Istanbul is a huge city with several districts.
Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is Turkey's most populous city as well as cultural and financial center. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally. Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest in Europe and the world.
Essentially the Constantinople of the Roman, Eastern Roman/Byzantine, and much of the Ottoman periods, this is where most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located.
Housing many of the nightlife venues of the city, this district includes Beyoğlu, Istiklal Street, and Taksim Square also its own share of sights and accommodation.
Main business district of the city with many modern shopping malls and districts such as Elmadağ, Nişantaşı, and Etiler.
European bank of the Bosphorus dotted by numerous palaces, parks, water-front mansions, and bohemian neighbourhoods, such as Beşiktaş and Ortaköy.
Banks of Golden Horn, the estuary that separates the European side into distinctive districts. Eyüp, with an Ottoman ambience, is located here.
An excellent getaway from the city, made up of an archipelago of nine car-free islands—some of them small, some of them big—with splendid wooden mansions, verdant pine jardins and nice views—both on the islands themselves, and also on the way there.
Eastern half of Istanbul, with lovely neighborhoods at the Marmara and Bosphorus coasts.
Western chunk of the European Side.
Winter is cold and wet, averaging 2ºC at night and 7ºC during the day. Although rarely below freezing during the day, high relative humidity levels and the wind chill makes it feel bitterly cold and very unpleasant.
Snowfall, which occurs almost annually, is common between the months of December and March, with an annual total snow cover of almost three weeks, but average winter snowfall varies considerably from year to year, and snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall, even under intense snow conditions.
Late spring (late May to early June) and early autumn (late September to early October) are very pleasant and therefore the best times to visit the city. During these periods it is neither cold nor hot, and still sunny, though the nights can be chilly and rain is common.
For visitors an umbrella is recommended during spring, autumn and winter, and during the summer to avoid the sun and occasionally the rain. However, it’s not such a big problem, since streets of Istanbul are suddenly filled by umbrella sellers as soon as it starts raining. Although the umbrellas they provide are a little shoddy, going rate is only TL 5 –about US$ 3- per umbrella (though you can find much better umbrellas for that price at shops if you look around a bit).
Istanbul's public transit system can be difficult to figure out; maps are rare and you often have to transfer, and pay another fare, to get where you are going. However, if you put some effort into it, you can avoid taxis and not walk too much.
Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a token. The small metal/plastic tokens cost 3 TL (September 2012) and can be bought at various ticket kiosks & machines at bus, railway and metro stations. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are at a flat rate (i.e. not dependent on how far you go). Only cash in Turkish lira is accepted at ticket kiosks of public transport, no credit cards or foreign currency. Also be aware that the Istanbul subway system does not offer transfer tickets and as such each new line requires a new fare, unless you use an an Istanbulkart or Akbil, see below.
Istanbul's first underground system dates back to 19th century, when the funicular subway "Tünel" was constructed to operate from Karaköy to Istiklal Street in 1875. The distance travelled was 573 metres. Recommended option to go up-hill from Galata Bridge (Beyoglu side) to the famous Istiklal Caddesi (main street).
In 1990's, a modern tram line was constructed in the European side of the city, and now it's being extended to the inner parts of the city, as well as to the Anatolian side with a sea-tunnel named "Marmaray" crossing below the Bosphorus.
Istanbul's metro consists of two lines, the northern line is currently just a short stub connecting Şişhane to Hacıosman via Taksim Square, and Mecidiyeköy and Levent in business district. There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabataş where you can get on ferries and cross to the Anatolian side, and also transfer to trams bound for old city. The separate southern line is most useful for visitors, connecting Aksaray (with its connections to the tram line onwards to old city) to Atatürk Airport, via the main coach station (Otogar). A connecting line between southern and northern lines, crossing Golden Horn on a bridge, is under construction, but don't hold your breath.
M4 line started operating in August 2012 on the Asian side and runs between Kadiköy and Kartal with extension further east being under construction as well as tunnel under the Bosborus.
Nowadays, most metro stations do not have a staffed ticket booth, so you will have to obtain your token from automatic token dispensers (called Jetonmatic). Insert coins (except 1 or 5 kuruş) up to 3 TL and then press the button marked onay (Turkish for "approval", no English translations are given on all the machines).
A token costs 3 TL (around €1.30) on any urban rail in Istanbul.
By shared taxi
Dolmuş (Turkish: "full") is a shared taxi, travelling on a fixed route, which costs more than a city autobus but less than a normal taxi. They can carry up to 8 passengers. They are easy to recognize, because they also have the yellow painting as taxis and carry a Dolmus sign on its top. They will only start driving when all eight places are filled, which is also where the name derives from.
For individual restaurant listings, check district articles.
When having a look for a restaurant, there will be a lot of restaurants, where the staff will try to make one come inside. There is really a kind of competition between the restaurants to make one come inside. However, the best restaurants are not always the expansive tourist restaurants, but those small Lokantas where even the turkish people go for having dinner.
Local Doner Restaurant (büfe-buffet)
Always a good option for having fast and cheap food. The entrance to Istiklal Street contains dozens of small doner restaurants and they serve almost around the clock; though for a better experience (and a better food quality) you may want to wander about in residential neighbourhoods, since anything near a commercial or tourist area can be highly overpriced and greatly reduced in quality.
Balik-Ekmek (literally "fish and bread") is a fish sandwich served in small boats and little buffets in Eminonu. It is also increasingly popular in buffets in Kadıköy coast. A regular sandwich consists of one small fried fish, slices of tomatoes and onion. However, the taste is beyond expectations for such a basic menu. The price is around 5 TL. Again, it's a local favorite.
In Autumn and Winter the Black Sea Anchovy migrate through the Bosphorus, the local fishermen coming out in force to take advantage. All fish restaurants have them on the menu in season. It seems the classic serving is a handful of deep fried fish with raw onion and bread. Eat the fish whole, it's a winner. Look for the small restaurants behind the fish merchants on the Karakoy side of the Galata Bridge, western side. Expect to pay TL6.
Patso is a type of sandwich consisting of hot dog and french fries. It's usually served in small buffets along the Uskudar coast and a sandwich costs 1.50 TL. The cheap price can raise eyebrows but these buffets are open 24/7 and they serve around 1000 sandwiches per day. Even though the profit margin is low, they make a fortune, so they don't lower the quality too much (except hamburgers, don't touch those in Uskudar, but definitely try the spicy hamburgers in Taksim).
One thing not to be missed is the local ice cream sold at the street stands, called dondurma. While flavors are relatively standard for the region, the ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract, which gives it an incredibly chewy and stringy texture, also lending itself to be used for marketing and attracting attention while the sellers do tricks to try to sell the ice cream. Try it!
Kumpir is a snack which can easily be a full meal. It is originated from Albania but is quite unique to Istanbul in its present form. It consists of a baked potato with various fillings such as grated cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sweetcorn, sausage slices, carrots, mushrooms, and Russian salad among others, any of which can optionally be added to or omitted from the mix. While kumpir can be had at many cafes throughout the city, it is best had from one of the cafes in Ortaköy, which have a long tradition of preparing kumpir and offer really filling and tasty ones. About 7-8 TL each.
Roasted chestnuts("kestane Kebap, as locals call it) are sold from carts around the city, and is a very nice snack to have when the weather is cold, as it keeps your hands warm. 3 Lr for 100 gr.
Boiled and roasted corn on the cob is sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. Price varies from cart to cart and area of the city (between 1 and 1.5 Lr).
Don't miss the "simit," a warm bread sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. The texture and taste is a bit like a sesame bagel. Price varies from cart to cart and area of the city (between .75 and 1 Lr).
Also, be sure to try Ayran, a local drink based on yoghurt, although sour and much thinner. It isn't always on the menu or displayed, but it's there, so ask for it.
Freshly squeezed juice and juice blends are sold from stands and small shops all around the city, and are a refreshing treat (especially in the warmer months). The combinations range from a simple orange juice to the more rare options like pomengranate or kiwi. Price varies from shop to shop, area of the city and complexity of your order (between 2 and 4 Lr).
Take a look at the Mecedes Fashion weeks in Istanbul here
Have great stay in Istanbul!