These FSF guides are intended to offer a quick snapshot of advice and info for fans ahead of their trips to Europe - if you have any specific questions about the city, how to get there, where to stay or anything else then simply email us your questions. Through our extensive network of contacts at Football Supporters Europe and experience of travelling across Europe ourselves, we will be able to answer just about any query you have.
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.
Main Tourist Sights
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 or the former Konstantinopel has a rich history which can be explored throughout the city where loads of palaces and ancient buildings left their mark from bygone days. At the same time and at every place in the city, one can find symbols of the oriental contrast or even conflict thesedays between the old and the new or the traditional culture versus modern lifestyle.
Places to see:
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) in Sultanahmet Square (Tram: Sultanahmet)
Topkali Palace (Topkapi Sarayi),
Bab-i-Hűmayűn Caddesi (Tram: Gǘlhane/Sultanahmet)
Sultanahmet Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
Meydam Sokak (Tram: Sultanahmet)
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici)
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.
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.
Eating and Drinking
Although not famous for being an entertainment city you'll soon find that there's more going on in Istanbul than you might think. The nightlife is growing and stays vibrant until very late, comprising a staggering range of clubs, bars and restaurants and cultural venues of any kind but all with the oriental flair of one of the most exotic cosmopolitan cities in Europe.
So more than enough to dive head first into the full range of Turkish delight!
Local Foods & Beverages
Turkish eateries can be split up into several broad categories: The Lokanta is usually a cosy restaurant specialising in meat and vegetable dishes cooked in rich tomato sauces, many derived from dishes cooked in the Ottoman palace.
The Meyhane are a mix of a restaurant and a bar and a traditional stop off for an evening's drinking often accompanied by starters (meze), with a huge plate of sizzling kebabs to follow.
Similar to the Meyhane are the fish restaurants where plates of meze and glasses of raki are followed by a grilled catch of the day.
Main Drinking Areas
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.
Irish & English Pubs
Even in Istanbul there is an Irish Centre, 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.
There is a smoking ban now in place in Turkey, although enforcement of this is pretty lax. Even if caught and punished, you face a fine of a whopping £25 (60 Lira or thereabouts).
The main dining areas are:
Old Istanbul: restaurants in Sultanahmet cater mostly to foreign visitors with more European-style preparations and prices;
Sirkeci-Eminönö: Near Sirkeci rail station. Under the Galata Bridge are simple and cheap eateries.
Hocapasa: This neighbourhood just south of the Sirkeci rail station has a dozen or so small restaurants patronized mainly by locals, with good food, friendly service and moderate prices.
Beyoglu: north of the Golden Horn is the most upscale part of the city, but has the better bargains in food. The little side streets off Istiklal Caddesi are packed with basic eateries, bistros, cafes and pastry shops. Cheap and cheerful
The Bosphorus: The European and Asian shores are dotted with excellent sea-view restaurants, many of which specialize in sea-food. Depending on the restaurant, it can be rather pricy.