Van (pronounced vahn, like the English word one) is in Turkey.
It is located on the eastern shore of Lake Van (Van Gölü), a salt lake which is locally known as Van Denizi (“the sea of Van”). Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey. The region is well-known to archealogists since it was the birthplace of Mitanni and Urartu kingdoms, and perhaps as well of their ancestors, the mysterious Hurrians.
Buses leave to most destinations in Turkey. A ticket to Diyarbakir costs 20 TL (09:00, 12:00 and 23:00, 6 hours), to Malatya costs 25 TL (08:30, 9 hours) and Trabzon costs 50 TL (07:30 and 12:00, 12 hours). Remember that most departure times are from the Otogar, a few km's out of town. Free shuttle buses run from the main ticket offices in the town centre but remember to be there at least half an hour before the scheduled departure time. As always, check details when buying the ticket.
Currently (late-August 2015) the only border crossing of the three that is open is at Dogubeyazit, a consequence of the local situation. It is expected to remain the situation for 6 months. Things change, so check with minibuses and buses in Van.
From Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa station (on the Asian side) there are trains direct to Tatvan, a town on the west side of Lake Van, two times a week, on Mondays and Fridays. This train (Vangölü Express) departs from Haydarpaşa at 10:55PM and calls in a number of cities and towns across Anatolia, including Eskişehir, Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, and Malatya among others. According to the timetable all the way between Istanbul and Tatvan takes almost 40 hours (arriving in Tatvan at 2:17PM on Wednesdays and Sundays), frequent and probably long delays discluded. This is the longest (both in terms of miles traveled and time spent inside the train) non-international train journey in Turkey and gives a through panorama of almost all regions of inland Turkey. Inter Rail pass is accepted in this train. Once arrived in Tatvan, you can take the ferry which crosses the lake to Van.
International train from Istanbul to Tehran (Trans-Asia Express) calls in Van once per week (on Thursday evening, around 10pm, as of April 2011), see  (note that this link is not up-to-date as of April 2011, despite being the official website, the Van-Tabriz train leaves Van on Tuesday evening, not Wednesday)
Apart from Trans-Asia, there is also another international train service once a week (on Tuesday evening as of April 2011) between Van station and Tabriz in NW Iran.
There is an airport (Van Airport) located about 5-10 km away from the city. There are flights from Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Antalya. Outside the airport there are taxis to the city costing 20 YTL, but you can also walk for the main road where dolmuses stop and take you to the city only for 1 YTL. A bus run by the municipality operates from the airport to the centre - look for a bus with "Van" in big letters on its windscreen on exiting the airport building, across the roadway.
To get to the airport from the city centre, dolmuses marked Hava Alani leave nearby Hotel Akdamar (Kazim Karabekir Caddesi). Drive takes about 15 minutes, making weird detour becouse of the major roadworks.
There is a ferry line in the Lake Van, between Tatvan on the western shoreline and Van on the eastern shoreline. The ferry going to Tatvan leaves three times a day, morning, noon and evening, though departure times are not fixed. 5TL. It takes four hours to cross the lake.
The city is famous for its breakfast salons (kahvaltı salonu), in which for about 10 lira, you are served a really filling breakfast including locally produced cheese (different types, including "otlu peynir") and honey, tahini, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, kaymak (similar to clotted cream), and still-warm bread. The price usually includes an unlimited amount of tea. Locals tend to avoid "Breakfast Street", and favor businesses that are just off the main roads. Egg dishes are also prepared upon request, including menemen.
There are quite a few bars within the Çarsi (downtown area), but travelers--especially women--should be wary of visiting a pub/restaurant hybrid, as it's typically known as a place to find 'companionship'.
Niçe is just off of Maras Street, and offers opera on television, and various western music. Small, loud, and smoky, Niçe has a great 'dive bar' aesthetic. Workers are accustomed to the seeing the occasional foreigner, and do their best to accommodate. In Winter, they serve mulled wine.
The Lop Bar is between Cumhuriet and Sanat Street, on a second floor walk-up. There's live music most weekends, a staff that's helpful, large operable windows, and affordable prices. Be sure to get a 'şişe' (bottle). Decent cocktails are available.
The North Shield is tucked away in the back of Tamara Otel (just between Sanat and Maraş Streets). Upon entering the hotel, head left through a sliding door, down a hall, and up the stairs. While slightly more expensive than other bars, football matches are generally shown in a British pub reproduction and the air has adequate ventilation.
Plenty of hotels around the northern end of the bazaar.