Istanbul is one of the most romantic cities I can think of, and planning a honeymoon in Istanbul is a no-brainer.
The city is beautiful, historic, and captivating, the kind of place where unforgettable memories are easily made. The fact that the Turkish lira is in a slump means that, for foreign visitors, an Istanbul honeymoon is well within reach and you’ll get way more bang for your buck here than in other romantic traditional honeymoon destinations like Venice or Paris.
While neither of us has been on honeymoon in Istanbul (yet), we’ve been to the city eight times, with romantic partners and without, and we have a sense of what the most romantic things to do in Istanbul are so you can plan an unforgettable Istanbul honeymoon.
Since the stress of a wedding is enough to make any sane person crack – Stephanie knows firsthand! – this honeymoon guide to Istanbul makes it quite easy, with just five steps.
We’ve broken down planning a honeymoon trip to Istanbul and made it easy to customize, so that you can mix and match your own unforgettable and romantic experience — without needing to purchase a pricy, cookie-cutter Istanbul honeymoon package that doesn’t match your actual style.
Want to pin this post for later? Click here to pin!
Istanbul Honeymoon Planning Checklist: 5 Easy Steps to the Trip of a Lifetime
Don’t get caught up in overwhelm! We’ve broken down how to prep a perfect honeymoon in Turkey into 7 simple, easy-to-follow steps, so you can easily get your honeymoon planning out of the way, so you can focus on other issues – like planning your wedding.
How to Use This Istanbul Honeymoon Guide
While we have big, exhaustive guides for many of these topics (and we’ll link to them in case you want to read them), the whole point of a honeymoon is a blissful, stress-free experience. You likely don’t want to delve into one of our 12,000-word epic posts about what to do (even though we sometimes write that much – we’re wordy and love this region, guys!).
Instead, we’ve pulled the most relevant information and trimmed the fat so that this is the ultimate, definitive resource for planning a honeymoon in Istanbul. However, if you want to, you certainly could check out our Turkey page which has all of our Istanbul content if you want to check our resources more thoroughly!
Step 1: Sort out your visa!
It’s not a sexy start to planning your honeymoon in Istanbul, but first of all, you need to make sure you can actually enter the country. After all, nothing would kill a honeymoon high faster than arriving in Istanbul only to get turned away at the border.
Keep in mind that many countries with generally “strong” passports require a visa for Turkey, including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the U.K., and Australia. The only countries who are eligible for visa exemption are the following countries.
Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France*, Georgia*, Germany*, Greece*, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy*, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein*, Lithuania, Luxembourg*, Malaysia, Moldova*, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland*, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine*, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela
Those marked with a * can use their ID card or their passport to enter Turkey.
If your country is not on the above list, head to the Turkish government’s website here to apply – be careful not to get your visa from any other site or you will likely overpay!
Step 2: Book a dreamy Istanbul honeymoon hotel
One of the best things about planning a honeymoon in Istanbul is that accommodations are quite affordable, meaning you can often book a hotel that would normally be out of your price range in a more expensive city. For example, a Four Seasons in Istanbul is about a third of the price of a Four Seasons in Paris. So if you’ve always dreamed of staying an incredible hotel, this is the time for it!
Of course, we also recognize that everyone’s honeymoon budget is different, especially after the financial stress of planning a wedding on top of it, so we’ve also highlighted some budget-conscious mid-range stays that are gorgeous, affordable, and won’t max out your credit card.
For a honeymoon in Istanbul, we have three main neighborhoods we recommend: Sultanahmet, Besiktas, and Galata.
We recommend Sultanahmet for people who want to be in the heart of the tourist action and for Istanbul first-timers. There’s a wide variety of hotels here, often at extremely good price ranges, but keep in mind it is a more touristic part of the city and therefore it will be more crowded. The proximity to all of Istanbul’s incredible museums, mosques, and minarets is hard to beat, but it does come with the trade-off of being around lots of other tourists. We’ve written a complete guide to hotels in Sultanahmet near the Blue Mosque, which may be helpful for you.
For people who want to stay away from the crowds, we highly recommend Beşiktaş. This beautiful riverside neighborhood is home to some of Istanbul’s most luxurious hotels and prestigious brands, as well as a range of budget-flattering accommodations. It’s great if you’ve been to Istanbul before and want to be a bit more off-the-path and close to beautiful destinations like Ortaköy Mosque and Dolmabahçe Palace.
Finally, for people who want to be in the heart of the more artsy and young side of Istanbul, we recommend Galata. It’s a semi-touristic area that’s not quite as crowded as Sultanahmet, but it’s still close to everything you’d want to see. This is the heart of modern-day Istanbul, where you’ll find plenty of laid-back nightlife, boutiques to shop at, and delicious restaurants.
Pro tip: Whichever neighborhood you choose, we strongly recommend arriving in Istanbul with a private transfer to your hotel booked! Your honeymoon is not the time to stress haggling with taxi drivers or sweating on the metro with all your luggage. This is the best-rated transfer company; check rates here.
Istanbul Honeymoon Hotels in Sultanahmet
Want to feel like Turkish royalty without paying a price to match? Check out Saba Sultan Hoteljust 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!
For the ultimate luxury Istanbul experience, check out the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet – truly one of the best places to stay in Istanbul. The hotel itself looks like a palace – in keeping with its neighbors Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia, and the Blue Mosque!
The interior is inspired by Turkish opulence and luxury, with arched walkways, marble tiling, beautiful chandeliers, and gorgeous gardens where you can enjoy a meal or some Turkish tea. There’s a wonderful terrace where you can picture-perfect photos of you with the stunning Hagia Sofia or Blue Mosque as your backdrop!
The rooms are modern and comfortable, not excessively formal but rather full of individual personality that makes you instantly feel at ease. The rooms have bespoke pieces created by Turkish artisans such as hand-woven kilims or hand-crafted wooden furniture that give you a one-of-a-kind experience. With only 65 guest rooms, it’s an intimate experience fit for a king.
Istanbul Honeymoon Hotels in Beşiktaş
For an affordable yet luxe place to stay in Beşiktaş, Turkuaz Suites is a great mid-range option if you can’t afford the 5* luxury hotels overlooking the Bosphorus. You’ll still get those stunning river views from the terrace and excellent, dedicated service, but with slightly less frills and a lot lower price.
There are a variety of room types for all budgets, from junior suites to glorious penthouse apartments. Many of the suites have kitchenettes, seating areas, and balconies with beautiful views perfect for enjoying a drink or a cup of tea.
There are too many luxury options in Besiktas, but I’d have to pick the Shangri-La right on the river. With restaurants, bars, and a spa on site, it’s basically a city unto itself. Its luxury spa, CHI, has a heated indoor pool, a wood sauna, a traditional Turkish hammam, hot tubs, and steam rooms – plus private spa suites should you need a little extra privacy! It’s the perfect place for getting away from the at-times hectic Istanbul atmosphere.
There are a variety of fantastic restaurants at the hotel as well. IST TOO is your passport to world cuisine, with Japanese, Thai, Mediterranean, and Turkish inspiration. Meanwhile, Shang Palace is the hotel’s crowning achievement, with refined Chinese cuisine fit for the finest. The Lobby Lounge offers over a hundred different teas and delicious pastries, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Of course, the rooms are ultra-modern and leave nothing to be desired. The decor is elegant yet modern, inspired by Istanbul’s Asian side. The rooms come complete with high-tech in-room amenities like heated marble floors in the bathroom, a flat-screen TV with entertainment offerings, and an iPod docking sound system. Rooms have a variety of perks and views depending on what you choose.
Istanbul Honeymoon Hotels in Galata
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 old-fashioned but delivering classic luxury. They’re roomy and spacious, with modern bathrooms and windows delivering insane views.
While there are several great luxury properties near Galata, my top pick is Adahan Istanbul, which is in a lovingly restored historical building dating back to 1874, with only 40 rooms so that individual attention is given to each guest. It has a rooftop restaurant with a stunning view over all of Beyoglu, and it’s just a 5-minute walk to Galata Tower. Many of the original details of the 1874 building have been retained: some rooms which even have stunning exposed roof beams with ornate ceiling painting. Meanwhile, the en-suite bathrooms have been given a modern update.
There’s a ton of natural light and the furnishing is kept light and airy, giving you plenty of room to spread out. Many rooms have a private balcony, and for those who don’t the rooftop terrace (where breakfast is served) is a great consolation prize. It’s also quite eco-friendly: purified water is given in glass bottles, they only use organic cotton textiles, and no unnecessary packaged toiletries are given out – only high quality local olive oil soaps and the like.
Step 3: Book some incredible honeymoon experiences
For many of the most memorable experiences in Istanbul, you’ll want to book in advance to avoid any disappointments upon arrival. Activities such as chartering a private romantic Bosphorus cruise for you and your new spouse have limited supply, and depending on when you travel, demand can be high as Istanbul is quite a popular travel destination.
Luckily you can book experiences online in advance with platforms like GetYourGuide, which offers a best price guarantee, a transparent review system, and a flexible cancelation policy that offers peace of mind.
We’ve picked out the most romantic and luxurious Istanbul experiences we can imagine below, so you can mix and match to suit your personalities, budgets, and travel style and customize it far more than a package tour could ever offer.
Cruise to the Black Sea and swim in its beautiful waters
The Bosphorus River connects the Marmara Sea with the Black Sea, which is one of the most beautiful seas we’ve ever seen (we’ve spent a lot of time on the Bulgarian side of the Black Sea, and we’re in love).
Explore palaces and fortresses, enjoy an onboard Turkish lunch, and sail up the Bosphorus to the mouth of the Black Sea, where you can take a swim in pristine Black Sea waters: all for an incredible price. Check out the itinerary and more details here.
Take a private yacht cruise down the Bosphorus with your beloved
A romantic 2-hour private yacht ride down the Bosphorus and Istanbul’s most famous seaside sites with just you, your loved one, and your captain? Sounds like the recipe for an incredible memory.
You’ll set sail along the coastline of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, taking in the sights from the palaces of Dolmabahce, Beylerbeyi, and Ciragan to the fortress of Rumeli Fortress and Anadolu. Sip on complimentary coffee or tea or splurge on a cocktail or glass of sparkling wine while taking in Istanbul’s gorgeousness from your private yacht. Check out availability and pricing of private cruises.
Take an affordable sunset yacht cruise
If chartering a private yacht is out of your budget (same), you can still take an intimate shared yacht ride down the Bosphorus at sunset, taking in incredible sights for a reasonable price (check out sunset cruises prices here).
You’ll still get all the romantic ambiance of Istanbul at night, plus you’ll also get to cruise down the Bosphorus in a luxury yacht while still having money to splurge on other Istanbul activities.
Enjoy dinner and a show while cruising the Bosphorus
For a memorable nighttime activity, why not take a 4-hour cruise down the Bosphorus while enjoying a romantic dinner and show? Check out dinner and show cruises here.
It’s a great way to while away a few hours while sharing a memorable experience with your new spouse, and if the two of you are culture vultures, it’s an experience you’ll cherish for years to come.
Take a private Istanbul day tour with your love
If you’re the kind of person who wants to spend his or her honeymoon not thinking or figuring out logistics, but simply experiencing the best of a new destination with your loved one, a private luxury day tour is a fantastic option.
This 7-hour tour takes you to all of Istanbul’s top attractions with a private driver who will make sure you feel pampered and enjoy every minute of your Istanbul honeymoon. There are seven different languages available, including English.
Sweep your love away to Cappadocia
Want to surprise your beloved or amp up the romance factor of your Istanbul honeymoon? Consider adding on a 2-day side-trip to Cappadocia, which is easily accessed by affordable flights from Istanbul which depart several times a day. If you want to DIY it, we have lots of guides on Cappadocia, including the best romantic cave hotels to stay in, the best things to do in Cappadocia, and an ideal Cappadocia itinerary for 3 days.
But if you’re feeling like having a hands-off, stress-free getaway to Cappadocia to add onto your honeymoon in Istanbul, there are guided tours that take care of literally everything for you – from flights to organizing morning balloon rides and accommodations and beyond. You can check pricing, itineraries, and availability here.
Eat yourselves silly on a food tour
The wedding is over and you have nothing you need to fit into anymore – so celebrate with some delicious Turkish food, best experienced on a food walk of the city! The best-rated food tour is the Taste of Two Continents tour, which spends five hours exploring food and culture on both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.
If you and your new spouse are fans of food, culture, and getting a bit off the beaten path, this is the food tour for you! However, there are some shorter food tour options as well.
Shop til you drop
One of the best things about visiting Istanbul on your honeymoon is all the fantastic homewares you can bring home which will forever remind you of the honeymoon you had and the new home you are building together.
Of course, it’s quite easy to visit the Grand Bazaar by yourself (check out our Istanbul shopping tips for more advice!), but you may prefer visiting with a local guide (information and rates here) who can help steer you towards high-quality and handmade products and away from mass-produced schlock that can be hard for the untrained eye to see.
Step 5: Last-Minute Trip Planning Logistics
Now that you have picked out what you want to do while you’re in town, there are a couple of logistics you need to think about so that you have a smooth and easy arrival.
Book Your Tickets
If you’ll be flying to Istanbul and haven’t booked your tickets yet, we recommend using Google Flights to get the best deal. Istanbul New Airport tends to have the best deals (Ataturk is now closed) but occasionally Sabiha Gohcen will have good deals, especially if you are flying on Pegasus.
We use Uber when we’re in Istanbul to avoid taxi scams and issues – it’s just easier and safer, though I haven’t personally ever been scammed when I’ve taken a regular taxi in Istanbul. If you arrive at the airport, you can use the WiFi there to order a taxi on the app to avoid the overpriced airport taxis.
We strongly recommend starting off your honeymoon in Istanbul on the right food with a reputable private driver to take you to your hotel. This is the best company we’ve found, with nearly a thousand positive reviews,
Istanbul has an extensive and slightly intimidating public transportation system, including a huge metro network. We generally tend to get around on a combination of foot and Uber, but occasionally the metro does come in handy. We suggest the app Moovit for local transit.
Money in Turkey
In Turkey, the currency is the Turkish lira. Occasionally, a price in euros will be given and you can pay in that, but it is always better to pay in lira to get a better rate. The lira is pretty volatile at the moment, so it will fluctuate, but at the moment 1 lira is about 20 cents, and 5 lira is about $1 USD. To get cash, we advise using the ATMs so that you get the best exchange rate.
You can use credit cards at most of the businesses in Istanbul. If you book your tours and hotels online and use Uber for transportation, you can get away with needing very little local currency.
When dining in Istanbul, tip about 10%.
The Turkish Language
In Istanbul, you can get by 99% of the time with English alone. However, it is kind to learn a few words of Turkish – here are some helpful Turkish phrases you may want to learn before your trip.
Istanbul Travel Resources
Hopefully, you can plan your entire honeymoon in Istanbul just from this post, but we do have a ton more Turkey travel resources if you need them.
First, start with our top 50 Istanbul travel tips – virtually every question you might have about visiting Istanbul should be covered here.
We’re working on our massive things to do post, but for now, you can check out our Instagram guide to Istanbul, our favorite Istanbul neighborhoods and the best hotels in each one, and tips for shopping in Istanbul.
If you want to get excited about your trip, check out these beautiful Istanbul quotes and these other beautiful places to visit in Turkey for a future trip (trust me, you’ll want to return – a mere city break in Istanbul is not enough!)
Headed to Istanbul? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Istanbul, you need 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 Nomads. I’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.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.