Stopover In Istanbul

Oxford defines the word Stopover as “Break in a Journey”. I like to call it the most, the possibility of getting to know a city that I had not planned on my trip or to make two trips in one. In this case I was heading to Indonesia.

If you have a bit of luck when buying flights, you can try to choose a combination of flights that suits you well to make a stopover in an intermediate city and take the opportunity to go down to visit it. In this case the lucky one in the Indonesian direction was Istanbul. The door between Europe and the Middle East. With its bazaars, mosques, palaces and bridges across the Bosphorus.

Next I will explain the route and how to make your stopover worthwhile and how much time you need to go down to the city.

Everything you need to know for your express visit to Istanbul:

  1. Best time of year to visit Istanbul
  2. Basic tips for your stopover in Istanbul
  3. 1 day in Istanbul
  4. What does a stopover cost in Istanbul?

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 9 TRY (Lira)

Best time of year to visit Istanbul

Contrary to what we may have preconceived, it is a city with a fairly harsh winter with heavy snowfalls. However summers (also from my own experience) are usually quite hot. Do not imagine the scorching heat of the desert, since the city has many narrow streets and buildings very close to each other and that makes you find a lot of shade and you are less exposed to the sun.

So, the best time of the year to travel to Istanbul is probably spring and fall. Between April and May and September and October. The months with the most relaxed climate. Keep in mind that it is a fairly dry country so apart from the temperature you shouldn’t take much else into account either.

Basic tips for your stopover in Istanbul

If you are stopovering in Istanbul, 95% you are doing it with Turkish Airlines or with a partner airline. If so, you are in luck! Now let’s see which of the following options you find yourself with:

  • Stopover of less than 20 hours: In this case you will not have free accommodation, since Turkish Airlines understands that you will be in Istanbul for less than a day and you will not require the need to sleep.
  • Stopover of more than 20 hours: Apart from all the benefits of the previous one, you can get up to two nights in a 5-star hotel if you fly in Business (not my case) and one night in a 3-star hotel for economy class passengers. Not bad at all, especially if you come from a long trip from Asia.

(You must manage it in advance online with the same airline, more info in the following link)

What options are there to see Istanbul? On your own, with Touristanbul or the mixed one (the latter is my preference). On your own, simply take a taxi (I recommend the Taksi App) and have it take you wherever you want. If you have more time I recommend that you go with Touristanbul:

Distintas opciones según tu horario de llegada/salida
  • Choose the option you choose, you will need to have a visa (they are € 20 and you can do it in the following link).
  • If you go with backpacks and you don’t want to carry so much weight right next to it there is a luggage room and for 40 liras you can leave your backpacks all day (they only accept cash).
  • It is hired at the airport itself, the moment you arrive and have left the airport security area, go to the Touristambul counters here you have all the details to book your tour (free). Normally there are 5 different tour times each day and they take you to different places, some include food and others do not. We took one of those tours and stayed for a couple of hours until lunchtime (free) and then we went on our own to walk around Istanbul. On the way back we took a taxi and in half an hour we reached the airport.
Find the Touristanbul office

For the return, if you already have everything checked in and you simply have to go through the security control, by arriving at Atatürk airport 1 hour in advance you have enough time. It is an immense and very new airport, but very agile and well connected, any stopover you have to make can be done with a connection of less than an hour.

1 day in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of those cities that can be visited for more than a day, however a stopover gives for what it gives, this is what you should not miss on your visit to the city. In our case we had stopovers on the way out and on the way back.

  • Blue Mosque: It is the most important mosque in Istanbul, it was built between 1609 and 1616. In size it is approximately half that of Hagia Sophia. It has six minarets which, at the time of its construction, caused much controversy, since Mecca also had six. Later and to appease the faithful, a seventh minaret was built in Mecca to make a difference. Remember that to enter (free) you must be dressed appropriately with covered legs and shoulders and women a veil in their hair.
  • Grand bazaar: It is said that it is the largest market in the world, around half a million people visit it every day. Among its more than 3,500 stores you can buy all kinds of products, jewelry and crafts to food products. It is a must if you stop in Istanbul.
  • Santa Sofía: Also known as Ayasofia, it has been a temple for different religions, the current use is a mosque. It was built during the mandate of Justinian between the years 532 and 537 and is one of the masterpieces of Byzantine art. Between 1204 and 1261, Hagia Sophia was the church of the Pope. After operating as a church for more than 900 years, in 1453 it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire and turned into a mosque. The Ottomans endowed the church with four minarets, a theological school, and a public dining room. In 1935, the temple was transformed into a museum.
  • Topkapi Palace: It is located behind the Hagia Sophia and is a reflection of what the Empire of Constantinople came to be. The palace extends over 700,000 square meters, has four courtyards and multiple buildings inside: weapons room, kitchen, royal stables, treasure and many more. Free entrance.
  • Bosphorus Strait: Istanbul is the few cities in the world that are between two continents, in this case it is the door between Asia and Europe and what separates them is the Bosphorus Strait. From the Topkapi Palace you can see the magnificent views of the strait and the long bridges between the two Istanbul as large ships cross between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.
  • Galata Tower: For lovers of Assassin’s Creed, walking the streets of Istanbul is relatively iconic and even more so when we see the Galata Tower. Although it is not essential to go up to 25 lira due to the long lines that form, admiring it day and night with its lighting is something that takes your breath away. The first Galata Tower was built in wood in 528 to serve as a lighthouse, if you climb it you will get one of the best views of Istanbul.

I could go on with a long list of recommendations, but for me this is the list of the essentials in “Istanbul in 1 day”

What does a stopover cost in Istanbul?

Turkish Airlines sets it up for you so you don’t have to spend anything. They take you to the center by bus, they give you lunch, dinner and they take you back to the airport to take your next flight. Ditto if your layover is longer than 20 hours.

In case you go on your own, the taxi and / or with “Taksi” will cost you about 225 lira (€ 25) and you can eat in good restaurants for about 80 lira per person. Istanbul is a fairly inexpensive city, the downside is that some businesses may not accept cards and you have to get cash at some point. Withdraw cash for free with N26. If you don’t have an N26 card register and earn 25€ of free credit.

I hope that after this you feel like looking for a flight with some “dead hours” between connections to go down to explore any city. From my point of view, any connection longer than 6-7 hours is worth an express visit.

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