All Istanbul Questions: Your Private Istanbul Guide

Welcome to Istanbul, a city where the East meets the West in a harmonious blend of history, culture, and energy. This comprehensive guide is your key to unlocking the secrets of this enchanting city. In this private Istanbul guide, we tried to answer every specific question you could ask about Istanbul. So, fasten your seatbelts because it’s a long list!

Table of Contents

What Does Istanbul Mean?

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, serving as the country’s economic, cultural, and historic hub. The name Istanbul is commonly held to derive from the Medieval Greek phrase “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” (pronounced [is tim ‘bolin]), which meanest “to the city” and is how Constantinople was referred to by the local Greeks. This reflected its status as the only major city in the vicinity. The importance of Constantinople in the Ottoman world was also reflected by its nickname Der Saadet. 

Why Did Constantinople Become Istanbul?

Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and was renamed Istanbul in 1930. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the city name was changed to create a more Turkish identity for the city and to distance it from its Greek and Roman past. 

What Was Istanbul Called Before?

The city now known as Istanbul was called Byzantium until 330 AD, and then Constantinople until 1930. The name change to Istanbul in 1930 was part of a broader effort to create a more Turkish identity for the city. 

Where Is Istanbul?

Istanbul is located in Turkey, straddling the Bosporus Strait, which separates Europe and Asia. The city is situated on a triangular peninsula between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.

Where Is Istanbul On A Map?

The coordinates of Istanbul, Turkey are 41.015137 latitude and 28.979530 longitude.

Is Istanbul A Country?

Istanbul is not a country; it is a transcontinental city located in Turkey.

Why Isn't Istanbul The Capital Of Turkey?

There are several reasons why Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey:

  • Historical significance: Istanbul served as the capital of the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire. However, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk decided to create a more centralized and unified nation-state, which led to the selection of Ankara as the capital.
  • Strategic Considerations: Ankara is located in the center of Turkey, making it more accessible to various regions of the country.
  • Political reasons: Ankara was chosen as the capital to symbolize the birth of a modern, secular, and unified nation-state.

Is Istanbul In Europe?

Yes, Istanbul is in Europe. The city is the largest in Europe by population and the third-largest European city.

Is Istanbul In Europe Or Asia?

Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosphorus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Istanbul is divided into two parts: the European side and the Asian side.

How Old Is Istanbul?

The earliest known settlement in the area now known as Istanbul dates back to 6700 BC, during the Neolithic period.  The city was founded by Greek colonists from Athens and Megara was in 660 BC and was known as Byzantium.

What Time Is It In Istanbul?

Istanbul is in the Eastern European Time (EET) zone, which is UTC+3.

Do You Need a Turkey Visa To Visit Istanbul?

Nationals of 78 countries and territories do not need to get a visa before traveling to Turkey for tourism purposes. Turkey visa requirements may vary and should check the visa requirements for your specific nationality.

Do I Need a Transit Visa For Istanbul?

If you plan to leave the airport during your layover, you will need to obtain a transit visa. Turkey transit visa is valid for up to 72 hours (three days) and can be obtained online through the Turkish Government E-Visa Portal. The cost of the transit visa is $50 for U.S. citizens.

What Is The Weather Of Istanbul?

The climate in Istanbul is characterized by hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters. The average temperature in Istanbul ranges from 40 °F (4.44 °C) in January to 77 °F (25 °C) in July. The city experiences moderate precipitation throughout the year, with the wettest months being November and December. The average humidity in Istanbul is around 72%, and the wind speed is typically around 22 mph (35.41 km/h).

How Hot Is Istanbul?

The hottest month of the year in Istanbul is August, with an average high of 83 °F (28.33 °C) and a low of 70 °F (21.11 °C).

How Cold Is Istanbul?

The coldest month of the year in Istanbul is February, with an average low of 39 °F (4 °C) and a high of 48 °F (9 °C).

Does It Snow In Istanbul?

Istanbul typically experiences snowfall in the winter months, between December and February.

Is Istanbul Safe?

Istanbul is generally considered a safe city for tourists, but like any other city in the world, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.

Is Istanbul Safe For Americans?

Istanbul is a popular tourist destination and is mainly safe for visitors, including Americans.

Is Istanbul Safe For Women?

The city is mostly safe for solo female travelers. Women should avoid walking alone in remote areas, especially at night, and should dress modestly to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

Was Istanbul Affected By the Earthquake?

The most recent major earthquake to affect Istanbul was on February 6, 2023. This earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, struck southeastern Turkey but was also felt in Istanbul. The earthquake caused some damage in Istanbul, but there were no serious injuries or deaths reported.

What To Do In Istanbul?

Istanbul is a fascinating city with a rich history and diverse, so you can immerse yourself in history and culture, for instance visit the Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque. Step back in time by going to the Sultanahmet district. Explore the colorful neighborhoods of Fener and Balat for their wooden houses and vibrant streets. 

Take a ferry or a private cruise along the Bosphours Strait to enjoy of views of the city’s skyline, historical landmarks, and charming neighborhoods. Lose your self in the many shopping centers and Grand Bazaar. Discover the delicious Turkish food, from gözleme and döner kebabs to mezes and baklava.

Is Istanbul Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Istanbul is a phenomenal city that’s definitely worth visiting.

Where To Stay In Istanbul?

Istanbul offers a wide range of accommodation options for visitors, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Sultanahmet is a great choice for first-time visitors, it’s close to many historical attractions, like the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace.

What Is Istanbul Known For?

The city is renowned for its dazzling blend of historical grandeur, vibrant culture, and modern-day energy.

Why Are There So Many Cats In Istanbul?

Cats have become an unofficial symbol of Istanbul. There is an unspoken rule that exists where everyone feels responsible for the city’s cats. Citizens regularly leave food and water out, creating an informal network of community caregivers.

How Did Istanbul Become A Major Historical And Cultural Center?

Istanbul is situated on the Bosporus Strait, which connects Europe and Asia. This unique position allowed it to act as a bridge between East and West, influencing and being influenced by diverse cultures. Controlling the Bosporus, gave Istanbul immense control over trade Black Sea to the Mediterranean. These advantages attracted empires and led to economic prosperity, fueling advancements in art, architecture, and scholarship.

What Are The Main Historical Landmarks In Istanbul?




Hagia Sophia

Byzantine Era, 6th century

Church, architectural marvel

Chora Church

Byzantine Era

Renowned mosaics and frescoes


Byzantine Era

Ancient arena, chariot races, gladiator fights

Topkapi Palace

Ottoman Era

Administrative and residential center, opulent

Suleymaniye Mosque

Ottoman Era

Architectural masterpiece, designed by Sinan

Blue Mosque

Ottoman Era

Landmark of Ottoman architecture, pilgrimage site

Basilica Cistern

Beyond Empires, 6th century

Water reservoir, Byzantine engineering

Dolmabahce Palace

Beyond Empires, 19th century

Palace, residence of later sultans

Galata Tower

Beyond Empires, medieval Genoese

Tower, panoramic views

Are There Any Famous Museums In Istanbul?

There are many famous museums in Istanbul. Some of the most popular ones are:

  • Topkapi Palace Museum
  • Hagia Sophia Museum
  • Istanbul Archaeology Museums
  • Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts
  • Pera Museum
  • Rahmi M. Koç Museum
  • Istanbul Museum of Modern Art


What To Wear In Istanbul?

When you want to travel to Istanbul, you must consider the local culture and dress appropriately. While there is no strict dress code, it is recommended to dress modestly in public spaces, especially when you want to visit mosques or more conservative areas.

In general, you can wear whatever you feel comfortable with, as long as you respect the local culture and dress modestly in public spaces.

Does Istanbul Use Euro?

Istanbul uses the Turkish Lira as its official currency. While the euro is not widely accepted in Turkey, there are some exceptions, such as at the airport, in hotels, or at shops and restaurants in major tourist areas.

What Language Is Spoken In Istanbul?

The primary language spoken in Istanbul is Turkish. English is also widely spoken in Istanbul.

How Many Airports In Istanbul?

Istanbul Airport (IST): Located in the Arnavutköy district on the European side of the city

Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW): Situated on the Asian side of Istanbul

Is Istanbul Airport Safe?

The airport has standard security protocols and low crime rates.

Does Istanbul Airport Have Free Wi-Fi?

Yes, Istanbul Airport offers free Wi-Fi internet access to all visitors for one hour through wireless internet kiosks provided by Turk Telekom

How Many People Live In Istanbul?

The population of Istanbul is around 16 million people as of 2024.

Is Istanbul Expensive?

Istanbul is a very affordable city compared to other major tourist destinations in Europe and all over the world in general.

How Big Is Istanbul?

Istanbul is a large city with a total area of 5,343 km². The city is divided into two parts, with the European side and the Asian side.

How Many Days Do You Need In Istanbul?

The consensus is that spending between 3 and 7 days in the city allows for a thorough exploration of its major attractions and diverse neighborhoods.

Where To Eat In Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city with a rich culinary culture, and there are many great places to eat, you can find the best restaurants in this link.

What Are The Must-Try Dishes In Istanbul?

Here are some popular dishes to try:

  • Turkish Breakfast: a traditional Turkish breakfast that includes many options
  • Manti: a hot dish served with cold yogurt and garlic
  • Balik Ekmek: a popular street food
  • Doner Kebab: a classic Turkish dish
  • Baklava: a sweet pastry made of layers 
  • Lahmacun: a thin, crispy flatbread topped with minced meat
  • Turkish Delight: a sweet, chewy candy
  • Pide: a type of Turkish pizza
  • Kumpir: popular street food that is a baked potato stuffed with various topping
  • Turkish Coffee: a strong, roasted coffee served in a small cup

Are There Vegetarian Or Vegan Options In Istanbul Restaurants?

Yes, Istanbul offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options in its restaurants. Additionally, many traditional Turkish dishes, such as zeytinyağlılar, are inherently vegetarian and widely available.

Do You Tip In Istanbul?

In Istanbul, tipping is customary, but it is not mandatory. Here are some general guidelines on tipping in different situations:

  • Restaurants, cafés, and bars: As a rule of thumb, you are expected to tip 5-10% of your bill.
  • Hotel staff: Hotel staff expect tips depending on their duties, between 2–10 Euros for their services.
  • Taxi drivers: Turks don’t tip taxi drivers, but rounding up cab fares is common.
  • Turkish bath (hammam): After your bath, you should tip 10-20% of the total amount you spent among the attendants.
  • Tour guides: Tour guides expect tips, and the amount depends on the quality of the service.
  • Airport porters: Professional porters at airports operate by an official tariff, and you should tip according to their tariff.

How To Get From Istanbul Airport To City Center?

There are several ways to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center, here are some options:

  • Istanbul Airport Metro line M11: this is the fastest and most affordable option
  • IETT Public Bus: you can use the Istanbulkart to travel on IETT buses and transfer to the metro, tram, or Marmaray line.
  • Istanbul Airport Taxi: a taxi from Istanbul to the city center costs around $20.
  • Private Airport Transfer: this option offers convenience and privacy, with a private transfer service picking you up from your location and dropping you off at your destination. 
  • H2 Line: this option is suitable for those heading to Taksim Square.

Is There Uber In Istanbul?

Yes, Uber is available in Istanbul, along with other cities in Turkey, such as Izmir and Ankara.

Is Istanbul Gay Friendly?

Istanbul is generally considered gay-friendly, with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community and a variety of gay-friendly clubs, bars, and Venus.  However, it is essential to remember that Turkish society is conservative, and public displays of affection may not be as accepted as in some Western countries.

How Efficient Is Public Transportation In Istanbul?

Istanbul’s public transportation system is considered efficient and comprehensive, offering various modes of travel to navigate the city. The city’s public transport network includes metro, tram, bus, ferry, and taxi.

Is There A Metro System In Istanbul?

Yes, Istanbul has a metro system that is considered efficient and comprehensive. The Istanbul Metro is the backbone of the city’s public transport system.

Where Can I Get a Gift Card In Istanbul?

In Istanbul, you can purchase gift cards at various physical stores and online platforms. Some options include:

Biyner, Migros, Mall of Istanbul, Giftly.

Do I Need A Tour Guide In Istanbul?

It depends on your preference and comfort level, but if you prefer a guide, have language concerns, or want historical context, a tour guide in Istanbul can be beneficial.

What Is The Nightlife Like In Istanbul?

Istanbul offers a vibrant and diverse nightlife, with a wide range of options to suit different tastes. The city is known for its lively entertainment scene, dance clubs, and late-night bars to traditional meyhanes and live music venues.

Are There Popular Entertainment Venues In Istanbul?

Yes, Istanbul has many popular entertainment venues, including bars, clubs, live music venues, and theaters. Some popular areas for nightlife in Istanbul include Beyoglu, Taksim, Kadikoy, and Beşiktaş, each offering a unique atmosphere and a variety of entertainment options.

Are There Any Traditional Festivals Celebrated In Istanbul?

Yes, there are many traditional festivals celebrated in Istanbul. Some popular festivals in Istanbul include:

  • Ramazan Festival: celebrated during the holiest month of the Islamic calendar.
  • Hıdrellez Festival: This festival celebrates the arrival of spring and is held on May 6th.
  • Kurban Bayramı (Sacrifice Feast): this festival commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God.
  • Sufi Music Festival Istanbul: This festival features traditional Sufi music and dance performances, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Turkey.

Baklahorani: Organized by the members of the Greek-Orthodox community in Istanbul, this carnival celebration occurs on the Monday before Lent each year.

How Is The Healthcare System In Istanbul For Tourists?

Istanbul boasts numerous modern and well-equipped private hospitals and clinics, using advanced technology and experienced medical professionals.

Compared to Western countries, medical costs in Istanbul are significantly lower, and finding healthcare providers is easy.

Are There Pharmacies And Medical Facilities Readily Available in Istanbul?

Yes, pharmacies and medical facilities are available in Istanbul. In Istanbul, pharmacies, known as “Eczane” and each area has some open 24/7. They provide a wide range of over-the-counter medications as well as prescription drugs.