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Things to do in Istanbul

637 contributors

The top 236 attractions in Istanbul

Churches in Istanbul
Hagia Sophia
(89)
Every time I go back to Istanbul, I think "well, I've already seen the Hagia Sophia so many times, I think this time I'll skip it." And every time, without fail, I always fall to temptation and enter again to marvel at its beauty. The Hagia Sophia is, without a doubt, the heart of Istanbul; it's a jewel that's been fought over by countless armies over countless generations, a place where centuries of prayers seem to have lifted it to a realm of its own. Whether as a church, mosque, or museum, its mission has always been to gather people together, whether in an act of religious devotion or simply to admire the architectural and artistic charms of this temple which still draws visitors from around the world. Don't miss the chance to visit the upper galleries and lookouts which, in my opinion, are the best part. It's where they house the amazing mosaics of Jesus, Mary, and countless saints and from where you can admire the countless details of the ceiling, domes, and columns.
Mosques in Istanbul
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque)
(74)
The Blue Mosque is one of the true gems of Istanbul and a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. With its six minarets, 43-meter-tall dome, and exquisite interior featuring over 20,000 blue-hued Iznik tiles, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque will literally take your breath away. Pick a spot in the corner on one of the huge red carpets and just admire the overlapping domes and half-domes, all surrounded by huge columns wrapped in white and blue. The mosque is surrounded by walls and trees so if you really want to appreciate it's grandeur from outside, you'll need to move a little ways away to take it all in. One of the best views is the one had from the ships that head to Buyukada Island (it's where I took the picture). In short, the Blue Mosque is an Istanbul essential.
Shopping Malls in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar
(45)
The colors, the smells and the babel of nationalities is dominant in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. The variety of colors that the eye can see is amazing. The goods are perfectly placed in stores to attract and seduce visitors into spending their. The smell is perceived as varied and intoxicating that takes us into the world of the Arabian Nights. And the variety of nationalities that swarms by is intricate and makes streets.
Of Cultural Interest in Istanbul
Bosphorus Strait
(43)
We had a great day and the trip was wonderful. We left the Besiktas dock, crossed the Bosphorus, and made a stop in Uskudar to pick up more passengers. For over an hour and a half, we toured the Asian side of Istanbul, where we saw the impressive houses along the coast where rich people, Turkish and foreign, live. On the way back, we saw the European side of the city and had nice views of Dolmabahçe Palace, Galatasaray University, and Ortakoy, the most modern city in the Beyoglu district. We also saw the headquarters of Turkish TV and the imposing Bogaziçi bridge which links the European and Asian sides of the city.
Palaces in Istanbul
Topkapi Palace
(46)
This Sultans' palace was built by the Sultan Mohammad II in 1462 and finished in 1478. It was the official residence of the Ottoman monarchs until 1855. It's a must-see for its gardens, rooms which seems to be in a competition for most opulent decoration, amazing tile-work, impressive views, historical relics and gold, and the seemingly endless amount of small details that make it a truly unique place. I'd suggest taking your time to enjoy ever inch of it! I'd also suggest getting there first thing in the morning (it gets crowded quickly) and keep in mind that you need two separate tickets: one for the palace and one for the harem. Despite the crowds and double-charging, it's still a really worthwhile visit.
Historical Monuments in Istanbul
Basilica Cistern
(48)
One of Istanbul's most majestic historical monuments is undoubtedly the Basilica Cistern, built during the reign of Justinian I. It's sometimes referred to as the "Sunken Palace" due to the columns which rise up from the water. The "Basilica" part of the name comes from the fact that a basilica once stood on the spot where it was built. The Basilica Cistern is 140 meters long by 70 meters wide and is reached by a 52-step staircase. Once inside, you are suddenly faced with 336 separate columns, each measuring 9 meters high, which are organized into 12 rows of 28 columns. Most of the columns were carved from a single piece of marble.The ground is made of bricks covered in Horsan plaster and can hold up to 100,000 tons of water. If you walk to the end and descend the steps, you'll find two columns whose bas-reliefs depict the head of Medusa. It's a curious find since no one knows exactly how or why it came to be. According to popular belief, they once used these images of mythological beings to protect important buildings, and the face of Medusa was put at the farthest end so as not to petrify people when they entered. Another curious fact is that there are supposedly well openings in the basements of nearby homes which were once used to extract water. They even say there are houses whose basements contain entryways to previously unexplored parts of the Cistern. As far as maintenance goes, they've done an excellent job. Lucky us as we can all enjoy the beauty and silence of this peaceful place.
Viewpoints in Istanbul
Galata Tower
(38)
The Galata Tower is hard to miss from downtown Istanbul. When you look across the river to Beyoğlu, you'll see it jutting out into the sky. I'd suggest crossing the Galata Bridge on food, checking out the morning fisherman, and stopping to have a quick tea at the shaded cafe at the intersection across the bridge. Head uphill (it's steep, but the small, winding corridors leading up the hill are charming in their own right) and you'll find the tower. The Galata Tower, in and of itself, is nothing special architecturally, but the views it offers of Istanbul and the Bosphorous, with the minarets dotting the horizon, will leave you speechless. The entry fee, if I remember correctly, is 12 lira per head. Try to go in the morning when the sky is clear and the hordes of Turkish schoolchildren haven't arrived, and you'll have the best view of the city all to yourself. Afterwards, I'd recommend exploring the neighborhood of Beyoğlu by heading up Istikal Avenue, taking a look at the music shops, grabbing some tea, and then heading down Tarlabaşı Blvd. to Taksim Square, the heart of modern Istanbul.
Bridges in Istanbul
Galata Bridge
(31)
The Galata Bridge is the most famous of Istanbul. It represents the union of East and West, and in fact, unites these two worlds as the conceptual boundaries that have long marked. If you go to Istanbul, do not stop crossing, is symbolic ... And besides, the underside of the bridge is full of places to eat the delicious fish, smoking a shisha or drink tea even chill-out plan. Although fish snack bars, at the eastern end, are cheaper and equally rich... Moreover, if you approach the Galata Tower, climbing the steep streets (almost not necessary map, just go to your silhouette and ask if any villager loses sight), and go up to the terrace at the high, the views of Istanbul mosques and palaces will open before your eyes, and you think you're flying
Flea Markets in Istanbul
Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar)
(27)
Like the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Bazaar is known for being a place full of thousands of colors and smells as diverse and the people that visit it. There are lots of caviar shops and plenty of stands selling spices, sweets, and a variety of traditional foods. There are also some more modern shops selling fine porcelain and glass goods.
Mosques in Istanbul
Süleymaniye Mosque
(27)
This beautiful mosque located just across from the University of Istanbul is one of the hidden treasures of the city. The fact that it's not in the über-touristy neighborhood of Sultanahmet means that many people gloss over it entirely. One of the advantages of the Süleymaniye Mosque is that there's no entrance fee and the lack of crowds means you can enjoy its interior in peace and quiet. Keep in mind that this is not the touristy Blue Mosque where it seems like anything goes...this is an active mosque where silence and respect are required. The mosque stands out for its grand size and the simplicity of its decorative elements. Also, you can have a delicious tea in its interior courtyard for less than 1 euro. after an afternoon of shopping in the Bazaar and the hustle and bustle of Beyazit square, watching the sunset from the courtyard of the mosque is a wonderful experience.
Mosques in Istanbul
New Mosque (Yeni Cami)
(11)
One of the most beautiful mosques of Istanbul. When you see it from the outside, it seems that it's not going to be as big and beautiful inside but the interior is wonderful, arches, walls, domes, absolutely everything is gorgeous.
Churches in Istanbul
Chora Church
(11)
The Chora Church is located in the outskirts of Istanbul and, while it's a ways away from the city's main points of interest, it's still a must if you're traveling to Istanbul. The church was built in the 4th century and subsequently rebuilt over the years; the current incarnation was finished in the 9th century. It was originally a Christian church which was converted into a mosque once the Ottomans took control of Constantinople. It had beautiful frescoes on the dome and interior walls but they were painted over and a minaret was added. The church also has several smaller chapels which give it an irregular shape (a fact which is easily appreciated once you reach the rear of the church). Today, the mosaics and frescoes have been uncovered once again and they represent one of the highlights of the Byzantine Renaissance. The most impressive frescoes are found in the funerary chapel and the dome. The entrance fee is 10 Turkish lira and it's open from 9:30am to 4:30pm except Wednesdays.
Historical Monuments in Istanbul
Ortaköy Mosque
(8)
Ortaköy Mosque was built in the eighteenth century, it is my favorite mosque in Istanbul. It is tiny but its setting is amazing, on the sea along the Bosphorus Bridge linking the European and Asian parts of the city. On the streets you can buy precious handmade paintings or typical Turkish blue eye amulet. There are also many restaurants where you can enjoy great Turkish food.
Of Cultural Interest in Istanbul
The Golden Horn
(10)
During the Byzantine era, the Golden Horn was a perfect natural harbor for trade and communication in the city. Grains, produce, fish...everything was sold on these banks. These days, the tradition carries on in the form of the omnipresent stalls selling fried fish, grilled corn, and vegetables. During the Ottoman era, the northern shore was an exclusive area of leisure and shopping. From that era, we still have the Analikavak Palace and various Greek mansions scattered among the parks. Throughout the 20th century, the Golden Horn slowly fell into decay and lost some of its charm. However, since 1994 there has been a public campaign to restore the banks and we can now appreciate the fruits of this labor on a ferry ride, something no visitor should miss. Oh, and don't miss the fishermen who line the Galata Bridge day and night.
Churches in Istanbul
Mezquita Rustem Pasha - Rüstem Paşa Cami
(14)
In two or three guides, including the Internet one, I read that the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul was the Rustem Pasha and this is true. It was the Sultan Suleiman Pasha's and a mosque was built next to the Galata bridge in the Horn of Gold. From the outside it looks like any of mosques in Istanbul, and the entrance is through a ground floor, but it is the most beautiful and elegant in Istanbul. The Blue Mosque is popular, but this one is pretty blue and beautiful.
Palaces in Istanbul
Harem in Topkapi Palace
(14)
The harem consists of around 300 rooms, several chapels and is the private area of ​​the apartments of the Sultan, the forbidden. You may only visit a few rooms, but that is enough to get an idea of ​​the beauty of the building. It has several courtyards and gardens. By paying 15 lira (about 7 €) you can see all of Topkapi, it is the prettiest.
Streets in Istanbul
Istiklal Caddesi
(13)
İstiklâl Caddesi is the main street in the Beyoğlu district. With a distinctly European air, İstiklâl is a commercial artery full of restaurants, bars, and terraces. The street begins at Taksim Square and goes all the way to Galata Tower. It's a pedestrian-only street that's divided by a small tourist tram. As soon as the sun sets, İstiklâl fills with people and street performers. It's a must-see to discover the modern, youthful side of Istanbul far from the history and mosques of Sultanahmet.
Palaces in Istanbul
Dolmabahçe Palace
(7)
I've visited twice and love it. One thing that struck me was its enormous crystal chandelier that weighs 4 tons in the throne room, which they say is the largest in Europe. This palace is quite an extravaganza, I am left with the view from one of the doors to the Bosphorus.

The best things to do in Istanbul

The magnificent Hagia Sophia museum rightly tops most travelers' lists of things to see in Istanbul. It is the symbol of the city and a true masterpiece of Byzantine art. The Blue Mosque is another of most emblematic
places to visit in Istanbul and perhaps the most important mosque in the city. Also known as Sultanahmet Camii, it was built by the sultan Ahmed I and, with over 20,000 blue tiles and 200 windows, is a delight for the senses.
If you like history, one of the most interesting attractions in Istanbul is the Topkapi Palace. It's the best example of Istanbul's imperial past and symbolizes the power that Constantinople achieved during the Ottoman Empire. This monument has four courtyards and multiple buildings, such as the armory, kitchen, royal stables, or the stunning Treasury, which holds some of the most valuable objects in the world, like the Spoonmaker's Diamond.
Another of the classic Istanbul activities
is sailing along the Bosphorous by boat or visiting the Golden Horn, a historic natural harbor at the entrance of the Bosphorous strait. From there, you can see the Galata Bridge, a 490 meter long bridge that connects old Istanbul with the more modern area.
If you're looking for more authentic attractions in Istanbul,
why not enjoy a visit to one of the famous Turkish baths? Several baths, including the Hamam Cemberlitas and Hamam Suleymaniye, rank among the most famous things to see in Istanbul. In terms of gastronomy, the best area to taste
typical dishes is in the Sultanahmet district. Make sure to try an authentic Turkish kebab and Ayran, a very popular drink among the Turks made of yogurt, water and salt. Find tons of other interesting stuff to do in Istanbul by looking at the tips below from real travelers who've visited the city. Start planning your trip to today and find exactly what to do in Istanbul.