Istanbul, the Perfect Middle Eastern Destination of Wonders

At the eastern end of Europe, you will find Istanbul, one of the most amazing cities in the entire world. Come and read these Travel Tips for Istanbul that will save your life!!!

Turkey was the first non-European country that I visited and I must say that it had a great impact in my way of thinking. I always take great pleasure in getting to know new cultures and religions, and Turkey sure filled my head with both.

Whenever my friends and readers ask me for advice about their Europe itinerary, I always recommend spending at least 4 days in Istanbul, the legendary city that borders Europe with Asia.

Yes, Paris, Berlin and Rome are MUST-SEES but Istanbul? Istanbul is a MUST-EXPERIENCE type of city. Are you ready to explore it with me?

Sunset at Istanbul, Turkey

Sunset at Istanbul, Turkey

A brief introduction to the Muslim World

If you are like my old-self, you are probably biased by the negative reports that the mass media always say about people who follow Islam as their religion.

First, let me give you the most important piece of advice ever: The Middle East is not as scary or frightening as some movies (and uninformed people who have never visited it) portray it.

Turkey is a perfectly safe country and you shouldn’t feel concerned at all about your personal safety when you visit it. Trust me, you’ll fall in love it the very first moment you land to the exotic lands of Istanbul.

Maiden Tower in Istanbul, Turkey

Maiden Tower in Istanbul, Turkey

You see, some people take spiritual journeys to India to learn Hinduism or to Tibet to learn Buddhism. And how about Turkey? Well, Turkey is, in my opinion, the best place to learn Islam.

Why is that? Because it is the only Muslim majority country in the Middle East that its entirely secular: Freedom of speech is allowed and questioning doctrines is encouraged.

In some countries of the Middle East you would probably get in problems for asking the wrong kind of question to the wrong person but in Turkey? In Turkey the people encourage you to debate with them and share your own point of view.

Inside the Mosques of Istanbul

Inside the Mosques of Istanbul

Important things to know before visiting Istanbul

You should always be respectful when entering a Mosque, some (like the Blue Mosque) provide a veil to cover your legs in case you’re wearing shorts and covers for your shoes in case you don’t want to take them off.

However (as long as your feet don’t smell!) I strongly suggest you to take them off before entering instead of opting for the shoe covers, simply because the experience of walking barefoot on a splendid Turkish carpet is truly amazing.

The view of the Blue Mosque from Hagia Sophia

The view of the Blue Mosque from Hagia Sophia

When it comes to dealing with the Turks, you should also realize is that just because a person doesn’t look like whatever stereotype you might have about Turkish people,  it doesn’t mean that they are not “real” Turkish.

Turkey is a very diverse country in all aspects so don’t be surprised to see a Turkish woman wearing a burka walking right next to one wearing shorts.

More important, bear in mind that doner kebab is Turkish while shawarma is Arabic so don’t go asking for a shawarma while in Istanbul my friends!

The lamps of Istanbul Grand Bazaar

The lamps of Istanbul Grand Bazaar

How to get to Istanbul from Europe?

As always, there are different ways to reach a destination. The easy way, involving an airplane, and the backpackers way, involving a lengthy bus ride that crosses international borders at 4:00 am.

Turkey has two land borders with Europe: Greece and Bulgaria. The path I chose back in 2012 started in Thessaloniki, which is accessible very cheaply from almost anywhere in Europe thanks to Easyjet.

Once you’re there, you can find tour companies that sell a direct ticket to Istanbul, it is an overnight bus that takes around 6 to 8 hours. Alternatively, you can stop in Thrace on the way from Greece to Istanbul.

The Beautiful Mosques of Istanbul

The Beautiful Mosques of Istanbul

You might also want to take your time to explore Thessaloniki and/or take a bus to Athens (5 to 6 hours) once you’re there. Alternatively, I recommend taking one of the many direct flights that Turkish Airlines offers to Istanbul from Europe’s hottest capitals.

Want to know more about Istanbul? Read this article here at Journey Wonders about the best cultural attractions of Istanbul and stay tuned for more amazing stories from this bustling city of wonders.

One Month in Turkey, the best Itinerary of Wonders

One Month in Turkey, the best Itinerary of Wonders

Where to stay in Istanbul, Turkey

Accommodation in Istanbul is mostly focused on the European side (mostly around Sultanahmet and Taksim Square) although there are some interesting properties on the Asian side as well.

Here’s a list of my recommendations for all types of budget: Sirkeci Mansion, Heirloom Istanbul, Cheers Hostel and Downtown Istanbul Hostel.

You can make a booking for this and more properties via our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders!

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Sirkeci Mansion, boutique hotel in Istanbul

Sirkeci Mansion, boutique hotel in Istanbul

I hope you have enjoyed this small introduction the wonderful city of Istanbul. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Have you ever been to Istanbul? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think of this amazing city!

Until next time, my friends!

The Ultimate Istanbul Travel Guide Turkey Asia Middle East

Pin to Pinterest?

41 Responses

  1. Kristin

    I agree with you, Istanbul is a truly wonderful city! I used to travel there on business many times, and right from the start I fell totally in love with this city. It’s a shame that people have so many prejudices against the country and its people. I’ve gotten to know the people there as incredibly polite and welcoming.
    Beautiful pictures. Glad you were having such a great experience!

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Exactly! Turks are some of the most friendly people on Earth (after Mexicans, of course!) and it’s a shame that movies like “Midnight Express” have damaged the international image of this amazing country.

      • Alev

        thank you for your positive comments unfortunately when I say I am Turkish first thing people respond to me is Midnight express . I just want to scream hey it is just movie . Once more thank you.

  2. The Miss Adventure Journals

    I would love to see Istanbul one day. I have been to Turkey a couple of times when I was about 12. I got hassled so much I swore I would never go back. That was in the package holiday areas and it was many years ago now. I have many friends who like you loved Istanbul

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I heard about those tour packages, actually, I believe they are quite famous in the UK, every summer a friend from Scotland traveled to some unknown Greek Island resort to relax, get tanned and party a lot :)

  3. Journeys By Jill

    Istanbul is definitely on my list. Thanks for the tips.

    I agree that people need to look past the scary news reports. We treasured our trip to the Middle East. The Egyptians were some of the loveliest, most hospitable people we have had the great fortune to meet. Travel and form your own opinions. It’s an amazing world.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      I believe that it’s the case of vocal minorities of bad people giving a bad image to their country. Istanbul and Mexico City aren’t really more dangerous than the average American city.

  4. Brianna

    I’ve visited Turkey but I have yet to explore Istanbul. I found Turkey a fascinating mix of Europe and the Middle East.

  5. Dehan çömez

    Thanks for the article. I am talking as a Turkish you can write about traditional drinks and foods such as rakı- antriditional alcoholic drink and efes beer :D Also “ayran” as a non-alcoholic drink. And if you haven’t tried yet you should taste kokoreç, fish from the bosphorus with rakı and all kind of “mezes” and some meat balls maybe. Hope you are enjoying İstanbul. Have a great time!

  6. Jenna

    I would love to visit Turkey–it looks so beautiful! I love the photo of the guy making Turkish candy!

  7. Hannah Logan

    Istanbul has been on my list since a friend of mine studied abroad there- it looks stunning!

  8. Alli Blair

    I went in 2011 to Istanbul and loved it also :) My favourite was the Grand Bazaar! I wandered through there for hours and admired all the spice mountains and trinkets!

  9. Serena Chiarle

    I’ve never been to Istanbul, but here you gave me quite some further reasons to visit it.
    It must be a very interesting city, with its own unique meltin pot of cultures.
    And yes, it must also be a place that can give us a chance to truly understand Islam – the “good” side of it, as we often tend to mistake real Islam with its extremist parties.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Yes, the melting post aspect is a very important one as it’s right next to Greece and Bulgaria and has a considerable number of expats from all around the world working and living here!

  10. Megan Claire

    I would love to get to Instanbul – it’s been making all of the lists lately for best city in the world!

  11. The Crowded Planet

    Love Istanbul! I visited 4 times and can’t wait to go back!

  12. Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren

    Thanks for explaining all of this! I didn’t realize how Turkey was secular and debating about aspects of religion is encouraged. I think that’s really cool! I would love to visit the mosques there.

  13. Antonette Spaan

    I’ve always thought that Istanbul is a definite must visit city, without having been there! I once had the chance to go but no money and have always regretted since… one day!

  14. John

    We’re headed there in two days, so this post is quite timely and is getting me excited! Thanks for the primer. Can’t wait to experience this city!

  15. Christine Messina

    Great tips on what to see/do! Love the photos too. Now I want to have Turkish candy :)

  16. Priti

    Thank you for the insight into Istanbul, it looks like a really interesting place – Definitely want to go there and check it out! :)

  17. Mrs Suvi

    I was there for one whole week meeting a friend I hadn’t seen for 15 years. It was amazing (both the meet up and the city). Love your photos, brings back the memories :)

  18. Emrah

    Dear Brianna I have been living in istanbul since I was born (1979) There are places that I have never been in Istanbul. I still couldn’t explore Istanbul yet.
    Dear Raphael Thank you for your thoughts about our city. Saving money is the most important thing in travel. Everybody can write to me to get opinions of hotels and places to visit. I will be glad to help you.