The only city in the world that is in both Asia and Europe, Istanbul also straddles the ancient and modern worlds.
The best way to experience Istanbul is to allow for unscheduled wandering in between visits to historical sites and museums. Rise early enough to partake of the renowned Turkish breakfast. And ride the ferries, often. They're not just a way to get from here to there; on a ferry you can rest feet weary from sightseeing, drink tea, or eat a grilled-cheese sandwich and take in the best views of anywhere in the city.
The ghosts of marauding Crusaders and marching janissaries haunt the city's historic alleyways-but this is no museum: the Bosporus is still a buzzing artery for maritime trade, and the sounds of building construction play a constant counterpoint to the shouts of street hawkers and the call of the muezzin. There are several reasons why visitors return repeatedly: the setting is exceptional, right on the Sea of Marmara and astride the busy Bosporus Strait. And Istanbul's skyline is a stunning melange of domes, minarets, medieval towers, and office buildings looming over low-rise residential structures.
Today the cultural and financial center of Turkey, Istanbul has been the capital of three empires-Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman. Our Istanbul travel guide combines the best of Istanbul old and new.
Purchase a reloadable Istanbulkart from a bufe (convenience-store-like stalls found around the city and outside ferry terminals), which lets you ride-and save money on-the city's vast network of trams, funiculars, subways, buses, and ferries. Taxis are plentiful, but beware: drivers can be on the surly side.
Know Before You Go
Beware carpet sellers in the Old City and the Grand Bazaar, who will lure you in with the promise that you can "just look" and offer glasses of tea before laying on the hard sell (remember: you are not obligated to buy, even if you drink that tea). Hoard small bills, especially if you plan to use taxis to get around; drivers rarely carry much change. Istanbul locals are incredibly hospitable; don't be surprised if a perfect stranger offers you a glass of tea at a teahouse. A few words of Turkish (merhaba for "ello," kolay gelsin for "take it easy," and tessekur ederim for "thank you") will smooth encounters.