Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

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DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

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9 Fantastic Things to Do in Belgrade in Winter

If you’re on the fence about visiting Belgrade in winter, we’re here to tip the scales in Belgrade’s favor.

A thriving go-all-night party scene. A beautiful setting on the confluence of two mighty rivers, which turn gorgeously icy in winter. Delicious food and cozy coffee shops everywhere you look. Why wouldn’t you want to visit Belgrade in winter?

OK, yes, it can get damn cold — average lows in December are 32° F (0° C) and average highs aren’t much better at 43° F (6° C). Temperature averages are roughly the same in January and February. That said, big dips in temperature can occur, and the coldest day on record in Belgrade was -1° F / – 18° C!

Despite the cold, though, we do believe you should visit Belgrade in winter. Why? Well, we love Belgrade so much that we literally wrote what could well be a book on it, our ultimate guide to 101 things to do in Belgrade. But in case you’re wondering specifically what to do in winter in Belgrade, we’ve handpicked 9 of the coziest winter ideas to make your Belgrade winter trip a memorable one!

A quick note if you’re planning to spend Christmas in Belgrade… Serbia is primarily Eastern Orthodox which means that Serbia follows the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian one. What that means for you is that most Christmas festivities happen around the 7th of January, not December 25th like you may be used to. That means that the Christmas season lasts even longer in Belgrade!

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Are you planning to travel Belgrade, Serbia this winter and want to know what to do in Belgrade in winter? Here are all of our favorite winter activities in Belgrade, so you can plan a perfect Christmas in Belgrade, January in Belgrade, or any other time of the year!
Are you planning to travel Belgrade, Serbia this winter and want to know what to do in Belgrade in winter? Here are all of our favorite winter activities in Belgrade, so you can plan a perfect Christmas in Belgrade, January in Belgrade, or any other time of the year!

Best Things to Do in Belgrade in Winter

Shop and snack at the Belgrade Christmas Market

Belgrade is home to an annual Christmas market, and what better way to spend the days leading up to Christmas in Belgrade exploring these festive, adorable markets? Even better, the Belgrade Christmas market has an even more adorable name – Trg Otvorenog Srca, or Open Heart Square!

If you visit Belgrade in December, this is the perfect place to shop locally for Christmas gifts. You can meet the artisans and perhaps purchase a Serbian souvenir to remember your winter trip to Belgrade with.

The Christmas market is located around Republic Square, spanning out into Knez Mihailova. You’ll find standard European Christmas market fare here, from ornaments to mulled wine to hot punch, as well as Serbian food.

I couldn’t find exact opening dates of the 2019 version, but if past years are any indication, it should run roughly from December 16 to December 30.

Spend hours away from the cold in Belgrade’s fantastic museums

Serbia - Belgrade - Nikola Tesla Museum Nikola Tesla Museum Tesla Coil
If you want to see the Tesla Coil in action, head to the Nikola Tesla Museum!

Belgrade is a city full of culture, and one of the best ways to sample that culture is through its excellent museums. We visited a handful of museums in Belgrade during our many visits to the White City, and here are three of our favorites.

National Gallery: Newly opened after several years of extensive renovations, this place in the heart of Republic Square is where you want to go if you are looking for Serbian and foreign art. We’ve written about it here.

Nikola Tesla Museum: If you’re interested in the Serbian inventor or just science in general, you’ll love this interactive museum with fun exhibits such as a working Tesla coil. We’ve written more about it here.

House of Flowers & The Museum of Yugoslavia: If you’re from the West, you likely think of the Communist era as a time of deprivation and suffering – not so in Serbia, where Yugoslavia meant a thriving economy and a huge amount of international importance. Visiting Tito’s mausoleum at the House of Flowers and the adjoining Museum of Yugoslavia is an important way to deepen and add nuance to your understanding of the Communist era in Europe, and to realize that not every story is as simple as we make it out to be.

Spend the night hopping around Belgrade’s chill watering holes

Serbia - Belgrade - Rakia Bar

Neither of us is a huge partier, so we loved the relaxed bar scene in Belgrade. The buzzy neighborhood of Dorćol is the best place in Belgrade to go out and enjoy the nightlife of the city — without necessarily staying up until the crack of dawn (and then some!).

There are several places where you can go out and enjoy some drinks in Dorćol without necessarily committing to a wild free-for-all of an evening, and here are a few of our favorites.

Note: Be aware that Serbia permits smoking indoors, and people will be exercising that right in full force during the winter, so if you are sensitive to tobacco smoke, you may have some issues in Belgrade.

Meduza: Chill café by day and cozy bar by night, Meduza is unpretentious, laid-back Belgrade at its best.

Rakia Bar: Not far from Belgrade’s popular Skadarska Street, Rakia Bar has a wide selection of Belgrade’s most loved and hated beverage, rakia (a fruit-based moonshine), all in a lovely and relaxed ambiance.

Krafter: Focusing on craft beer, with a great selection of local Serbian craft beers, this bar is low-key and never gets too rowdy.

Prefer some guidance of the craft beer scene, or just want some people to go out with and a local guide to tell you the best spots? This affordable craft beer tour is an excellent choice!

Or pop off all night in one of Belgrade’s splavs

Serbia - Belgrade - Party Boat with Murals

Belgrade is famous for its river boats (also called splavovis or splavs). You’d think that would make them a uniquely summery phenomenon. In actuality, many of them still are quite hopping — though at a diminished capacity from their summer peaks — even well into December, January, and February in Belgrade!

Hit up one of the most popular splavs, as many of the smaller ones may close for the colder months. I recommend Klub 20/44, which runs even in the winter. Between the sweaty dancing and the indoor heating, you don’t have to worry about the cold outside… until it’s time to stumble out and hail a taxi home, that is.

Ice skate at one of the city’s open-air rinks

During the winter, Belgrade’s Nikola Pašić Square opens up its own small ice rink which is perfect for kids — or adults! — who fancy lacing up their skates and hitting the ice.

You can also head to Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade’s island which is crowded in the summer but peaceful in the winter, for some skating, or you could also check out skating along the Belgrade Waterfront along the Sava River promenade. If you’re staying in Novi Beograd or Zemun, then check out the Zamak theme park by the Zemun Quay.

Opening times vary, so check operating hours before arriving. Skate rental is generally 2-3 euro per hour, and most have free admission with the rental of skates.

Wander through a winter wonderland at the urban Košutnjak forest

Nature and city meet frequently in Belgrade, as this city is banked on two rivers, has its own islands and lake, tons of green spaces, and even its own forests.

While the city parks are lovely under a coating of snow, the forests are even better. Hop in a cab and make your way to Kosutnjak forest, which is gorgeous under a dusting of fresh snow and almost completely away from the tourist crowds.

Check out the Christmas decorations on Knez Mihailova Boulevard

Knez Mihailova boulevard is the center of Belgrade life no matter what the time of year, and that doesn’t change just because it’s winter in Belgrade.

Knez Mihailova is where most of the Belgrade Christmas Market action takes place, but even if you happen to arrive before or after the market ends, it should be decorated for winter regardless!

In the weeks leading up to Christmas (and well afterward), Knez Mihailova gets all glittered up for Christmas with lots of lights sparkling up the boulevard and getting you in the spirit to shop. Lucky for you, this is Belgrade’s main shopping street, so it’s the perfect place to snag some Christmas presents you may have forgotten about!

Wander around a snow-covered fortress

The Belgrade Fortress is magical at any time of year, but I think that its magic gets brought to an entirely new level when it’s all dusted in snow.

The Belgrade Fortress is open day and night to the public free of charge, and it’s one of the best sunset spots in the city. I recommend catching as many sunsets here as you possibly can, especially if you’re staying nearby.

You can even take a tour of the passageways and tunnels underneath Belgrade Fortress and learn about their macabre history — it may not be warm beneath the ground, but it’ll be sheltered from the wind, rain, or snow! Check tour availability here.

Eat some hearty Serbian food!

Serbia - Belgrade - Manufaktura Serbian Food

Serbian food is… well, not light… which means it’s perfect winter food! I’m not normally crazy about Balkan cuisine, but when it gets that cold outside, I’m all about the hearty stews, rich roasted meats, and delicious baked beans.

A few things you shouldn’t leave Serbia without trying: pasulj, a bean soup which often includes sausage, Karađorđeva šnicla, a thin-pounded pork steak stuffed with kajmak [a soft, unpasteurized cheese], rolled up, and fried, and sarma, cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice covered in a tomato-based sauce.

Where to Stay in Belgrade

Book Your Accommodations

Serbia - Belgrade - Hotel Moskva

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Belgrade. Generally, budget means hostel beds for around $10 a night and singles/doubles for around $30, mid-range is from about $40-100 per night, and luxury will cost over $100 per night.

However, since you’re visiting Belgrade in winter, the lowest of the low season, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could snag an awesome deal on an upscale hotel!

Budget: If you want a cozy feeling hostel, Hostel Home Sweet Home in the Savamala neighborhood of Belgrade is a fantastic choice. Its central location close to Knez Mihailova Street and other Belgrade must-sees makes staying here ultra-convenient. It’s sunny and open, with options for dorm rooms as well as affordable single and double rooms for travelers who want a little more privacy without paying a fortune. It’s one of the best-rated options in town, so we recommend you check out availability and book in advance here.

Mid-Range: If you want a more traditional accommodation option, we recommend the affordable four-star Zepter Hotel on Terazije, one of our favorite streets in all of Belgrade. It has all the amenities you’d expect from a 4-star hotel, like a gym room, in-room coffee machine, and a fantastic daily breakfast. Rooms sell out often, so check out availability and book in advance.

Luxury: We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest the classic luxury option in Belgrade, Hotel Moskva– one of our favorite buildings in the city and a classic haunt of famous politicians, musicians, actors, and other celebrities who pass through Belgrade. It’s also surprisingly affordable for its caliber! With a renowned spa, delicious restaurant, and beautifully designed rooms, it’s one of our favorite places in Belgrade and the location is unbeatable. However, it’s almost always sold out, so be sure to check availability and book well in advance and hope you get lucky!

Still looking? Check out our full guide to Belgrade Hotels and Hostels.

More Belgrade Travel Resources

Serbia - Belgrade - Street Art

Hopefully, you can get a good idea of what there is to do in Belgrade in winter from this post, but if you want more inspiration, we have a ton more resources!

For activities in the city, check out our guide for things to do in Belgrade, the most Instagrammable spots in Belgrade, and the best Belgrade street art. We also have a Serbian souvenir guide if you want to do some shopping.

If you love guided tours, we have more than what’s listed above. Here are eleven great Belgrade tours to pick from – just keep in mind that all might not be available in the winter months.

If you want to get out of the city for a day, here are our guide to Belgrade day trips and what you should know before renting a car in Serbia. We also have lists of our favorite places to visit in Serbia and the best Serbian towns and cities if you need more day trip inspiration. 

For country planning, check out our guide to planning a trip to Serbia and Serbia travel advice. 

We have tons more Serbia and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Serbia and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Headed to Belgrade? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

If you’re planning a trip to Belgrade, it’s a good idea to travel with a valid travel insurance policy, so that you will be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident, fall (a big winter risk!), or cancellation or trip interruption.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

11 Magical Things to Do in Romania in Winter

If you’re wondering if Romania in winter is a good idea… we’re here to convince you that yes, it is!

We’ve seen this country dusted with snow and let me tell you, it makes the candy-colored houses and mysterious castles of Transylvania just that much more enchanting.

And since Bucharest is full of cozy cafés, fantastic bookstores, hidden bars, and other great things to do in Bucharest in winter, even the country’s capital makes a fantastic winter Romania getaway — provided you pack appropriately, that is!

So, let’s get into it – here’s why you shouldn’t discount a vacation to Romania in winter!

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Planning to travel Romania in winter? This guide to winter activities in Romania covers Christmas Markets in Bucharest and Sibiu, snow-covered castles in Bran, skiing in Poiana Brasov + so much more! Here are all the best things to do in Romania in winter, at Christmas, in January, February, and beyond!
Planning to travel Romania in winter? This guide to winter activities in Romania covers Christmas Markets in Bucharest and Sibiu, snow-covered castles in Bran, skiing in Poiana Brasov + so much more! Here are all the best things to do in Romania in winter, at Christmas, in January, February, and beyond!

The 11 Best Things to Do in Romania in Winter

Stay in a luxury ice hotel in Bâlea

Thought ice hotels were only for the Arctic? Think again! The beautiful Lake Bâlea in Romania has an ice hotel that is open each winter.

Deep in the Făgăraş Mountains, right on the banks of Bâlea Lake, the lake hotel is made by local craftsmen who carve blocks of ice from the nearby lake to create a real hotel you can sleep and stay in. The beds are literally carved by hand from ice, and on top, you can stay warm with reindeer-fur blankets and thermal blankets to provide extra warmth. There’s even an ice church!

Accessible only by cable car, Ice Hotel Bâlea is a romantic getaway that will have you feeling like the rest of the world is miles and miles away. There’s a well-reviewed restaurant on-site (which is good… seeing as you’re a lengthy cable car ride away from civilization) plus buffet breakfast, as well as a bar which serves drinks – in glasses made of ice, no less!

I haven’t gotten the chance to stay here yet, but trust me, it’s on my winter in Romania bucket list! Check out prices and availability here, if you’re curious!

Check out the seriously adorable Bucharest Christmas market

Bucharest - Romania

Bucharest’s Christmas Market is one of the best in the Balkans, with cute log-cabin themed kiosks full of handcrafted wintry souvenirs, traditional Romanian Christmas food, as well as your Christmas market standards like roasted sausages, mulled wine, and hot punch.

The big Christmas market is located in front of the Palace of the Parliament and the festivities should start on December 1st. For more information, read here.

Or peruse one of the smaller but equally cute Christmas markets elsewhere in Romania

Bucharest isn’t the only Romanian city that seriously delivers on the Christmas market cuteness.

Sibiu has one of the most adorable Christmas markets in Romania, which takes up the bulk of the buzzing Piata Mare (Big Square) and is lit up to the nines in the winter.

Brasov also has an adorable Christmas market, which is called Christkindlmarkt, which sells local Romanian food products, hand-crafted souvenirs and decorations, and other traditional gifts.

Cluj-Napoca also has an excellent Christmas market modeled after the market in Sibiu, lit up beautifully and with a stunning backdrop of the gorgeous Gothic-style cathedral. 

Hide from the cold in the largest spa complex in Europe

Bucharest - Romania - Therme

Therme is perhaps the best thing about Bucharest, and since it’s located just a short Uber away from the Otopeni airport, it’s a must on either end of your stay if you are flying into Bucharest.

Therme Bucharest costs 100-109 lei for an adult ticket depending on when you visit, about $24 USD. It’s not the cheapest way to spend a day in Bucharest in winter… but it may just be the warmest!

… or stay in a thermal resort town!

I freaking love thermal springs, and there are a few towns in Romania which are well-known for their hot springs which have been enjoyed since the days of the Romans.

The best-known resort town built on thermal springs in Romania is Băile Herculane (we recommend Afrodita Resort for a mid-range budget and Grand Hotel Minerva for a more luxury experience). It’s quite a distance from Bucharest, but it’s about 2.5 hours from Timisoara, so it’s good if that’s one of the places on your Romania winter itinerary.

Other well-known thermal resorts are located in Băile Felix close to Oradea (which has an airport) and about 2.5 hours from Cluj-Napoca, as well as Vatra Dornei in Bucovina – our favorite region of Romania – which is home to ski slopes as well as mineral springs which spas have been built around.

Tour Bucharest with a twist

Romania - Bucharest - Street Art near Piata Romana

In the summer, I love to just aimlessly walk down streets in unfamiliar cities, finding street art to gawk at, buildings to lust over, and cafés to rest my feet in. But in the winter? Get me from A to B as fast as possible, unless I have a plan.

I actually really enjoy doing walking tours in the winter because it forces me to have an objective yet still get outside and see a lot of the city. Luckily, Bucharest has a ton of themed tours that run even into the winter, so you can pick the best tour for your interests.

Whether you’re morbidly curious about Bucharest’s dark history tour, fascinated by a foray into the past with a communist history tour, want to wander street art and hidden bars with a local on a hidden gems tour, or want to warm up Romanian-style on a craft beer tour — there’s an option for you, and it’ll keep you warm and moving with purpose even in the winter.

Spend the day chilling in a salt mine

Stephanie and I are big salt tourists. Before you laugh, it’s a thing, okay? Salt mines are amazing and if you’ve never been in one before, prepare for a treat: you are about to breathe like you’ve never breathed before.

Being in a salt cave basically drains all the mucus you never knew you had from your face, allowing you to breathe like you’re a kid again. And in the Romania in winter, where smog can really be a damper on winter days, a salt mine is the perfect antidote to a stuffy nose and blocked sinuses.

The largest salt mine in all of Europe, Slanic Prahova Salt Mine, is located not too far from Bucharest, so you can easily visit it on a day trip.

If you’re planning to head to Cluj-Napoca in northern Translyvania on your trip, the Salina Turda is also an excellent choice and an easy day trip from Cluj.

The one Romanian salt mine we can’t recommend (told you guys we’re salt people) is Praid Salt Mine near Targu Mures, also in Transylvania. It’s basically a child free-for-all with amusement park rides, lines, and chaos galore — it may be fine for families, but if you’re looking to relax and clear your lungs, it’s not the place to go.

Ski (or just spa) in snow-covered Poiana Brasov

Romania - Poiana Brasov - Ski Resort

Just 30 minutes’ outside of Brasov, Transylvania’s most charming city, Poiana Brasov is our personal favorite place to spend winter in Romania.

While we wish we could say it’s because we’re Balkan ski connoisseurs… the reality is that we just really, really love the spas there, especially the one at Téléferic Grand Hotel.

We recommend booking a room for a few days if you can to really soak in those mountain views (check prices and availability here), but a day pass to the spa is also a great option if you don’t have the time or funds to stay. The restaurant is also fantastic!

Warm up with some tasty Romanian wine

Your mind probably doesn’t go instantly to Romania when you’re thinking of wine – but what a shame that is, because Romanian wine is tasty! And since Romania produces stellar red wines (basically, all I want to drink in winter), it’s the perfect drink to consume inside a toasty warm room or by a fire on a cold Romanian winter day.

If you’re basing yourself in Bucharest, you can go on a wine tour of the city if you’re curious to learn more about Romanian wine (as it’s really hard to get outside of the country – it’s rarely exported). Otherwise, if you prefer to go independently, there are a handful of wine bars around the city wh ere you can sample wine at your leisure (I like Industry Wine Bar on Strada Șepcari).

If you want to get out of the city, there are winery tours near Bucharest that are a great way to warm up on a wintry day. The first winery tour covers 10 different kinds of wine across two beloved wine cellars; check more details here. A similar but slightly different winery tour includes two wine cellars, two wine museums, a traditional lunch, and several tastings; check more details and itinerary here.

Basing yourself in Brasov? Check out winery tours from Brasov or check out the chic Le Sommelier wine bar on Strada Diaconu Coresi 6.

Sample hearty Romanian food

Romania - Bucharest - Romanian Food Sarmale and Polenta

There are also some food tours which will give you a look at the gastronomic scene of Romania.

This bohemian food and culture tour covers markets, street food, and a local side to Bucharest (through your stomach), and this budget-friendly food tour mashes up a walking tour with a delicious three-course Romanian lunch and plenty of drinks to wash all that learning down with.

If you’re spending winter in Romania this year for a special occasion, this private food and wine tour is more upscale and private and caters more to couples and luxury travelers. It includes a sommelier-led wine and cheese pairing that allows you to try five of the best Romanian wines in production!

If you’ll be in Brasov, you can try a local cooking class or explore the city’s best restaurants. Sibiu is also a fine place for foodies, as it was a former Gastronomic Capital of Europe!

See Romania’s most beautiful castles covered in snow

I was lucky enough to see Bran Castle under a dusting of early winter snow in 2017 and it was even more magical than it would have been any other time of year.

If you’re basing yourself in Bucharest for your winter in Romania trip, there’s a fantastic day tour that covers both Bran Castle and Peles Castle – two of the most beautiful castles in all of Romania. Check out the tour here.

You can also add on a third castle, Rasnov Fortress, as well on the day trip as it’s not too far from Bran and Peles – this is the three-castle tour from Bucharest.

Quick note: be aware of the different inclusions when comparing prices, as some tours include entrance fees and some don’t, which can easily make something that looks cheaper on paper be more expensive on the ground.

However, as Bran is really close to Brasov, it’s much better to tour the castles of Transylvania if you’re basing yourself in Bran as you’ll spend a lot fewer hours on the road. Check out tours leaving from Brasov here (includes Rasnov, Peles, and Bran).

What is the Weather in Romania in Winter?

Romania - Wallachia - Sheep and Shepherd

Romania is a large and mountainous country, and the weather depends where you’ll be spending your days!

Generally, though, winter temperatures in Bucharest are the following:

December: average lows of 28° F and average highs of 39° F (-2° C to 4 °C)
January: average lows of 28° F and average highs of 37° F (-2° C to 3 °C)
February: average lows of 29°F and average highs of 44° F (-2° C to 7° C)

Lows in Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj, and other Transylvanian cities are markedly colder. Throughout the winter, we’re talking average lows of 20° F and average highs of 36° C, give or take a few degrees depending on the city (-7° C to 2°C).

However, it can easily dip to -20° C (-4° F) on some of the coldest nights — so be prepared and pack appropriately for winter in Romania. This goes doubly if you’ll be spending time in mountain resorts like Balea or Poiana Brasov, where the altitude will not do you any favors!

More Romania Resources

Romania - Rasnov Citadel - Instagram Screen Shot

If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.

We also have a specific winter guide to Bucharest already published, and guides to Brasov and Sibiu on the way!

Next, check out all the things to do in Transylvania and things to do in Bucharest. You can also check out our Instagram guides to SibiuBrasov, and Bucharest – more are on the way.

You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, or how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest.

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Romania and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While Romania is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel – especially winter travel! – so it’s better to play it safe rather than chance having your vacation ruined by a lapse of judgment.

If you’re planning to do winter sports, be sure to check that your specific policy covers ski or snowboard accidents or if you require a higher level of coverage. For example, with World Nomads, ski and snowboarding coverage is only provided on the higher-tier Explorer plan, so be sure to consider that when deciding what insurance plan to purchase if you’re doing winter sports.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

Beyoglu or Sultanahmet: Which Part of Istanbul Should You Stay in?

Istanbul is a massive city that can be overwhelming to a first-time visitor. For one, it’s huge, with a population of over 15 million people in the metropolitan area. For another, it’s broken into two continents, 39 districts, and hundreds of neighborhoods. So it’s safe to say that choosing where to stay in Istanbul can be quite overwhelming.

We’ve written a neighborhood by neighborhood guide to where to stay in Istanbul, which is helpful if you don’t know where to start.

But since you ended up on this page, we’re going to assume that you’ve narrowed down your decision on where to stay in Istanbul down to two main contenders, Beyoglu or Sultanahmet.

These two parts of Istanbul are quite different and offer different advantages and disadvantages. Beyoglu is a large district which covers several neighborhoods (Galata, Karakoy, Cihangir, Pera, Taksim, amongst others), whereas Sultanahmet is a large neighborhood within the larger district of Fatih.

Stephanie and I have visited the city eight times between the two of us, and we’ve stayed in both Sultanahmet and Beyoglu so we can give you the merits of each. Here, we’re going to break down why you might want to choose Sultanahmet vs. Beyoglu or vice versa.

Choose Sultanahmet if…

… It’s your first time in Istanbul and you only have a few days

Turkey - Istanbul - Hagia Sophia - Canva

If this is your first trip to Istanbul and you have limited time, it’s better to be based right in the heart of the action rather than spend time and money figuring out local transportation.

Hotels in Sultanahmet are reasonably priced (as are most Istanbul hotels, honestly – the city offers such great value!), so there’s no reason not to stay in Sultanahmet especially on your first trip to Istanbul.

If you stay near the Blue Mosque (here are our favorite hotels near the Blue Mosque), you’ll be within walking distance of all of the following Istanbul attractions: Hagia Sofia, the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, the Islamic Art Museum, Topkapi Palace, and even Suleymaniye Mosque.

Meanwhile, Beyoglu has fewer attractions – mostly Taksim Square (which is more of a point of orientation than a must-see sight), Istiklal Caddesi, and Galata Tower, plus a handful of museums.

… You’re a photographer or just crazy for Instagram

Turkey - Istanbul - Blue Mosque - Canva

We think Istanbul is one of the most Instagrammable cities in the world (here’s our photography guide to it). But there’s no doubting that hundreds and thousands of people at any given moment agree with you on that and are all vying to get the best Instagram shots of their own as well.

If you are the kind of person who likes to get up early on their travels and take the best crowd-free photos or people-free selfies, definitely stay in Sultanahmet so that you can easily walk to all your favorite photography locations without having to set your alarm clock even earlier and having to deal with figuring out public transportation in the morning.

… You want that quintessential, fairy-tale Istanbul experience

Most photos you’ve seen of Istanbul come from Sultanahmet – the mosques, palaces, and museums here are the icons of the city.

Just like some people want to stay close to the Eiffel Tower when in Paris or next to the Colosseum while in Rome, there is a definite draw to staying in the heart of the tourist action in Sultanahmet, next to the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

Choose Beyoglu if…

… You want more nighttime options

Turkey - Istanbul - Mikla - Turkish Wine Turkish Food

There’s no denying that Sultanahmet is a little dead after dark. While there will definitely be restaurants and the occasional bar catering to tourists, it’s decidedly not where the locals go out. (In fact, most locals don’t even go to Sultanahmet unless they work there)

If you want to explore Istanbul at night, definitely choose Beyoglu. The neighborhoods of Cihangir, Galata, and Karakoy are all part of the larger Beyoglu district and they’re all popular places for locals to go out – Cihangir is especially popular amongst hipster locals and expats.

… You want to feel more of the “real” Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul - Furniture Shop

While Sultanahmet delivers that quintessential Istanbul experience of mosques and minarets, it’s an incredibly concentrated touristic center. It’s hard, if not impossible, to get off the beaten track in Sultanahmet.

Meanwhile, Beyoglu is a giant district with some areas more touristy than others. Galata, Pera, and Taksim are where you’ll find most of the Beyoglu hotels; Karakoy, Cihangir, and Cukurcuma near Galatasaray are a little more local.

While Istiklal Caddesi is crowded at almost all times of day, it’s crowded mostly with locals than fellow tourists, so you’ll get more of a sense of the modern-day Istanbul than you would if you stayed in Sultanahmet

… You want better food options (and better prices)

Turkey - Istanbul - Turkish Breakfast at Private Cafe

Like I said above, Sultanahmet is a neighborhood which is primarily driven by tourism. The sheer concentration of tourists in the area means that prices are almost always higher for a similar quality of food.

While that doesn’t mean that every place in Sultanahmet is a bad deal, if you are traveling on a budget but still want to explore the local Istanbul food scene, Beyoglu is a far better choice for food and drinks both in terms of quality and diversity of food options as well as lower prices. Note that you want to walk a bit away from Istiklal Caddesi in order to find the better-priced establishments.

The areas of Cukurcuma and Cihangir are two of my favorite neighborhoods for restaurants in Istanbul.

Choose both for…

… a central location in the heart of Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul - Galata Tower

Both Beyoglu and Sultanahmet are great bases for exploring the rest of Istanbul – it just depends on what you want as your center.

I personally would choose Beyoglu because I prefer to stay where there are better food and nightlife choices and to be in a less touristic area, but I won’t deny that the convenience of staying in Sultanahmet is second-to-none if you’re looking to check off the main tourist attractions.

… a safe part of the city

While we both find Istanbul to be as safe as any other large city, of course, there are some areas better avoided. Those areas are usually in the peripheries of the city and not places where tourists would likely stumble.

The one part of Beyoglu we would recommend you avoiding the area between Tarlabaşı Boulevard and Irmak Caddesi. I’ve stayed right by Tarlabaşı at the lovely Peradays Hotel, but if you cross over the avenue, things get a little more run-down and ramshackle.

It’s not that it’s a violent community, but rather that it’s one of the poorer districts of Istanbul, where many migrants and marginalized people live, and it’s not really a place you’d want to visit as a tourist.

… fantastic hotels at a fair price

Turkey - Istanbul - Hammamhane
One of our favorite hotels in Istanbul!

Due to the slumping Turkish lira, basically everywhere in Istanbul offers a fantastic value. I’ve been able to stay in hotels next to some of Istanbul’s best attractions for less than the price of a hostel dorm bed in Dublin.

We’ve picked out some of our favorite hotels in both areas, so once you’ve finally decided on Beyoglu vs. Sultanahmet, here are our suggestions for each.

Best Hotels in Beyoglu

Budget

For a no-frills stay in a cool neighborhood, we recommend Cheers Porthouse. Taking inspiration from the Bosphorus, which is just a few minutes away, this slightly nautically-themed guesthouse offers seriously affordable private rooms with shared bathrooms or en-suite bathroom options. The location is fantastic, close to all the best bars and nightlife of Karakoy.

Despite the low price, the rooms have the basic amenities you’d expect and want from a hotel, such as a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, modern bathrooms, and free toiletries. The décor of the rooms is modern and fun, so you don’t feel like you’re staying in a dated guesthouse, which is always nice when you’re looking for where to stay in Istanbul in this price range.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

Rooftop breakfast with a view of the Galata Tower for less than 50 euros a night? It’s definitely possible at the Galataport Hotel, literally 200 meters away from the gorgeous Galata Tower.

Price and location aren’t all it has going for it, though: guests love it, with an average review score at the time of writing of a whopping 9/10! The rooms are decorated with a classic Ottoman style, slightly dated but delivering a ton of old-school luxury. They’re roomy and spacious, with modern bathrooms and windows delivering insane views.

»» Check prices and availability, read reviews, or book online here ««

Luxury

This is my favorite Istanbul hotel! I stayed at Hammamhane for 3 nights and it truly started to feel like home at the end of my stay. Located literally on Cukur Cuma, the main street of the antiques district, Hammamhane is within walking distance to art galleries, design stores, antique shops, and chic cafés. Hammamhane is a converted boutique apartment-hotel, that was originally a hammam, which should be now open after years of renovations (it was still being worked on when I visited in 2017).

The apartments have literally everything you’d ever need: a fully-functioning kitchen, a washing machine, a great seating area for relaxing or eating a meal you’ve prepared, one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in, and a lovely modern bathroom. Oh, and the breakfast there is hands-on the most delicious I’ve ever eaten in Istanbul, which is some seriously stiff competition. Plus, the staff is some of the loveliest and kindest people I’ve ever met.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here ««

Best Hotels in Sultanahmet

Turkey - Istanbul - Mosque
Budget

For its location and looks, you’ll be surprised by the price of this gorgeous hostel with both dorms and private rooms in the heart of Sultanahmet. Second Home Hostel has dorms with all my favorite perks: privacy curtains, personal reading lights, personal outlets, and lockers. The aesthetics of this hostel are gorgeous and don’t scream “backpacker”, something that’s become increasingly important to me, as I can’t stand another squeaky metal bunk bed that reminds me of summer camp!

For a little more privacy without paying much more, there are private double rooms, some with shared bathrooms and others with ensuites. The vibe of the hostel is extremely friendly and social, hence the name. Note that breakfast is not included but can be added for just five euros.

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Mid-Range

Want to feel like Turkish royalty without paying a price to match? Check out Saba Sultan Hotel just 200 meters from the Blue Mosque. With a Turkish-inspired décor, a gorgeous terrace with views over Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and its minarets (perfect for Instagram photos!), large windows, and stunning antique furniture, this is a fantastic yet affordable place to stay in Sultanahmet.

The breakfast spread is lush, with olives, freshly baked Turkish bread, and other classic Turkish breakfast items on offer. The staff is helpful and friendly, ready to direct you to any of Istanbul’s main sights which are just within a stone’s throw of the hotel!

»» Check out reviews, prices, and availability here «« 

Luxury

Perhaps the last word in Istanbul luxury, the Four Seasons has a history of turning confinement to refinement, as the site it inhabits was once a three-story prison building which was remodeled to house voluntary instead of state-compelled guests.

Its entire decor follows the neo-classical patterning, and all its rooms feature fully-equipped entertainment systems, espresso machines, free wifi, and a marble bathroom with a deep soaking tub.

The Four Seasons also offers a world-class spa and fitness center, and bot the Seasons Restaurant in the courtyard and A’YA Lounge on the rooftop offer delicious meals and drinks.

»» Click to see guest reviews, photos, prices, and availability ««

More Istanbul Resources!

We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Istanbul! We’re working on our massive post on things to do in Istanbul, but it’s a good place to get started. We also have a ton of Istanbul travel tips, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, important Istanbul safety tips, and tips for shopping in Istanbul.

Didn’t find a place where you want to stay in Istanbul in this post? We also have a giant where to stay in Istanbul guide, as well as a post on the best hotels in Sultanahmet and the best places to stay with Bosphorus views.

If you will be visiting in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide plus an overview of Istanbul weather in January.

If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!

For more general Turkey information, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide to other beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.

We have tons more Turkey and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Turkey and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Finally, Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

It’s always a good idea to travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently Stephanie’s aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!

For travel insurance, we both use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

 Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here 

5 of the Best Turkish Dishes & Tantalizingly Delicious Turkish Food

Headed to Turkey and looking for the best Turkish food to eat on your trip? Here are five of the best Turkish dishes you absolutely must try while in Turkey! And for those looking to learn about Turkish cuisine at home, you should be able to find these dishes at Turkish restaurants around the world!

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  5 of the Best Turkish Dishes & Tantalizingly Delicious Turkish Food

The Best Turkish Cuisine

In alphabetical order…

Baklava

Turkish Food - Baklava

Photo by Inma Gregorio. Reused with permission.

If you have a sweet tooth, here’s a challenge for you: Try walking from the start of Istiklal Caddesi to Taksim Square in Istanbul without drooling – or stopping to try – baklava along the way. For many, it is an impossible mission because this cake of puff pastry (or phyllo dough) and nuts is so good that it seems not to be of this world. There are several nations that claim to have invented it, and without the need to investigate who is right, the fact is that it is very common in Turkey. Which, as a matter of fact, it is one of the best countries for foodies around the world.

Normally the most used nuts for its manufacture are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios, but it can be done with others as well. To this, the confectioners add sugar, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground cardamom, a pinch of salt, butter and the characteristic phyllo mass.

As a result, and as you can see in the photo, you can get baklavas of different types – all excellent.

It is sold by weight across Turkey. Bon Appetit!

Contributed by Inma of A World to Travel

Icli Kofte

Turkish Cuisines Collab

Photo by Jacky Kulkarni. Reused with permission.

While other countries have dumplings, Turkey has icli kofte. Icli kofte is a traditional Turkish street food, but you can also easily find them in a regular restaurant as well. The balls are made of a bulgur crust, stuffed with meat, usually beef or lamb, and aromatic spices. Sometimes nuts may also be fixed into the stuffing. The balls are then deep-fried and served steaming hot. In many ways, they resemble the Italian arancini.

You can find icli kofte at many Turkish restaurants. Although they are more common in and around Antakya, the best place to try them is, without a doubt, Sabirtasi in Istanbul. This iconic family-style restaurant has been serving the dish since 1987. Initially, you could only buy them as a snack from the owner at his street stall on Istiklal Street, they now also own a proper sit-down restaurant where you can order a full plate of koftes for only 7 TL a piece. If you’re on the go, you can still buy a single piece from the street stall for only 6 TL.

Contributed by Jacky of Nomad Epicureans

İmam Bayıldı

İmam bayıldı - Turkish Dishes Collab

Photo by Wendy Werneth. Reused with permission.

İmam bayıldı is one of the best-kept secrets of Turkish cuisine and is something you just have to try when you’re in Turkey. The name of the dish literally means “the Imam fainted”.

There are a couple of theories about how this dish got its name, but the most commonly accepted one is that the Imam (the person who leads the worship in a mosque) was so overcome by the flavor of this dish when his wife made it for him that he lost consciousness. This might sound a bit farfetched, but just wait until you taste it.

İmam bayıldı is made by stuffing an eggplant with tomatoes, onion and garlic, and sometimes other vegetables as well. The stuffed eggplant is then baked in the oven with plenty of olive oil. It’s a great choice for vegetarians traveling in Turkey and is also suitable for vegans as long as it’s not topped with cheese.

This dish is popular not only in Turkey but also in Greek cuisine. Relations between Greece and Turkey are not always amicable, but the two countries do have a lot in common when it comes to food.

Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan

Pide

5 of the Best Turkish Dishes & Tantalizingly Delicious Turkish Food

Referred to by many as a Turkish pizza, pide is actually closer to a Turkish flatbread. The bread has a similar consistency to pizza crust or pita bread, and it’s covered with sauce, cheese, and a variety of vegetable and meat toppings.

This is one of the most common Turkish street foods and is a great option if you’re looking for cheap eats in Turkey or a quick bite in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing. 

Editor’s Choice

Turkish Delight

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Lokumları - home of Turkish Delights DSC_3492 Turkish Food Collab

Photo by Chris Backe. Reused with permission.

Known as Turkish Delights to the Western world, the Turkish name lokum is derived from the Arabic for ‘throat comfort’. Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Lokumları was originally founded in 1777 by Hacı Bekir, and today calls itself the home of Turkish Delights.

Made from a base of corn starch and sugar, Hacı Bekir moved to Istanbul to create lokum. His creations were noticed, and he soon became the chief confectioner to Sultan Mahmud II. He and his descendants held that office until the Ottoman Empire fell in 1920. Today, the building is registered as a protected cultural site with the Turkish authorities, and the shop is owned and run by the fifth generation of the Bekir family.

What to buy? The shop offers samples, so you can taste your way towards your favorites. The pistachio varieties are some of the more popular ones, but there are a ton to choose from. Try the ones with hazelnut, coconut, walnut, fruit, or the ones coated with chocolates.

Think of buying Turkish Delights like you might buy chocolates: sometimes you’re buying a fancy box for gifting, and sometimes you’re buying in bulk and less worried about presentation. Prices here are consistent with other shops in the area, but other shops don’t have the history.

Contributed by Chris Backe of worthygo.com.

Where to Stay in Turkey

Turkey - Istanbul - Accommodations

If you’re still looking for great Turkish accommodations, we have you covered! You can check out our Istanbul neighborhood and hotel guide for recommendations on where to stay in Istanbul.

If you know you want to be either in Sultanahmet or on the water, you can check out our guides to the best hotels near the Blue Mosque and the best hotels with Bosphorus views.

We also have a guide to the best Cappadocia cave hotels, plus more Cappadocia hotel recommendations in our Cappadocia Instagram guide. 

More hotel guides for the rest of Turkey coming soon!

5 Things to Pack for a Trip to Turkey

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

We’re working on our full list of what to pack for Istanbul, but here are five things you definitely want to bring with you!

The Lonely Planet Turkeya good guidebook can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out in the city and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific neighborhood information that will help you in different parts of the city, and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!

Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (She uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use for all our travels. It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag, yet it’s still quite stylish for all of its security features. If you’d rather bring something smaller, you can pack a money belt instead. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water is *technically* safe to drink now, I would still avoid it. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. 

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Istanbul – being on the water! A trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without a Bosphorus cruise or at least a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Turkey Travel Tips

Turkey - Istanbul - Stephanie Bosphorus Selfie

We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Turkey!

If this will be your first trip to Turkey, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.

If you’re heading to Istanbul, we have you covered. Start with our essential Istanbul Travel Tips and guide to staying safe in Istanbul

We’re working on our massive things to do in Istanbul post, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, tips for shopping in Istanbul, how to plan an Istanbul honeymoon, and what to do in Istanbul at night.

If you will be visiting in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide plus an overview of Istanbul weather in January.

If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!

Headed to Cappadocia? If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We also have posts on the best things to do in Cappadocia, and how to plan a perfect 3 day Cappadocia itinerary, plus how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul.

We have tons more Turkey and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Turkey and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Headed to Turkey? Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Turkey, but it’s a good idea to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

>>Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.<<

Pin This Guide to the Best Turkish Food for Your Trip

5 of the Best Turkish Dishes & Tantalizingly Delicious Turkish Food

 

25 Beautiful Romania Quotes about Love, Life, & Travel

Headed to Romania and looking for some great Romania quotes to inspire your trip? Or perhaps you’re looking for some beautiful Romanian quotes about love for a special someone? Whether you need a travel quote to use as a Romania Instagram caption or something more literary, we’ve got you covered!

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25 Beautiful Romania Quotes about Love, Life, & Travel and Romania Instagram Captions

Our Favorite Romania Quotes

Here are our favorite Romania quotes and a few quotes by famous Romanians, plus tons of Dracula quotes!

Here are the 7 wonders of the Romanian world: sunny days, hot temperatures, warm hearts, bright minds, colourful imagination, golden fields and delicious food!

-Michelle Rosenberg

Romania - Transylvania - Raznov Fortress

When I was on my own in a hotel room in Romania, I had the imagination to keep myself occupied.

-Rhona Mitra

Romania - Sihastria - putnei - Monastery

I am a Romanian composer, and I have a feeling of force and confidence, one of a noble ideal, when what I write harmonizes at all with the works of the great Romanian creators.

-Theodor Grigoriu

Romania - Sibiel

Of course, I grew up in Communist Romania, but I am happy to say that now our country is democratic, and prospering, since the revolution in 1989.

-Nadia Comaneci

Romania - Snow

Sibiu, my lovely city
It is the One
On which, by taking walks 
At quiet times, 
It filled my heart with. Beauty

-Elena Sandu

Romania

I learned how little in the way of material goods we really need, and how beautiful a simple life can be. In Romania people work with their hands every day, and you’ll see an 80-year-old woman still chopping wood because she’s been looking after herself all her life, and she still has the strength to do it.

-Renee Zellweger

Romania

Te iu bese, I love you in Romanian

-Ken E. Hall

Romania - Danube River

Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday Night.

-Robert Kaufman in Love at First Bite

Romania - Bran Castle

What comes to your mind when you think of the word Transylvania, if you ponder it at all? What comes to my mind are mountains of savage beauty, ancient castles, werewolves, and witches – a land of magical obscurity. How, in short, am I to believe I will still be in Europe, on entering such a realm? I shall let you know if it’s Europe or fairyland, when I get there.

Elizabeth Kostova

Romania - Horse

Among so many messianic opportunisms, hope remains the basic job of the Romanian people.

-Costel Zăgan 

Romania

Even monsters need vacation.

-Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel in Hotel Transylvania

Romania - Brasov

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, a medley of extemporanea, And love is a thing that can never go wrong, and I am Marie of Romania.

-Dorothy Parker

Since the blood of the country is eternal and immortal, and because in the same royal artery blows Trajan’s triumphal march and in order to be, like him, again and always the first of the human race, I proclaim myself Salvador Dalí, catholic, apostolic, Roman and Romanian.

-Salvador Dali

It’s true that in Romanian I feel more relaxed, as if I’m wearing slippers.

-Dumitru Tepeneag

Romania are more Portuguese than German.

-Barry Venison

Romania - Bucharest - Unknown Solider

We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things. Nay, from what you have told me of your experiences already, you know something of what strange things there may be.

Bram Stoker in Dracula

Romania - Peles - Pixabay

Welcome to Hotel Transylvania!

-Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel in Hotel Transylvania

Romania - Brasov - Drone Shot - Canva

We live in a world where in the movie you can disembowel someone in a youth hostel in Romania, but you can’t show people having sex. I think it’s weird.

-Seth Rogen

There is no such place as Budapest. Perhaps you are thinking of Bucharest, …and there is no such place as Bucharest, either.

-Robert Benchley

Romania - Bucovina - Folk Dancers

At the confluence of East and West, Bucharest rose above its communist past into a city whose historical influences are reflected in the contrasting architectural fusion, a traditional-meets-modern outlook, and a stream of social happenings.

-Monica Suma

Romania - Bucharest - Fall in Park

It’s tight here, but you have a chance to lose your mind. 

Marin Sorescu

Romania - Corvin Castle - Pixabay

In going back to Romanian I had the opportunity to take my revenge.
-Dumitru Tepeneag
 
Sighisoara - Romania
 
My love for my country is my religion.

-Queen Marie of Romania

Romania - Sibiu - Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor

Where monsters come to get away from it all.

-Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel in Hotel Transylvania

Romania - Ciocanesti - Painted House

Unfortunately, there is only one world, and we are two …

Marin Sorescu

What to Bring with You to Romania

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

If you’re planning a trip to Romania, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind.

– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Bulgaria & Romania for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.

– Layers in case of poor weather. We had really bad luck with weather our last trip in Romania – it snowed before Halloween! We always recommend bringing a rainproof jacket like Allison’s personal favorite, the Marmot PreCip, which she has had for years and has held up well to countless abuse over 3+ years of travels. (Here’s a men’s version, too!)

– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in big cities in Romania is drinkable, such as in Bucharest and Brasov, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.

– Motion sickness pills. Romanian roads are winding and road conditions are not good – not even getting into the drivers, either. If you have a weak stomach like we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.

– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.

 Travel safety items. We think Romania is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie or I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as its neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.

Where to Stay in Romania

Romania - Bucharest - Umbrella Alley

We’re in the process of creating comprehensive guides on where to stay in different Romanian cities, but for now, we recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible. While Romania is underrated by international travelers, many of the best places can book early during the high season because Romanians know where to go.

Romania Travel Resources

Romania - Bucharest - Street art near Carturesti Verona

If you’re going to Romania, we have a goldmine of resources for you to take advantage of! First, check out this guide to planning a trip to Romania. It’s a good starting point for planning your trip.

Next, check out all the things to do in Transylvania and things to do in Bucharest. You can also check out our Instagram guides to SibiuBrasov, and Bucharest – more are on the way.

You can also read about the best Romanian castles, the Romanian food you should try on your trip, or how to plan some epic day trips from Bucharest.

We publish new content nearly every day! Bookmark our pages on Romania and the Balkans so that you don’t miss out on any new info or resources that we publish before your trip!

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance

I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Romania (or really, any part of the world)! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While the Balkans are perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

 

Pin this Post of Romania Quotes & Romania Instagram Captions for Your Trip

25 Beautiful Romania Quotes about Love, Life, & Travel

10 Incredible Bosphorus View Hotels in Istanbul

The Bosphorus divides Istanbul into the European and Asian sides of the city and is one of the most beautiful places in Istanbul.

There’s something incredibly majestic about this peaceful body of water, dividing two continents yet connecting them through a flurry of activity of passenger ferries, cruises, luxury yachts, and small fishing boats.

If you’ve been to Istanbul before — or if you want an ultra-luxurious trip to Istanbul — I strongly recommend staying somewhere along the Bosphorus, and we’ve gathered this list of the best Bosphorus view hotels in Istanbul to help you. While there are Bosphorus hotels that suit a variety of budgets, generally, you’ll find mostly luxury hotels on the Bosphorus, including world-famous brands such as Shangri-La, the Four Seasons, and Hilton.

However, if it’s your first time in Istanbul and you only have a limited amount of time to explore the city, I’d say that staying in Sultanahmet is a better choice. We’ve gathered the best hotels in Sultanahmet, all near the Blue Mosque, in a guide for your reference!

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Not sure where to stay in Istanbul? These gorgeous Bosphorus view hotels in Istanbul run the gamut from affordable luxury to 5 star perfection. These are our favorite hotels on the Bosphorus or with Bosphorus views in Istanbul.

Map of the best Bosphorus Hotels in Istanbul

 

Our Favorite Bosphorus View Hotels in Istanbul

Chic Boutique Hotels By the Bosphorus

Gezi Hotel Bosphorus – Rates from $147 per night

 The Gezi Hotel is a lovely boutique hotel situated beside Taksim Square and Taksim Metro Station in downtown Istanbul and is one of the best-rated hotels in the city. It’s also a member of the exclusive Design Hotels network.

Each one of the 56 deluxe rooms and 11 concept suites in the Gezi is built with lavishness in mind –  wooden floors, marble bathrooms, and breathtaking views of the Bosphorus.

The hotel has a luxe spa that contains a fitness center, Turkish bath, hot tub, and a sauna — great for relaxing after a long day of sightseeing in Istanbul. Massages are available in the spa center for an extra charge.

Every guest’s stay is made perfect with excellent, individualized service, given the small number of rooms and thus guests.

If you want a break from kebab and meze, delicious Mediterranean meals are served at the Fiamma Restaurant & Bar!

>> Check rates, more photos, availability, and guest reviews here. <<

The Stay Bosphorus – Rates from $167 per Night

The Stay Bosphorus is located in the central neighborhood of Ortaköy, so near to the beautiful waterside mosque which shares the neighborhood’s name that some rooms even have a view of it!

The Stay is located in a majestic, carefully restored mansion that was built in the 19th century. This lovely boutique hotel has airy rooms that feature breath-taking views of the Bosphorus, are designed with high ceilings and ornate walls, and come equipped with a satellite TV and a minibar.

The hotel has added amenities like a fitness center and spa, and the restaurant provides a buffet spread for breakfast and special menus for lunch and dinner.

>> Check guest reviews, more photos, prices, and availability here. <<

5 Star and Luxury Bosphorus View Hotels in Istanbul

Ritz Carlton at the Bosphorus – Rates from $394 per Night

The Ritz Carlton name is practically synonymous with luxury. This majestic, five-star hotel located in the center of Istanbul. It’s a mere 15 minutes from famous historical attractions like the Sultanahmet, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar, yet its luxuriousness makes you feel a world away from Istanbul’s beautiful chaos.

The hotel blends European design with Turkish lifestyle and tradition, and each one of its 243 guest rooms offers its visitors panoramic views of the city and the Bosphorus.

There’s a brand-new outdoor infinity pool that’s a wonderful place to swim with excellent views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus surrounding you.

It also has a spa where guests can get facials and massages, that also features a pool, three hot tubs, and two open-air spa rooms.

>> Check guest reviews, more photos, prices, and availability here <<

Shangri-La Bosphorus – Rates from $336 per Night

The Shangri-La Hotel brings the wonders of the East to the coast of the Bosphorus with its design and attention to detail, especially when it comes to customer service.

Meanwhile, its Lobby Lounge serves more than 100 types of Chinese teas and pastries prepared by the legendary Kung Fu Tea Master.

Shang Palace, Shangri-La’s restaurant, offers some of the best dishes in the world including Japanese, Southeast Asian, Mediterranean, and Turkish meals.

Located between the Dolmabahce Palace and the Naval Museum, the hotel offers spacious rooms that are designed with Asian highlights and equipped with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and Apple docking stations.

>> Check guest reviews, more photos, prices, and availability here <<

Çırağan Palace Kempinksi Istanbul – Rates from $363 per Night

For those who have dreamed of living in the lap of luxury, this is the Bosphorus hotel for you. The Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is situated in an original 19th-century Ottoman palace on the shores of the great Bosphorus.

A stay in any of its 313 rooms is a unique experience, featuring wall-to-ceiling windows, opulent bedding, and highly individualized room service that will make you feel transported back in time, living like a true sultan!

Lovers of relaxation can chill out in the pool or get a massage in the cabana right beside it, while more active guests have access to a personal trainer at the fitness center.

Food lovers are in for a treat as the breakfast spread provided by the Laledan Restaurant gives Çırağan guests over 250 items made from primarily local and organic ingredients.

>> Check guest reviews, more photos, prices, and availability here <<

Swissotel Bosphorus – Rates from $236 per Night

 Swissotel Bosphorus Istanbul is a stunning luxury hotel located within walking distance of the Nisantasi neighborhood. All of its rooms feature top-quality amenities such as free Wi-Fi, seating areas, and workstations for business guests.

Its Purovel Spa & Sports Center features a spa with 14 different treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a tennis court.

Swissotel is also home to a number of stylish restaurants and bars like Café Swiss, 16 ROOF Restaurant and Bar, and Les Ambassadeurs Bar.

>> Check prices, reviews, photos, and availability here <<

Affordable Luxury Hotels in Istanbul With Bosphorus Views

Conrad Hotel Bosphorus – Rates from $152 per Night

The Conrad Hotel is a luxury hotel in Istanbul that’s surprisingly affordable for its level of amenities. It’s located in the center of Istanbul, only 12 minutes’ walk from the banks of the Bosphorus.

This award-winning palace of luxury features upscale, modern-designed rooms that are equipped with the best views of the Bosphorus along with seating, a work area, and essential amenities like free Wi-Fi, satellite LCD TV, a coffee maker, and an iHome docking station.

Fitness enthusiasts will be delighted to play on any of the Conrad Hotel’s three open tennis courts or to squeeze in a workout at its 24-hour open fitness center. There’s also a beautiful pool area for guests to enjoy in the hot Istanbul summer.

Room service is, of course, excellent, and foodies can also visit the Manzara Restaurant which offers delicious fine dining.

For the ultimate view, enjoy drinks and appetizers at the Summit Bar & Terrace on the 14th floor where you can drink in gorgeous views of the Bosphorus alongside expertly-crafted cocktails (or mocktails).

Novotel Bosphorus – Rates from $130 per Night

The Novotel is an upscale hotel that offers modernly designed rooms and a comfortable stay.

The hotel offers its guests a complimentary buffet breakfast every morning and provides excellent amenities like an indoor pool, a spa center, and a well-equipped gym. There’s also a fantastic restaurant serving up delicious, modern international and locally-inspired food and desserts.

Located in the happening harborside area of Karaköy, one of the best places to experience Istanbul nightlife, the location couldn’t be better.

Guests have the chance to explore significant cultural landmarks like the Golden Horn Waterway, as well as the Hagia Sophia and the Dolmabahçe Sarayı Palace and Museum, which are only 3 kilometers away.

>> Check prices, guest reviews, photos, and availability here <<

Hilton Bosphorus – Rates from $164 per Night

The legendary Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus is one of the most famous hotels in Turkey, and it has been serving locals and visitors to Istanbul since 1955.

Located next to the Congress Valley in the center of Istanbul, visitors to the Hilton find that they are able to enjoy the luxurious service it provides while still being close to the popular places and town activities.

Connoisseurs of East Asian food will enjoy the Cantonese and Szechuan fare available at the Dragon Restaurant, and another restaurant serves local Turkish favorites. The Hilton Health Club is open 24 hours and has a tennis and racquetball court for active travelers.

>> Check guest reviews, prices, availability, and more photos here <<

Metropolitan Hotels Bosphorus – Rates from $101 per Night

Metropolitan Hotels Bosphorus is rated very highly among couples for its quiet but romantic atmosphere. The hotel provides an excellent mix of value, comfort, and convenience.

Its rooms are luxuriously equipped and come with free Wi-Fi, and some of the rooms have terraces with views of the Bosphorus.

While you should definitely explore the delicious Istanbul food scene, sometimes you just want to have a comfortable meal back at your hotel. In that case, the Metropolitan Hotels Bosphorus’ on-site restaurant, Azure, is highly praised for its excellent and well-executed cuisine.

>> Check prices, reviews, photos, and availability here <<

5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul - Ortakoy Mosque at Sunset - Canva

We’re working on our full list of what to pack for Istanbul, but here are five things you definitely want to bring with you!

The Lonely Planet Turkeya good guidebook can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out in the city and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific neighborhood information that will help you in different parts of the city, and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!

Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (She uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!

Pacsafe Citysafe or Other Anti-Theft Bag: This is the bag both Stephanie and I use for all our travels. It has a pouch with RFID technology so our credit cards can’t get scanned from afar, interlocking zippers to make it harder to pickpocket, and it’s roomy enough to be a perfect sightseeing day bag, yet it’s still quite stylish for all of its security features. If you’d rather bring something smaller, you can pack a money belt instead. 

Grayl Water FilterWhile the water is *technically* safe to drink now, I would still avoid it. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, you can get a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter so that you can stick to the tap water and reduce your plastic waste. 

Seabands: If you get seasick easily, pack some Seabands or seasickness pills so you don’t miss out on the best parts of Istanbul – being on the water! A trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without a Bosphorus cruise or at least a quick boat trip, so make sure you’re prepared to enjoy it to the fullest!

More Istanbul Travel Resources

Turkey - Istanbul - Stephanie Ortakoy Mosque

We have a ton of resources to help you plan your trip to Istanbul! We’re working on our massive post on things to do in Istanbul, but it’s a good place to get started. We also have a ton of Istanbul travel tips, plus you can check out our guide to the best Instagram spots around Istanbul, important Istanbul safety tips, and tips for shopping in Istanbul.

Didn’t find a place where you want to stay in Istanbul in this post? We also have a giant where to stay in Istanbul guide, as well as a post on the best hotels in Sultanahmet.

If you will be visiting in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide plus an overview of Istanbul weather in January.

If you want to be in the city for just a few days (four or less), check out our Istanbul city break guide, which breaks down the best of the city so you won’t miss anything!

For more general Turkey information, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide to other beautiful places to visit in Turkey. You can also check out our Balkan currency guide, which explains how the Turkish lira works and guidelines for tipping in Istanbul.

We have tons more Turkey and Balkans resources, and we publish new content nearly daily. Bookmark our Turkey and Balkans travel pages so you can find any new resources that come out before your trip!

Finally, Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

It’s always a good idea to travel to Turkey or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Istanbul is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently Stephanie’s aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!

For travel insurance, we both use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here <<

 

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