Aleppo (حلب) is the largest city in Syria - population 2.1 million.
Aleppo is a fairly conservative city. Dress appropriately to avoid any problems and to avoid standing out too much. Men should wear shirts and trousers and women should not wear anything that is too revealing. If you follow that simple dress code you should not have any problems. Head scarves are not necessary unless you want to enter a mosque but even then grey robes are available at no extra charge.
There are no hostile feelings towards Americans or Westerners in general (although Americans tend to be subjected to more scrutiny by the authorities than other nationalities). You could, however, find yourself in trouble if you engage in open criticism of and against the Syrian government or the president. Your best bet is to avoid political conversations all together just to avoid any possible problems. If you do engage in political discussions with Syrians, be aware that they might face intense questioning by the secret police if you are overheard. As a general rule, always assume that you are being watched by the plain-clothes policemen (mukhabarat). You will notice that not many uniformed policemen can be seen in the streets, but this is because the police have a wide network of plain-clothes officers and informants.
Friday is a holy day and most shops and historic sites are closed so plan accordingly for this.
Stealing is looked down upon and thus is not very common. Crime is generally low and you should feel safe to walk around in any part of the city at any time day or night. But as in any city, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings, particularly in the souk.
Meals are a bit later than in the U.S. but similar to the times in some European countries. Lunch is from 1 to 3 and dinner around 8pm. Syrians take a siesta in the middle of the day, from about 3 to 6, but this means that the night life is very active. You can return to the markets and public squares that you visited during the day and by 10pm they will be bustling with people selling food and treats and drinks. It is a like a street fair every night.
Aleppo is a beautiful and historic city.
Note: As of 2014, Aleppo has been under siege and is seen as a main battleground in the Syrian civil war. Part of the city is controlled by the Assad regime, which is accused of human rights violations and war crimes against civilian populations. Another part is largely controlled by the Islamic Front, an al-Quaeda-affliated Islamist group funded by Qatar. Most of the native population has fled the city. Unless you are a reporter for Vice or Frontline, there is currently no reason to go to Aleppo.
Aleppo is close to the main border crossing with Turkey. You will need a visa to enter into Syria. It is typically more convenient to secure a visa in your home country as the consulates in Turkey do not usually issue tourist visas. How you get the visa varies by country so check with a travel agent or consult. Citizens of the predominantly Arab nations, as well as Turkish citizens as of 2009, do not require a visa.
At the border, most nationalities can secure a 2 week transit visa in 20-30 minutes. American passport holders, however, will have to wait between 3 to 10 hours to secure a transit visa, as the border guards must fax Damascus to check with Syrian intelligence, and may be turned away. A transit visa is US$16, payable in USD or SYP. Each border post has a branch of the Central Bank of Syria to exchange currencies. There are no facilities for credit/debit cards. Travellers cheques are also not accepted.
Remember that there is a departure fee of 500 SYP.
Aleppo has public transport connections with Turkish cities just north of the border. There are at least two daily bus/minibus services from Antioch (3hr), costing S£250 (bus service) or S£350 (minibus).
Taxis are everywhere, probably more taxis than people. However, since most civilians have fled and movements are threatened by snipers on both sides of the conflict, there are no drivers to be found. You should be incredibly suspicious of anyone offering you a ride.
Minibuses: Called "serveece", these are small white vans that drive around and you can hop on and off by signalling to the driver. They are not currently operating.
Rental cars are currently not available due to the conflict.
The following places, if still standing, should be considered highly dangerous. If you find them abandoned, leave immediately. Do not consider any structure that is damaged but still standing to be structurally safe.
The economy in Aleppo is decimated by the siege by regime forces. All areas are short on basic goods and supplies. If you are able to buy anything, the price will be incredibly high. You should not assume any resources will be available for easy purchase.
There is currently a food shortage in Aleppo, as many of the supply lines to Turkey have been cut off by fighting. The food that can be found in the limited open marketplaces is highly priced, and marketplaces themselves are popular sniper targets. If you are traveling to Aleppo, bring your own supplies to not further tax the remaining population.
Common Syrian street food like falafels and shwarma are excellent and available throughout the city. In the souks you will also find tiny restaurants with a few stools serving up dishes like Fuul (pronounced “fool”), a bean soup served with fresh bread, onions and mint. If you are adventurous, look for the men frying curry-flavoured pancakes near the entrance to the souk. The pancakes are wrapped in bread and topped with hot sauce. Also try and buy some of the freshly made pita bread that is sold everywhere as it is delicious.
Alcohol is permitted but not widely available. You can find stores selling liquor on a few streets near the clocktower. Try Zaki al-Arsuzi (across from Al Kommeh restaurant) and Jbrail Dalal streets. There is a liquor store a few metres away from the Aleppo Hotel (on a side street from the clocktower). In the new city there is a store at Al Hateb square. Cost is usually 60 SYP for a Efes 16oz (Nov 2010). Restaurants and hotels that cater to Westerners will generally serve alcoholic beverages.
There is one local beer, called Al-Sharq, while the Damascus brew Barada may also be found. Neither are exactly lethal - 3.7% and 3.4% respectively.
A wide range of other beers from the Middle East and Europe can also be found, usually about 50 SP for a large can, along with wines from Syria, Lebanon and France, starting at 150 SP a bottle.
Arak is a local aniseed spirit which can be found at some small shops.
It is currently unknown as to whether the listed hotels are operating because of the unstable situation in Syria.
NOTE: Most of the websites listed on here no longer work due to the ongoing conflict in Aleppo.
Internet and electricity are both intermittent in Aleppo. If you are planning to travel to the city and remain in contact with the outside, bring a satellite phone and lots of batteries.
Safety and security
Aleppo should not be considered a safe destination for any travel due to the Syrian civil war and active landmines.