Arbil (Hawlêr in Kurdish and also transliterated as Erbil) is the capital and largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the fourth-largest city in Iraq. It is one of the oldest continually-inhabited sites of human civilization, and is also a rapidly-growing and urbanizing center for the oil industry and NGOs in the Middle East.
- Old Erbil The historic and geographic center of the city. Home to most major tourist sights, including the Citadel, Qayseri Bazaar, and museums, as well as many government offices.
- South Erbil Neighbourhoods immediately south of the old city include Minaret Park, Shanidar Park, and Iskan Street.
- Northwest Erbil Brand-new developments between 60 Meter Road and 100 Meter Road, west of Ankawa include many of the city's restaurants and hotels, as well as Sami Park and many upscale villa and apartment communities.
- Northeast Erbil Developments east of Ankawa and outside 60 Meter Road include Arbil's three major shopping malls, hotels and restaurants, and sprawling, brand-new villas and apartment towers.
- American Village On the eastern outskirts of Arbil, this community contains a large number of foreign companies and workers as well as a popualr bar.
- Komari Where the stadium and Hawler Plaza Hotel are located.
- Ankawa Christian suburb to the north of the city and close to the airport, home to most of the city's bars, many hotels, and a large expatriate community.
Citizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are given a free stamp of 10 days on arrival. After that you must visit the residency office to extend your visa. Other nationalities must have an Iraqi visa before arrival.
Northern Iraq is served by Erbil International Airport with a growing number of international airlines serving Erbil. Several airlines suspended flights due to fighting in Nineveh province, west of Erbil, in fall 2014 and have not resumed flights, but may in the future. This includes Etihad (to Abu Dhabi), Iran Air (to Tehran), and Tunisair (to Tunis).
- Austrian Airlines has flights between Vienna and Erbil on a daily basis.
- Turkish Airlines, Iraqi Airways, and AtlasJet fly to Istanbul daily or almost-daily. Pegasus and ZagrosJet each fly three times a week to Ankara; Turkish and Pegasus also fly to Antalya during summer.
- Middle East Airlines flies to Erbil from Beirut on 7 flights per week; ZagrosJet flies three times a week.
- Royal Jordanian has daily flights to Amman, while ZagrosJet has two flights weekly and Iraqi Airways has several flights a week to Amman.
- Qatar Airways flies 4 times a week between Erbil and Doha.
- FlyDubai has flights to Dubai daily, while Emirates flies twice a week to Dubai.
- Lufthansa flies two weekly round-trip flights from Frankfurt.
Other destinations are served with less frequent flights. In Europe, destinations with at least weekly flights include Berlin (Iraqi Airways), Dusseldorf (Iraqi Airways and Germania), Munich (Germania), Stockholm (Germania and ZagrosJet), Copenhagen (Iraqi Airways and ZagrosJet), London (Iraqi Airways), and Amsterdam (ZagrosJet). Egypt Air has flights four times a week to Cairo, while Mahan Air has three flights weekly to Tehran. Iraqi Airways provides frequent flights to other parts of Iraq, but the security situation in these places is rarely safe even for experienced travelers.
The security situation in the Kurdish area is very safe compared to the area south of the green line (no fly zone). However one should not travel to Iraq unless there is a specific mission or business. In May 2007, a suicide truck bomber detonated his bomb in front of the Interior Ministry, and two suicide bombings occurred in 2014 with some casualties.
There are many Iranian bus companies that run services connecting Iran to Erbil. This is about 916 km (569 mi) or 10 hours.There are many cities in Iran that connected to Erbil by bus including Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Kurdistan , and Ahwaz. The VIP buses travel from Tehran to Erbil every day, 2 buses per day. If you take move by bus to Erbil, you should stop in Piranshahr city, at the Iran-Iraq border, to show your passport. If you have an Iranian passport, you don't need a visa to cross the border. Companies include
Bus companies also connect Erbil to Diyarbakir in Turkey (10–15 hours) and Istanbul (36–48 hours). The list of companies here is incomplete; are at least two other Turkish companies running busses from Erbil to cities in Turkey - look around for flyers on Iskan Road. Arrival time depends on border formalities (around 2 hours from Turkey to Iraq in March 2012 and 5–8 hours back to Turkey).
- Cizre Nuh (Tel Erbil: 0750 340 47 73) runs everyday at 15.30 from the New City Mall, 60m Road to Istanbul ($100) via Silopi ($40) Diyabakir and other cities in between. Tickets can be brought at the New City Mall, Flyaway on Barzani Namir and at a Phone Shop on Shekhi Choly close to the Bazaar.
- Can Diyarbakir (Tel Erbil: 0750 895 62 17-18-19) leaves daily from Family Mall on 100mt Road to Istanbul via Ankara, Diyarbakır and other cities in between.
- Best Van runs from Ainkawa Road in Erbil to Istanbul via Adana, Aksaray, Ankara (14 o'clock) and Diyabakir (16 o'clock, via Hasankeyf, Batman). Bus from Diyabakir to Erbil departs at 11 o'clock.
Public transportation is available in the form of taxis and some bus routes, but automobiles are the main mode of transportation. Compared with other cities in the Middle East, shared taxis and buses are very infrequent and impractical. If you don't know your way around or have a guide with local knowledge it is inadvisable to try public transporation alone. In terms of taxis there are several choices:
- Hello Taxi,, which is Erbil's branded taxi company and has English speaking drivers, but at highly inflated rates. USD is accepted. From the Airport to Erbil center the rate is $15, to Ankawa $10.
- "Street Taxis", which are generic independent taxis and will take you most places in Erbil and Ankawa. Rates are negotiable, however, for a drive across town (15–25 minutes) expect between 3000-6000 IQD. It is acceptable to pay at the end of a ride without negotiating the price beforehand.
- PNK Taxi, Ankawa Erbil, ☎ +964 7506337700. 07:00. PNK Taxi Services is a subsidiary of BWFW Services company. PNK Taxi is By Women... For Women. Rates are 3000 IQD + 1000 IQD/KM. PNK Taxi. Is the other Erbil Branded Taxi Service. 1000 iqd/km.
Car rentals are also available in Erbil, although beware that driving etiquette is very different from Western European and North American standards. Most rental cars have automatic transmissions.
- Citadel of Arbil (قهڵای ههولێر, Qelay Hewlêr) (City Center). The Citadel (an UNESCO World Heritage site) sits in the middle of Erbil City. It is a round structure, 30 meters high which dominates the old city and has been built upon seven layers of civilization. The total area of the Citadel is 110,000 square meters. The history of its building dates back to 6000 years and has been continuously inhabited since its founding. The citadel has seen the reign of many historic civilizations including Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Other ancient powers including the Achaemenian, Seljuks, and Sassanians also dominated the Citadel before being finally conquered by the Muslims. The Citadel of Erbil consists of three main quarters: Topkhana, Saray, and Taki, with a total of 605 houses in the areas. Picturesque view from the upper floors of the opposite shopping center. Unfortunately, as of November 2014 the Citadel was undergoing a major restoration. While visitors can walk to the top and see the main square and road, the back streets are blocked off. Construction and excavation make the views much less picturesque, and mosques were closed.
- Kurdish Textile Museum (In the Citadel). Small museum that displays textiles produced in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as traditional clothing and other artifacts. Located in a restored early-twentieth century traditional house.
- Mound of Qalich Agha (At the Museum of Civilization, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the Citadel). An excavation in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods.
- Mudhafaria Minaret (Minaret Park, several blocks from the citadel). The 36 m high Mudhafaria Minaret dates back to the late 12th century AD and the reign of Arbil king Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa’eed Al-Kawkaboori. It has an octagonal base decorated with two tiers of niches, which is separated from the main shaft by a small balcony, also decorated. Another historical minaret with turquoise glazed tiles is nearby.
- Shanidar Park (Across the street from Minaret Park). Shanidar park feats an aerial cable car connecting with Minaret Park.
- Sami Abdulrahman Park (Between 60 Meter Road and Gulan Street). Abdulrahman Park is Erbil's newly-constructed central park, spanning hectares at the edge of the city. It includes gardens, a jogging track, and ample walking paths, is mostly well-lit at night, and is a popular local gathering spot on weekends and evening.
- Quayseri Market (Across the street from South Gate of Citadel). The Quayseri Market is Erbil's historic covered bazaar, built out of vaulted yellow brick. It is similar to many others found throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but with less tourism than most. Market stalls sell everything from cheap toys and pirated DVDs to bulk spices to fine jewelry and carpets.
- Jalil Khayat Mosque (60 Meter Road, across from Royal Mall). Erbil's largest mosque, built in 2007 in a neo-Ottoman Style.
- Grand Mosque (The Citadel). Erbil's historic central mosque, still open despite renovations on the Citadel.
- Erbil Civilization Museum (Municipality Street, near Francoise Haririr Statium). Small archageological museum run by the Erbil Governorate.
Stroll around in the deserted city inside the citadel in the centre of Arbil. Hundreds of houses that appears to have been abandoned in a hurry. Walk into the court yards, sleeping rooms and bed rooms or up to the rooftop terraces to enjoy an spectacular panorama of Arbil or ponder what life might have been in this place before the inhabitants were repopulated.
In season, see the Erbil SC football team play a match at Franso Hariri Stadium, south of the city center. Erbil SC is a regular winner in the Iraqi Premiere League, runner-up in the Asian Football Cup, and beloved by many locals.
Explore Arbil's nascent local art scene at the Shanadar Gallery, in Shandar Park, then take in Kurdish, Arab, and Persian music at one of the many restaurant/show venues in the city.
- Quayseri Market (across the street from South Gate of the Citadel). In addition to sightseeing, Erbil's historic bazaar provides good opportunities to haggle for carpets, jewelry, traditional Kurdish clothing, and other handicrafts.
- Majidi Mall. A large, Western-style shopping mall opened in November 2009, with stores such as Mango, Adidas, and Levis as well as Turkish and Gulf brands. Also has a very large hypermarket in the basement of the mall, and a food court at the top.
- Family Mall (100m Road besides Family Fun). The largest shopping mall in Erbil (and one of the largest in Iraq) with predominantly American, European, and Turkish clothing labels and other stores. Includes a movie theater and food court
- Royal Mall (60 Meter Road). The most centrally located of Arbil's large, Western-style shopping malls. Includes a popular food court as well as clothing stores
A good many restaurants exist in Erbil. However, the vast majority serve kebabs and chicken, with some Lebanese and Turkish restaurants. Options for foreign food are limited. Note that most restaurants, except those in high-end hotels, do not serve alcohol or accept credit cards.
- Iskan Street. Popular street lined with cheap Kurdish and Turkish kebab shops, as well as one of the center of (male) social gathering. Kebabs are usually served with a soup, bread, and assortment of pickled vegetables. Meal for two: 10,000 IQD/8 USD.
- India Gate (Two-Side Road, Ankawa). Offers surprisingly good curries and other British-Indian fare. Erbil has a large population of Pakistani workers, who run the restaurant and sometimes patronize it. Meal for two: 25,000 IQD/20 USD.
- Abu Afif (60 Meter Road near Ministry of Trade). Erbil's most famous bakery and confectionery, and stems out of an equally famous Baghdad bakery that has been open since 1973.
- Second Cup (Jouhayna Hotel, 100 Meter Road across from Empire). Among the best pleas in Erbil for European-style espresso drinks. Also offers light sandwiches and an attractive space.
- Sandwich shops. Shops near the Quayseri Market offer a cheap, quick lunch of kebabs and bread.
- Abu Shahab (Meal for two: 45,000 IQD/36 USD). An iconic (and physically sprawling) Erbil restaurant serving standard Kurdish cuisine (salads, soups, and meat-based entrees), as well as a popular spot for local celebrities. Intersection of Gulan Street and Ankawa Road.
- Saj Alreef Restaurant (Locations on Kirkuk Road and Gulan Street). Serves a smorgasbord of standard Asian, Western, and Middle Eastern Cuisine. Like Abu Shahab, this is a local icon and sprawling emporium. Meal for two: 50,000 IQD/40 USD..
- Tarin Restaurant (Saladin Road, just outside city limits). Features fairly typical, heavy Kurdish restaurant cuisine, with live music (Arab, Kurdish, and Turkish) and an attractive outdoor garden. Serves alcohol. Meal for two: 35,000 IQD/28 USD..
- Zahle (Arabella Hotel, 60 Meter Road opposite Parliament). Serves Lebanese mezzo and meats, in a more intimate environment than most Erbil restaurants and with attentive service. Serves alcohol. Meal for two: 35,000 IQD/28 USD..
- O'Caffee (Ankawa Main Road, Ankawa). Good Italian cuisine, including oven-baked pizzas, good pasta dishes, and Western-style salad. Also has one of Erbil's better espresso bars Meal for two: 35,000 IQD/28 USD..
- Qi 21 (Divan Hotel, Gulan Street). Erbil's only sushi bar, located at the top of the Divan Hotel with panoramic views of the city. Prices are astronomical, but the sushi is good. This is a place to see and be seen, and attracts a wide range of celebrities and politicians. Serves alcohol.
- Onyx (Divan Hotel, Gulan Street). Eserves what could be described as nouveau Kurdish cuisine: lighter than typical Kurdish fare, with a mediterranean influence and focus on vegetables. Like Qi 21, it attracts a clientele of the Kurdistan Region's rich and famous. Serves alcohol.
- Greek Grill (Classy Hotel, Ankawa). Despite the name, is a steakhouse with Mediterranean accents rather than a proper Greek restaurant. The food is good, however, and prices are more reasonable than other high-end hotel restaurants. Serves alcohol. Meal for two: 85,000 IQD/68 USD.
You can buy a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor at pretty reasonable prices in Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of Irbil. Just look for any of the local liquor stores. A liter of Jack Daniels for about $22 (US) is cheaper than back in Tennessee where it is bottled! Remember that Erbil is a predominantly Muslim city: drinking in public is unacceptable and public drunkenness is frowned upon.
- Marina. Great food! Pretty expensive.
- Deutscher Hof (Ankawa). For German draft beer and food. Features dancing and Western music on weekend evenings.
- Sky Bar (Noble Hotel, Erbil). Cocktails, wine and beer, and dancing at the top of the Noble Hotel.
- T Bar Sports Lounge and Grill (Ainkawa exit road across from RRT compound). 5PM to late. American style sports bar and lounge. Features plasma TVs with international sports.
In addition, the bars at the major luxury hotels (such as the Divan and the Rotana) are popular gathering spots.
- Hotel below the main gate to the Citadel. One of the cheapest options in town. Numerous other hotels exist in this area or just west of it. Beds on terrace start from 5000 IDQ/4 USD. Rooms 25000-50000 IDQ/20-40 USD..
- Hotel Ali, Bata St. (one street west from the main gate of the Citadel). Basic but clean, shared bathrooms, squat toilets, Sat TV. From 20000 IQD/16 USD.
- Lonia Motel (Kirkuk Road near the Tablo Mall.). Offers rooms which includes a bedroom, sittingroom, kitchen and bathroom. Free internet is included. 80 USD.
- Erbil International Hotel (Barzany Namr Street, across from City Council). Nicknamed "The Sheraton". Erbil's oldest high-end hotel, built in 2004, and centrally located. There areveral relatively good restaurants in the hotel (including East Asian and Indian food). USD 200.
- Ankawa Palace, Near Residency Office in Ankawa. Approximately 36°14'20.95. It is nice and clean, the staff is very helpful. USD 150.
- Noble Hotel (100 Meter Road, Ankawa). USD 175.
- Classy Hotel (Ankawa Main Road, Ankawa). Business-oriented hotel in Ankawa, popular with international travellers. 200.
- Tangram Hotel (Kirkuk Road, South Arbil). Biggest hotel in South Arbil, close to Salahaddin University. 200 USD.
- Hotel Divan (Gulan Street, near Sami Park). Major luxury hotel with several restaraunts, popular bars and lounges, a duty-dree shop, and large gym and pool. Along with the Rotana, a center of the high-society social scene. Higher security than other hotels. 300 USD.
- Rotana Erbil (Gulan Street and Mosul Road). Major luxury with spa and outdoor swimming pool, plus popular bars and restaurants. ALong with the Rotana, a center of Erbil's high-society social scene. Security is tighter than other hotels. 300 USD.