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Istanbul: the city of two continents

Flights to Istanbul see you straddle two worlds: Europe to the west, Asia to the east.

Separated by the Bosphorus Strait but united by the skyline, this special city is a melting pot of culture, history and civilisation.

aerial view of central istanbul from galata tower

Istanbul looks beautiful in different lights and from various vantage points. Cruising down the Bosphorus allows you to marvel at the city from the water. Or, for an equally dazzling perspective, peer down from the heights of Galata Tower. On a clear day you’ll notice the Princes’ Islands – a must-do day trip.

But Istanbul is as much about amazing flavours as it is awesome vistas.


Middle Eastern, central Asian and Mediterranean flavours fuse to create mouth-watering Turkish cuisine – and you’ll find this great food all across Istanbul.

From restaurants of Michelin star quality to street food pop-ups, there is something to tantalise all tastes.

Book your flight to Istanbul with Etihad Airways today.

What’s the weather like in Istanbul?

What’s the weather like in Istanbul?

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The temperature in Istanbul spikes in July and August, reaching around 27°C. This is the city’s peak season, so if you want to escape the crowds, fly to Istanbul outside of these months.

In winter, the temperature averages around 8°C and on some colder days, there’s a chance of snow. Book your flights, pack layers for warmth, and schedule a trip to the Turkish baths to really warm up.

Reasons to visit Istanbul

inside the blue mosque in istanbul

Mosques and museums

Begin your visit to Istanbul at Hagia Sophia. This stunning building is a former Greek Orthodox cathedral that became a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. The current structure was built in 537AD and is now one of the most visited museums in the world. Look out for the breathtaking mosaics and dramatic doors (one glorying in the name ‘The Nice Door’) as well as urns, columns and the Empress Lodge.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – known as the Blue Mosque – is equally impressive. Head inside and you’ll be drenched in numerous vivid shades of topaz, sapphire and cyan. A magnificent building on the inside and out, this is a sight not to be missed.

a variety of herbs and spices on a market stall

Barter at the Bazaar

With over 60 alleyways and 4,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar alone is worth booking your Istanbul plane tickets for. This bustling market is one of the largest and oldest in the world, built in the mid-15th century by Mehmet the Conqueror. Get lost in the labyrinth and haggle like a local for treasures that catch your eye.

Rugs, mosaic lanterns and ceramic pots are some of the traditional Istanbul treasures to be found – you’ll also see crafts being made by stallholders as you browse. Don’t be scared to bid low when you haggle – that’s the way to secure yourself a brilliant bargain.

view from footbridge on water in basilica cistern istanbul turkey

Go underground

Built in 532 AD, the Basilica Cistern was built to supply the city with water, and now you can visit and admire the unusual architecture and impressive engineering. Descend its stone steps into the cavernous depth of the cistern and you’ll be struck by the grandeur of this subterranean gem. Keep an eye out for fish as they silently glide under the water’s surface. Emperor Justinian commissioned the building, and the cistern is one of the earliest examples of recycling – a number of the 336 columns that hold it up were taken from the ruins of temples.

Things to know before you fly to Istanbul

plane Transfers from New Istanbul Airport

New Istanbul Airport (IST) is around 25 miles (40km) from Taksim Square and 30 miles (48km) from Sultanahmet. The most cost-effective transfer option is the airport’s shuttle service, called Havaist.

You can also arrange a transfer with Etihad Airways. When you land, a driver will be waiting for you in arrivals.

charities Cultural considerations

Around 98% of Turkey’s population is Muslim. While Istanbul is one of the country’s less conservative areas, it’s still important to be mindful of cultural expectations here. Visitors should dress modestly especially when visiting mosques.

During Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar calendar) it’s polite to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking outside during the daytime.

bus Getting around

There are plenty of public transport options in Istanbul. Taking the ferry across the Bosphorus is a good way of avoiding traffic on the bridge. There is also a metro that connects all of the major neighbourhoods.

holiday Public holidays

There are several public holidays to be aware of when travelling to Turkey and Istanbul. Some, such as Republic Day on  29th October and the Ataturk Commemoration on 19th May are fixed in the calendar. Religious holidays such as Eid work to the Islamic calendar, which falls differently each year.

Flying to Istanbul: FAQs

Where should I stay in Istanbul?

Beyoğlu, on the eastern side of the river, is a trendy area filled with boutique hotels, cobbled streets and shops. Many visiting families find Sultanahmet’s central location ideal. From ancient sites to cafes and shops, it has everything you could need. If you’re energised by Istanbul’s hustle and bustle, stay in Taksim.

What should I see in Istanbul?

Istanbul is dotted with prominent landmarks, sites and attractions. The most famous include the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet mosques, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace. The celebrated Kariye Museum is an impressive embodiment of the Byzantine style you’ll find dotted across the city.

How many days should I spend in Istanbul?

You can comfortably get around Istanbul’s major landmarks in three to five days. If you wish to explore areas surrounding the city, such as The Princes’ Islands, Troy and Belgrad Ormani, then double the duration of your stay.

What is the currency in Istanbul?

The currency in Istanbul is the Turkish lira (TRY). However, merchants in some tourist areas may accept euros.

Why we love Istanbul

“One of the joys of visiting Istanbul is exploring the history of the city – there are so many museums, galleries and attractions to visit, as well as authentic places to eat. Plus, you’re never too far from the beach”

The best of Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the great cities by the sea. Rich in history, it retains its aura as a place of mystery for travellers from all over the globe.

Today it’s a perfect marriage of the ancient and the modern, studded with Byzantine buildings and Ottoman elements sitting side by side with modern shopping areas. Cuisine spans a similar breadth, with all the Turkish classics present and correct, but also a sizzling street food scene and some truly creative chefs pushing the boundaries.

It’s a place of culture and of beachside relaxation. To find out more about Istanbul and what it has in store for you, visit Atlas.

Weather in Istanbul

10 °C
Friday28 Feb 2020
7 °C
Saturday29 Feb 2020
9 °C
Sunday1 Mar 2020
11 °C
Monday2 Mar 2020
15 °C
Tuesday3 Mar 2020
15 °C
Wednesday4 Mar 2020
13 °C
Thursday5 Mar 2020
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