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20 Unmissable Things To Do In İstanbul

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Fascinating historical past, unique structure and classy native neighbourhoods mix to create a really cosmopolitan metropolis. Listed below are our favorite issues to do in İstanbul.

Initially based as Byzantium by the Greeks, conquered by Persians, captured by Spartans, rebuilt by Constantine then ultimately conquered by the Ottomans, İstanbul has lived an extended and spicy historical past.

Whereas the political clout moved to Ankara after the autumn of the Ottoman Empire, İstanbul was left with iconic historic websites that might fulfill even probably the most world-weary of curious travellers. But this contemporary worldwide metropolis is regularly in flux. New and fascinating sights repeatedly seem, rewarding awe-inspired guests.

We’ve collected all of the important sights and experiences that shouldn’t be missed on a go to to İstanbul.

Absorb the vibrancy and number of one of the crucial vital historic centres on the earth whereas admiring chic trendy artwork, cool neighbourhoods, native eating places and pleasant Turkish tradition. See all of the vital İstanbul landmarks, traverse each continents and revel in mesmerising cultural experiences.

There’s a bunch of enthralling issues to do in İstanbul, these are our favourites. To assist put all of them collectively, learn our Istanbul itinerary.

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Constructed by the Byzantine Roman Emperor Justinian in the course of the sixth century CE, the church of Hagia Sophia was the most important inside house on the earth. When the Ottomans captured the town slightly below a millennium later it was transformed right into a mosque. Then in1935 it was declared a museum earlier than returning to mosque standing in 2020.

It’s this altering historical past on the centre of nice empires and religions that makes Hagia Sophia so particular. Inside, golden murals of Christian scenes look all the way down to Islamic prayer niches. Inscriptions by crusaders etched into hand railings stand alongside large medallions painted with the names of Allah. It’s a exceptional journey by millennia of change and an unmissable factor to do in İstanbul.

Despite changing into a mosque the constructing continues to be open to vacationers, nonetheless, closes 1 hour earlier than prayer time and reopens half-hour afterwards. As prayer occurs 5 instances a day Hagia Sofia is open to vacationers from 8:30 am to 11:30 pm, 1 pm to 2:30 pm, and three:30 pm to 4:45 pm On Fridays it opens to guests from 1:30 pm.

There isn’t any longer an entrance charge however a guided tour brings the tales behind the mosque alive.


The Grand Bazaar was constructed by the Ottomans shortly after they conquered the town in 1453. It’s a warren of stalls promoting something you could possibly probably need and many stuff you wouldn’t. Soaps and spices, trinkets and trays, carpets and garments, bowls and baklava, masks and mascara. However a very powerful and satisfying commodity on the Grand Bazaar is the limitless hubbub and power.

Navigate in direction of Çarşı Kebap the place an previous Turkish man together with his head within the flames can be flipping kebabs. His purchasers are largely different stallholders within the bazaar. Grabbing a desk and becoming a member of them for lunch is a tasty native expertise. Should you’d choose to be guided round be a part of a tour that features Hagia Sofia & The Blue Mosque.


To cement the Ottoman victory over Constantinople, the Topkapı Palace was constructed on the hill from which the Acropolis of the Caesars ignored their metropolis. It was to be the principle residence from the place the Sultans would rule their large empire.

As we speak it’s a lovely museum of grand buildings and courtyards, in an array of various architectural types. Take time to admire the wooden inlaid ceilings, stucco tiles and tree-strewn squares. Particularly, don’t miss the intricately adorned Harem, or the Circumcision Chamber & Baghdad Pavilion tucked into the fourth courtyard with its nice views of the town.

The palace additionally incorporates collections of artwork, cultural relics and riches from all around the Ottoman Empire. With 5 courtyards and quite a few objects to discover, you possibly can simply spend half a day on the Topkapı Palace. It’s a totally luxurious and indulgent icon and a beautiful factor to do in İstanbul.

Queues for tickets may be lengthy and there’s so much to see, so a skip-the-line ticket with information may be useful.

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The Bosphorus is a slim strait of water that divides the European and Asian sides of İstanbul. As a busy transport route and a preferred vacationer vacation spot, there’s all the time a buzz of exercise on the river. Taking a tour on the Bosphorus by way of a ferry or a non-public cruise is a good way to have a break from the chaos of the town and seize some high quality views.

The Hop-on-hop-off Bosphorus Boat Tour leaves from Kabatas Pier and visits numerous spots alongside the river with a single ticket. The complete tour lasts 1.5 hours however you should utilize all of it day and cease as many instances as you want.

Alternatively take the official ferry, Şehir Hatları, for a really economical jaunt up the river. For one thing extra festive, guide a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus the place you’ll be entertained by people dance and the magic of İstanbul at night time.


Baklava is a wealthy sticky filo pastry candy and a Turkish establishment. No Turkish meal is really full until completed with a calorific injection of this tasty goodness.

The very best baklava is discovered at Karaköy Güllüoğlu. Housed in an unassuming store entrance, it’s a buffet-type café you may simply ignore from the surface. However inside, it’s full of each locals and vacationers day and night time. The queue may be complicated, the collection of baklava mind-boggling, however their swirling flavours and candy goodness are to not be missed in İstanbul.


Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also referred to as the Blue Mosque, was constructed on the foundations of the Nice Palace of the Byzantine emperors to rival the grandeur of Hagia Sofia.

It will get its title from the attractive blue tiles that adorn the domed ceiling. This calming blue is lit by large hanging chandeliers that solid gentle and shadows throughout the wealthy carpets overlaying the ground. It’s a magical and uplifting place of calm in an typically chaotic metropolis.

Essentially the most dramatic method is from the Hippodrome the place the domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque rise above the Roman obelisks that adorn the sq..

The mosque is open to non-Muslim guests; nonetheless, it closes for 90 minutes throughout prayer time.

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Absorbing the sights and smells of the Spice Market (Mısır Çarşısı) is an intoxicating factor to do in İstanbul. Tucked inside a number of slim coated laneways, piles upon piles of spices, nuts, dried fruits and sweets fill the air with a tantalising and complicated aroma. Make mates with the shopkeepers, be a part of the hubbub of pleasure and be overwhelmed by the magnificent sensory overload on the market.  

Outdoors, the streets stretching in each route across the Spice Market comprise a number of hidden gems. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the New Mosque are each close by and price popping into if it’s not prayer time. Be part of the queue at Kurukahveci Mehemt Efendi Mahdumlari, the place they’ve been serving espresso to locals for over 100 years.

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20 Unmissable Things To Do In İstanbul 60


Having a layer of pores and skin scrubbed off in a Turkish Hammam is one other unmissable İstanbul expertise. Typically housed in enticing domed buildings, a hammam is a conventional tub that has been round since Roman instances.

The method begins with a fast dousing of water, adopted by a brief break on a heated marble platform to loosen up. Subsequent, the attendant performs a vigorous wash with black cleaning soap and a particular tough mitten to take away lifeless pores and skin cells. Chilly water is then mercilessly poured throughout you. The expertise finishes properly with a soapy bubble wash.

Most hammams function separate women and men’s sections at completely different instances or in numerous areas. Essentially the most conventional hammam is Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. One of the vital deluxe is Hôtel Les Ottomans.


Rising uninterested in the shortage of opulence at Topkapı Palace, Ottoman rulers moved the centre of their administration to the Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856. Taking over a commanding place on the banks of the Bosphorus it’s designed in Baroque Rococo and Neoclassical types with conventional Ottoman influences.

Extra European than Turkish, it was so extravagant the monetary burden it triggered contributed to the empire defaulting on its debt in 1875.   

The palace is cut up into two sections, the Harem (Sultan’s household’s personal quarters) and the Selamik (official palace rooms). In our opinion, it’s price paying for each. The showstoppers are the Blue Corridor, Crystal Staircase and Grand Ceremonial. The audio information that clicks out and in as you enter the varied rooms is price the additional price. Permit 2 hours or so to wander round. In any other case, be a part of a tour and let a information present you one of the best bits.

Learn Subsequent — Our Turkey Itinerary


The Mevlevi order is an Islamic non secular order based mostly in Konya, in central Turkey. It was based by a Thirteenth-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. Most individuals, nonetheless, will recognise them because the Whirling Dervishes, named due to the flowing actions of their ritual dance throughout worshipping ceremonies (Sema).

Sema is carried out each Sunday at 5 pm on the Galati Mevlevi Museum. The small octagonal constructing – holding not more than 300 folks – has seats on each facet and a efficiency house within the centre. It’s a mesmerising custom and an excellent factor to do in İstanbul. Get tickets upfront.

Whirling Dervishes perform in a ceremony in Istanbul
20 Unmissable Things To Do In İstanbul 61


By means of a courtyard scattered with Roman relics, Aya İrini is a big empty shell of a constructing, hiding a better previous inside its imposing stone partitions. The Byzantine church was one of many few not transformed to a mosque and a few of the unique options, just like the atrium, stay intact. Classical concert events for the İstanbul Music Pageant are held right here for the extraordinary acoustics and haunting ambiance.

One more reason that makes Aya İrini a beautiful factor to do in İstanbul is the very nondescript tomb that some historians now consider is that of Emperor Constantine. Constantine based Constantinople and turned Christianity from a cult to the predominant faith within the west, making him probably one of the crucial influential folks ever to have lived.

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The ever busy pedestrian avenue Istiklal Caddesi, has a polarising impact on guests and locals alike. At instances drawing over 3 million folks a day on weekends, it’s arduous to know whether or not the road is the vacationer attraction, or you might be.   

A great place to begin is Taksim Sq., a symbolic location to many Turks and the assembly level for demonstrations and protests. From there, amble down Istiklal Caddesi stopping in on the enormous array of purchasing alternatives and cafes.

There are additionally historic buildings, church buildings, trendy artwork galleries and some hidden passageways to discover. Be sure you duck into Hazzopulo Passage which was populated by Ottoman Greeks within the 19th century, and Suriye Passage with its second-hand retro shops.


Basilica Cistern is the most important of a fancy community of historical cisterns beneath İstanbul. It was inbuilt 532AD to carry the traditional Byzantine metropolis’s water provide. The cistern is 139 metres lengthy, concerning the measurement of a cathedral, and is able to holding 80,000 cubic metres of water.

The darkish eerie house has been utilized in a number of characteristic movies together with From Russia with Love and the Dan Brown adaptation, Inferno. Don’t miss the large pillar bases on the far finish of the cistern with the well-known Medusa faces. One is the other way up, the opposite on its facet. Many legends flow into as to why they have been positioned the way in which they’re. Some consider it demonstrates that Byzantine builders noticed historical Roman relics as nothing greater than constructing rubble. Others consider they probably simply match higher that means.


Ortaköy is a stunning İstanbul neighbourhood beside the Bosphorus. It’s a preferred place to hang around, significantly on a weekend when the native streets fill with markets. Come right here on Sunday and be rewarded by a convivial ambiance and a few of the most interesting brunches in İstanbul.

The choose of the cafes are on Firini Road. We went for Café Zemheri however there are loads to select from. After brunch, stroll previous the flea market – a delightfully classic strip of humble shops – and the coated market close to the waterfront.  

Commanding probably the most ostentatious place on the river is the Ortaköy Mosque. Shimmering towards the Bosphorus, its intricate façade has two rows of home windows which illuminate the dome ceiling coated in pink mosaics.

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The artwork scene in İstanbul can rival any of the foremost artwork centres in Europe with a Turkish twist that makes strolling galleries one of many nice experiences within the metropolis. Listed below are some high artwork galleries to go to.


The massive warehouse that’s İstanbul Fashionable Artwork is broadly thought of the most effective trendy artwork exhibitions on the earth. The gathering contains works in numerous media from outstanding Turkish artists in addition to a world assortment. A number of deal with modern social points in Turkey. The exhibition is at present in a short lived house in Beyoğlu however goals to return to its regular dwelling in Karaköy shortly.


The Tophane-I Amire Tradition and Artwork Centre homes a periodic trendy artwork exhibition. An enormous, cavernous space constructed of purple brick and white stone with massive arches, gives the right stage for some cool trendy artwork. The decrease reaches of the constructing home a rotating exhibition of eclectic trendy artwork.


The Museum of Innocence is an exhibition based mostly on the novel of the identical title by the writer Orhan Pamuk. It evokes İstanbul of the Seventies, with objects displayed in circumstances equivalent to the chapters within the novel. The bottom ground incorporates a spiral representing the current second, from which the objects of the museum hyperlink moments within the characters’ lives. However, you don’t must have learn the guide, it’s fascinating sufficient with out the backstory.


The Chora Church is a medieval Greek Orthodox church within the Fatih district of İstanbul. Chora means nation because the constructing was initially exterior the town partitions constructed by Constantine. The Byzantine development has undergone numerous reincarnations, beginning as a church, changing to a museum then returning to a mosque once more. The present model was reconstructed from the eleventh to 14th centuries.

Staring up on the beautiful frescoes and mosaics in Chora Church is an excellent factor to do in İstanbul. A lot of the mosaics depict the lifetime of Jesus and Mary, together with the gorgeous Family tree of Christ. A lot of the frescoes cowl scenes from the Outdated Testomony. Each the frescoes and the mosaics are fantastically preserved on partitions which have seen centuries of historical past.   

Like Hagia Sofia, Chora Church has additionally now been returned to a mosque, Kariye Mosque. At present, non-Muslims are nonetheless permitted to attend, nonetheless test earlier than you go.


The İstanbul Archaeological Museum in Sultanhamet is made up of three sections: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Historical Orient, and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. All three are price exploring.

The neoclassical constructing of the Archaeological Museum homes a sprawling array of Greek and Roman statues and a totally spectacular assortment of sarcophagi from Syria, Lebanon and Ephesus.

The spotlight of the Museum of the Historical Orient is the Babylonian and Assyrian reliefs and quite a few pre-Islamic objects from the Ottoman Empire. Lastly don’t miss the doorway to the Tiled Pavilion; a 14-marble column portico coated in gorgeous blue tiles. You’ll be able to discover your self however there’s so much to see so a information may be useful.


Whereas Istiklal Caddesi is nice for folks watching and indulging within the vacationer facet of İstanbul, Kadıköy on the Asian facet is an altogether extra native expertise. With a younger scholar inhabitants and a bunch of native markets, it’s a good way to see a distinct facet of İstanbul.

Absorb the colourful ambiance with a stroll round Kadıköy Sq. and Fenerbahce Kalamis, grabbing a spot at one of many many cafes for some folks watching. Pop into the busy assortment of outlets alongside Bahariye Road, admire the catch on the fish market and peruse the second-hand bookstores on Tellalzade Road.  

Lastly, be a part of the locals for a meal eat at Çiya Sofrası. Serving southeastern Turkish delicacies, it was certainly one of our favorite issues to do in İstanbul. It’s straightforward sufficient to get throughout on the ferry, however one other method to discover is on a meals tasting tour throughout the 2 continents.


The intricate inside of the Süleymaniye Mosque is taken into account the most effective examples of Ottoman artwork in Turkey. It was inbuilt 1550 and reigned as the most important mosque in İstanbul for over 460 years. Inside, the only huge house is adorned merely with blue and turquoise floral tiles. The buttresses of the constructing have been ingeniously integrated into the inside.

Süleymaniye Mosque takes up a commanding place on the Third Hill of İstanbul and affords a few of the finest views of the town. Head all the way down to Aga Kapisi Café and have a espresso on their rooftop bar whereas absorbing the various personalities of İstanbul’s skyline. Turkish espresso is such a wealthy custom within the nation it’s been recognised on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage checklist.


İstanbul has a rooftop bar scene that rivals a few of the finest on the earth. With the seven hills undulating beneath the sprawling metropolis, seeing it from above is among the finest issues to do on this vibrant metropolis and there’s loads of bars to select from.

The Seven Hills Lodge in Sultanahmet has gorgeous views over Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, with a reasonably good seafood restaurant as properly. 360 is an upmarket restaurant with a spotlight of Turkish meze blended with worldwide delicacies. Its balcony is arguably the most effective roof bar views in İstanbul with slick service, a variety of cocktails and dwell music.

Leb-i Derya is a top-end restaurant arrange extra like an atrium moderately than a rooftop bar, however the wine checklist is lengthy, the meals expertly ready and (if you may get seated by the window) the views wonderful.

On the different finish of the dimensions, Snog Roof Bar has nice views at a fraction of the value. Sip on cocktails or native beers with views throughout the Golden Horn and Galata tower.

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İstanbul is greater than the sum of its elements. The eclectic mixture of neighbourhoods present an perception into the completely different cultures which have formed this metropolis of a number of personalities.


Taksim is the business centre of İstanbul and the point of interest for nightlife, purchasing and eating. The primary pedestrian boulevard of Istiklal Caddesi begins in Taksim Sq.. As one of many focal factors for the town you’ll discover the whole lot from public demonstrations to vacationer souvenirs.


One other leisure centre of İstanbul, Beyoğlu is the go-to neighbourhood for good meals, hip live-music venues and edgy lodges. Incorporating the residential districts alongside Karaköy, Beyoğlu has a bohemian native really feel.


As soon as a gritty working space of İstanbul the place locals would go to purchase fish and {hardware} provides, Karaköy is now one of many hipster centres of the town. Amongst its slim laneways, cool cafes & funky bars vie with retro shops and stylish boutiques.


Kadiköy is a laid-back residential neighbourhood on the Asian facet of İstanbul. It’s hottest for the bustling fish market, supported by a bunch of different recent meals suppliers. Full with an indie edge, the lived-in structure is adorned with cool avenue artwork.


Sultanahmet is the unavoidable centre of the previous city housing the most important sights in İstanbul together with Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace and the Grand Bazaar. With the town’s hottest vacationer sights, don’t be shocked by inflated costs and attentive hagglers. Loads of Istanbul metropolis excursions discover this space intimately.  


Ortaköy is a beautiful river-side neighbourhood with few massive customer sights aside from the attractive Ortaköy Mosque. Come right here on a weekend to walk the native market and revel in a basic Turkish brunch earlier than a soothing stroll down the river.


In a metropolis as numerous and stuffed with fascinating sights as İstanbul we needed to be selective. However, if in case you have some extra time, listed below are different nice experiences that may seize your consideration in İstanbul.

Gülhane Park is a historic inexperienced house within the Eminönü district close to Topkapı Palace and an excellent place for a picnic. Surprisingly the café within the park is fairly good too.

Galata Tower, the medieval stone tower in Karaköy has nice views over the town centre however the queues to ascend may be lengthy.

Though not a heavily-visited attraction in İstanbul, the Rüstem Pasa Mosque is a superb instance of Ottoman structure, as is the attractive Süreyya Opera Home.

One attraction that very almost made our checklist is Little Hagia Sophia. The previous Greek Orthodox church was constructed round 535 and transformed to a mosque through the Ottoman Empire. It’s a surprisingly quiet a part of the town with a number of native eating places across the perimeter.

Lastly, for an additional dose of historical past, head to the 1453 Panorama Museum and the traditional partitions of the town, that are finest seen by taking the T4 tram from Topkapı to Edirnekapi.


The very best areas to remain in İstanbul are Beyoğlu, Karaköy and Taksim. The ambiance is alive and kicking within the night with loads of nice eating places and bars, nevertheless it’s far sufficient away from the busiest locations to permit for some peace and quiet. It’s straightforward to get across the metropolis with the superb transport hyperlinks in these areas.

We propose avoiding Galatasaray and the centre of İstiklal Caddesi. Each are very noisy late into the night time.

Listed below are some suggestions from us.



Lodge Sari Konak is a superb worth correctly within the centre of Istanbul, proper close to Sultanahmet. With fashionable but conventional finishings and one of many best-located roof terraces within the metropolis, it’s an excellent selection in your Istanbul break.



These trendy residences have a well-equipped kitchen in addition to a front room, lounge and separate toilet. The situation close to Galata Tower may hardly be higher for exploring the colourful Istanbul nightlife.



Pera Palace is a powerful previous constructing in neoclassical, artwork nouveau and oriental types. With terraced lawns and three eating places, and a world-class spa, it is a completely positioned contact of indulgence.


With so many massive sights in İstanbul, we advocate choosing up the İstanbul Museum Go. It gives entry to 12 museums, permitting you to skip the queue and avoid wasting cash. The cardboard is legitimate for five days from first use.

If you wish to pay somewhat additional for somewhat extra, the İstanbul Welcome Card gives entry to the 12 museums, plus skilled historians to take you on a guided tour of three of them. It additionally affords a cruise on the Bosphorus, transportation vouchers, plus different reductions.

In case you are solely going to choose off the massive websites then contemplate skip-the-line with guided tickets. The Hagia Sofia, Basilica Cistern and Topkapı Palace can have lengthy queues and are such fascinating locations {that a} information may be helpful. Additionally should you don’t wish to danger not getting tickets to see the Whirling Dervishes, guide advance tickets to see them on the HodjaPasha Cultural Centre.




Get an electronic mail round as soon as a month with an replace from our travels and our newest content material throughout the weblog and social media.


The very best time to go to İstanbul is between late April and October.

Lots of the official museums in İstanbul have summer season and winter opening instances. In winter the websites shut 2 hours earlier, which considerably curtails how a lot you possibly can see. Turkey additionally will get highly regarded in summer season, so should you love strolling round a metropolis, we advise you intention for the shoulder seasons.

In order for you a few of the massive websites to your self, coincide your journey with Ramadan. Only a few Turks journey throughout Ramadan, so the whole lot is way much less busy. The draw back is a few of the eating places are on a restricted menu or lowered hours, however we by no means discovered this an issue throughout our go to.

Lastly, the Turkish forex has been very weak just lately, making Turkey a really low cost vacation vacation spot. Our recommendation: go earlier moderately than later should you plan to go to Turkey.

Ramadan 2023 In 2023 Ramadan can be 22 March to 21 April.


Whereas Istanbul is certainly one of our favorite cities, Turkey is a bewitching nation with historical ruins, scenic countryside and unimaginable locations to go to. Listed below are some extra of our guides from Turkey.

Our two-week Turkey itinerary

Find out how to spend a beautiful 4 days in Cappadocia

Our 5-day Istanbul itinerary

Prime suggestions for driving in Turkey

3 Superb hikes in Cappadocia

8 most fascinating historical ruins in Turkey


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All the best things to do in Istanbul including top attraction, historical sites, where to eat and where to stay. | What to do in Istanbul | Places to visit in Istanbul | Istanbul Attractions | Istanbul Turkey Travel | Istanbul Travel Tips | Blue Mosque | Hagia Sofia | Grand Bazaar Istanbul | Topkapi Palace | Spice Market | Dolmabahçe Palace
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