Istanbul Travel Guide

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.

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.

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.

Lining the narrow, labyrinthine streets behind the Çiçek passage off İstiklâl Caddesi are hundreds of bars, taverns (called meyhane), and outdoor cafés.

An essential part of any visit to Istanbul is a scrub-down at a hamam (Turkish bath). The top destination for tourists is the 300-year-old Cagaloglu Hamami in the center of Sultanahmet.

Beyond the ancient city walls on the south bank of the Golden Horn, this stately mosque—one of Istanbul’s most sacred Muslim sites—is flanked by massive cemeteries.

Quartz comes in many colors and some of the world’s bluest is mined in the Eskisehir region of Anatolia. Deriving its name from Chalcedon, a district on the Asian coast of Istanbul (now Kadikoy), the stone remains a popular and affordable souvenir at Chalcedony in Sultanahmet.

Two treatments—neither of them traditional Tui Na—are available at this outlet operated by a friendly Turkish couple. The more private option is a Swedish-style back rub in a massage chair behind the curtain, with a human massage therapist (prices begin at $20 for 10 minutes).

Visitors often overlook this spectacular but small mosque next to the Spice Market. Don't be among them. The inside walls are dramatically sheathed in colorful 16th-century tiles.

One of the top choices for duty-free cigars in Europe is this fragrant, humid antechamber tucked away behind the tobacco section of the duty-free shop.

Colonized for centuries by non-muslim minorities and foreign traders, the district of Beyoglu (pronounced be-yoh-LU and formerly known as Pera), across the Golden Horn Strait from the historic center, has always been the cosmopolitan heart of Istanbul.