8 Things I Love about City Breaks in Istanbul

In my quest to travel to every town, city, and village of Turkey, it is not often that I return to a destination. Once I have been there, I strike it off my list and start planning a visit to the next location.

The one exception to this rule is the bustling and culturally mixed city of Istanbul. Once known as Constantinople, I have returned three times and will continue to return, quite possibly until the day I die.

It is too busy and big to consider permanently living there, but I love planning an Istanbul city break for 8 simple reasons.

Topkapi palace

Why I love City Breaks in Istanbul

  • The regional dialect of Istanbul is the easiest for me to understand. Unlike the southeast of Turkey, where the accent is very guttural, I love practicing my Turkish while in the city.
  • I am obsessed with Ottoman history and because the city was the base of their empire, I can indulge this obsession as much as I want.


  • I love the work of Turkish photographer, Ara Guler. He produced numerous photos of daily life in Istanbul and trying to copy his efforts is a challenge that I eagerly embraced.
  • Istanbul has been the base for numerous novels and this sparks my curiosity. Through books like “The Bastard of Istanbul” I no longer look at the city as a holiday destination. It is home to millions of people, whose lives are reflected in the novels and retracing the steps of characters in those books, makes a visit even more exciting. Even the fishermen of Galata bridge have a story that is waiting to be told.

Galata Bridge

  • The city helps me to learn more about my adopted country. For many, a cruise down the Bosphorus is simply a leisure pursuit however for me, it was something else to research and learn about. The more I understand about the history and the people of Turkey, the more I get to know about their culture and traditions. Istanbul is an awesome place to do this.

Sweetcorn seller

  • A city break in Istanbul is easy travel for me. A one and a half hour flight from my home on the Aegean coast and I am in the former capital. Numerous booking search engines like Trivago have hundreds of Istanbul hotel reviews and prices, so my choice of accommodation is not limited. Easy travel and lots of choice means I can be more flexible with my travel arrangements. Whether I want to stay for a week or two, lodge in a posh or cheap hotel, Istanbul gives me more choice than any other destination in Turkey.
  • I never run out of things to do. Despite three visits to the city, I have only just scratched the surface when it comes to viewing local landmarks and attractions.

city break in Istanbul

  • Other destinations often involve hiring a car to reach places that are off the beaten track however in Istanbul, everything can be done on foot or by using local transport.

This winter, I hope to return to Istanbul. There is still so much to see and do. So many more people to meet. I feel that I will never tire of the city.

Readers Question: Have you done a city break in Istanbul? If not, why?


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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. David Race says

    Just got back from my fifth visit and never tire of the place.

    Istanbul is my favourite city destination and looking forward to the next time.

  2. KKOB says

    Yes, the first time I did it I was with 2 other fellas and 27 single women! It’s a long story, but let’s just say “we had a ball.”

    Incredible city, incredible people, incredible food, incredible architecture…………….Just incredible.

    Can’t wait to get back there again next year.

  3. Patricia Millikin says

    Have been to IST 5x and will continue to return. I enjoyedyour blog and would like to read more and see your newsletter. Thx.

  4. says

    Istanbul’u cok seviyorum : ) After living there for 15 years, it has been an adjustment living abroad, but do love coming back and visit at every opportunity. Like you, I love the history, I can go to Hagia Sophia again and again and still learn something new. Adore the street food, strolls along the Bosphorus, or just people watch in Sultanahmet, get dizzy with spices in the Spice Market.. Istanbul is calling again ! :)
    Ozlem’s Turkish Table wrote about..Soup of the Mountain Pastures with Yoghurt, Whole Grain Rice, Dried Mint and Paprika Flakes -Yayla Corbasi

  5. Connie says

    I was in Istanbul in October for 10 days and am returning this coming March for another 9 day stay. I absolutely loved my visit. The architecture, the food, the people were all amazing. I am making a list now of things I want to see this time. Thanks for the gorgeous pictures, March can’t come too soon.

  6. says

    Took the boat from Varna to Istanbul once. It was many years ago and I didn’t see nearly enough. Time to go back. And however cliché, I want to stay in Agatha Christie’s room at Pera Palace… :)
    Sophie wrote about..The lighthouse at Colonia

  7. says

    Hi Natalie,
    I have been to Istanbul and a few other spots along the Aegean coast more than a decade ago and am dying to go there again, Insyallah. It’s a wonderful experience for me, truly unforgetable. The historical sites, especially, took my breath away! Wish me luck!
    Kota Kinabalu Travel wrote about..Breads & More @ Grace Point Food Court

  8. Tabby says

    I would love to go to Istanbul as part of my travels later this year. I’m travelling alone and wondered if anyone could advise the safer and more ‘female friendly’ areas, hotels etc

    Is there a website that you know of that recommends such things?

    • says

      Hi Tabby, all places are female friendly areas. You just have to take the same precautions that you would do in your home town ie use licensed taxis, be weary of accepting drinks from strangers etc. For the hotels, the ones that also double up as brothels don’t normally advertise on the internet so if you read reviews etc before departing you will find out which are the decent reviews. Same with bars, you can tell which ones double up as pick up joints.

      Do you know the area that you plans to stay in yet? Sultan Ahmet is near to all the major tourist attractions
      Natalie wrote about..The Mesopotamian Ruins of Dara Near the Syrian Border

  9. Nauman says

    Well I have travelled twice to istanbul. 1st time was in March 2009 & then again in Oct 2011. Amazing City … amazing food, amazing architecture…. amazing place …… Love to come back next time soon.

  10. Nico says

    I almost visited Istanbul last summer and at times I do regret my choice to go to Athens instead. I’m sure I’ll get there in the end thou, it looks like a great city to explore.

  11. says

    I really hope I get to visit Istanbul one day. Lovely photos, especially the first one which is quite stunning.
    Have you ever made any cultural faux pas since moving to Turkey? If so, I’d love to hear about it for my new series on blogger blunders!
    There’s one from Turkey in this post…
    Kathryn wrote about..Cultural cock-ups and blogger blunders!

  12. Sarah says

    I thought it was too big and busy to live in-until I’d completed my first year there! I stayed a measly 7 years and left because I thought I’d had enough, I now spend my time planning my next visit and counting days off of the calendar. If nothing else, Istanbul offers some of the best food you’ll find anywhere

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