Istanbul Travel Guide Things To Do, Where To Stay, And How Much It’ll Cost

It’s known as one of the most exotic places on the planet. Canadians who have visited Istanbul claim its beauty transcends that of Rome and other picturesque travel destinations. Located near the water, it offers a breathtaking waterfront view many feel surpasses those of San Francisco, Stockholm, and Venice. Intriguing, sometimes strange, and accompanied by a history that spans several centuries, Istanbul is one of the Europe’s best-kept secrets.

Unfortunately, most Canadians have yet to venture to Turkey’s largest city. This is understandable. The flight is long (approximately 10 hours from Toronto), relatively expensive ($1,000 to $1,500 depending on the time of year), and there are many other destinations to visit. However, the trip is worth the time and expense since the experience is sure to be unforgettable.

In the space below, we’ll give you the details you need in order to plan and enjoy a trip to Istanbul. You’ll learn about fun and interesting things to do while visiting, where to stay in the city, and places to eat.

Top 6 Activities To Enjoy In Istanbul

One of the first things you’ll notice about Istanbul is its stunning architecture. The city’s skyline is punctuated with the tops of palaces, mosques, and various monuments. Up close, you’ll have a chance to observe their beauty and detail firsthand.

But the architecture is not all Istanbul offers the adventurous, curious traveler. Read on for six things to do in the city.

1 – Visit The Hagia Sophia

Once a cathedral, then a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia gives you a peek into the past. It has been standing for at least 1,500 years. Its appearance is shabby, but worth seeing for its history, architecture, and beauty. Cost: $13.

2 – Enjoy The Istanbul Archaeology Museum

It’s estimated this museum hosts more than 1 million prized objects. A few hours spent viewing the most popular attractions provides a keen sense of the country’s historical relevance. Cost: $8.

3 – Visit Taksim Square

Taksim Square is a neighborhood filled with restaurants, hotels, and bars. Spending half the day relaxing with a friend or book will give you an idea of what normal life is like in Istanbul. Cost: free.

4 – Take A Trip To The Grand Bazaar

Shopping is the big draw of the Grand Bazaar. But it’s not like shopping in your local grocery store. It’s a visual feast with thousands of shops and countless colors. Pushy vendors sell everything from clothes and lamps to carpets, handbags, and souvenirs. If you’re planning to buy something, take a calculator and be prepared to haggle. Cost: free.

5 – Visit Topkapi Palace

While you’re visiting the Hagia Sophia, set a few hours aside to visit Topkapi Palace. It’s located behind the museum. The palace served as the heart of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Cost: $13 to $23 depending on the parts of the structure you visit.

6 – Climb Galata Tower

For one of the best views of the city, visit Galata Tower. It was built during the 1300s, and provides a 360-degree perspective of the cityscape. You’ll be able to see for miles. Cost: $7.

Hotels In Istanbul: Where To Stay

There’s no shortage of hotels in the city. In fact, a few of their names may be familiar to you since multinational hotel chains have had a presence in Istanbul for years. For example, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Bosphorus receives high marks. Known for its top-notch service and exquisite surroundings, it ensures your stay will be a comfortable one.

The Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is known for its beautiful interiors, fine restaurants, and perfect service. It sits on the waterfront, from which you can enjoy a clear view of the sea while taking advantage of the hotel’s poolside service.

The Pera Palace Hotel is widely considered to be the most famous hotel in Istanbul. Noted celebrities, from Greta Garbo to Alfred Hitchcock, have stayed there. The hotel has been undergoing extensive renovations for the last several years. Those reservations were recently completed.

There are dozens of other fine hotels in Istanbul. Some have received better reviews than others. It’s a good idea to reserve your room as early as possible, especially during the tourist high season (Summer, Christmas, etc.).

Restaurants, Street Food, And Other Places To Eat

Food plays an important role in Istanbul society. The dishes you’ll enjoy are among the most celebrated in the world, with Turkish cuisine leading the pack. Be aware that when you study the menus at restaurants, their descriptions may be less “flavorful” than those you’re used to at home. Unless a restaurant caters to tourists from the west, their menus’ descriptions are likely to be a bit drab.

Don’t be discouraged. The taste of the food will push such thoughts away.

If you want to enjoy a sit-down restaurant, visit one of the local hotels. During the warm months, you’ll find guests dining on the rooftops. The Sultanhan, NuPera, and Armada house great places to eat. The Sultanhan and Armada can be found in the Sultanahmet district while NuPera is located in Beyoglu.

The street food in Istanbul is worth experiencing. It’s easy to find. You’ll see vendors camped out along the streets throughout most of the day. A morning walk from your hotel can lead to delicious simit, a type of doughy bread. Lokantas – small dining areas that serve homemade dishes – can be found nearly everywhere. Meanwhile, a quick stroll will take you past vendors selling grilled fish, stuffed mussels, and various pastries.

The Flight From Canada To Istanbul And Back

You’ll find flights leaving most large hubs in Canada en route to Istanbul and back. Ticket prices vary by the time of year and the hub from which you’re flying. For example, we mentioned earlier that a round trip ticket departing from Toronto might cost between $1,000 and $1,500. A flight departing from Montreal during the same time of year might cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

There are occasional deals that can significantly reduce the airfare. Such deals are usually extended during the slow tourist season.

When you visit Istanbul, be ready to enjoy a completely unique experience. The local customs are much different than those practiced in Canada. To the first-time visitor, the experience can be jarring.

Before you leave on your trip, remember to buy travel insurance coverage. It will protect you in case something goes awry during your travels. Compare quotes from several travel insurers online to ensure you receive the best price.

If you are planning your next travel destination in Instanbul, be sure to read Kanetix’s article on A Travel Tip You Simply Can’t Afford To Ignore and make sure you buy travel insurance. is Canada’s premiere online insurance quote comparison service where you can compare quotes offered by the top insurance providers in Canda in just one application. If you are Canadian and are planning to travel to Istanbul (or any other countries) from Canada, read this article to make sure you have a safe trip abroad: Always Consider Travel Insurance As a Canadian Travelling Outside of Canada.

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