ISTANBUL


The saying "East meets West" has never been so true as when talking about Istanbul. The vibrant ancient capital of Turkey is the only city in the world to sit within two continents, Asia and Europe, and the effect that this has on the culture of Istanbul is apparent from the get go. Istanbul, however, is not the current capital city of Turkey, much to everyone's disbelief, but it is the biggest in the country. It is a fantastic city to visit for a short (half) European break, as there is so much to see and do. We flew there last weekend with lastminute.com to put together another #TripsCreatedByUs guide of the best things to see and photograph around the city, and our hotel and flight combo couldn’t be beaten. We had breakfast on the roof of our hotel overlooking the Bosphorus, which was a wonderful start to the day. 

 

Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

 

When to go?


Autumn or spring are the best times to go, with cooler weather than summer and less rainy days than the winter. It often snows in Istanbul in the winter, however, which makes for great photos if you don’t mind the cold weather. 


Getting around


Public transport is the easiest way to get around Istanbul, particularly in the day, as the traffic can be atrocious. I would highly recommend buying an Istanbulkart at a yellow ticket machine located in most subways, ferry stops and tram stops. The card itself costs 6-7 TL and then you can top it up depending on how long you’ll be in Istanbul for. Where a standard tram ticket would normally be around 5 TL, with the Istanbulkart, you only pay 2.6 TL, which can mean you save a lot if you use public transport for everywhere you visit. Also, it’s worth noting that multiple people can use the same pass. 


So, book your flight and hotel package and get planning your trip!

 

BALAT

Balat is a district of Istanbul with a fascinating history, and now serves as an arts and cultural hub, with quirky cafes, street art and narrow cobbled streets. The area used to be the Jewish quarter of the city, before becoming home to the minority groups that occupied Istanbul, and has served as a perfect example of religions living in harmony together. 

 

Balat Colourful Houses, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: Take the Eyüp boat from Karakӧy to Fener (takes approximately 15 minutes) and cross the road into Balat.

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: Anytime during the day, although it does get busy.

Photo tip: Look for the blue and orange houses as there are some great photography spots in that area. 


GRAND BAZAAR

One of the world’s largest covered market, the Grand Bazaar is the pinnacle of must-visit-destinations when planning a trip to Istanbul. The hustle and bustle, sights, sounds and smells of the bazaar add to the experience ten-fold, and if you need to take some souvenirs home, this is the place to get them. I love photographing the locals selling their products here, just remember to be friendly!

 

Local vendor at Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: You can take the T1 tram to Beyazit, and from there it’s a short walk to the entrance of the Grand Bazaar. 

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: In the morning, before it gets busy.

Photo tip: If you want to take photos of the shops, make sure you ask or buy something first, and bring your wide angle lens to frame as much of the shop as you can.


HAGIA SOPHIA

The Hagia Sophia, a church turned mosque turned museum, was built in the 6th century and remains an important building in Istanbul still today. It was built on a fault line, and so when an earthquake struck in 558 CE, the dome had to be rebuilt. Today, it serves an a popular tourist attraction opposite the Blue Mosque. Quick note; the Hagia Sopha is currently undergoing renovation inside, meaning interior shots are difficult to take without having scaffolding in the frame. 

 

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: The same T1 tram also stops at the Hagia Sophia (Sultanahmet stop), or you can walk from the Grand Bazaar (15 minutes).

Entrance fee: 72 TL.

Best time to go: Either just after opening time (9am) or just before the last entry (6pm in summer, 4pm in winter) so you can enjoy the museum without too many people.

Photo tip: The windows on the upper gallery level offer great perspectives of the Blue Mosque.

 

ORTAKÖY MOSQUE

Known as one of the best places in the city to catch the sunrise, the Ortakӧy Mosque sits on the banks of the Bosphorus. Originally built in the 1700s, the mosque was later destroyed and rebuilt in the 1800s. The tranquility of the mosque at sunrise is not to be missed, especially given how busy the city is throughout the rest of the day.

 

Sunrise at Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: The Ortakӧy Mosque is served by a couple of bus routes from Kabatas (22/22B). If you are going for sunrise, however, you will be better off getting a taxi.

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: Sunrise.

Photo tip: Use the pigeons to add another dimension to your photos.

 

BLUE MOSQUE

The Blue Mosque, otherwise known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, sits next to the Hagia Sophia and is another popular spot on the tourist trail of Istanbul. It is known as one of the greatest buildings in the world, and is still a working mosque, so the dress code must be respected before entering. The intricacy of the architecture and design details make for some fantastic photos!

 

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Getting there: Take the T1 tram and get off at the same stop as you would for the Hagia Sophia (Sulltanhmet stop).

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: For opening time (9am).

Photo tip: Use the entrance of the mosque to frame your photo, and make sure to get there early so you beat the crowds.

 

ISTIKLAL STREET

Istiklal Street is the Oxford Street of Istanbul, and whether you’re looking to shop, eat, drink or simply people watch, this is the place to be. It is visited by nearly 3 million people every day of the weekend and despite being a pedestrian street, it has a red vintage tram that chugs the area, which, if you have a zoom lens, makes for a good subject for condensed photos. 

 

Istiklal Street Vintage Tram, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: The easiest way to get to Istiklal street is by the funicular from Kabataş (F1), getting off at Taksim. It’s also within walking distance from Karakӧy.

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: For bustling city photos, anytime during the day, but be warned it will be very busy.

Photo tip: Try to shoot the vintage tram which drives down the main street every 15 minutes or so, using a zoom lens. 


GALATA BRIDGE

The Galata Bridge goes over the Golden Horn in Istanbul, and is popular with local fishermen who insist it is one of the best places to fish in the city. It also has some great perspectives over the city, particularly at sunset.

 

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Getting there: Take the T1 tram to Karakӧy Istasyonu station or Eminӧnü station, which are at either end of the bridge.

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: In the afternoon/evening to watch the locals fishing and to catch sunset.

Photo tip: You can get some great shots of some of the mosques closeby and the Galata Tower from the bridge.

 

GALATA TOWER

The 14th century Galata Tower stands high above the skyline of Istanbul, and offers fantastic panoramic views over the city. It is one of the tallest and oldest towers in Istanbul, and a great stop to add to the itinerary. Climb up to the top, or shoot it from one of the many vantage  points throughout the city.

 

Galata Tower view, Istanbul, Turkey

 

Getting there: You can walk from Karakoy or Istiklal Street, just remember to wear comfortable shoes.

Entrance fee: 35 TL.

Best time to go: Sunset.

Photo tip: You can shoot the tower with an alleyway leading up to it from close-up, or shoot it with a zoom lens from the Galata Bridge.


RAINBOW STAIRS

Rainbow stairs are a fairly new phenomenon popping up in cities around the world, and Istanbul is no exception. And the story of these rainbow stairs is a good one. A local retired engineer decided to paint some steps in 2013 just to make people that walked past smile. Pretty soon after, the re-painted them grey, and this sparked a movement of locals who took to painting rainbows on more stairs around the city. Pretty cool, huh?

 

Rainbow Stairs, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: The steps are on the main road towards Ortakoy mosque, just up the road from the Nidya Hotel Galataport, and are accessible by tram or taxi.

Entrance fee: None.

Best time to go: In the morning when there aren’t any shadows.

Photo tip: You’ll have to cross the road to get a good angle of the stairs.

 

FROM THE WATER

Any of the ferries or boat tours along the Golden Horn or Bosphorus offer fantastic views over the city and a great opportunity for photography. We took the boat from Karakoy to Balat and back, and the views were phenomenal.

 

View from boat along Golden Horn, Istanbul, Turkey.

 

Getting there: The boat from Karakoy to Balat is a good option if you are planning on visiting Balat anyway.

Entrance fee: 2.60 TL each way with the Istanbulkart.

Best time to go: Sunset!

Photo tip: Get a window seat!


So I hope you have just found your answer to your search for the next European city break destination! And whilst we didn’t get time to explore the Asian side of the city, it's the top of our to-do list for the next time we are in Turkey.

Oh, and whilst you're here, why not check out my other blogs, like this guide to Sri Lanka!


3 comments


  • Rabbani Aşık

    My city, its the only one divided into two parts by the sea, the Pearl of Turkey. Bosphorus and amazingness. Thanks for everything.


  • Sbri_diaries

    Amazing guide! Love the photos tips ☺️🙏🏻 Thanks for sharing


  • Deniz

    Brilliant! Love the photos
    Makes me wanna go and shoot


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