Liverpool fans' guide to Istanbul

While our International Ground Guide is undergoing some maintenance, we thought we'd provide our usual service of advice and information for travelling supporters in brief blog form.

Once up and running again our ground guide will cover all manner of information from travel options to hotel advice, eating and drinking suggestions to practical tips on getting around, along with safety and security advice and anything else we think will be of use to travelling supporters. 

In the meantime, while the below might not necessarily have all the information you'll be after if you're heading out to Istanbul this week, we're always available to help - just drop us an email if you have any questions.

We'll do our best to find out what you need to know, either from our own vast experience in covering England and Wales games abroad, or from our friends at Football Supporters Europe.

About the Club

The club was formed in the early part of the 20th century, initially as a gymnastics club in 1903. The football team were formed in 1911, after the merger of two clubs set up in the Besiktas district of the city under the auspices of the Besiktas Ottoman Gymnastics Club. The football team fast became one of the most popular branches of the club.

Besiktas have gone on to become one of the foremost teams in Turkish football, having won the national league on 18 occasions in its various guises, as well as being 13 times champions of the Istanbul league.

While their famous Inonu Stadium is being redeveloped, the team are playing their Europa League fixtures at the less-than-accessible Ataturk Olympic Stadium (scene of the famous Liverpool v Milan Champions League final in 2005). The Ataturk is a fairly hefty taxi-ride out of town, way out to the north-west edge of the city. Make sure to allow plenty of time (well over half an hour) to make your way to the stadium from the city centre. 

  • Istanbul police advise against using the Metro; alternative bus lines are available, you can find a list on the Stadium website
  • Taxis from Taksim Square to the stadium will cost around 50-60 Turkish Lira and take 40 minutes (depending on traffic); make sure the taxi meter is switched on when you set off
  • Entry to the stadium is through gate R in the south Tribune
  • Access to the stadium can be slow; there will be ticket checks and body searches at the entrance
  • To avoid a last minute bottleneck you should get to the stadium early - doors will open at 6pm

The City

Istanbul is one of Europe's great cities, and a real assault on the senses. Spanning the Bosphorus it links Europe with Asia, and is the only city in the world to sit on two continents. Because we're incredibly helpful souls at the FSF, we've produced you your very own Google Map of Istanbul, showing major landmarks, mosques, and of course the stadiums of the three Istanbul clubs.

Istanbul (not Konstantinople) has a rich history which can be explored throughout the city where loads of palaces and ancient buildings have left their mark from bygone days. The main places to see include the Aya Sophia, Dolmabahce and Topkapi Palaces, the Sultanahmet Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus and the Galata Tower among others (all marked on our map, above).

Visiting the Mosques

Most mosques in Istanbul are open to the public during the day. Prayer sessions, called namaz, last 30 to 40 minutes and are observed five times daily. Tourists should, however, avoid visiting mosques midday on Friday, when Muslims are required to worship. For women, bare arms and legs are not acceptable inside a mosque. Men should avoid wearing shorts as well. Women should not enter a mosque without first covering their heads with a scarf. Before entering a mosque, shoes must be removed.

Orientation and Getting Around

The Bosphorus strait, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, divides Europe from Asia. On its western shore, European Istanbul is further divided by the Golden Horn (Haliç) into Old Instanbul in the south and Beyoğlu in the north. Sultanahmet is the heart of Old Istanbul and boasts many of the city’s most famous sites. The adjoining area, with hotels to suit all budgets, is actually called Cankurtaran, although if you say ‘Sultanahmet’ most people will understand where you mean.

North of the Sultanahmet, on the Golden Horn, is Sirkeci Railway Station, terminus for European train services. Ferries for Űskűdar, the Prices’ Islands and the Bosphorus leave from nearby Eminőnű, the bustling waterfront.Across the Galata Bridge (Galta Kőprűsű) from Eminőnű is Karakőy, where cruise ships dock. Ferries also depart from Karakőy for Kadikőy and Haydarpaşa on the Asian shore.

Beyoğlu, on the norther side of the Golden Horn, was once the ‘new’ or ‘European’ city. The Tűnel (at the underground railway) runs uphill from Karakőy to the southern end of Beyoğlu’s pedestrianised main street, İstiklal Caddesi. A tram runs all the way toTaksim Square, at the north end of the street, and the heart of the ‘modern’ Istanbul.On the Asian side, Haydarpaşa station is the terminus for trains to Anatolia, Syria and Iran. There’s an intercity otogar (bus station) at Harem, a 10-minute taxi ride north.

Getting around the city is best advised on foot, or by taxis and public transport - Istanbul has a good public transport system incorporating various means of transport: buses, metro, light metro, tram, trains and even two funicular railways and several sea bus lines and ferry services. Buying an AKBIL is a good idea if you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two, and intend to use any public transport. It is like a little key, and is a pass that gives you access to buses, trams, metro and even the local ferries. The great thing for tourists is that you can buy one and buzz it as many times as there are passengers. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are standard (i.e. not dependant on how far you go), so you just buzz the AKBIL when you get on the bus or enter the tram/metro platform. You can buy these at booths marked Akbil at Eminonu.For more information on the public transport system in Istanbul see www.iett.gov.tr/en/

Sea Bus and Ferry - There are 27 seaports and 29 terminals on the shores of Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara which are served by a fleet of ferryboats and catamaran type sea buses of the company IDO. For more information go to www.ido.com.tr/en/ (English website of the IDO company). 

Eating and Drinking

Beyoğlu is notorious for its cafes, bars and live music venues. The area around the central Taksim Square is arguably the place where most of the English football fans are to be found. The best value, as ever, is to be found in the smaller bars in the side streets rather than on the main drags of the likes of Istiklal Caddesi. If you're after that taste of 'home from home,  then the Irish Centre is located at Istiklal Cad, Huseyinaga Mah, Balo Sok 26. www.theirishcentre.com. Other English pubs include The North Shield in the Sultahnamet area of the city, or there is always the English Pub in the President's Hotel.