Visiting Istanbul

Istanbul - The City where East meets West

Located on seven hills and two continents, Istanbul is one of the most unique cities in the world. The Bosporus strait separates the city between Europe and Asia, while the Golden Horn waterway on the European side divides the old town from the new. As the historic capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires, Istanbul has a long-lasting legacy which can be traced back to historic monuments in the city such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Dolmabahçe Palace. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy and the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchy are also based in Istanbul.

Among Turkey’s total population of 79 million, 14 million call Istanbul home, making it a thriving, young, and diverse city. As a truly cosmopolitan city and the cultural and economic heart of Turkey, Istanbul attracts many people from across the country and throughout the region. Every year, thousands of new residents from Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East come to Istanbul for employment and educational opportunities.

Istanbul is also considered the intellectual capital of Turkey. More than 40 leading private and public universities are located in the city center and hinterland of Istanbul. Istanbul has a bright and fast-moving life. It is a main tourist attraction point, as well as a contemporary hub for international artists, students, businesses, media outlets, scholars, and researchers. Additionally, the city hosts a series of international festivals, concerts, exhibitions, symposia, and global political summits throughout the year.

For more information about the city and upcoming events, please visit the following websites:

If you would like to do some background reading about Istanbul and Turkey, we suggest you take a look at the following publications:

History, Society & Architecture

  • Feroz Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey, Routledge, 2002.
  • İlhan Akşit, Zeynep Celik, Edhem Eldem (authors), Zainab Bahrani (ed.), Hagia Sophia – The History and the Architecture, Aksit, 2012.
  • Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey, Routledge, 1999.
  • Sibel Bozdoğan & Reşat Kasaba (eds.), Re-Thinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, University of Washington Press, 1997.
  • Suraiya Faroqhi (ed.), Cambridge History of Turkey: Later Ottoman Empire (1603 – 1839), Vol. 3., Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300 – 1600, Phoenix Press, 2000.
  • Doğan Kuban, Ottoman Architecture, Antique Collectors Club Dist, 2010.
  • Erik J. Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern Turkey, Tauris, 2004.


  • Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul: Memories and the City, Vintage, 2006.
  • Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, The Time Regulation Institute, Penguin, 2014.

Contemporary Life & Guide

  • Andrew Finkel, Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Barrie Kerper, Istanbul: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Companion Guide, Vintage, 2009.

Here are some of the daily newspapers in Turkey published in English language:

Have a look at the websites of these museums, specialized libraries and international bookstores that you might be interested in visiting when you are in Istanbul:

As like as any other metropolis, Istanbul also brings about certain risks for travelers such as theft, assault, con tricks. Taksim Square and İstiklal Street are sites of protests and demonstrations, bringing with it a steady police presence which can unfortunately also mean an occasional use of tear gas. Visitors should be vigilant and stay up to date about potentially risky situations.

Dial 155: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime, contact the local police (dial 155) and the U.S. Consulate General (contact information provided below).

Dial 112: In the event of a medical emergency, dial 112; this is the country-wide number for emergency medical ambulance service. Most emergency rooms in Istanbul have physicians who speak English.

There are public hospitals in Istanbul although a number of locals prefer using private hospital services. In Taksim – Beyoglu area, where the Global Center is located, there are only two private hospitals:

  • Galata German Medical Center (Galata Alman Polikliniği): Familiar with foreigners, has English-speaking staff, very close to Studio-X. Address: Tramvay Yolu (Tram Street) Meclisi Mebusan Caddesi No:19 Salıpazarı/Beyoglu. Tel: (009) 0212 249 4997
  • St. George Hospital (Sen Jorj Hastanesi): Familiar with foreigners, has English-speaking staff, a mid-size hospital. Address: Bereketzade Medresesi Sokak, Galata - Beyoglu. Tel: (009) 0212 292 6220

U.S. citizens staying in Turkey are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website at U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, they make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in the case of an emergency.

U.S. Consulate General Istanbul
İstinye Mahallesi, Üç Şehitler Sokak No.2 İstinye 34460 - Istanbul / Turkey
Phone: (0090) 212 335 9000
Webmaster: [email protected]


Currency - Turkish Lira (“TRY” or commonly “TL”) is the official currency of Turkey. Occasionally, some small business owners and taxi drivers may accept foreign currency, such as U.S. Dollars, Euro, or British Pound, however this is not very common. Current exchange rates can be found at

Local transportation

Public buses:
Fast ferries:

Airport – City access

Istanbul has two major airports. Istanbul Airport is located on the European side and Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the Asian side. Both airports have public transport access as well as private shuttle service (Havabus). Public transport information can be accessed through the above websites. For Havabus timetable and prices please visit:


Istanbul has a borderline Mediterranean climate, showing features of humid subtropical climate and oceanic climate. You can learn daily forecast from State Meteorological Service:

Taxi Services

Taxis are an easy and inexpensive way to get around. Starting rate is 3.45 TL and then 2.10 TL for each additional 1 km. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, so fare is usually rounded up. Here is a website where you can calculate approximate fares:

  • -the taxi service in Istanbul and Ankara. No matter where you are, you can request a taxi and watch it arrive real-time and you can pay by credit card or cash.

Credit cards

Use of credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard is quite common. American Express is also accepted in some stores. However, it can be difficult to pay by credit card in some rural areas around the country.


Tips are generally modest in Turkey. You are expected to tip 5-10% in restaurants, cafés and pubs. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped (unless they carry your suitcase) but the cab fares are rounded up. It is OK to tip 10 TL for porters and room service in the hotels. Strolling musicians playing in some taverns and fish restaurants would not leave your table without having a 5-10 TL from you.

Hamam (Turkish bath)

Hamam is an old and nice way of pampering yourself. There are a number of traditional hamams in Istanbul, located mostly in the old districts such as Beyoğlu, Eminönü, Fatih, Üsküdar and Kadıköy. The concept of “mixed hamam” is quite uncommon, and almost all hamams have separate facilities for women and men. Prices will differ depending on which services you would like to receive. You will definitely need to tip at hamam. When you leave the facility, calculate 10-20% of the total amount you pay for services and divide it among the staff who will come to “say goodbye”.

Restaurants Close to the Center

Asmalı Mescit Area

Address: Asmalı Mescit Sokak, Tünel, Beyoğlu

Asmalı Mescit is a street where you can find a few modern style restaurants along with meyhanes (Turkish tavern), bars and clubs. Together with Nevizade (below), these streets are on the top list of the locals when they would like to go for a nice conversation while having a long dinner.

Cezayir Restaurant

Address: Hayriye Caddesi 12, Galatasaray, Beyoğlu Tel: +90 212 245 9980 Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.–2 a.m.

Serves experimental and traditional Turkish cuisine. Located just behind Galatasaray Lycee off of Istiklal Street. Mid to high price.

Fıccın Restaurant

Address: Asmali Mescit Mahallesi, Kallavi Sokak, No:1, Beyoğlu Tel: +90 212 293 3786 Hours: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Specialized on Caucasus kitchen, Fıccın offers a selection from world cuisine including Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. Just off Istikal after Galatasaray Lycee. Low-price.

Haci Abdullah Lokantasi Restaurant

Address: Ağa Camii Atıf Yılmaz Caddesi Eski Sakızağacı Caddesi 9/A Beyoğlu

Tel: +90 212 293 8561/293-08 51 Hours: Daily, 12 noon–10:30 p.m., later on weekends This long-established restaurant, with a 121-year history ensuring continuity of Ottoman

culinary tradition, serves specialties that include lamb-based meat dishes as well as soups and pilafs. A popular location for traditional Turkish food, located just off Istiklal Street. Mid to high price.

Kahve 6 Café

Address: Anahtar Sokak, No:13, Cihangir, Beyoğlu

Tel: +90 212 293 0849 Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Kahve 6 is a neighborhood café that serves tasty dishes for lunch and dinner as well. It has a cosy and peaceful garden where one can enjoy a book accompanied with a refreshing soft drink. Located in Cihangir. Low-mid price.

Kitchenette Taksim Bistro

Address: Taksim Square, Beyoğlu (within the premises of The Marmara Taksim Hotel) Tel: +90 212 292 6862 Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. – 00:00 a.m.

Popular meeting spot for lunch, coffee or dinner on Taksim Square, serving continental cuisine and pastries. Mid-price.

Nevizade Area

Address: Nevizade Sokak, Balık Pazarı, Beyoğlu

Nevizade is a street where you can find many meyhanes (Turkish tavern) where you can enjoy

mezes (appetizers) and rakı (sweet anise drink)

Özkonak Lokantası Restaurant

Address: Akarsu Yokuşu, No: 60, Cihangir, Beyoğlu Tel: +90 212 249 1307 Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Özkonak is a traditional ‘esnaf lokanta’ or cafeteria serving lunch and dinner with tasty dishes