A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Home > Travel > Istanbul

Featured Equipment Deals

Five Top U.S. Photography Schools to Consider Read More

Five Top U.S. Photography Schools to Consider

Are you thinking of going to photo school? Photo.net conducted an independent survey to find out which schools are the most recommended by other photographers.

A Photographer's Guide to Istanbul

by Philip Greenspun, December 2007

Istanbul was the center of Western Civilization for hundreds of years, the center of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years, and is today a beautiful waterside city of nearly 15 million energetic people.

Where to Start

Istanbul is a sprawling collection of villages, all of which have exploded into each other, rather than one coherent city. Unless you have months on the ground, you will have to pick one or two Istanbuls and leave the rest for a future trip. Are you interested in slugging it out with the postcard photographers for conventional tourism images of the historic district? Stay in Sultanahmet. Interested in exploring the relationship among the city, the two seas, and the strait between the seas? Rent a boat and live on it. Interested in showing the lifestyle of the latest generation of wealthy Turks? Hang out in nightclubs along the Bosphorus. Interested in how people from poor villages in the southeast adapt to the cost and secular life of the big city? Visit the slums and the factories.

Istanbul Bazaar: the Religion of Shopping

A lot of folks would suggest starting a tourist or photographic project in Istanbul in the mosques. In Istanbul, however, urged on by some of the highest living costs in the world, the citizens seem to spend more time thinking about commerce. Why not start in the Bazaar, the world's oldest shopping mall? It is right in Sultanahmet, probably walking distance from your hotel.

Unless you feel like paying more than you'd pay in the U.S., try not to buy anything. If you fall in love with a carpet and don't mind the fact that you could have bought it cheaper in the U.S., any shop can roll it up to be checked through on your flight. The merchants will tell you that a handmade carpet is a duty-free "handicraft". U.S. customs officials will tell you that a handmade carpet is a carpet and cheerfully collect duty when you arrive back in the States. Don't buy a carpet anywhere that a guide has taken you; the shop will be paying the guide and his company a 40-percent commission. A reputable shop that does not pay commissions to guides is Sengor Carpet (pronounced "Shangor"; say that "a friend of Oya's sent you").

Religion other than shopping

At the beginning of the 20th Century, "religion in Istanbul" would have covered a diverse spectrum of belief systems. Christianity, for example, was as popular as any other creed, albeit subject to official discrimination. In building modern Turkey, the government went to extraordinary lengths to "Turkify" the country. The Greeks, Armenians, and Jews who were once common on the streets of Istanbul have been replaced with a flood of immigrants from other parts of Turkey. For the tourist, the practical effect of this change is that photographing religion in Istanbul means photographing Islam.

Mosques are among Turkey's greatest architectural achievements and Western audiences are very curious to see images relating to Islam. Of all of the cities in Turkey, however, Istanbul is the one where Islam plays the least important role in daily life. Keeping dogs as family companions and drinking alcohol, both forbidden in most interpretations of the Koran, are more common than daily attendance at the mosque. It is thus somewhat misleading to concentrate your photographic efforts on covered women and people praying.

The most interesting mosques are in Sultanahmet. A non-obvious and not-too-easy-to-find one is Rustem Pasa, up some stairs from a busy nest of market alleys. Rustem Pasa is famous for its ceramic tiles.

Rustem Pasa...

[Visiting Christian sites elsewhere in Turkey can be interesting even though most of the remaining Christians departed in the 1950s. Various sites in modern Turkey were visited by St. Paul and other early evangelists. Touring the Jewish sites is not for the faint of heart. One Istanbul synagogue, Neve Shalom, has been attacked three times: September 6, 1986 (by Palestinians), March 1, 1992 (Palestinians again), and November 15, 2003 (by Turkish members of Al-Qaeda). More than 40 people died and nearly 400 were injured in these attacks.]


Taking pictures for a glossy souvenir book? Wake up at 0600 and visit sights before anyone else shows up. Later in the day, wait for fat ugly tourists clad in clashing colors to walk out of the frame. Is that Istanbul as you experienced it? As anyone else is likely to experience it? Tourism has been a feature of the city for centuries. Why not show the sights as they are typically experienced, packed with tourists?


Istanbullus are accustomed to all of the indignities of big city life, including being stared at and photographed by tourists. Try to be quick in raising the camera to your eye and give the subject a big smile as you set the camera back down on your chest.

More: the photo.net introduction to street photography.

A Higher Perspective

There are no standard airplane or helicopter tours over Istanbul. The easiest way to get above the older areas of downtown is an elevator ride up to the top of the Galata Tower. You'll be looking south towards Sultanahmet, so visit near sunset for the best images. The tower is open until midnight.

The Water

Istanbul and environs were built along the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara, and the Black Sea. For photos of the city from the water, start with the ferry system from Eminonu. Almost any ferry will do, but the system also runs a daily sightseeing round-trip tour.

Art Museums and Galleries

The Istanbul Biennial offers the best chance to get interesting photos inside galleries. The Biennial is held every odd-numbered year, i.e., the same years as the Venice Biennale. The Biennial features contemporary art from a variety of countries. The art tends to be unusual and to occupy large spaces so a photographer is not simply copying paintings. Photography within the exhibits was allowed in 2007.

Photographic Exhibitions

The Istanbul Modern museum is a good starting point for seeing the best Turkish photography.

Side Trip: Cappadocia

The most bizarre built environment in Turkey is Cappadocia, just a one-hour flight to the southeast. The volcanic tuff on the surface facilitated the carving of churches, monasteries, houses, and hotels into rocks. Erosion results in Bryce Canyon-style hoodoos sticking up in the middle of towns. In the bad old days when Mongol and Muslim invaders rode across the plain, the Christians here defended themselves by building massive underground shelters, up to eight levels deep and capable of holding thousands of people.

Cappadocia supports a massive hot air balloon industry, with 28 tourists filling each basket and as many as 50 balloons launching on a typical morning. I rode with Cihangir Balloons, piloted by Cihangir, a rock solid guy with 4000 airplane hours who turned to balloons 15 years ago. Highly recommended. Earplugs are essential, at least for the one ear closest to the burner. Layers are also a good idea as it starts out cold (pre-sunrise) and ends fairly hot due to burner. You might find it helpful to read our aerial photography tutorial before embarking.

Some practical details... June is the best month in which to visit Cappadocia. The hills are green, the weather is mild, and the hotels are vacant. May is crowded with tourists who come to visit the battlefields of Gallipoli. July and August are hot and crowded. September and October aren't bad, but the soil is parched. Fly into Kayseri, from which there is an inexpensive shuttle bus to Goreme. Nevsehir is slightly closer, but the flights are at very inconvenient times and you'll have to pay for a taxi that will cost more than the flight. Stay in Goreme, which the guidebooks claim is busy and spoiled by tourists, but in reality it is a very sleepy town. During a week when the travel agents say that all of the good hotels are booked, you're likely to be eating lunch alone in a restaurant along the main drag. A rental car is nice to have, but not necessary if you are staying in Goreme because all of the tours start from there.

I stayed in the Cappadocia Cave Suites hotel, which was very nice, and ate at the Alaturca restaurant. If you have a car, it is worth driving 10 minutes to Urgup and eating dinner at Somine, perhaps the best restaurant in the region.

Make sure to do the tour of the Ihlara Valley, an easy one-hour walk that terminates in a riverside restaurant. Try to wear shoes with some kind of tread, e.g., running shoes.

Side trip: Troy

Turks will tell you not to go to the ruins of Troy, which are very ruined indeed. "There's almost nothing to see," they point out, suggesting visits to better-preserved Greek and Roman ruins. For those who've enjoyed The Iliad, however, merely looking out over the plains of Troy from the walls of Ilium will will be worth the flight to Turkey. Troy is reached by a 30-minute flight on a regional jet from Istanbul to Canakkale.

No guides are available within the historic site. It is probably best to hire an independent guide, such as Mustafa Askin, before you drive all the way to the entrance gate. He hangs out at the last restaurant on the right. The food at the restaurant isn't bad, either!

It only takes about one hour to walk around the ruins and read the signs on the self-guided tour.

Older single guys may be inspired by the museum's reproduction of the famous photo of Sophia Schliemann wearing Helen's jewels (click on Heinrich Schliemann's Wikipedia biography to see the photo). I had always assumed that this depicted Schliemann's daughter. In fact, the 47-year-old divorced German merchant married an 18-year-old Greek girl.

After Troy, you could visit the beach. We stopped at a friend's beach house across from the Greek island of Lesbos.

We decided that we could be reasonably comfortable there, even with only two full-time servants. We also visited a small island, Bozcaada, also known by its Greek name of Tenedos. The island, whose ancient Greek population was displaced during the 20th century, is popular with Turkish yuppies, artists, and writers. It was relaxing at the tail end of the season, but not interesting for someone without friends on the island and/or Turkish language fluency.

Skip the Dolmabahce Palace

In the 19th Century, the Sultans decided to build themselves a European-style house: the Dolmabahce Palace. The location along the Bosphorus cannot be faulted, but the interior is in hideously bad taste. Some of the materials are luxurious, but mostly the place is an illustration of how many terrible oil painters there were back in the good old days. Even the most curmudgeonly traditionalist will be sold on Abstract Expressionism after a visit to the Dolmabahce Palace. Versailles it ain't. In case you want to see what you're missing by skipping this staple of the bus tours, here are some photos:

The bedroom where Ataturk (1881-1938) died and the Sultan's toilet. (The guides say that Ataturk died from liver cancer; the guidebook says it was from cirrhosis of the liver, a consequence of a lifetime of heavy drinking.)

English Bookstore

Many of the bookshops along the main pedestrian street in Beyoglu have substantial selections of English-language books.

Shopping Malls

There are a lot of rich people in Istanbul and they love to shop. To get the authentic Turkish shopping experience, don't go to the Bazaar; go to the mall. Kanyon is the most interesting architecturally. The prices probably won't tempt you to buy too much: $7 for an ice cream cone; $250 for running shoes; $1,000 for a pair of high heel shoes; $10,000 for a dress. The identical product can usually be obtained in the U.S. for about half of what it costs here. Due to decades of attacks by Kurds, cars are carefully screened for bombs before being allowed into the parking garages.


One good hotel that we inspected, not found in any guidebook, is Hotel Sultan Hill. The building is a converted Ottoman-era house, which means that most of the rooms have windows on two sides and therefore much better light than a typical hotel room. The rooms were small but very clean and there is a beautiful roof terrace. The price was 70 Euro for a double, 50 Euro for a single, including breakfast. www.hotelsultanhill.com.

For a hotel right at the airport where you can relax before or after a long flight, the Polat Renaissance Hotel is a great choice due to its huge seaside outdoor pool, large pool, and well-equipped gym (complete with Turkish bath; see below).

The Turkish Bath

Here's a story from my Weblog...

All of the Turks with whom we spoke reacted with horror when we expressed interest in going to a Turkish Bath (hamam): "You'll come out dirtier than when you went in"; "They are for poor travelers to the city"; "A 200 lb. hairy Turkish guy will scrub you raw"; "Anyone with money who wants a Turkish bath has one built in his house." None had been to a public hamam at any time during their lives (ranging from 40 to 80 years old).

A friend's uncle told us about a "hotel hamam" that would be clean and, more importantly, staffed with lithe Russian beauties. "It is out near the airport in the Polat Renaissance Hotel. They also have a nice gym."

We fought our way through heavy traffic to Beyti, the kebab restaurant favored by heads of state (obligatory letter from Bill Clinton on wall) and visiting business executives. After Mallory ate delicately, Oya reasonably, and I gluttonously, Oya's driver delivered us to the hotel. Oya did not wish to break her lifelong trackrecord of hamam-free bathing and wished us well.

Mallory went into the women's section with a trim middle-aged Turkish woman in a neat uniform with what turned out to be a bikini underneath. I went into the men's section with a thin white towel around my waist and was soon met by a short hairy 200 lb. Turkish guy, naked from the waist up wearing a similar towel. He would be doing the scrubbing, which necessitates forceful pulling of arms and holding of heads while dousing the customer with water.

The details of the bath itself are best forgotten. For a better idea of what it was like, rent the Borat movie and watch the scene where Borat and his producer fight in their hotel.

Oya told us that to get the maximum benefit from the hamam one must stay for an hour or two afterwards to let the moist heat open up the pores in the skin. Mallory was hot and I was fat so we decided to move on to the exercise portion of our visit to the Polat Renaissance.

The gym is as nice as any gym in the United States, with banks of clean new machines, an indoor pool, three hot tubs, and an outdoor pool with a patio overlooking the Sea of Marmara. Sadly the outdoor pool isn't heated and we were advised that it was shockingly cold. A girl in the weight room explained why the place was so empty at 6 pm: "People don't come here until after work. If they leave their office at 6 the traffic is so bad that they might not get here until 8. People therefore usually stay downtown until 7 and make it here by 8:15 or 8:30." What does it cost to be a member of such a nice gym? $300 per month (Turkish bath plus exercise for a day tourist was $120). What about salaries at her company, a clothing manufacturer downtown? The seamstresses get paid about $550 per month.


Food is excellent throughout Turkey and you are unlikely to be disappointed. Menus tend to be more limited than in the U.S., however, with restaurants concentrating on serving whatever has recently come into season.

Turks love Turkish food and have a tough time imagining why anyone would want to eat anything else. You'll find the ubiquitous pasta and pizza on menus in tourist areas, but otherwise a dearth of international choices.

Bakeries sell quick and inexpensive snacks such as spinach or meat baked into bread. Good luck figuring out how to ask for what you want, though!

The best news for gourmets is that McDonald's is well-established throughout Turkey. The second best news is that Turkey is amply supplied with Haribo Tropifruit gummi candies.


Eyewitness Turkey is useful for planning photographic expeditions because it includes a small snapshot of each site. Perhaps it is a consequence of the size and complexity of Turkey, but the Amazon reader reviews on both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet are mixed. You will definitely need one or the other if you are going to travel independently.

Getting There

For airline choices, see the photo.net guide to international airlines. From the U.S., the only non-stop carriers are Turkish Airways (New York and Chicago) and Delta (New York). United will connect through Frankfurt; American and British Airways will connect through London; Air France will connect through Paris.

Air travel is still a comparative luxury in Turkey and consequently the airport environment is very civilized. Ample security and check-in personnel ensure that there is never a long line. A Turk would be shocked to see customers shuffling their feet in a one-hour check-in or security line at an American airport.

If you decide to venture beyond Istanbul, internal flights are cheap, plentiful, and can be booked online. Turkish Airways and Atlas Jet are two of the big suppliers.

The metro runs from Ataturk airport to the center of town for about $1. A taxi could cost $25-50 and take 1-2 hours, depending on traffic.

Getting Around

Istanbul was not designed to hold 13 or 15 million people. Consequently, the transportation system is strained. A small portion of the downtown area is served by a metro and a tram system. The villages up and down the Bosphorus are reasonably well served by a ferry system. Elsewhere folks walk, are driven by their private chaffeurs, take taxis, or jump in shared taxis.

Before cursing your taxi driver for the fare, remember that Turks pay the world's highest prices for gasoline, about $8.50 per gallon at a time when Americans were paying $2.50.


American citizens need a visa to visit Turkey, but you can get it upon arrival at the airport for about $20.

The time in Istanbul is GMT+2, i.e., two hours ahead of London and seven hours ahead of New York. Thus if it is 9:00 am in New York, it is already 4:00 pm in Istanbul.

Electricity in Istanbul is 220V at 50 Hz with a double-pinned round plug similar to what the French and Germans use. Most laptop computer and digital camera power supplies can function on this power and at most you'll need a mechanical adaptor. Business hotel rooms often are equipped with an American-style plug near the desk. If not, the hotel will lend you an adapter.

The country code for Turkey is 90. Tri- or Quad-band GSM mobile phones will work everywhere in the country, with coverage and service quality vastly better than in the U.S. Expect your mobile carrier to stick you with $1-2 per minute charges upon your return. If you're going to be in the country for any length of time, get hold of a prepaid phone or SIM card.

Internet cafes are common, but typing on a Turkish keyboard is difficult because the English "i" key is in a different place as are many other important characters.

Money is the lira, but merchants often accept the euro and dollar as well. You can get lira with an American ATM card from just about any bank machine. Expect prices for most things to be between 1.2 and 2X the price that you would pay in a large American city.

Learning Turkish

Think it would be tough to learn Sanskrit? English has a lot more in common with Sanskrit than with Turkish, since both English and Sanskrit are Indo-European languages. If you grew up speaking Hungarian or Finnish, Turkish will come a bit easier than for an English speaker, but it is still a multi-year challenge.

Fortunately for the tourist, English is taught to all Turkish youngsters. Unfortunately, the teaching is done in Turkish government schools by Turkish government employees. Turkish kids learn English the way that American kids learn math and science. Even the most basic English conversation is usually beyond a graduate of Turkish high school.

How can the tourist industry in Turkey present an English-speaking facade? There are a lot of Turks who've worked for several years in an English-speaking country and then returned to Turkey to raise a family. These are the folks to whom you can talk.

If you want to learn enough Turkish to navigate consumer situations and be polite, the Pimsleur Turkish program is a good start.

Text and pictures copyright 2007 Philip Greenspun These photos were taken with a Canon EOS 40D, (buy from Amazon) (review) and Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, (buy from Amazon) (review).

Article created December 2007

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Douglas Finlayson , December 24, 2007; 11:14 P.M.

Wonderful photos. Made me want to visit Turkey.

Ozmen Ozturk , December 28, 2007; 04:51 A.M.

As a Turkish citizen, I invite all photographers to Istanbul; I assure you will be completely satisfied. But, I want to add a small note; in the section about the shopping malls, it is stated that "Due to decades of attacks by Kurds, cars are carefully screened for bombs before being allowed into the parking garages" Kurds are one of the main ethnic groups of Turkey having the same rights; Kurds are not bombers, rebellers or freeedom fighters; they are one of the fundemental parts of a democratic country. The bombings are done by terrorists- not Kurds.This may not be important for many, but I just wanted to make this comment.

Dennis McKenzie , January 06, 2008; 06:12 P.M.

Thank you Phil for this timely guide. Four of us are planing a 3 week trip in April to Turkey. I figure about a week in Istanbul. A week renting a car to see the country side. A week bareboat chartering in the south of Turkey.

Itsue Ito , January 10, 2008; 12:49 A.M.

Thanks for the trip back memory lane. I lived across the Bosporus up the hill in Uskudar for 2 years with a view of the old city. You hit the nail on the head with your photos. My favorite trip was along the Med, starting at Efes and ending in Antakya. We stopped at every amphitheater on the way for a bottle of their best red wine. Needless to say, it took us the better part of the week to do the trip. 25 years later, I can truthfully say I was blessed to have had the opportunity to live and work in 'stanbul and to this day, have Turks as my friends.

Image Attachment: Banyos.jpg

Bulent Celasun , January 17, 2008; 03:37 P.M.

Thanks for your Guide. I think your comments are fairly balanced and most of your advices are sound enough. I admit that there is no limit to inclusions. However, I would like to stress that potential visitors who "like" surprises, better visit uncharted territory! Turkey is full of surprises, photographical or otherwise! For conformists -like most of us-, Mr. Greenspun's route will not be wrong... Addendum: The population of Istanbul is declared officially on January 21st, 2008 as 12.5 million.

Steven Moseley , January 23, 2008; 10:59 A.M.


Went to Istanbul last year, spent 5 days and wish I had twice the time there. Watch out for dodgy taxis who take you all round the place to increase the fare instead of taking you direct.

Avoid the leisure boats, use the ferries instead. We spent one and a half hours shuttling back and forth using different ferries, cost a tenth of the leisure boat price and saw just as much.

Stay in a smaller local turkish hotel rather than a large chain one. We stayed in one right in the heart of Sultanhamet, amongst all the sights, within 300 yards of the blue mosque, it cost half of a chain one and had twice the size room, with rooftop restaurant overlooking the Bosphurus..fanatstic.

Turkish food is great almost everywhere. Go to small side street local restaurants. Drink the tea.

Spend AT LEAST a full week there and even then you will only scratch the surface...I desperately want to go back. Do not expect US/UK standards of 'cleanliness' when you go off the beaten track!..but DO go off the beaten track anyway..especially with a camera.

cheers Steve.M. (UK)

Ian P , January 23, 2008; 05:08 P.M.

Bridge over Golden Horn

Guide books - the Time Out guide to Istanbul is very good; having visited the city twice I found it gave savvy info on a wide range of things. Some decent photos in there. One interesting place not on the main tourist drag is the station near the ferry terminals on the Golden Horn; this is where the famous Orient Express terminated. There's a small museum too.

James Niles , January 23, 2008; 06:45 P.M.

Evidently there is no problem taking pictures, though I have never liked taking surreptitious photos that are recognizable. In my experience, only the Gullah people in Charleston, S.C. have objected and then some money works wonders.

I mention this as a contrast to Turkey. I have been routinely stopped for over a year by the police, when taking pictures in downtown Houston. They claim it is a violation of the Patriot Act, but when they write you a $300 ticket it is not for a violation of the Patriot Act. They hastle anyone with expensive cameras around their necks, even if not taking pictures. I now put mine away while travelling and plan my shoots carefully. I have not paid the fines and received a letter from the court, saying that they will arrest me and put me in jail indefinitely, until the fine is paid. Tell your Turkish friends, especially Muslim Turkish friends, not to take tourist pictures in Houston, Texas, USA.

Roger Edgington , January 23, 2008; 09:08 P.M.

Phillip, Excellent photos and narration of Istanbul. Spent a brief time there in October 2007 and wish I could have stayed longer. It was part of a cruise that included Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece etc. I found the mosques to be extremely interesting. Took a side trip to Gallopoli, being a retired military officer. I would recommend it. One of my 300 shots of Istanbul and Gallopi.

Massimo Cristaldi , January 26, 2008; 02:08 P.M.

Nice introduction to the city! I've been there in the same period as you and put together all my Istanbul impression in this Flipbook. Massimo

Sergey Skleznev , February 04, 2008; 10:10 A.M.

Wow! Right in time! I`m planning to be there in the end of May.

One question: is it safe to be on a street in late evening, with a photobag?

I`ve been in Istanbul a lot of times before, I love this city. But everytime before it was a group trip - with friends or family - and city seems very friendly and safe. Will it be the same if I will be alone with a big camera, at late evening or early morning?

Fatih KILIC , February 19, 2008; 02:58 P.M.

Sergey it depends on where you go...In crowded places,there will be no problem..There are lots of Photographers in Istanbul (Turkish ones and others).I have'nt heard a robbery yet,it happens only if you leave the camera bag in the car.

stuart welburn , April 02, 2008; 10:39 A.M.

Nice guide.

also in turkey for 8 days last year. snapped over 300 photos in just 3days in istanbul. thing that struck me was that a lot of the locals have a very intense way of looking. Also the architecture. they seem to build new on top of old on top of ancient.

cant wait to get back

Image Attachment: THEBOSS.jpg

Kansu Attila , April 22, 2008; 03:27 P.M.

thanks boss.great pictures from my city and interesting comments from you..

Amy Pang , May 07, 2008; 05:10 A.M.

Thanks for the guide. Istabul is really a magnificent place that straddle between Asia and Europe, with an interesting cultural mixed. Hv chance to visit the place in Feb 2008, and took some pics that are posted on one of the folder in photo.net. Wish you like it.

Image Attachment: Blue Mosque midday.jpg

Dogan Tuna , June 11, 2008; 11:32 A.M.

Thanks for your Guide. Great pictures from my city and interesting comments from you. Best http://www.istanbulstay.com

Euan Craine , September 08, 2008; 06:08 A.M.

Great guide! I recently visited Istanbul and although I'd prepared a list of things to do I wish I'd read this earlier. I should really have taken the time to visit Cappadocia but I really wasn't in Turkey long enough. Maybe some other time. On the other hand Galata Tower among the other ancient buildings in Istanbul is a must - the view is fantastic, but not ideal for those with vertigo. I must have spent an hour or so up there just taking it in - see my Istanbul photos at photos.im

Norm Andy , November 17, 2008; 08:47 A.M.

Why do they always take tourists to see Sultanahmet? Why they make people endure the big city to see history that is not even close to what they have in eastern Turkey is a bigger question, I guess.

I never took tourists around. A lot of my friends did. Americans, British, Germans and French mostly. They always take them to Galata, Sultanahmet, maybe take them for a stroll through Taksim, have them ride the ferry across the Bosphorus, etc. I was born and raised in this city, traveled to most of Europe and a couple big cities stateside; and I have this belief that is reinforced by my Turkish friends who drag their asses back from the States - you can't leave this city.

What they show tourists are boring stuff that were turned into tourist attractions long before I was even born. You haven't experienced Istanbul if you haven't passed over the Bosphorus via the bridge on a foggy winter day. You haven't experienced it if you haven't started your Sunday with a breakfast along the Bosphorus that is literally less than a meter from the sea. You haven't really seen Taksim if you didn't run across groups of people singing and dancing at 5 a.m. You haven't ended a proper day in Istanbul if you didn't watch the sun rise from the Beşiktaş coast, Çamlıca hill, Cihangir steeps, and (probably the only time I agree with my friends in their tours) the Galata tower.

We wanted to leave. Most of us tried. There are three factions left now; those of us who are making six figure salaries after an Ivy-League college are still in the States, those who got bored with college life are traversing the globe, and those of us who want to live their lives now, all came back.

p.s. I go to the gym at least 4 times a week @ Kanyon, the facts are;

1 - those $10,000 clothes are fabricated in China or right here in Turkey. You can buy an original for a fraction of its price tag if you know where to look. If you really want that designer garment, that is. Celebrities and rich people don't shop there anyways, they go to Paris. You are in the wrong place if you are after designer clothes 2 - The $7 ice cream cones are not real ice cream. Real ice cream is the kind you might have seen in Taksim where a couple of burly guys go red in the face trying to cut a little slice of the huge slab for you.

Bridget Plowright , December 04, 2008; 08:58 A.M.

I love Turkey and was interested to read the article. One point, I have only ever seen one McDonalds and that was in Taksim square and why would anyone ever want to eat a McDonalds in Istanbul beats me!! The food is excellent.

Also about the inaccurate Kurd comment at the shopping mall, which is very misleading should be amended or removed from the text.

Otherwise, nice photos and interesting article.

haci simsek , January 20, 2009; 07:23 A.M.

Thanks for all these great photos. http://www.istanbuldailycitytours.com

Andrew Prokos , February 07, 2009; 12:12 P.M.

Istanbul is definitely one of the most interesting cities in the world. All of the layers of Byzantine and Turkish civilization and culture just intersect there. The phsical setting of the city on the Bosporus is spectacular, the Black Sea really is pitch blac, and the food is fabulous. Unfortunately I had all of my camera equipment stolen from my hotel room, as well as 6 weeks worth of film so I have no photographs to take back from my trip. Guard your money and your equipment with your life and you should be fine.

soner soner , March 14, 2009; 02:24 P.M.

Istanbul Webcams




Lynn Kagan , May 28, 2009; 11:34 P.M.

Thorough, a delight to read, and lovely pics, thanks, Valerie

Serdar Yorulmaz , November 08, 2009; 09:33 P.M.

After reading all of this "stuff" I could not help but I asked myself " Was this the place where I grew up?"

Mel G , November 15, 2009; 04:48 P.M.

Don't go to dolmabahce palace are you crazy! I love istanbul and everything about it. There are some places that are way better than what the tour guides show you. If you have something bad to say dont say it at all.

soner soner , February 25, 2011; 11:10 A.M.

The biggest covered Roman cistern

If you are going to visit Istanbul, You should take a look at No1 attraction to do in Istanbul on tripadvisor.com. Here's the link


Monika Epsefass , June 16, 2011; 10:19 A.M.

I've just returned from Istanbul and Kappadokia, and have only come across this article now. I agree with Norm Andy: why do they take tourists to all these places? I've been to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque briefly, and decided against visiting Topkapí (it's theft what they do to you - cueing up for half an hour to get a ticket, and then pay some more while you're in) and went strolling instead.

It was so much fun! I've spend two hours in front of a small shop, drinking tea and discussing life with the owner, I've done a Sunday tour with loads of Turkish citizens on a boat along the Bosporus shores, I've ended up in a tea and shisha garden as the only woman among groups of men who fought about who was going to offer me tea... and I was glad to have stayed near Taksim, where life is thriving and where I ended up witnessing a peace demonstration of thousands of people, where the police came traipsing behind, carrying helmets on their arms and being utterly bored. And while I was strolling, my better half went visiting a company 50 km out of the city, taking the express bus without speaking a word of Turkish and having only a slip of paper with the company address with him. Everybody on the bus made sure the bus driver take a detour to deliver him to the right place. What can you say? Wouldn't happen in western Europe!

And yes, the food! My fridge has been converted ever since. :-) And no, I'm not giving away the wonderful and romantic place I've stayed at while in Kappadokia - I want to return there and be able to get a room.

Michail Passos , April 18, 2012; 07:54 A.M.

Your photos are fabulous!

I was in Istanbul about 3 months ago for 6 days. I really don't like this place...people are rude, the city is noisy and polluted, and apart from the monuments of other eras there is nothing else. Furthermore, I believe that many things are overpriced, especially for tourists (eg. hamams) which is disappointing.

Mohamed Elsayyed , May 10, 2012; 11:34 P.M.

Thanks for such a great info. and images Philip. I have been searching the internet for details about trips to Turkey for photographers, as I'm gonna fly to Istanbul in 10 days, and I have a specific issue makes me a bit worried. It's about street photography. Would people get offended of just pointing my cam against them or shooting products in stores. I don't wanna bother anyone or get myself into troubles or embarrassment. I have some experience in the Arab world where people get offended easily of being photographed, so I want to know how's Turkish people nature with this issue.

sinan anaral , January 15, 2016; 07:22 A.M.

Hi, I'm Sinan. I live in Istanbul.


For different view and photo routes about Istanbul :



Add a comment

Notify me of comments