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Istanbul Travel Guide

You Can Get a FREE Hotel Stay Stopping Over in This European City

Turkish Airlines’ offers an incredibly generous stopover perk.

Travelers lament over a long layover. A considerable break in the journey—whether you’re excitedly heading for a vacation or anxiously awaiting your return home—is hardly ideal. Some airports, like Singapore Changi or Doha International, have become playgrounds for people to sleep, eat, shop, and entertain, but even so, spending hours at an airport can be tedious and a quick stop in the city can be expensive. But for savvy travelers, a voluntary stopover squeezes in an additional destination to an itinerary like a tiny bonus vacation.

One European airline and hub city that recognizes that potential is Turkish Airlines and Istanbul. The airline offers a host of benefits for travelers connecting through. In fact, the stopover program is so generous that not taking advantage of it would be a disservice to travelers en route!

You Can Get a Free Stay in Istanbul

Based in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines connects 340 destinations around the world. The airline consistently wins awards for its services, hospitality, and fleet, and it has become a dependable airline for globetrotters as it keeps adding new routes. Due to the unique position of its hub at the crossroads between east and west, the airline is strategically positioned to connect more than 80 destinations within a three-hour flight​. And if you do connect through Istanbul, you’ll find that the new $12 billion international airport offers two new lounges, one for business class passengers and the other for Miles&Smiles members, with buffets, game consoles, nursery, cinema, meeting rooms, showers, and day beds. 

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If you have a layover of 20 hours or more, the airline will offer a complimentary one-night stay in a four-star hotel for economy passengers or a two-night stay in a five-star hotel for business class passengers.

But lavish lounges and hospitality aside, there’s an even more fantastic way to make the most of your layover in Istanbul. The flagship carrier of Turkey has resumed its incredibly generous Stopover Service after a break during the pandemic. If you have a layover of 20 hours or more, the airline will offer a complimentary one-night stay in a four-star hotel for economy passengers or a two-night stay in a five-star hotel for business class passengers. You can also book other hotel stays contracted by the airline for $49 and make the most of your stopover. That’s like a bonus trip for your travels!

Wait, there’s more. For those who have more than six hours to kill before their international connection, Turkish Airlines’ will be happy to organize a complimentary tour of Istanbul. If your layover is between six and 24 hours, contact the Hotel Desk for Touristanbul when you land, and you’ll be whisked away in a chauffeured car to see the sights of the ancient city with modern delights. Check if you need a visa to exit the airport before you arrive.

A group visit via Touristanbul, credit: Turkish Airlines

There’s one more benefit for business class travelers when they book Turkish Airlines. In 20 destinations, they get a free private pick up and drop off in a limo within 35 miles—confirm terms and conditions and travel in style with Exclusive Drive.

This sort of stopover perk feels like a bonus vacation for anyone who

With its central location between Europe, Asia, and Africa, it’s easy to find yourself transiting through Istabul. For savvy travelers who’d rather skip the airport and earn a bonus city-stay instead, Turkish Airlines stopover benefits seem like a total no-brainer.

What to Do in Istanbul

Even with limited time in Istanbul, you can tick off many sights off your sightseeing list. The 1,500-year-old mosque of Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular attractions on the European side. If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s Inferno, you won’t want to miss a tour of the mosque. The 17th-century Blue Mosque is adorned with thousands of blue tiles, so the striking interiors bathed in natural light are a sight to behold. Another must-see area beats in the heart of the city: Taksim Square. You can easily spend a day here strolling along the streets to discover alleys (like the beautiful flower passage of Çiçek Pasajı), treating yourself to a cup of Turkish coffee or ice cream at a street side cafe, riding the brick-red vintage tram on Istiklal Street, and seeing the medieval Galata Tower that stands sentinel in the area. For shopping, you have the Grand Bazaar for knick-knacks, ceramics, lamps, and local handicrafts, and the fancy Zorlu Centre for big brand stores and boutiques.

Have more time? Cross the Bosphorus and see the other side of the city in two continents. Your first stop should be Kadıköy. The once secret neighborhood is a hangout for the young since colorful markets, cool cafes and bars, and artsy boutiques and galleries are now mushrooming here. There are bakeries, coffee shops, and museums and cultural centres on this side. If nothing else, take the ferry for the beautiful views from the Asian side of Istanbul. 

And if a free night’s stay or curated tour isn’t motivation enough, well, you’ll still certainly enjoy the airport.

Related: How to Spend Three Days in Istanbul, the Transcontinental City Where East Meets West

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