Help a Reader Travel: Istanbul

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel! As I’ve mentioned before, I have not been to every destination (unfortunately), but do get questions from friends and other blog readers on all sort of travel destination questions. Thus far, we’ve been able to help other readers travel to MauiThe Greek IslandsPacific Coast HighwayArgentina /Buenos AiresCosta RicaCape Cod & The IslandsIcelandGenevaCanadian Rockies, Rome, Israel, Peru, Las VegasStockholm, Chicago, Paris, Hanoi, Austin, Puerto Rico, Bruges, and Salzburg

So this weeks travel destination includes Istanbul. I received the following email from reader Chris:

“I was looking into some mileage runs for the end of the year, and saw the Istanbul deals floating around.  While not the greatest cpm, I’ll take the small hit to visit a city I eventually planned on visiting anyway. Any activities/foods to eat are welcomed.  If it makes for a good story, I’ll do it/eat it.  If it helps, I’m in my late 20s.”

If you’ve ever been to Istanbul and have any recommendations, let’s help out reader Chris by commenting below. I believe many readers are interested in Istanbul and are probably interested in good hotels to stay at. There are so many chain (and non chain hotels), but I believe location in Istanbul is very important. What are some things to do during the day, and as Chris requested, good restaurant recommendations?

I have yet to visit Istanbul, but it is on my short list of cities to visit.

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Thanks!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I was there recently for a couple of days. I stayed in the old city which is where a lot of the old historical sites are (hagia Sofia, blue mosque, etc.) and you can go on a bosphorus tour as well. Tons of restaurants in the area (plentty of kebob and seafood places though if you like ravioli i recommend manti). I’m not a coffee drinker but was told to get mehmet efendi coffee, which you can buy in the duty free shop at the airport (near the airport gates) – great for gifts. If you have other currencies lying around you can use them at the airport (used euros and pounds).

    Make sure you get a visa before getting in line at immigration. Costs $20, €15 or £10.

  2. Watch out for the cab drivers.. especially from tourist sites. See my post on FT for my info.

    First visit- I would recommend staying a couple nights in the old city to really knock out most of the sites without too much hassle. Istanbul is a big big city and traffic is really bad. The tram isn’t terrible; but can be awfully crowded….

  3. I spent 9 days in Istanbul last year. We split our trip between the European and Asian side. I highly recommend the House Hotels, a local chain of designer boutique hotels.

    The first rule in Istanbul: Don’t EVER take a taxi. The driver will screw you over. They even do it to the locals. Stick to the buses, trams, minibuses, dolmus (like a hop-on, hop-off shared taxi that has fixed routes) and ferry. The ferry costs about $1 and gets you to the Asian side in 15 minutes flat. It is modern and heated and wonderful at sunset! The Asian side has the most unbelievable food market and a number of very good shopping areas.
    We only spent a day in the old-town, tourist area. It is very beautiful (especially the Palace), but so completely different from the rest of the city. We had much more fun exploring Taksim and Beyoglu and more (we used the Time Out guide a lot).

    If you’re into food, take an amazing cooking course with Selin at Turkish Flavours – you will not regret it! Our favorite restaurant in Istanbul was Giritli in the old town. It was a bit hard to find, but definitely worth it!!

  4. I’m a turkish-american whose spent about 2 years living in istanbul.

    For a late 20s person and really anyone looking for a more lively time, I’d recommend NOT staying in the old city. There’s not a much to do after dark except got to a restaurant. Most night life is centered in the Taksim and Beyoglu neighborhoods along Istiklal Caddesi (street), which is a long pedestrian street. Turks of all ages hang out in side walk cafes eating meze and smoking hookah. Plenty of good bars, lounges, etc as well.

    There are a ton of chain hotels around Taksim square and lots of boutique options near Istiklal.

    You can easily take a 10 min cab ride or the light rail to the old city for your tourism. Also check out Ortakoy, a pedestrian only area on the bosphorus, for a slightly off the beaten path outing.

  5. I found the taxis from the airport and hotels to fine. However, they will try to scam you from the Old City. I caught on after the the first time we got screwed, and just refused to pay it and negotiate the price to what it should be. If they are trying to screw you they won’t take to the front of the hotel, only the end of the street so you can’t get help from them.

    The wife and I stayed at the Park Hyatt in IST and really enjoyed it. There was a local place across the street that had really good food. Try some apple tea, I really liked it.

  6. i stayed for a day prior to my trip to israel. i stayed at the park hyatt and it is beautiful. the area is very upscale and the shops are really nice. i felt extremely safe. i only really spent a day so i headed to taksim square and it was pretty cool.

  7. Chris – definitely go to HAMDI for lunch or dinner. Its located near the spice market on the old side of the city. Most of the locals and hotel concierge know it- when you/your hotel call to make a reservation, ask to sit near the balcony, where you have beautiful panoramic view of the bosphorous, mosques, and the city. the food is also great- they have incredible kebabs encrusted with pistachios, as well as a great spicy lamb kebab. their bread is wonderful too. ive been to istanbul 3 times and have gone there each time because i love it so much! pretty reasonably priced as well.

    as far as hotels are concerned, if you are only going to be there for a short time id recommend staying in the old side of the city, as it gets pretty cold there right around now and you dont want to be too far from the sites. Millenium Suites is a small boutique hotel there, and while not a chain is a great option in a locale close to all the major “must sees”- the staff is super, and the rooms are huge and designed in the traditional Turkish style- highly recommend. if you want something more modern/luxurious, i stayed at the Intercontinental on the other side of the river my last time there, and i absolutely adored it.

    Hope this helps!


  8. I just got back from a visit there and stayed at the Hilton Istanbul, just north of Taksim Square. A pleasant half-day can be spent by walking from Taksim Square down Istiklal Caddesi (as mentioned above) which puts you at Galata Tower. There is a fresh fish market on this side of the Galata bridge. Walk across the bridge, which will be crowded with fishermen, and there is another food market on the other side with many options.

    This puts you right by the spice bazaar/Eqyptian bazaar (same thing) and the New Mosque. If you get good weather, this can be a really enjoyable day to complement a day in the old town Sultanahmet area.

  9. I second eating at HAMDI for lunch. If someone had not recommended it to me, I would have never stepped foot in it. It’s a hidden rooftop oasis and delicious food. I also had one of the best lamb shank dishes of my life at a restaurant called Vogue. It has a great view overlooking the city. It’s a pricey/fine dining restaurant but totally worth it. I also stayed in Taksim square and would definitely recommend staying in that area. If you are looking for a night out definitely check out this outdoor bar/club called Reina. It’s on the bosphorus river and has a fun atmosphere without being too clubby.

  10. Istanbul has variety of places to visit during your holidays, that is why it is one of the largest visited city of turkey. You can find lot of things to do there.

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