
Scientists and geologists repeatedly point out the danger of a destructive earthquake in Istanbul that, according to calculations, will happen sometime with 60% certainty in the next 30 years. The reason for this is the location of Istanbul in the immediate vicinity of the North Anatolian Fault, where the African continental plate collides with the European-Asian plate. In recent years and decades, it has been observed that the tremors along this fault move ever further west. The last time there was a devastating earthquake in Izmit in 1999 with more than 16,000 deaths. The city of Izmit is only 80 kilometers east of Istanbul.
The biggest problem in Istanbul is the large number of buildings and houses that are being built without building permits or lack of earthquake security. However, attempts are being made to install more and more systems and equipment that, in the event of an emergency, should automatically shut off gas pipes, for example, or stop rail traffic.
Sights Sightseeing in Istanbul
Between the Bosporus (Bogazici) and the Golden Horn (Halic) is probably the most imposing of all sultan palaces in Istanbul - the Topkapi palace complex. Up to 40,000 people used to live here. Today it houses a museum. Among other things, very valuable medieval manuscripts can be viewed there. In the pavilion of the Holy Mantle there are relics ascribed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Tip: you should plan half a day to visit this huge facility. The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
In the middle of the 19th century this palace was built on the European side on the Bosporus. The palace is over 600 meters long. The huge reception hall with a 4.5 ton chandelier, which is equipped with 750 candles and the 56 pillars, is particularly impressive.
In the 19th century this dream was built out of white marble surrounded by a magnolia garden. It was the summer residence of the Sultan and his family. Foreign dignitaries were also quartered here.
Hagia Sophia, built in 532, was the largest basilica built by the Byzantines before it was converted into a mosque. Today it houses the Ayasofya Museum (closed on Mondays). Even if it was damaged several times in earthquakes, it has not lost any of its former beauty to this day.
It was built in 1609 under Sultan Ahmet I. Even if his wish for an even bigger structure than the Hagia Sophia has not been fulfilled, the Blue Mosque is one of the most beautiful and most famous mosques of all. When you step inside, you immediately notice why the color blue appears in the name. The walls are covered with green-blue tiles, which also make everything else appear bluish.
This mosque is the first to be built by the Ottomans after the city was conquered. It is located outside the city walls near the Golden Horn. According to tradition, Eyüp, the standard-bearer of the prophet Mohammed, fell here during the conquest of Constantinople (674-678).
In the 16th century, this magnificent mosque was built under Sultan Suleyman on the west bank of the Golden Horn. With a total of four minarets and its location on a hill, it can be seen from afar. Four Koran schools, a medical school, a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a caravanserai and a Turkish bath are housed in this complex.
The Istanbul Archaeological Museum enjoys an excellent international reputation. Here you can admire, among other things, the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and the facade of the Athena Temple of Assos.
The Kiz Kulesi (girls' tower) stands on an islet in the entrance to the port of Istanbul . Legend has it that a king had this tower built for his daughter after he was prophesied that she would die from a snakebite. He thought that she would be safe in this tower and that she could escape her fate. However, a snake finally got into the tower, hidden in a fruit basket, and the girl died.
The city walls of Istanbul extend for a length of 6 km from the Golden Horn to the Marmara Sea. This makes it the largest medieval city wall in Europe. Emperor Theodosius II had it built in the 5th century. They have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Climate - weather in Istanbul
Istanbul has a maritime climate, i.e. there are few strong temperature fluctuations between the individual seasons. The summers are not too hot, July is the warmest month with an average of 26 ° C and the winters are relatively mild. However, the weather in winter is relatively changeable - bright sunny days can suddenly be followed by cold. In addition, it rains most in December, whereas the summers are mostly being dry.
Accommodation - where can I stay in Istanbul?
The prices for a hotel room in Istanbul are much higher than in other regions and cities in the country. There is plenty of accommodation in Istanbul and in every form. From simple, inexpensive rooms without their own bathroom and toilet to the luxury hotels of the international chains. The prices are strongly influenced by the season and whether a larger event (e.g. a trade fair) is taking place in the city. The location within Istanbul also determines the price. In order to be able to explore the city directly from the hotel, accommodation in Sultanahmet or the Sirkeci train station district is particularly suitable. Those who place less value on close proximity to sights, but want to have "city life" right outside their door, should stay in Beyoglu.
The comfort and equipment of the hotel can be recognized by the "stars" (best comfort: 5 stars, least comfort: 2 stars). Most of the hotel rooms have a private bathroom and satellite TV. One should note, however, that this classification says nothing about the location or cleanliness of the hotel. There are tons of cheap city hotels in Istanbul in particular, but you should take a close look at them before you book.
The advantage of pensions is that they are often a cheaper alternative to hotels. In addition, they usually have a family atmosphere and comfort. Whether breakfast is included in the price must be inquired in detail.
Youth Hostel in Istanbul
Most hostels are located in the immediate vicinity of Hagia Sophia and is the most popular accommodation option for backpackers in Istanbul.
In addition, there are various other inexpensive accommodations (hostels) that are easiest to find out about on the Internet.