Istanbul, Turkey embraces a mix of European and Asian traditions and guests will sense the contrasts with every flip. If there may be one metropolis that may really declare the title of being the gateway to Europe and Asia, it’s Istanbul.
To actually discover and perceive the tradition and power of town one would want months and even years however we’ve highlighted our favorite issues to do in Istanbul from our 4 totally different visits. Straddling two continents, Istanbul is a metropolis divided by the slender waterway often known as the Bosphorus.
Top Things to do in Istanbul, Turkey
During our time in Istanbul, we witnessed younger urbanites embracing the trendy world whereas others cling to conventional values of the Byzantium interval and the Ottoman Empire. These are all of the issues to do in Istanbul to take advantage of your keep.
Istanbul Travel Tips
To get to and from the airport, we took TransferExpert.com. Their companies have been skilled and pleasant! It was good to have an indication with our title on it ready for us once we landed at the hectic airport.
Many of the highest issues to do in Istanbul are inside strolling distance. While exploring the previous city, one of the best ways to get around is by strolling. From the Old Town to crossing the Galata Bridge, there’s no higher method to get around Istanbul.
An ideal journey tip is to get an Istanbul Museum Pass to skip the road to widespread museums like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Harem, Great Palace Mosaics, and extra widespread museums in Istanbul with the guided tour app. Check out this go here.
A go-to Istanbul will ignite your senses. it is, without doubt, one of the most fun cities to go to in Europe and these are one of the best issues to do in Istanbul to take advantage of your keep.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is taken into account probably the most stunning buildings in the world and is unquestionably probably the most widespread issues to see in Istanbul. It was as soon as a church and a mosque however is now probably the most visited museums in the world. We didn’t go inside on our first journey to Istanbul, however we realized we have been lacking out so we made certain to go in throughout our second go to to Istanbul. The inside of Hagia Sophia is mostly a must-see in Istanbul.
For 916 years it was a church after which following the conquest of Sultan Mehmed, Hagia Sophia was transformed right into a mosque and remained so for 482 years. In 1935 it was transformed right into a museum. IN 2019, Hagia Sophia was simply transformed again right into a mosque however like most mosques, it’s open to the general public and you may nonetheless go inside to see its mosaics, calligraphy, tiles, and the Sultan’s lodge.
Book this entry to Hagio Sophia with a guided tour. Meet your native information beginning with a quick historical past of the Old City. The tour explains the thriller of this essential monument each for the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires.
- Opening Hours: April to October: 9am to 7 pm day by day November to March – 9am to 6pm. (closed on Mondays)
- Free entry to Hagia Sophia with museum pass or 72TL if paying on the entrance.
- Tram cease – Sultanahmet
2. Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is Istanbul’s most well-known mosque in Istanbul and is unquestionably one of many high issues to do in Istanbul. A go to to town wouldn’t be full with out laying eyes on its magnificence.
It’s recognized by its extra frequent title, The Blue Mosque due to the blue tiles surrounding the partitions of its inside. The Blue Mosque remains to be a functioning mosque however guests can enter in the event that they comply with the foundations. Long pants ought to be worn and ladies should have their shoulders and heads lined. Located in the previous metropolis, it’s the proper method to begin your day earlier than transferring on to the opposite sights close by.
This highly-rated tour takes you on a 4-hour introduction to town of Istanbul. Your licensed skilled tour information will take you to Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, and the Grand Bazaar, to seek for valuable handmade carpets, jewellery, leather-based, and souvenirs.
3. Grand Bazaar
One of one of the best issues to do in Istanbul is to get misplaced in the huge Grand Bazaar. Within strolling distance from the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace it’s only a quick stroll down the road that takes you to the Grand Bazaar. This is without doubt one of the most fun buying experiences you’ll ever have. There are greater than 5,000 retailers in the Grand Bazaar overlaying 60 streets.
The Grand Bazaar was an essential buying and selling middle courting again to the fifteenth century. I can solely think about the way it as soon as was with merchants coming in from Asia and Africa bringing their unique objects for retailers to peruse from Europe. Spending a day dropping your self in the large labyrinth that homes Mosques, hammams, cafes, and jewellery stalls makes this one in all Istanbul’s high sights.
A good way to see the entire principal sights in the previous metropolis is to book this tour beginning in theSultanahmet district at Hagia Sophia. You’ll then uncover the Basilica Cistern courting again to the sixth century earlier than venturing into the Grand Bazaar and its 4000 retailers that promote carpets, silks, ceramics and extra.
Be certain to go to the Spice Market in Istanbul as properly. This metropolis was an essential cease on the spice route and the Spice Bazaar shouldn’t be removed from the Grand Bazaar.
- Hours: 10 am to 6pm
- Tram Stop – Beyaz?t – Kapal?çar?
4. Süleymaniye mosque
The TheSüleymaniye mosque stands on the third of the seven hills that overlook the Golden Horn. While the Blue Mosque is essentially the most well-known of Istanbul mosques, the theSüleymaniye mosque is without doubt one of the most placed in the town skyline. The largest mosque in Istanbul, it was constructed throughout the Ottoman empire of the sixteenth century however the Sultan of Suleyman.
This tour takes you off the crushed path in Istanbul to not solely see the theSuleymaniye Mosque however you’ll additionally benefit from the historic application of hookah whereas sampling Turkish pastry known as borek earlier than heading over to the Spice Bazaar. This tour additionally takes you to the Church of St. George.
- 8 am to 9:30pm
- price: free
- Tram Stop – M2 to Vezneciler
5. Beylerbeyi Palace
Beylerbeyi Palace was the summer season residence of the Ottoman Sultans and is a good place to go in Istanbul to see the lavish lifestyle of the rulers. It has a white marble exterior and an opulent inside crammed with artwork, priceless vases, fountains, and crystal chandeliers.
You can get there by ferry or you probably have a hop-on hop-off boat tour, it is, without doubt, one of the stops. This is a good tour to discover the historic websites alongside the Bosphorus. It begins at Emirgan the place you’ll go to an 18th-century mosque, Emirgan Park, and Sabanci museum. The boat then goes to the Asian aspect of Istanbul to see the royal pavilions of Kucuksu, thenBeylerbeyi Palace, andBeylerbeyi Mosque earlier than making your method to the final cease at an area market at Besiktas Square earlier than hopping on the tram again to Taksim.
6. Hippodrome of Constantinople
When strolling by way of Istanbul, I couldn’t assist but sing the music “Istanbul is not Constantinople.” But as a matter of reality, it was! Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine empire. Located only a quick stroll from the Blue Mosque is the Hippodrome of Constantinople. A historic stadium that held 100,000 individuals gathering to watch chariot races and horse racing.
The Egyptian obelisk survived the years together with a sculpture of three-headed serpents. Obelisk of Theodosius
Today it stands on the Sultan Ahmet Square and is the historic coronary heart of the previous metropolis. A guided tour of the Hippodrome is nice in case you are a historical past buff and need to study extra about this fascinating neighborhood.
7. Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople have been largely intact till the Nineteenth century after they have been dismantled. But surprisingly many are nonetheless intact. There are many locations to see the previous metropolis partitions as they’ve been present process restoration because of the Eighties.
The tower in the Wall of Constantinople is, without doubt, one of the greatest locations to see its stays. This Byzantine tour alongside the Golden Horn takes you on a journey to uncover Constantinople earlier than the Ottoman conquest. You’ll stroll alongside the previous metropolis partitions and gates and uncover a lot of extra exterior of the Old City of Istanbul.
8. Galata Tower
Across the Galata Bridge crossing the mouth of The Bay of Istanbul you’ll discover one of all Istanbul’s high sights, the Galata Tower. It is positioned on the North Bank of the Golden Horn and you can take tours up it to view the town overlooking the Bosphorus from its remark deck. It has one of all Istanbul’s greatest views of the Bosphorus and isn’t to be missed.
The Galata Tower presents one of the best panoramic views of the town, the Bosphorus, and is a superb vantage level to gaze upon Old Istanbul. Until the 1960’s it was a watchtower for metropolis fires, however, at the moment it’s open to vacationers to stroll around its balcony close to the highest of the 67 meters (220 ft) excessive tower.
Take a walking tour of the Taksim and Galata neighborhoods the place you’ll study the Galata Tower, Tunnel Square (the second oldest metro in the world), and Dervish Lodge as you stroll by way of its bustling markets and retailers.
- Opening Hours of Galata Tower: 9 am to 7 pm
9. Indulge in Turkish Delight
There’s a fantastic sq. on the base of the Galata Tower the place you possibly can get pleasure from some Turkish Delight whereas individuals watch on the terrace. But you possibly can decide on Turkish Delight anyplace in Istanbul. Make certain to give it an attempt. Dave hates it, however, I like it. However, I’m a fan of Big Turk chocolate bars right here in Canada.
10. Belly Dancing and Whirling Dervishes
The Galata Tower itself is 9 tales excessive with a restaurant café and nightclub the place you possibly can watch a Turkish present full of Belly dancing and whirling Dervishes. If you need to take in an Istanbul show, there may be nothing cooler than seeing gifted Belly Dancers and Whirling Dervish do their factor.
The 1001 Turkish Nights Performance will decide you up at your resort the place you’ll drive alongside the Bosphorus to your dinner and present. You’ll get pleasure from music, a Fasil orchestra, and stomach dancing. It contains your alternative of wine, gin, vodka, Raki, or beer.
The Istanbul City Pass offers entry to 30 sights together with a whirling dervish present in Hodjapasha Hamam
11. Istiklal avenue
Visited by practically 3 million individuals day by day, Istiklal Street is the beating coronary heart of town of Istanbul. This 1.4 km lengthy pedestrian walkway homes every thing from cinemas to nightclubs and boutiques to cafés. If you might be searching for locations to go to in Istanbul at night time, it is a excellent spot to begin.
It’s additionally on Istiklal Street that we tried our first Turkish Delight treats and acquired some much-needed remedies from the pharmacies. If you don’t really feel like strolling, you possibly can take the historic tram all the way in which to Taksim Square to view the monument of the republic.
- In a Hurry? Book this tour of Istanbul. This non-public strolling tour could be tailor-made to see the highest Istanbul sights starting from 1 to 3 days.
12. Topkapi Palace
One of essentially the most iconic locations to go to in Istanbul. A tour of Topkapi Palace is a should. It shouldn’t be solely crammed with historical past, it is usually stunning.
Go inside to view the gorgeous mosaic tiles and ornate treasures from the Ottoman Empire. The Topkapi Palace Museum has a group of books in its library outlining the historical past and tradition of life right here from 1478 to 1856. Get a skip the line ticket that features a guided tour of the Audience Hall, High Court, Historical Kitchens, and The Treasury.
The administrative middle of the Ottoman Empire was additionally dwelling of the Ottoman Sultans making this lavish palace is an enchanting tour by way of time. Make certain to go to the Harem, the dwelling of the palace concubines. It was additionally the dwelling quarters of the Ottoman sultans so it’s should go to add to the essential entry charge.
13. Archaeological Museum
This tour presents Skip the ticket traces to enter the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern with the native host. The passes are good for 3 days so you possibly can select to go to all 3 museums in 1 day, or the three of them individually on totally different days. Once contained in the museum, your native host gives you tips about how to uncover the museums in one of the best ways.
- Opening Hours: Wednesday-Monday: 9 am to 7 pm (from November to March 9 am to 5 pm) Closed on Tuesdays.
14. Eat with the Locals
Eating in Istanbul is a feast for the senses and to really respect the delicacies, it’s essential to be a part of a household for genuine native expertise. It begins by assembling a household and studying their lifestyle. And then the feast begins with an array of small dishes often known as mezze. Mezze platters embody pita bread with hummus, cacik, and tabbouleh salad. Main dishes embody kebabs and consider it or not pizza! The feast ends with Turkish delight and candy tea.
15. Visit a Local Family
You can guide many eating experiences in Istanbul and one of the best ways is to spend time with an area household. We joined two totally different native excursions in Istanbul, was with the “Other Tour” Where we met our information’s mother and we additionally booked one by way of Get Your Guide the place we had a non-public information take us to see Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque at night time.
Insider Istanbul Tip:
In Istanbul, you’ll usually meet pleasant those that invite you for dinner. The individuals of Istanbul are very pleasant and even should you don’t go to their dwelling, you’ll usually end up sitting down for tea and turning into quick associates. To actually expertise Turkish meals and tradition book this top rated tour that takes you on a meals and tradition tour of Istanbul meals adopted with dinner at an area household’s dwelling.
16. Ortakoy – Where to go in Istanbul for Nightlife
One of the town’s greatest locations for nightlife is in the Ortakoy neighborhood. Our information instructed us that Madonna and different well-known celebrities love to occasion in Ortakoy. Once a fishing village, this district is now the world for upmarket stylish searching for a spot to occasion. The waterfront is crammed with bars and golf equipment and that is the place the hip younger professionals of town hang around.
Istanbul is dwelling to each conventional and fashionable method of life and the distinction between the 2 cities is immense. To actually expertise Istanbul it’s essential to spend a while in Ortakoy.
Dave and I clearly didn’t hang around right here late into the nighttime as we’re neither hip nor younger, however, we did take a stroll by way of town and had a glass of wine!
17. Ortakoy Mosque
Ortakoy Mosque is one other stunning mosque in Istanbul that’s value a go-to. Located instantly on the Bosphorus it may be reached by ferry. Visiting this space offers you a really feel for native life in Istanbul.
There are many eating places and low retailers across the mosque where you could sit again and chill out after visiting. Make certain to costume appropriately when visiting any mosque in Istanbul.
18 Sip Turkish Coffee
If there may be one factor that we wished to attempt in Turkey, it was Turkish Coffee. We’d had it everywhere in the world, however, to have it in its nation of origin was past heavenly. It takes nice preparation to make this tiny little cup of caffeine, however, the effort is value it because it’s probably the most scrumptious and wealthy blend of espresso you’ll ever have.
Hot tip: Don’t drink it to the final drop although, the underside of the cup is crammed with espresso grinds. (the key ingredient maybe?) Want to discover extra meals and traditions? Istanbul Food and Culture Tour takes you on a strolling tour by way of 2 Continents as you discover Turkish meals and traditions.
19. Walk Across the Galata Bridge
It was straightforward for us to do our day-by-day stroll throughout the Galata Bridge on our first go to Istanbul. We have been staying properly close to it in a house rental. This is a wonderful place to take in one of the best Istanbul views of the Blue Mosque, views of the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn.
Keep a watch out for rows of pleasant fishermen who’re comfortable chatting as households stroll throughout taking in the views. It’s a fantastic spot for affordable eats, particularly a scrumptious fish sandwich.
20. Cruise the Bosphorus
You should go to the Asian aspect of town when visiting Istanbul! A cruise of the Bosphorus presents stunning views of the Istanbul skyline together with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and totally different views of the Bosphorus from the opposite aspect. We took a yacht cruise to take in the sights, and this cruise takes you on a 2.5-hour boat cruise of the Bosphorus Strait takes you to handed town’s landmarks and monuments together with the Galata Tower and the Dolmabahçe Palace, each of the Asian and European Coasts and a cease on the Nineteenth-century Küçüksu Palace which was the looking lodge of the Ottoman Empire.
Keep a watch out for the Maiden’s Tower. Also often known as Leander’s Tower, the Maiden’s Tower stands on a small island in the Bosphorus. Construction has been on this island because the third century BC, however, this present tower dates again to the 1700s. Visitors can cease right here to get pleasure from some Turkish meals whereas taking in views of the town and skimming its museum.
If you might be searching for issues to do in Istanbul at night time, guide this Bosphorus Dinner Cruise with Entertainment for a night view of the town of Istanbul and enjoyable Turkish expertise.
21. Take the Local Commuter Ferry
If a cruise isn’t in the playing cards and you might be searching for an extra reasonably priced choice, hop on the commuter ferry for the possibility to pop over to the Asia aspect of Istanbul. How usually are you able to go to two continents in a matter of minutes and never even have to undergo customs?
We popped over to Asian Istanbul after a scenic cruise trying out the shores of each North and South. An excellent cease close to the port is Kanlica, well-known for its thick yogurt with honey.
22. Basilica Cistern
Head underground to tour the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica cistern is barely one of many metropolis’s cisterns, there are a whole lot of cisterns underneath Istanbul however it’s the largest. Cisterns have been used to retailer water however at the moment you possibly can tour it. Located only a quick stroll from Hagia Sofia, there are artwork reveals, a fortress of columns, and two medusa heads appearing as a base. What is up with that?
23. Play a Game of Backgammon
When strolling by way of town, you’ll see many older gents enjoying video games. The recreation of alternative is Backgammon and it’s essential to give it an attempt. Look for an area café providing boards to use, sit down and order an espresso or tea and play till your coronary heart’s content material. This widespread recreation dates again 5,000 years in the Persian empire and goes sturdy at the moment in the town of Istanbul.
- If you want somebody to play Backgammon with This Tour it contains a night out in their excursions.
24. Smoke a Hookah
Also often known as Shisha or waterpipe, Hookah lounges are very fashionable in town. Hookahs are flavored tobacco smoked by way of a water pipe. It grew to become widespread in Turkey in the seventeenth century and was a standing image for these in town. Dave and I are ardent non-smokers, however, to go to Istanbul without giving a Hookah an attempt can be legal.
25. Visit a Turkish Bath
You can not go to Istanbul without experiencing the weirdness and wackiness of a Turkish Bath, also called a conventional hammam. Be ready to strip down to your birthday swimsuit and have strangers vigorously bathe and therapeutic massage your total physique after a scorching steam tub.
It could be painful, unusual, and heavenly. You could or could not prefer it, however, I can inform you one factor for certain, you’ll always remember it.
If you don’t need to take an opportunity of a shady Turkish tub, book this Turkish Bath Experience that some name one of many metropolis’s greatest. The historic Çemberlita? Hamam with a conventional Turkish tub together with a scrub and a therapeutic massage. Once you end you possibly can spend so long as you want in the Hammam.
26. Istanbul Modern
If you might be spending a while in Istanbul, it’s your decision to take a look at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (aka Istanbul Modern). It has to turn into a very fashionable museum in Turkey showcasing fashionable artwork by way of everlasting and momentary shows from the twentieth century to the moment. There is a cinema, cafe and a library with greater than 11,500 books.
27. Dolmabahce Palace
One of Istanbul’s most stunning historic websites isDolmabahce Palace. It was Turkey’s first European-style palace they usually went all out. It is a big palace on the water crammed with gold and crystal. It is definitely an over-the-top palace, however, that was for a cause.
It was constructed to conceal the truth that the Ottoman Empire was falling. Once constructed, it was newer than Topkapi Palace so the Sultan moved to get pleasure from its extra fashionable luxuries.
This guided tour takes you thru the most important palace of the Ottoman Empire the place you’ll study of the variations between Dolmabahçe and Topkapi Palaces. Make certain to look up to see its ornate ceilings with Baccarat and Bohemian chandeliers together with the most important Bohemian chandelier on the planet.
How to Get Around Istanbul
Istanbul is a busy and vibrant metropolis and one of the best ways to get around is by tram. It’s reasonably priced, quick, and straightforward. We hopped on the tram to take us to every single place from the previous metropolis to Taksim Square, took Ubers, and booked Transfer Expert from the airport. But in our opinion, one of the best ways to uncover Istanbul is on foot. Lose your self in Sultanahmet, discover the streets of Constantinople, and get misplaced in the Grand Bazaar.