Istanbul city guide
- Opened in 2016, Beşiktaş Park is staging its first major UEFA final
- The largest city in Turkey, Istanbul spans Europe and Asia
- Istanbul is a melting pot of culture, cuisine and architecture
- The city is home to Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş
- Be sure to arrive hungry – the food is something special
ISTANBUL IS ...
• The largest city in Turkey, with a population of over 15 million.
• The former capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
• A leading global tourist destination with a rich cultural heritage; where Europe meets Asia.
• Hosting its third major UEFA club final, following the 2005 UEFA Champions League final and 2009 UEFA Cup final.
• Twinned with Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, Barcelona, Cologne, Venice, Shanghai, Bangkok, Mexico City and Houston among others.
WHERE IT IS
Located in the north-west of Turkey, Istanbul straddles the Bosporus strait which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The city spans two continents: Europe and Asia, this connection making Istanbul an economic, cultural and logistical hub.
• Opened in 2016, Beşiktaş Park is staging its first major UEFA club final.
• It was built on the site of the old İnönü Stadium which served Turkish football from 1947 to 2013.
• Beşiktaş Park has a unique location near the north bank of the Bosporus and across from the famous Dolmabahçe Palace, Clock Tower and Mosque. Its classically-inspired colosseum design helps it to complement the historic buildings nearby.
• The stadium is home to Turkey's oldest sports club, Beşiktaş JK, and held the 2017 European Amputee Football Championship final in front of 40,000 spectators as well as numerous UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League fixtures.
• The stadium is only a kilometre – a comfortable 15-minute walk – from one of the most vibrant districts of Istanbul: Besiktas.
By air: The city is served by both Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen Airports, located on the European and Asian sides respectively. Istanbul Airport, inaugurated in October 2018, is set to become the world's largest with over 350 destinations reachable by more than 250 carriers. Istanbul is within a three-hour flight of 120 destinations. Both airports are roughly 45km from the city centre.
By road: It is possible to drive to Turkey via Bulgaria or Greece, or via Italy using a ferry. If you want to travel via bus, there are regular services between Turkey and other major European cities, plus a number of Middle Eastern countries.
By rail: The regular Sofia-Istanbul service connects Turkey to the rest of Europe's rail network; between 7 June and 7 October, the route extends to Bucharest.
Walk: Walking around Istanbul will enable you not only to explore the city but also to avoid the world-renowned traffic. It makes sense to go from Taksim Square to the stadium by foot.
Public transport: Beşiktaş Park is well connected to central Istanbul via an extensive network of trams and buses. Using the M2 metro line and then taking the funicular railway to reach Kabataş, followed by a five-minute walk, is an alternative option to get to the stadium.
Taxi: You can hire a cab on an app or pick one up at a taxi stand. You can also pick up from the street but agree a fare in advance. The minimum price of a journey is 10 TL.
WHERE TO STAY
Istanbul has accommodation options to suit all visitors, from five-star hotels to budget hostels.
WHAT TO SEE
For culture: Explore the historic peninsula which hosts famous sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Egyptian Market and Grand Bazaar.
For atmosphere: A boat trip up the Bosporus is recommended; if possible, opt for the long version, which lasts two and a half hours and goes as far as the opening to the Black Sea. When around Taksim Square, check out İstiklal Street and go up the Galata Tower to enjoy a bird's eye view.
For fresh air: A walk along the Bosporus on the European coast is always bracing, while Belgrade Forest is lovely – but busy at weekends.
EATING AND DRINKING
A rule of thumb: follow a strict diet before coming to Istanbul because gaining weight is unavoidable once you have encountered authentic Turkish cuisine.
Döner and Adana kebabs are culinary mainstays, while lentil and ezogelin soups as well as Turkish variants on pizza including lahmacun and pide are also worth trying. Baklava and kadayıf are the favourite cold deserts, with künefe or katmer the options for something warm.
If you are looking for a soft drink, ayran – a refreshing salty yoghurt drink – is a local favourite. However, if you have ordered meze (assorted small dishes), consider accompanying it with raki, an anise-flavoured spirit, or a local beer. Everyone drinks tea – albeit never with milk – while a Turkish coffee is great for a pick-me-up while exploring this hectic city.
FOOTBALL IN ISTANBUL
The Turkish Super League has traditionally been dominated by Istanbul's big three, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş. The 2017/18 title was Galatasaray’s 21st, while Fenerbahçe have topped the pile 19 times since the establishment of the Süper Lig in 1959. Beşiktaş are next with 15 championships. Manchester United, Barcelona, Milan, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Juventus have all tasted defeat in Istanbul.
GET OUT OF THE CITY
Visiting the Princess Islands is a wonderful way of escaping the rush of the big city.
For those who are seeking tranquillity and fresh air, and are willing to come further out of the city, Agva – a coastal village roughly 100km from central Istanbul – might be just the ticket.
YOUR TURKISH PHRASEBOOK
Turkish natives are well aware it can be difficult for visitors to speak their language! Here are a few helpful phrases that may help you impress:
Hello – Merhaba
How are you? – Nasılsınız? (formal)
How are you? – Nasılsın? (informal)
Please – Lütfen
Thank you – Teşekkürler (te-shek-cure-ler)
Goodbye – Hoşça kalın (hosh-cha-kalın) (formal)
Goodbye – Hoşça kal (hosh-cha-kal) (informal)
How much? – Ne kadar?
Turkey Home: www.hometurkey.com/en
Go Turkey Tourism: www.goturkeytourism.com
New Istanbul Airport: www.igairport.com/en
Sabiha Gökçen Airport: www.sabihagokcen.aero/homepage
Lonely Planet: www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/istanbul
Turkish Football Federation (TFF): www.tff.org