Istanbul

Istanbul Travel Guide

Istanbul's major state-run museums charge hefty admissions, but the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, just behind the Blue Mosque adjacent to the Arasta Bazaar, costs only $3.

This family-owned Turkish chain sells lovely and unusual pieces that reflect Turkey’s cultural heritage. The designers use precious and semiprecious metals and gems to create contemporary drop necklaces, rings, and bracelets inspired by Byzantine and Ottoman Empire designs.

In the stranglehold that eventually throttled Constantinople in 1453, the Rumeli Hisar (castle) served as the lynch pin. Constructed on the narrowest point of the Bosphorus north of the city, it blocked Byzantine access to the Black Sea.

Cult favorite Ümit Ünal, a longtime neighborhood resident, sells his avant-garde women’s designs here.

This well-regarded antiques shop carries Islamic calligraphy, religious icons, weapons, and reproductions of ancient Anatolian designs.

The sheer number of carpet stores in Istanbul, particularly in the Sultanahmet area, can be overwhelming, but Noah’s Ark has an excellent reputation for honesty, quality, and a willingness to educate customers without pressuring them (much) to buy.

The 19th-century mansion in Emirgan houses an impressive collection of Ottoman paintings.

Located in the Grand Bazaar, home to more than 4,400 shops, the Polisajci Brothers Antique Show is a small operation selling antique metalware once used in 16th-century kitchens and hammams.

Atop a drab tourist hotel across from the Four Seasons is an insider's secret: a rooftop terrace with an unobstructed panorama of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and the Sea of Marmara. The drinks menu is nothing to write home about: Keep it simple with an Efes Pilsen beer.

If you want to bring baklava back home, don’t buy it in the city—you’ll get syrup all over your luggage. Buy it here.

Try the Turkish Delight in flavors like mint and pistachio at this exotic candy shop.

This is the only gym at the airport. Unfortunately, it isn’t convenient for international layover passengers: you have to go through Passport Control and immigration—and purchase a visa, if you’re a U.S. citizen.

For prestige, no schools top Galatasary Lise in central Taksim. Across from its vaunted black gates, Homer Kitabevi (bookstore) specializes in academic material for its students and other collegiate clientele throughout the city.

As one of the top souvenirs, hordes of salesmen troll the streets for customers to buy carpets. Top threads can be found just behind the Blue Mosque at Mehmet Çetinkaya Gallery.