Find and book unique accommodations on Airbnb
Guests agree: these stays are highly rated for location, cleanliness, and more.
Istanbul’s long history as a trading post and melting pot has made it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. At first glance, the evidence appears in the architecture of Neoclassical mansions, Romanesque apartments, Byzantine churches, and of course its iconic Ottoman mosques.
In the neighborhood of Sultanahmet, 1,000-year-old buildings and underground cisterns are a testament to the city’s enduring legacy. Throughout Istanbul you’ll find tributes to the past and an eye toward the future. Beyoğlu’s tangled alleys smell of fresh-brewed Turkish coffee, and trendy neighborhoods like Nişantaşı and Kadıköy boast a bounty of modern galleries and cafes. Yet in nearly every corner of this sprawling megalopolis, you’ll find hospitality as welcoming as in a small town, and people eager to share their stories over a cup of Turkish tea.
Istanbul Airport (IST) is the city’s primary hub. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) is also easily accessible, and is ideal for domestic flights. Both airports are approximately 27 miles from the city center, and the fastest way to reach them is by taxi, which can take 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic. Be sure to plan ahead, as roads can get quite congested during peak travel times. There is also the Havabus airporter bus that goes straight to Taksim Square (the metro doesn’t reach the airports). It’s easy to navigate the city using Istanbul’s robust public transportation network consisting of a metro system and buses. There are also plenty of taxis to get you from point A to B, though keep in mind that no rideshare companies currently operate in Turkey. The most scenic way to travel through Istanbul is via its ferry network across the Bosphorus Strait.
Though Istanbul can be visited year-round thanks to its temperate climate, there are some factors to consider. Summer is when the city is at its most alive and charismatic, but it’s also when the humidity hits its peak. July and August are the hottest months, making sightseeing most ideal in the mornings and late afternoons. The warm weather also makes for pleasant outdoor evenings. Spring is popular for its more temperate weather. In April, the city’s parks burst to life with colorful tulips, Turkey’s national flower, peaking at the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival. The fall sees a host of art and music events like the Istanbul Jazz Festival and the Istanbul Biennial, which always draw a chic international crowd. Winter brings cold, wet air with lots of rain and occasional snow flurries. However, temperatures rarely drop below freezing.
One of the most enduring symbols of Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia, a massive building that has seen many incarnations. Byzantine Emperor Justinian consecrated it as a church in 537; a thousand years later it was converted into a mosque, then declared a museum by President Atatürk in 1935. In 2020, it was converted back into a mosque. Today it’s free and open to all visitors, and revered for its stunning mosaics.
This underground cistern is almost 1,500 years old and remains Istanbul’s largest Byzantine cistern. The cavernous space harks back to another time and dimension. A wooden platform stretches out over water teeming with carp; walk among its 336 marble columns, which were salvaged from old temples.
One of Istanbul’s lesser-known features resides on the Sea of Marmara’s horizon, where an archipelago of nine islands makes an ideal day trip from the cacophony of the city. The islands are all car-free and lined with walking trails that wind through pine forests and lead to panoramic vistas and scenic coves.