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Istanbul city guide – what you can expect from each area

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Istanbul has been a focal point for travelers from east and west for years. As the former center of many empires and formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul has long since been a prosperous part of the Mediterranean and a key checkpoint for trade. The subsequent fusion of east and west has given a modern-day Istanbul with huge variety; from the hustle and bustle of Galata and sightseeing dreams of Sultanahmet to the green and rural haven of Princes’ Islands, Istanbul will not disappoint.

Alper Tutak

My Destination local expert on




Sultanahmet is on the Western side of Istanbul by the Bosphorus and on the coast of the Marmara Sea. Historically, Sultanahmet was the main point of arrival for ships importing trade, which is still evident today in the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is a huge, bright and colourful market, with origins dating back to the merchants who first did business on Istanbul’s shores. Sultanahmet Square, however, is undoubtedly the focal point of this district. This is where you’ll find the jaw-dropping structures of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, which tower above the clean stone walkways.




Galata is north of Sultanahmet, on the other side of the estuary. Here is where you will find some of Istanbul’s best restaurants and shopping malls, and this is also where the youth come to enjoy the nightlife. Taksim Sqaure is the heart of this district and the city and is buzzing with people all week. Galata Tower is a famous attraction; built in 1348, the top of the tower offers a complete view of the whole city. Galata also has the most popular hotels, which are relatively expensive but worth the price.


Princes’ Islands


Nine islands off the southern coast of Istanbul make up Princes’ Islands. These islands offer a completely different experience to what is available on the mainland. There is no motor traffic at all here; these islands were found green and Istanbul has kept them green. The surroundings are very quiet and picturesque, with the sound of the smooth waves never too far away. This is the perfect place to unwind from the energy of the mainland. Forget your worries and cruise through the garden hedge-lined streets on a horse-drawn carriage.


Asian side


The Eastern part of Istanbul is the Asian side, and attracts more businessmen than it does tourists. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth visiting, however, as anyone who has visited Çamlıca Hill will tell you. This hill is one of the highest in the city and is popular among locals and tourists. From its summit you’ll be able to see the whole of Istanbul while sitting at the pleasant café. There is also a park, which is another option and a perfect way to unwind from the energy of the city below. Kadıköy and Üsküdar are the most visited areas here, but don’t miss out on the neighborhoods by the Mamara coast to the south, where you can tour the typically Mediterranean and colourful streets.