Founded as Byzantium in around 660BC and renamed Constantinople in 330 AD, Istanbul has always been one of the world’s most important and influential cities. It served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. Its position on the Silk Road and the only sea route between the Black Sea and Mediterranean made it one of the world’s most important centres of trade. Today visitors flock to its outstanding mosques, galleries and museums as well as the bars, restaurants and shopping that makes this ancient city one of the hippest places on the planet.
A bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus – one of the world’s busiest and most colourful waterways. It has a population of over 14 million, making it the one of largest cities in Europe, second largest in the Middle East and the third-largest city in the world. At its heart is the old city, spread over seven hills and surrounded by 22km of ancient walls.
Istanbul is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Its location gives Istanbul a climate that is seasonal and variable. Temperatures can fall to an average of 4ºC to 11ºC (39 to 53ºF) in the coldest months of December and January when cold winds from the Black Sea can blow in. In July and August – the hottest months – temperatures can rise to 20ºC to 29ºC (69 to 85ºF) creating a sultry heat.
Istanbul is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. And whilst the majority of the population are Muslims, it's a mix of cultures and backgrounds from around the world, and it accepts and embraces all nationalities.
When visiting mosques it is important to follow the dress codes posted outside each one and to avoid photographing people at prayer.
Turkish is the official language of Turkey, though English and sometimes German is spoken at tourist sites. English is becoming a second language in the city and its use is growing among young people.
Currency and exchange
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY).
Credit cards Major credit cards are widely accepted in Istanbul – but traveller’s cheques are rarely accepted. ATMs providing cash in local currency are widely available throughout Istanbul – and most have a language key, so you can follow the instructions.
Turkey is a secular state, but most Turks are Muslim.
You can rent a car with an international driving licence, but driving can be interesting and roads busy. An alternative option is to hire a car and driver. You’ll also find that taxis are widely available.
Istanbul has a varied local public transportation system - including trams, funiculars, metro lines, buses, bus rapid transit, and ferries. The contactless Istanbulkart provides a seamless way of paying for all of these.
There is no need for special inoculations when travelling to Istanbul (unless you are coming from an endemic area). But you will find travel insurance useful – as Turkey has no reciprocal healthcare arrangements with other countries.
The health system is well developed. Istanbul has a wide option of state and private hospitals. Turkey has more hospitals accredited by the U.S.-based Joint Commission than any other country in the world.
Turkey operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, typically with round-prong European-style plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets /points.
For any further information please contact our Concierge.