City breaks in Istanbul
Book a short stay or weekend break in this ancient Turkish city
The only city in the world to span 2 continents, Istanbul perches at the place where Europe and Asia meet, along the dividing line of the Bosphorus Strait. Throughout its entire history, it has been a cultural meeting point, a destination where empires, civilizations and continents collide.
It is this rich and layered history that makes Turkey's largest city what it is today, a captivating blend of old and new that is fascinating to delve into on a weekend getaway.
From ornate mosques and Byzantine churches, to sumptuous Ottoman palaces and extensive museums, the city is heaven for fans of history and architecture, but modern Istanbul is just as lively and appealing.
On a city break in Istanbul, you can shop your way through kaleidoscopic bazaars and outdoor markets, or splurge on upscale homewares and designer fashion in the city's boutiques. Take a break for a cup of tea or Turkish coffee, savored in a traditional coffee house, then sample the local street food and authentic Turkish dishes before heading out to check out the thriving nightlife. Want to indulge? Book a traditional hammam experience in an authentic bathhouse to scrub away the cares of the day.
By booking a city center hotel, you can make the most of even a short break in Istanbul. Our central Radisson Blu hotels are all close to major attractions, shopping districts and public transportation links, making it easy to squeeze in everything you want to do and save time and money on travel.
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Şişli
- Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Asia
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Atakoy
Our top 3 Istanbul attractions
- Hagia Sophia
- Blue Mosque
- Topkapı Palace
- Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts
- Istanbul Archaeology Museums
- Pera Museum
Use our Istanbul map to see our pick of the top attractions
Locations and Neighborhoods
Location and neighborhoods
Discover Istanbul’s different areas
Best for history and attractions: Sultanahmet
The ancient heart of Istanbul, this central area is where you'll find the bulk of the city's historic attractions, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Basilica Cistern. You'll also find colorful shopping the Grand Bazaar and other traditional markets, and plenty of bars and restaurants. Best for those who want a flavor of old Constantinople.
Best for nightlife: Galata and Karaköy
Just across the Golden Horn is the newer area of Beyoğlu, which is known for its trendy shopping and nightlife, particularly in the Galata and Karaköy areas, centered on the impressive Galata Tower. An abundance of vibrant, stylish bars and nightclubs make this the place to be when the sun goes down, and there's also a good choice of stores along the pedestrianized street İstiklal Caddesi and nearby Taksim Square. You'll also find the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera in this area.
Best for caffeine and culture: Cihangir and Çukurcuma
Also part of Beyoğlu, these laid-back neighborhoods have a young, bohemian vibe, with excellent coffee houses, museums and galleries. Çukurcuma in particular is known for its antique stores. You'll also find a wide selection of eclectic shops, hipster bars and restaurants lining the cobbled streets, making this a brilliant area to explore on foot.
Best for parks and palaces: Bosphorus
The sparkling strait that cuts through Istanbul and separates Europe from Asia is lined with grand Ottoman palaces and peaceful green spaces in affluent neighborhoods such as Arnavutköy, Bebek, and Rumelihısarı – the perfect place to relax with a picnic and enjoy the views of the water. If you enjoy seafood, this is also a good place to find some of Istanbul's best fish restaurants, which serve up a fresh local catch every day. The Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul is a good base for exploring this area.
Best for retail therapy: Şişli
Istanbul's New City and upscale business district is located just north of Taksim Square. This is where you'll find most of the city's modern, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, as well as the fashionable Nişantaşı shopping area, full of exclusive designer boutiques and chic, European-style cafés. Staying at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Şişli puts you close to all the action.
Best for photogenic street scenes: Balat and Fener
Traditionally home to the city's Jewish and Greek communities, these historic neighborhoods still have an atmospheric, Old World feel, with grand wooden mansions, ornate churches and plenty of local charm. The Chora Church is also in this area. A great place to escape the tourist trail and get a hint of the city's past.
Best for exploring across the water: Kadiköy
Take a ferry ride across the Bosphorus to visit this vibrant area, known for its fantastic seafood restaurants, hip bars and laid-back, edgy vibe. You can also get a bus there from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Asia in less than 30 minutes. Be sure to check out some of the local food markets and excellent coffee houses, popular with students and families alike.
Best for escaping the city: Princes’ Islands
These 9 islands in the Sea of Marmara are a popular destination for day-trippers eager to take a break from Istanbul's bustling streets. The islands of Büyükada, Heybeliada, Kinalıada, and Burgazada can be visited by the public, and you can get there via ferry or seabus. No cars are allowed on the islands, so it's a marvelous place to unwind, do some walking or cycling, and generally enjoy the peace and quiet.
Where to Stay
Book a Radisson Blu hotel in Istanbul
City breaks can be full of surprises. Book your stay with Radisson Blu and look forward to exploring everything Istanbul has to offer.
Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul
Appealing amenities and dazzling views of the Bosphorus Strait promise a visit to remember in Istanbul. Choose from among 120 fashionable rooms and suites, all of which feature Free high-speed, wireless Internet. At Cruise Lounge Bar, you can savor a fresh-poured cocktail, or you can indulge in a hearty meal at StarBoard Restaurant. An on-site beauty center and versatile meeting facilities round out the list of offerings.
Radisson Blu Conference & Airport Hotel, Istanbul
This stylish hotel is adjacent to Ataturk International Airport and offers sumptuous comfort and optimum convenience. On-site features include Free high-speed, wireless Internet, a restaurant and bar, a fitness center, an indoor pool and a Turkish hammam. The exceptional meeting facilities can accommodate up to 1,000 delegates, who can easily reach the hotel from the airport via the complimentary shuttle.
Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Istanbul Tuzla
The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa in Tuzla occupies a distinctive locale in this charming Istanbul suburb. Rest well in one of 249 elegant rooms and suites, taking in views of the gardens that surround the accommodation. The on-site spa serves as a dazzling urban oasis where you can rejuvenate mind and body. In our 582-square-meter ballroom, up to 600 guests can gather for a one-of-a-kind gala, wedding reception or other celebration. To top it off, the Radisson Blu is just 3 kilometers from Turkey's second-busiest airport.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Asia
Both corporate travelers and sightseers appreciate our convenient city center location. Browse for antiques at the Grand Bazaar, or tour the stunning Blue Mosque. Free high-speed, wireless Internet makes it easy to stay in touch with both family and clients. Pamper yourself with a Turkish bath, or order cocktails at the poolside bar.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Atakoy
Plan a restful stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Atakoy and enjoy close proximity to the airport and the city's top cultural attractions, including Old Town. Spacious rooms and suites afford breathtaking views of the Marmara Sea and such thoughtful amenities as Free high-speed, wireless Internet. Delicious on-site dining, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and well-designed event space round out the hotel's offerings.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera
This outstanding Istanbul hotel places guests in the Pera area of the city, near Taksim Square and set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Golden Horn. The 130 rooms and suites provide sumptuous accommodation and features like Free high-speed, wireless Internet. The exceptional dining options include both outdoor and indoor venues, and the fully equipped gym offers ample equipment for an effective workout. Head to the spa for a relaxing treatment, or employ one of the several flexible conference rooms for both personal and business events.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Sisli
For superior accommodation near transport and attractions, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Sisli provides 291 rooms and suites that cater to a variety of itineraries and party sizes. Try delectable local cuisine at the on-site Hamdi, and follow up your meal with cakes and pastries from Bon a Petit Cafe & Cake. Two pools, a business center, a spa and flexible meeting rooms are all available on site.
Radisson Blu Residence, Istanbul Batisehir
Especially convenient for business travelers and longer stays, our hotel lies near Istanbul city center and Ataturk International Airport. Choose from 171 long-stay apartments, including 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom options. An on-site restaurant offers convenient all-day dining, and the bar serves refreshing beverages. Maintain your workout regime at the gym, then unwind at the relaxing spa and wellness area. You can park your car in one of 230 parking bays, and finish work tasks at the business center. Featuring 5 meeting rooms, our Istanbul hotel provides an ideal venue for conferences and personal events.
Things to do in Istanbul
Must-sees, must-eats and must-dos
Landmarks and attractions
Use our Istanbul map to see our choice of top attractions.
- Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya): Built as a Christian church in the 6th century, this vast domed building was later converted to a mosque under the Ottomans. It is now one of Istanbul’s most popular visitor attractions, and a spectacular example of Byzantine architecture, packed with breath-taking mosaics and other artwork. Buy tickets on official site.
Directions: Take the tram to Sultanahmet station in the Old City – Hagia Sophia is only a short walk from there.
- Topkapı Palace: Get a sense of what life was like for the early Ottoman sultans and their families, who resided at this ornate royal residence between the 15th and 19th centuries. Admire the striking architecture and intricate decoration of the palace buildings and courtyards, as well as an impressive collection of antiques, artwork and royal artifacts. Be sure to pay a visit to the Harem, where the sultan’s wives, concubines and children lived (separate admission required).
Directions: Less than 5 minutes' walk northeast from Hagia Sophia.
- Blue Mosque: One of Istanbul’s most recognizable structures, this elegant mosque with its 6 towering minarets dominates the skyline overlooking Sultanahmet Park. Built by Sultan Ahmet I in the 17th century, the mosque gets its unofficial name from the beautiful blue tiles that cover its interior. As the mosque is still a working place of worship, it closes briefly for the 5 daily prayer sessions, but welcomes visitors the rest of the time.
Directions: Less than 5 minutes' walk southwest from Hagia Sophia.
- Basilica Cistern: Step underground to marvel at this immense Byzantine cistern, which was built in 532 to supply water to the emperor’s palace. With spectacular vaulted ceilings supported by 336 stone columns, it was capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water, all transported via underground aqueducts – a truly impressive example of Byzantine engineering, and an unforgettable sight.
Directions: Less than 5 minutes' walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
- Dolmabahçe Palace: With a fabulous location on the banks of the Bosphorus, this opulent 19th-century palace was commissioned by the Ottoman rulers as a European-style residence for the royal family. Today you can visit the Ceremonial Suites, the Crown Prince’s Apartments and the National Painting Museum within the lavish interior.
Directions: A 35-minute walk from the Radisson Blu Bosphorus Hotel, Istanbul; or, take the tram to the Kabatas stop – the palace is just a 10-minute walk from there.
- Süleymaniye Mosque: One of the most magnificent of Istanbul’s mosques, the Süleymaniye has a prime location on a hilltop overlooking the Golden Horn, making it an intrinsic part of the city skyline. Visit to enjoy the bright and airy interior, the elegant courtyard and gardens, and the original outlying mosque buildings, which now house a café, amongst other things.
Directions: Take the metro to the Vezneciler stop – the mosque is less than 10 minutes' walk from there.
- Chora Church (Kariye Museum): One of the city’s most impressive examples of Byzantine religious art, this small but beautiful church is packed with breath-taking frescos and ornate mosaics.
Directions: Take the tram or bus to the Edirnekapi stop. From there, you can reach the church in less than 10 minutes on foot.
- Turkish breakfast: Start your day with a lavish traditional breakfast spread, which typically includes bread, butter, cheese, olives, tahini, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and more, along with plenty of Turkish tea. You may also get to try traditional dishes such as börek (pastries stuffed with cheese and sometimes meat and vegetables) or menemen (scrambled eggs with peppers, onions, tomatoes and herbs).
- Simit: You can buy these slightly chewy, bagel-like rings of baked dough topped with sesame seeds from street carts all over the city. The perfect quick snack.
- Dürüm: Juicy lamb, chicken or beef roasted over coals and served in a warm wrap with vegetables, herbs and spices – great for a light, portable meal or filling snack.
- Baklava: This popular Turkish dessert is made of thin sheets of phyllo pastry stuffed with pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts and baked in butter and a sweet syrup. Extremely moreish.
- Manti: Often known as Turkish ravioli, this pasta dish features small dumplings with a seasoned ground beef or lamb filling, served with a creamy garlic and yoghurt sauce, as well as other toppings.
- Grand Bazaar: Chaotic and captivating, this colorful market is Istanbul’s largest and has been at the heart of the city’s retail experience for centuries. Shop here for fine carpets, gold jewelry, handcrafted leather goods and other treasures. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, this fascinating maze of shops and stalls is a must-see!
Directions: Less than 20 minutes' walk from Hagia Sophia.
- Serdar-ı Ekrem: This unassuming, cobbled street is home to some of Istanbul’s hippest shopping, including local fashion labels, and stylish homeware boutiques and design stores – not to mention plenty of trendy cafés and bars.
Directions: Around 10 minutes' walk from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera.
- Spice Bazaar: A delight for foodies and souvenir hunters alike, this traditional spice market is packed with dried fruits and herbs, nuts, honey, figs, caviar, tea and of course, Turkish delight – as well as some great photo ops.
Directions: Just 15 minutes' walk south from the Sultanahmet side of the Galata Bridge.
- Çukurcuma: One of Istanbul’s best destinations for antique hunters, this elegant street is lined with high-end antique stores, as well as vintage clothing boutiques and other purveyors of nostalgia, including the intriguing Museum of Innocence developed by award-winning author Orhan Pamuk.
Directions: About 15 minutes' walk from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera.
- Nişantaşı: Affluent and stylish, this district is known for its luxury boutiques. Along the street Abdi İpekçi Caddesi, you’ll find high-end stores such as Louis Vuitton and Prada, as well as upscale Turkish designers, whereas nearby Teşvikiye Caddesi offers global brands such as Zara and Massimo Dutti. There are also several shopping malls and department stores in the area.
Directions: Around 15 minutes' walk from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Şişli.
- Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts: Discover exquisite examples of calligraphy, sumptuous carpets and other fascinating artifacts at this excellent museum housed in a grand Ottoman palace.
Directions: Less than 10 minutes' walk southwest from Hagia Sophia.
- Istanbul Archaeology Museums: Explore the history of Istanbul and its surrounds from earliest times to the present through the extensive Topkapı Palace collections. Admire everything from classical-era statues and sarcophagi to colorful tiles, pottery and more across the museum’s 3 buildings.
Directions: About 5 minutes' walk west of Topkapı Palace.
- Pera Museum: This outstanding Istanbul art gallery is a must-see for anyone interested in Turkish art and design. The fabulous Orientalist collection of paintings is a highlight, as well as the specialist collections of tiles, ceramics, photographs and Anatolian weights and measures. Keep an eye out for temporary exhibitions and film screenings.
Directions: Less than 10 minutes' walk from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Pera.
- Carpet Museum: Gain a new appreciation of the variety and fine craftsmanship of traditional Anatolian carpets through this extensive, colorful collection. Housed in a former mosque soup kitchen, the museum includes handsome carpets dating from the 14th century to the present day.
Directions: Next door to Hagia Sophia.
Travel in Istanbul
All you need to know about the city’s transportExploring Istanbul’s winding streets and lanes on foot is an excellent way to soak up the city’s atmosphere and admire its striking architecture. For longer journeys, the city has an efficient and wide-ranging public transportation network, which is convenient and cost-effective to use.
By staying at a hotel in the city center, such as any of our Radisson Blu locations, you’ll save time on traveling to attractions and between neighborhoods, allowing you to spend more time sightseeing, shopping, eating and everything else that will make your city break in Istanbul memorable. The staff at our Radisson Blu hotels will be happy to give you directions or advise on public transport routes to help you get the most out of your stay.
Arriving in Istanbul
Istanbul’s main airport is Atatürk International Airport, some 23 kilometers to the west. The city is also served by Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, around 40 kilometers to the east.
Both are connected to the city center by airport bus, metro and seabus. Check the İETT site to plan your journey by bus, and the site for metro journeys.
Public transportation in Istanbul
Istanbul has a comprehensive public transport network that includes buses, trams, funiculars, the metro, ferries and seabuses.
The following companies run the individual forms of transport – visit their sites for detailed route and fare info, as well as journey planners:
- İstanbul Elektrik Tramvay ve Tünel (İETT): buses, historic trams and funiculars
- İstanbul Ulaşım: trams and metro
- İstanbul Şehir Hatları: ferries
- Dentur Avrasya: ferries
- Turyol: ferries
- İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri: seabus and express ferry
You buy individual tickets from the vending machines or ticket booths at metro, funicular or tram stops. However, by purchasing an İstanbulkart rechargeable travel card instead, you can save money on your travel and also make it quicker and easier to board the various forms of transport – simply swipe the card on boarding a bus or tram or when going through the turnstile for the metro or ferry. (Check in advance before boarding a ferry – the travel card is valid on some but not all.)
Note that the public transport system is efficient but very busy, so you may wish to avoid traveling during rush hours.
Taxis are plentiful in Istanbul and relatively inexpensive. However, with the traffic congestion they are not always the most efficient way to travel. Always make sure you are in a taxi with a working meter. Our concierge teams will be happy to help you arrange taxi transport.
Facts and Useful phrases
Language, costs, useful phrases and more
Top 10 Turkish phrases:
|Goodbye (said by person leaving||Hosçakalin||Hos-chah kah-lihn|
|Goodbye (said by person staying)||Güle güle||Gyu-leh gyu-leh|
|Do you speak English?||Ingilizce biliyor musunuz?||Een-gee-leez-jeh bee-lee-yohr moo-soo-nooz?|
|Where is the washroom?||Tuvalet nerede?||Too-vah-leht neh-reh-deh?|
|How much?||Ne kadar?||Neh kah-dahr?|
|Yes / No||Evet / Hayır||Eh-veht / Hay-yuhr|
Population :14.8 million (December 2016)
Currency: Turkish Lira
Average cost of travel: ₺4.00 for single metro ticket (₺2.30 with İstanbulkart)
Most defining feature: The monumental mosques and graceful minarets
Average cost of a pint : ₺14
Top 5 facts and tips about Istanbul:
Istanbul has more than 3,000 mosques – more than any other city in Turkey.
When visiting a mosque, remove your shoes and dress conservatively. Both men and women should make sure that at least their shoulders and knees are covered, and women should cover their heads – many mosques will have cloths you can borrow.
Istanbul was the capital of 3 empires: the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. However, Ankara is the capital of modern Turkey.
Like Rome, Istanbul is built on 7 hills.
During the time of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul had over 1400 public washrooms – whereas most European capitals had none.
Istanbul’s large size and diverse geographic features mean the city is influenced by Mediterranean, Balkan, Anatolian and Black Sea climates.
In general, summers are hot and humid, with little rainfall and highs approaching 30˚C, whereas winters are cold and damp, with occasional snow and lows of around 3˚C. Spring and fall are the most comfortable times for most tourists to visit.