Istanbul is unique. It is the only city in the world where two continents meet. Enjoy old and new in the cultural capital of Turkey with Istanbul expert Marc Guillet

Tips for women who travel solo to Istanbul

Posted on 27 February 2019

IMG_4567No Single Woman Traveler Ever Should Feel Lonely in Istanbul

Photos  © Slawomira Kozieniec

Are you a female solo traveler heading to Istanbul? Don’t worry. Istanbul will take care of you like no place else – and that is regardless of how much money you have in your pocket!

I traveled alone all my life – except for the last couple of years – and honestly I don’t like to travel solo very much. I know how depressing it gets if you don’t have someone to turn and talk to when you see something amazing or disgusting. I also know how sad it may be not to have someone to make a selfie with – even against this someone’s will at times…

But say you ended up in Istanbul somehow and you need to spend time in the mega-city on your own. With or without a selfie stick, Istanbul is one of those places where every picture you share on Instagram would become an instant hit to get you through the day. Actually you may even be grateful that there is none complaining about you playing with your phone all the time!

So what can you do alone to share lots of cool pictures or better yet catch the vibe on the lively Istanbul streets to feel alive; Do you feel like stretching your legs or chilling somewhere wonderful to get your spirits high? Wanna give a zest to your brain? Would you care for some earthly pleasures? I have just the itinerary for you…

namli ontbijt

Start your day with a fulfilling breakfast in Istanbul’s most arty neighbourhood, Karaköy, close to the Galata Bridge. Make sure to sit outside to watch these worn down and yet very cool streets come to life by the minute. Karaköy is full of little stylish “independent” (no Starbucks or Cafe Nero indeed…) European/Turkish cafes as well as very cool art galleries and classical Turkish small-shops where you’ll still be able to observe without lots of tourists around you, and maybe treat yourself to a traditional Turkish handcraft or delight. Nothing about what Karaköy has to offer is boring – at least for now.

My favourite places to eat & drink…




Art galleries of interest…

PG Art Gallery:


Daire Sanat:

Just to flag; even if you make it in Karaköy around 9 AM for breakfast and coffee, I bet you would not feel ready to leave the area before 11AM in the best case scenario.

IMG_6687That is to say at around noon you should start heading toward Galata Bridge to cross-over to the old peninsula. Make sure to take in the mystique old Istanbul view as you walk across the bridge over the Golden Horn to Eminönü.

This historic hood is the eternal and timeless heart of trade in Istanbul. Anything you see on the shelves almost anywhere in the world can be found in Eminönü’s ancient narrow streets. (Yes, even wooden animal figures from Africa, original samurai swords from Japan, spices you would see in ‘Travel to India’ promotion videos).

Here, one route you can follow is to walk through the Spice Bazaar, and up the hill through some narrow shopping streets towards the Grand Bazaar and from there to Sultanahmet Square. The things you will see, buy and experience on this route is directly proportional to your character and the strength of your eye-sight. You may be a generally interested and friendly person by nature and in that case I would assume that you finish this route in 3 – 4 hours.

IMG_4541Being very interested in everything and everyone means that you’ll have at least 50 shots of tea with at least 15 merchants of different trade and talk about their lives before you decide to buy anything… When you consider the number of things on offer in this area – glistering jewels, handcrafted silverware, hand painted ceramic ornaments, traditional clothing, leather accessories, bags, watches, antiques, souvenirs and what not –  if you stopped to take a look at even 1% of the things you find on your way (let alone embarking on the serious business of comparing prices) I can only hope for you to find your way out before Grand Bazaar closes. (Open: Monday to Saturday  9:00 – 19:00. Closed on Sundays and bank holidays)

Let’s say you are out at around 4 PM, you will be hungry! Even if you are not, smelling famous “Sultanahmet meatballs” (Sultanahmet Köftesi) will make you feel so. Ten years ago I had a favorite restaurant to recommend but today – to be honest – I feel that all of these meatball places are the same. So at this point if you feel like it, you should find the cleanest looking and most crowded “Sultanahmet Köftecisi” and treat yourself to one of Istanbul’s all time classics.

After a meatball break, below is  a list of Istanbul landmarks you may want to have a look at. Mind you, it will be tight to cover even one of these places properly considering the time that will be left before they close:

The Basilica Cistern:  (Open everyday between 09:00 -17:30)

Topkapı Palace: (Open every day except for Tuesdays between 09:00 – 16:45 (Winter) 18:45(Summer))

St.Sophia: (Open every day except for Mondays between 09:00 – 16:00 (Winter) 18:00 (Summer)

Blue Mosque: (Open every day)

If you are more interested in history than cultural experiences you may want to work this route backwards by taking the tram from Karaköy to Sultanahmet, covering these landmarks and walking downhill through Grand Bazaar to Spice Bazaar and end up in Eminönü Square next to the Galata Bridge.

Table for One

This is a tricky one and I do not want to limit your options by tying in the above itinerary with a near-by restaurant. I think you should take a cab and go to one of the below places if you would like to enjoy nice food on a table for one.

Kahvedan, Cihangir: (Contemporary Istanbul)

Journey, Cihangir: (Contemporary Istanbul)

La Mancha, Kuruçeşme: (Mediterranean Cuisine)

Banyan, Ortaköy: (Asian Cuisine)

Kaşıbeyaz, Yeniköy: (Turkish Cuisine)

Unter, Karaköy: (Contemporary Istanbul)

Karaköy Lokantası: (Fish Restaurant)

Final Words

The great thing about Istanbul is that it is a city very much like the famed Aladdin’s lamp. Whenever you rub it, where ever you rub, a genie would come out to grant you whatever your heart or soul desires. So relax, take a deep breath, forget about yourself, go where your mind wanders to and really “live” Istanbul for a day or two.

Is Istanbul safe for women to travel alone?

According to a number of already-available statistics and surveys, Istanbul is one of the safest big cities in Europe for women to travel alone. However as a general warning I would suggest that you stay in the touristic areas, avoid alleys and empty neighborhoods.

Also please don’t follow any nice gentleman to a private party or a club “where other tourists like you, are having fun”. This is unfortunately a very common scam and in most cases these stories end up with people paying a lot of money – if not all of it – for the drinks that they thought they were ordered.


Rana Babaç

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25 responses to “Tips for women who travel solo to Istanbul”

  1. Sarah says:

    Great post! I’m a young study abroad student, & I was contemplating spending a day and night there before heading to Germany since the flight is only an extra €100 and the travel time is short! However, I’m a bit hesitate since I’ve never travelled alone before and the culture is so unfamiliar, & I’d mostly be traveling there for convience rather than b/c it’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit! Would you recommend going (i.e. Do you think I’d be pleasantly surprised?), or spending €100-200 more and visiting a city like Paris or Brussels I’ve always wanted to go to?

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post Rana.

  3. Jack says:

    Thank you for this awesome tips and references, they are really effective and helpful

  4. Halila says:

    I am sold!

  5. Shey says:

    This post convinced me to make the jump and go. I’m here, and yes, I agree with you that it feels safe for women alone. Also watch out for men trying to sell you carpets. The scam is they find you in a tourist place and give you some free tourism talk then ask you to come to their shop for a complimentary drink and a presentation of carpets. I didn’t go along to find out how much they cost, but my own carefulness told me to not leave the main area or to take a free drink from anyone.

  6. Amanda says:

    What about homam?? Any highly rated ones?

  7. Marc says:

    Some of the popular public bath houses in Istanbul:
    1. Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı,
    2. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı,
    3. Çemberlitaş Hamamı near the Grand Bazaar,

    Let me know which one you went to and share your experiences with us.

  8. James says:

    I agree! For me Istanbul is a very welcoming city and very safe as well, as long as you avoid kinky places.
    You can find great information and itinerary on how to spend a week there here:

  9. WoW! This looks like an incredible tour!

  10. Maya says:

    Can you tell me what a tasteful dress code might be for a middle-aged woman? What are the tabus and what do Turkish women wear in the city? I’m not talking about mosques or other conspicuously conservative places, just out for shopping or dinner….

    • anukoi says:

      It really doesn’t matter. From what I saw, nobody cares about this. You can see women dress in every possible way.

  11. Zhuorui Fu says:

    Istanbul can be intimidating for a woman for I do find its macho culture hard to cope with. One walks on street and 10 men look at me.

    Nevertheless, it is still a lovely place to be. Just came back from my third time expedition, shooting a new film for my channel surrounding the huzun, sadness after Ottoman Empire collapse, theme. In case there are audience interested, here is the link:

  12. Marc says:

    Thanks Zhuorui for your feedback and sharing the film!

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  13. Selam says:

    Who is planning to travel to Istanbul on Nov 25th who can a company me I am alone.

  14. amir says:

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    Thank you for your useful posts

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  16. Tamara says:

    I visit Istanbul a couple times a year. I’ve been there alone, and with my husband. The times I’ve been alone, I’ve never had a problem at all. It’s true that there is some macho behaviour from men, but I just ignore them. Anything I’ve experienced has been harmless, and honestly not more than I’ve experienced in any fully Western country. (I’m Canadian btw) I usually stick to the European side, as I love Karakoy. Love the Asian side too though, but I usually sleep on the European side.

  17. Marina says:

    Where is singlewoman safe to stay in Istanbul

  18. Laura Pietro says:

    I have visited Istanbul in 2017 as a solo female. Please pay attention to cab drivers as they are rude and overcharging. On my return to airport I have used a private transfer service. That was hassle free, no surprise on anything! I highly recommend for the ones that does not like getting scammed.

  19. Beans says:

    I’m planning to travel to instanbul as a solo woman traveller, it is safe? And where can I stay? It would be my first time in Turkey

  20. Connie says:

    Please be aware of the romance scams. Women traveling alone above 40 years old are targets. I was approached by the front desk guy in the Courtyard by Marriot Istanbul West. After a year and the total loss of $4,500 usd, I realized it was a romance scam. The guy lied about his age and many other things. Enjoy the beautiful country of Turkey, trust your instinct. Watch out for your safety. There are many scams happening in Turkey. Inform yourself.

    • Connie says:

      The guy is now working in Antalya at the World Lara Hotel. Ilyas is a manager there now. After faking being in love with me, he asked for money to pay for military exemption. He never paid me back plus found out he was about to marry a girl he only dated 7 months behind my back. He used my money to pay for her diamond ring, and airplane tickets to impress her. When I told her what was going on she thanked me and moved on. Please be careful out there.

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  22. Honey says:

    For women traveling solo, dont be flattered by this persistent lover boys. They know what thry are doing. Its not that you are irresistable. Its not lack of sex, there is plenty of prostitution going on. They are relentlessly hitting on you to create a relationship and then scam you for money. You are better off setting your boundaries and not engaging in this activity. It seems harmless, but you could be potentially wiped out of your savings in the long run. This conartist know what they are doing. Do not underestimate them.

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