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Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia

To experience an exotic world center where European Christian culture blends with Middle East Islam, solo travelers should visit Istanbul, Turkey. There are several ways to get there, depending on whether you prefer to make it part of a journey to include other countries or to go directly to Istanbul and spend several days roaming the ancient metropolis. It’s a safe city, free of political, financial and religious upheaval. Istanbul is also an intellectual city filled with cafes where single travelers can meet others and discuss world events. And for solo travelers who love to dance and party, the city is becoming an international hotspot and is filled with bars and clubs of all types.

Flights to Istanbul
From Los Angeles International Airport, you can book a non-stop flight to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport via Turkish Airlines. The cost will be from $1,000 round trip. The long cross-Atlantic flight can conclude pleasantly if you have a window seat when landing in Istanbul. You’ll be surprised by its large size, the beautiful surrounding harbor and the modern buildings among domed cathedrals and mosques. No visa is necessary and the country is an associate member of the European Union, yet still uses it’s own currency.

Cruise to Istanbul
If you prefer an ocean route to get there, Celebrity Cruises offers an 11-night round-trip from Rome. It schedules port visits in Italy, Greece and Turkey, and includes a two-day stay in Istanbul. That could provide enough to tour historic sites and to savor the city’s food and culture. Cabin prices for the cruise start around $800 per person based on double occupancy.

Istanbul is the former Constantinople
Because of its European and Middle Eastern mix, Istanbul is one of the most diverse cities in the world. With a population of 14 million, it is Turkey’s largest metropolitan area, primary seaport and financial center. For nearly 20 centuries, originally called Constantinople, it was the nation’s capital. I’m the editor of a travel website, and Turkey is one of the hot, fun destinations I am constantly hearing about from friends and fellow travel writers. Exotic, yet safe and great for solo travelers.

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Start by wandering Old Istanbul
A great start to a single traveler’s itinerary in Istanbul is to visit Istanbul’s Old City and stroll through the historic area. Your journey will take you back more than 2,000 years as you walk among the relics of Greco-Roman, Byzantine and Christian eras.

Experience the museums
One of the most interesting places to visit in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia Museum in the Eminonu District. The basic structure is almost 2,000 years old. It was built in the year 360 A.D. as an Orthodox Greek cathedral, and in its long history was also a Muslim mosque and Catholic church. In the 1930s, it became an official national museum, and its many structures and artifacts still reflect the range of religions that were worshiped in the ancient structure. What visitors see today is a wonderfully restored combination of all these architectural styles.

As one of the most popular sites in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia gets very crowded, particularly when groups of tourist buses arrive. To see it comfortably, get there very early in the morning when it opens for visitors. Expect to pay from $20 per ticket. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., every day.

Hagia Sophia Museum
Sultanahmet 34400

Next stop on an Istanbul itinerary is a visit to the Archeology Museum. The Istanbul Archeology Museum consists of three museums. The Archeology Museum, the Old Eastern Works Museum and the Enameled Kiosk Museum. All are filled with amazing artifacts. Another great museum is the Museum of Turkish Carpets, which presents the world’s greatest collection of antique carpets and kilims from all over the country. The museum is open every day except Monday and is right across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa residence, another interesting site to visit.

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After a visit to the Hagia Sophia Museum, Turkish Carpet and the Archeology Museums, a solo traveler may want to hit the beach. Solar Beach is the coolest, hippest beach area in Istanbul. During the day solo travelers can find all kinds of action sports as well as clubs, bars and restaurants. At night, they have discos and rave parties.

Where to stay in seaside Istanbul
If you’re flying in and plan to stay in Istanbul for several days, consider the Anzer Beach Hotel. It has beautiful views of the harbor and large heated inside pool (especially if you’re there in winter). The nearby beach is private for hotel guests. Room prices range upward from $80 a night. The hotel is near many Turkish restaurants, shops and the Grand Bazaar. Have an early breakfast at the hotel or local cafe, and go out in the morning. The city’s shopping districts also get very crowded with local people from about 10 in the morning until early evening.

Anzer Beach Hotel
E-5 Karayolu Uzeri No. 144
Bookable via major online travel sites

Where to eat in Istanbul
If you believe in the old advice of finding a restaurant where local families eat, Kahvedan may be your choice in Istanbul. In addition to Istanbul folks, Kahvedan attracts businessmen and tourists. The outdoor seating area is great for people watching. Prices are relatively moderate: a three-course lunch with wine, beer or raki brandy costs less than $10. The menu is very eclectic, including American, Asian and Spanish dishes.

Cihangir Akarsu Street No. 1/1A

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Single travelers visiting Istanbul can dance the night away at Reina nightclub, overlooking the city and the bridge over the Bosphorus just like Paris Hilton has done. This is a big disco with bottle service and lavish parties, as well as several restaurants on-site.

Muallim Naci Avenue No:44

For live music, try Balans, they have some big international acts as well as cool local ones. Single travelers will always have a good time.

Balo Sokak 22

Turkish Dance Night at Hodjapasha is a great cultural evening. The ornate building was originally built in the 15th Century as a traditional Turkish men’s bath house. The Hodjapasha Culture Center offers live music with a variety of traditional dances from various regions of the country. They include the Whirling Dervish, belly dancing, mock sword fights and much more. Including snacks and drinks, the price ranges upward from $25 and is great for solo travelers.

Hodjapasga Culture Center
Ankara Caddesi Hocapasa Hamam Sok No. 3B

Timeout Magazine – timeout.com/istanbul

Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture Istanbul webpage