Istanbul Travel Guide

Better known as the Blue Mosque—for the 20,000 blue tiles that line its domed ceiling—this 17th-century architectural masterpiece is Turkey’s crown jewel.

Located in the Beyoğlu district, this artisan shop sells handmade candles in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Translating to “pearl candle,” Sedef Mum uses patented production methods and European candle-making traditions to ensure quality, one-of-a-kind products.

Time your visit with the sunset—and the evening call to prayer. That’s when young locals file in for cocktails, like fresh-ginger–and–muddled-lime mojitos, and jockey for steel stools on the open-air terrace overlooking the city’s two coastlines and the Bosporus strait in between.

This is not a luxury spa—don’t expect aromatherapy or an oxygen facial—but it’s a perfectly serviceable salon for basic freshening-up if you’re in need of a shampoo, blow-dry, shave, or manicure.

The rapidly gentrifying side streets between Cihangir and İstiklâl Caddesi are lined with shops selling antiques, furniture, and weird-but-wonderful junk.

For a peaceful place to get right with God—or to get away from the PA system—prayer rooms, called masjids, are available throughout the airport (5 a.m.–11 p.m.). Men and women pray separately (and in modest clothing—no shorts or bare arms).

Towards the south end of the city’s main commercial drag, Istiklal Caddesi, Robinson Crusoe bookshop often teems with intellectuals, expatriates, and tourists, who come for the high-end English language books.

What Lies Beneath: Eighty-two feet below Istanbul is a 450-foot-long, 213-foot-wide former royal reservoir.

A pious, conservative district populated mostly by migrants from Anatolia (like Wasilla, but warmer), Üsküdar is positively hopping in the evenings; on summer nights, the boardwalk here is an Islamic Coney Island.

Set in a lavish 19th-century mansion overlooking the Golden Horn, the privately funded museum stages exhibitions such as a show of Kutahya pottery and Orientalist portraits from the late Ottoman era.

A day trip to Heybeliada, the second-largest and arguably the prettiest of the Princes Islands, feels remarkably refreshing after a few days of Istanbul’s traffic.

All major flights to Istanbul touch down at Ataturk Airport, located approximately 14 miles west of the city center. On average, 82,000 passengers pass through it daily, and 700 planes arrive and depart, making it the 17th busiest airport in the world.

Hard to find—Edirnekapı is not used to tourists, and the signage is terrible—but worth the effort, this pumpkin-domed church-turned-museum is one of the great surviving jewels of Byzantine art and architecture.