Istanbul is the largest Turkish and one of the world's largest metropolis. The city has the main seaport and airport in the country. It is famous for its location-situated on two continents, on both sides of the Bosporus. This is why it is treated as the gate to the orient world. Being in Istanbul it is mandatory for every tourist to step one foot on the European and the other on Asian side of the city. Thanks to a big offer of cheap air tickets to Istanbul a lot of travellers are coming here every year. LOT Polish Airlines has in its offer a direct flight to Istanbul from Warsaw which last only 2h 55 minutes. Only imagine how fast can you be in another continent!
The most important city attractions
There are many places, monuments and attractions in the city without which the visit here would not be complete. Very often tourist start Istanbul sightseeing from exploring the sights of Sultanahmet district. Galata Tower gives the opportunity of enjoying the view of the city, including the Sultan's Topkapi Palace, once the political center of the Ottoman. You can spend the whole day walking around the chambers and watching several museums inside the palace. Very unique is Hippodrome, which has been the constructed for sports competitions, gala wedding palace and other great ceremonies, as well as bloody uprisings.
You have to reserve your time for the Hagia Sophia, a true masterpiece of Byzantine art. It is one of the most important Muslim temples, famous for its beautiful mosaics. From here it is very close to the symbol of the city - the monumental Blue Mosque with six minarets. Near the entrance to the Hagia Sophia there is another attraction - Yerebatan Sarami. It has been an underground cistern, used as a water reservoir for the imperial palace. 336 Corinthian-style columns are magically illuminated.
Due to its location, Istanbul through the ages was an important trade center. The goods were transported here through the famous Silk Road from Far East, as well as from Mediterranean and Asia Minor area. This is why Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was one of the commercial centres of the world. It covers an area of 30 hectares, has 61 streets with about 3,500 shops, 22 gates, restaurants and cafes, two mosques and four fountains. You will find here everything you can imagine, including spices, jewellery, pottery and rugs. Of course there is plenty of bags, scarves and clothes also. In the past there were also banking transactions made.
It is also obligatory to get to the other side of Bosphorus by a ferry. Journey from Europe to Asia takes only 30 minutes from the station Eminonu to Kadikoy. In the Kadikoy you can see the oldest mosque in Istanbul and a great Turkish bazaar. Very popular among tourists are the traditional boat cruises Şehir Hatlari. Once they were the only boats carrying passengers between the Bosporus. Unfortunately, nowadays this type of cruise has become very expensive and time-consuming.
Istanbul is a colourful and diverse city. There are waiting the most magical mosques, bustling bazaars with colourful, oriental spices and a great kitchen, sometimes hidden in the mysterious recesses of the poor neighbourhoods. With direct flights to Istanbul it is really easy to explore this amazing city.
The largest international airport in Turkey- Ataturk International Airport is located in the European part of the city, Yeşilköy district, about 15 kilometres southeast of the city center. It was named in honour of Ataturk - the first president of Turkey. Annually it handles around 45 million passengers every year. There are direct flights to Istanbul available from the airport in Warsaw, offered by LOT.
Istanbul airport consists of four terminals: domestic (Terminal 1), international (Terminal 2), cargo (Terminal 3) and the general aviation terminal. The newest international terminal was opened on 200 and now in its old place there were moved domestic flights. The terminals are equipped with automatic baggage handling system, 250 check-in points and 41 boarding desks, everything has been designed for passengers to ensure their maximum comfort.
International and domestic terminals are located within a short distance from each other. It is very convenient for travellers who have to change their flights. There free access to the Internet in the whole airport. Shopping area here is quite big. Many shops are open 24 hours a day, including "bazaar" inspired by the famous Istiklal Street in Istanbul. It is possible to make purchases at duty-free shop, a pharmacy and souvenir stores.
For busy passengers there is also the hairdresser or shoes cleaning desk. The airport has also been upgraded to meet the needs of people with disabilities. For traveling with children there is also a playground. In the International Terminal there are five VIP rooms and three meeting rooms. Tepe Conference Hall has space for 70 people, spacious Akfen Conference Hall is able to accommodate 200 persons. Hall F Ergokmen is able to accommodate 50 people. There are also banks and currency exchange offices. Restaurants and cafes are open 24 hours. In the arrivals hall there is a luggage storage. For the ordinary suitcase we have to pay 12 liras per day, and for storing large suitcases we will pay 15 liras per day.
How to reach the airport
Taxi ranks and Dolmus minibuses are located at the exits of the terminals. Journey to the center of Istanbul takes about 30 minutes and costs about 20-30 lire. During night hours, between 24: 00 and 06: 00 in the morning tariff increases up to 50%. The route airport - Istanbul can be made by rental car from one of the companies offering their services. There is also parking lot available in each terminal. The cost is 9 TL for hour, for three hours 12 TL, for six hours 18 TL, for twelve hours 22 TL. If you would like to live the car for one week you have expect the cost of 138 or 188 TL. Havas buses go to the center of Istanbul (Taksim Square) and to the bus station. The ride takes about 30 minutes. There is also a very fast red metro line (M1). It starts at Yenikapi and ends at Atatürk Havalimani station.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport is very large, but well marked and it is easy to get everywhere. The connection to the city center by metro is very fast and comfortable. It is very easy to find flight tickets to Istanbul, from where you can explore both Europe and Asian continent.
Istanbul is a very crowded city, which every year welcomes a huge number of tourists. This is why there is very well developed accommodation infrastructure. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which someone cannot find their accommodation. Even at the peak of the holiday season it is very easy task. Flights to Istanbul are also easy to find, thanks to LOT Polish Airlines. This only remaining question is how much you would like to spend on you accommodation, and in what area and standard you would like to live.
South of Golden Horn
Basically there are two ways to stay in Istanbul: the Golden Horn or the north of it. When it comes to choosing an Istanbul hotels or any type of accommodation, the location is one of the most important things. You have to prepare yourself that the city is quite crowded and noisy, but with some luck you can find a more quiet place. One of the most popular areas among tourists is the Sultan Ahmet, which is on the south of Golden Horn. Choosing this district, you can be sure that you will be really close to the most important monuments like Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace. There are dozens of hostels and hotels in which everyone will find something suitable.
Almost always in the room price there are breakfast and internet access included. The rooms are generally clean, neat, but often lack the space or the individual character. The prices start from around 10 euro for a bad in a hostel during holiday season. For two beds private room with bathroom the approximate price is around 50 euro.
North of Golden Horn
A good alternative for this crowded and touristic area is the north of Golden Horn. There are numerous small hotels. It seems a little that the tourist industry have forgotten about them. The area is strictly Turkish, there are not many tourists and it is quite impossible to communicate in English here. The standard of accommodation is pretty the same as the Sultan Ahmet district, but it is much cheaper. It is possible to rent a double room here for 25 euro, including breakfast. What further distinguishes this area is its really Turkish atmosphere. This is quite natural, traditional Istanbul, with hospitable locals, noisy sellers of fruits and kebabs and regular, non-touristic prices. It is also close to Suleymaniye Mosque, New Mosque or the bazaar with spices.
Asian side of Istanbul is usually much more preferred amongst businessmen, since they do their job here.
The advantages of this location are quite numerous. First, it is much cheaper. As it is a little bit far from the historical and touristic center, you can find here very cheap hotels or hostels. For the same reason it is also much more quiet. Many areas here are mostly residential, so you will not meet here that many noisy tourists. The additional perk of staying here are the amazing views of the old Istanbul, which can be only seen at this side of the Bosphorus. You can admire them during 20 minutes cruises to another shore.
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