With a total population of 15 million people in the metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the largest cities in the world. Originally founded as Byzantion around 660BC, then renamed Constantinople, it served as an imperial capital for over 1000 years, throughout the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The city was the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and was also on the historic silk road. Today, Istanbul is considered an Alpha-Global city, hosting the headquarters of many Turkish companies and accounting for more than a quarter of the country's gross domestic product.
Istanbul has two main international airports. Istanbul airport to the north sits on the Black Sea coast, on the European side of the city. Sabiha Gokcen airport sits on the Anatolian side of the city and is the closest to the circuit. Both airports have a paid shuttle service to Taksim Square, near the historic sights.
As the cultural, economic and historic centre of Turkey, Istanbul has a lot of sights to see! Here are a few of our favourites:
The Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed mosque is an Ottoman-era mosque constructed between 1609-166. Bright blue tiles cover the walls inside and at night the mosque is lit up with blue lights.
Originally the largest Christian church in the eastern Roman Empire, it was converted in a mosque after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. After 85 years of being a museum, it was controversially reopened in 2020 as a place of worship. It is easy to see why this is one of Turkey's most popular attractions, with beautiful artwork and architecture from both religions showcased throughout.
One of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar covers a total area of 30,700m squared, over 61 streets and over 4000 shops. Locally made goods including jewellery, furniture, leather goods and carpets can be found here, to name a few.
The Basilica Cistern
The largest of several hundred cisterns that lie underneath Istanbul, the Basilica cistern can be found 150 metres southwest of the Hagia Sophia. Originally built in the 6th century to provide a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople, today it is kept with little water, and is open for the public to explore.
Constructed in 1459 as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans, today it stands as a large museum in the Faith district in Istanbul. Government officials, as well as armed guards of the Turkish military guard the complex. The palace is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, a group of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the capital district of Faith.
Temperatures in Istanbul during November are cooler than the summer months, with the average daily temperatures around 17u00B0C, so we would recommend bringing plenty light layers, as well as sun protection, with you. As November is during the winter in Turkey, rainfall is common. Therefore we recommend to bring waterproof clothing to ensure you are adequately prepared!