A Brief Travel Guide to Istanbul, Turkey

Situated in between two continents—and former capital of two empires—the city of Istanbul teems with diverse cultural influence and a storied history. This alone make the city a must-visit for travelers in search of fascinating discoveries. Add on the fact that Istanbul also boasts of a robust art scene, mouthwatering cuisines and a medley of activities that tickles one's fancy and senses, there’s almost an endless list of things to do and places to see in this vibrant capital of Turkey. To help you plot your itinerary for your trip to Istanbul, here some important facts and helpful travel tips you can follow.

Photo credit: Hege from Flickr

How to get a Visa for Turkey

First things first, you need to apply an e-Visa for Turkey. Fortunately, Turkey provides e-Visa services to citizens from more than 100 countries (Philippines, included). To apply for a Turkey visa—just follow these simple steps:

1. Open this website to apply for a visa to Turkey.
2. Click the "more about visa" to learn about requirements, cost, validity and other useful information
3. Click "Apply"
4. Fill up all required information fields
5. You have the option to check "urgent delivery" for a little additional cost
6. Click "Apply for visa" once finished.
Note: Philippine passport holders are given a Turkey visa with a maximum stay of 30 days valid for 6 months. The e-visa processing fee cost approximately $20.00.

Places to See in Istanbul

The district of Sultanahmet is the ideal place to start your Istanbul exploration. Kickstart your tour at the largest cisterns in Istanbul, the grand Basilica Cistern then head out to the former site of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, in At Meydani. For a fix of great architecture, there's the spectacular Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) whose Byzantine design "changed the history of architecture".

Photo credit: Mondo from Flickr

Of course, you cannot visit Istanbul without laying eyes on the Sultanahmet—said to be the most beautiful mosque in the city. There's also the Ibrahim Pasa Palace, where you can find an astounding collection of rugs and calligraphy. The 15th century Topkapi Palace and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

For some shopping delight, head out to the Grand Bazaar to not only find good quality clothing, carpets, jewelry, souvenir items, ceramics and more—you can also witness a very vibrant market activity. A smaller one but filled with natural ingredients like spices, nuts, dried fruits and other Turkish goodies, the Spice Bazaar is another fascinating place to shop. While here, you can also check out the nearby Rüstem Pasha Mosque.

Photo credit: QXL from Flickr
As you explore further inside Istanbul, you will come across the Galata Bridge—which is the gateway into exploring Beyoglu (a popular street in Istanbul were Istiklai Caddesi is located), Galata Tower and the Dolmabahce Palace (Turkey's biggest palace).

Things to do in Istanbul

As a city brimming with interesting things to offer, Istanbul boast of a myriad of goings-on every traveler can enjoy. Going on a culinary tour is one highly recommended activity. Dine at Ciya Sofrasi—one of the city's iconic culinary destination and discover more hole-in-the-wall dining places and cafe in numerous local culinary alleyways found all over the city. You can easily get the services of travel companies offering daily gastronomic tours.

Follow-up your culinary tour with enrolling to a cooking class. This shall give you further understanding about Turkish food. For a more relaxed time, set out on a Bosphorus Boat tour along the scenic waters leading to Anadolu Kavagi port in the Black Sea.

Go museum hopping by visiting these other museums: Panorama 1453 History Museum and Kariye Museum. Cap your days by experiencing Istanbul's fun nightlife at these highly recommended places: Nardis Jazz Club, Arcadia Blue Hotel's roof bar, Büyük Londra Oteli just to state a few. Otherwise, just walk the streets of downtown Istanbul and chances are, you will find yourself in the middle of a cool and fun happening.

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Looking for accommodations in Istanbul do not present any problem, as various hotels and hostels catering to high-end travelers to midrange travelers and backpackers are located all over the city.

These high-end hotels come in highly recommended: Ada Hostel Istanbul, Green Life Apart Hotel, Hotel Seraglio, Georges Hotel Galata, Nuru Ziya Suites and more.