Top 11 amazing things to do in Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a kind of mysticism and old world charm rooted in its alleys. Turkey’s largest city has more to offer than any other. Here religions are mixed and people live with each other. There is no shortage of beautiful sights, you are guaranteed to enjoy the local restaurants and buy them for your loved ones at reasonable prices. In Istanbul, more than anywhere else, you can see a slower and leisurely life, a strong connection to the past and the hospitality of the inhabitants. There are many reasons to visit Istanbul, and here are a few of them.
Galata Tower, built in 1348, is a massive building with a spectacular view of the city. It is surrounded by cute stores and cafes. So you can sit and drink the famous local coffee literally under the shadow of the tower. This is something you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Pera Palace Hotel
Stepping through the doors of this ancient hotel is like stepping into a completely different era . It combines impeccable architecture and facilities with old world grandeur. Even if you’re not staying overnight, you should at least stop in for tea or Turkish coffee. You can listen to 1940’s music and just relax.
Pera Palace Hotel
If you want to visit a Turkish mosque, it should be first on your list . The courtyard of the Blue Mosque is very massive with minarets and domes. Inside, you can hear prayers being sung and see the beautifully painted ceilings. Have a seat somewhere and take in the old atmosphere of the famous mosque.
Try a traditional hammam.
The hammam has been a Turkish bath for centuries. You will be pampered and massaged under the white marble dome, you will have a great tea and then you will be massaged again in the next room. When you’re done, you get a big plate of delicious fruit. The resort originated from the Roman baths and still uses their principles. In the traditional ones, the men are separated from the women. The basis of the hammam is a hot room. Here you will relax for a while at a temperature of 50°C and 90% humidity. Then you will be taken away by the Tellak, who washes your body with water and removes all the dead cells with a rough loofah. Then it is time for a massage and another cleansing. In two hours you will leave the hammam and become a completely different person. You will feel the beneficial effects on the skin, respiratory and musculoskeletal system.
Try a traditional hammam.
Enjoy the authentic Turkish coffee. Nowhere else does it taste as good as here . In Istanbul and in Turkey in general, it is made jazz-style and served in tiny cups. It is very dark and strong. That’s why Turks only drink it in the afternoon and at the end of lunch. Black tea, which is sold in small cups in stores, bazaars, and even in a can, is also excellent. An interesting drink is also ayran – salted yogurt diluted with salt water . It is very refreshing and satisfying.
When strolling through the old streets of Istanbul, don’t forget to go to the huge Gulhane Park, which is worth seeing. Shaded trees, bright flowerbeds, green grass and beautiful fountains will hook you and will not let you go. Plan a nice day and a picnic here. The park is very beautiful.
If you want to enjoy dinner, try Eleos Greek Restaurant . Although it is a bit more expensive, you will get really luxurious food here. Overlooking the Bosphorus, you can watch sailing boats on the clear blue water and enjoy some nice Greek music.
You can go shopping on Istiklal Street during the day or in the evening . This is a major tourist destination and here you will find various clothing stores. There are also live performances, small cafeterias, grilled corn carts, chestnuts and pretzels, and many stores. Along the way you will encounter old cathedrals and museums dedicated to examples of Turkish culture.
Hagia Sophia Cathedral.
A monument that is simply impossible to miss. It attracts visitors from afar, because it stands on a hill and is a large stone building. Hagia Sophia Cathedral is interesting because it once belonged to the Greek Catholic Church, and later turned into a mosque. Over time it became a museum. Inside, you can see images of Mary and Jesus next to many Islamic structures. It’s a fascinating mix of religions. For some, this imposing building is the eighth wonder of the world.
Hagia Sophia Cathedral.
Istanbul is an ideal place for shopping lovers . For shopping go to the Grand Bazaar. It is the oldest large market in the world. It has a huge number of stores and you can easily spend a few hours here. The huge market offers both the possible and the impossible. Here you can buy gold, antiques, carpets, furniture, sweets, spices and tea. And do not forget to haggle, they love it in Turkey.
Feel good and smile.
Even if you’re not drawn to sightseeing, breathtaking shopping, spas or delicious coffee, there’s something that’s sure to draw you in. Istanbul has amazing people . They will be happy to help you at any time, explain the way and give you their map. The waiter in the restaurant will bring you the best food. People here are friendly and hospitable to foreigners. They are people worth getting to know.
Top 10 things to do in Istanbul
Istanbul is an ancient city where you can easily feel like you’re in the setting of an Oriental fairy tale. We’ve compiled a list of things to do in Istanbul to immerse yourself in its fairytale-like atmosphere.
1. Visit Ayia Sofia
Address: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı
Ticket price: 40 liras for adults, free for children up to 12 years old
Opening hours: Every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Ayia Sofia Museum is located in the heart of Istanbul. It has stood here for over 1500 years and was originally the largest orthodox temple in the world. Then it was converted into a mosque and now became a museum.
The Hagia Sophia Museum is considered a trademark of Istanbul and is open to tourists from all over the world.
In the cathedral you can get acquainted with Byzantine architecture. Inside the cathedral there are three rooms that you can walk through. But what makes this site most famous is its various mosaics, which have been preserved in excellent condition. For instance, you can see a mosaic of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus.
2. Topkapi Palace
Address: Sultan Ahmet, Topkapi Sarayi, Binbirdirek Mh., Terzihane Sk 7
General ticket – $11, children under 8 years old are free.
Single ticket for the harem – $6
Ticket for entrance to the Church of St. Irene – $6
Mode of operation:
Daily except Tuesdays, May 1 and religious holidays
04/15 through 10/30 – 9 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
10.30. – 04.30. 09:00 to 16:45.
Until the 19th century Topkapi Palace was the main residence for the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. The palace occupies 70 hectares, because of which the Topkapi Palace is even called the “city within the city”. By the way, you can visit this palace without waiting in line.
The palace area is divided into 4 parts. These are three courtyards and a harem. In one of the courtyards there were festive receptions and executions. In the other one there were numerous kitchens, the sultan’s stables and the Treasury, in which now there is a weapon collection.
There is also the church of St. Irene, which is one of the early basilicas of Constantinople. Until Hagia Sophia Cathedral, which is now the Hagia Sophia Museum, appeared, Hagia Irene Church was the main temple in the city.
But the most popular among tourists is the palace’s harem. The most luxurious chambers were those of the main wife Roksolana. Here you will see painted walls and ceilings and learn how the favorite wife of the sultan lived.
3. Take an evening stroll on the Galata Bridge
View of the Galata Bridge
One of the main attractions of the city is Galata Bridge. It spans the Golden Horn Bay and separates it from the Bosphorus.
You can walk across it not only in the morning, afternoon or evening. Walk through the cozy evening streets of Istanbul and make your way to the Galata Bridge.
The bridge is two-tiered, so that while someone just strolls or dines in a restaurant admiring the view of the bay, on one level cars calmly pass by on the other.
We advise you to come here just in the evening, because at this time of day you can enjoy the beautiful atmosphere, look at the lights reflected in the water or have a romantic dinner in one of the restaurants.
4 – Take a cruise on the Bosphorus
A boat cruise on the Bosphorus
An important attraction of the city is considered to be the Bosphorus Strait. So, the choice of sightseeing tours on the water here is huge.
Not only can you admire Turkey’s largest city from the water, but you can also sail through the Golden Horn Strait to see buildings from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Visit the European side of the Strait and see the main symbols of the city from the ship.
5. Sightseeing with the Blue Mosque.
Address: Sultanahmet Camii, Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7
Ticket price: free of charge
Working hours: Every day from 9:00 to 18:00
Inside the Blue Mosque
Istanbul’s most famous mosque is the Blue Mosque. It is not only a symbol of the city but also of the whole country.
The architecture of the mosque harmoniously intertwines the Byzantine and Islamic architectural styles. If you come to this mosque, you can see with your own eyes the real masterpiece of world architecture. During the building works were used exclusively expensive marble and granite.
There are about 250 windows inside the mosque, through which a sufficient quantity of natural light which floods all around during the day comes.
When you go inside the mosque, you will surely be amazed with the beauty of the decoration. For example, the walls of the mosque are faced with iznik tiles decorated with floral motifs.
And in the center of the hall there is an incredibly large chandelier with several dozens of lamps. Colorful carpets with interesting ornaments are spread all over the place and one can take forever to look around.
But before you go to the Blue Mosque, don’t forget the important rules:
- Women must have their head, hands and feet covered.
- Men may not enter the mosque in shorts or T-shirts.
- Shoes must be removed before entering.
- Tourists can only tour the mosque by walking around the edge of the halls, since only those who are praying are allowed to enter the center
- Be quiet inside the mosque.
- Tourists are not allowed inside the mosque during prayers
6. Enjoying the local specialties
Istanbul is a great place for gastronomic tourism. Here you can try many unusual local dishes .
Start with the soups. Order a soup called tarkhana Çorbası at one of the restaurants for lunch. It is based on a mixture of dried tomatoes, peppers, onions, flour, and yeast. Does yeast for soup seem like an overly extreme ingredient to you? Then opt for the traditional lentil soup.
The locals don’t mind meat either. In the historic city center you can easily find the best of Istanbul’s street food, shish kebab and doner. Both of these dishes are a variation of shish kebab, but cooked differently.
Well, if you are a fan of sweets, then be sure that you will love Istanbul with all your soul. Here you can stuff yourself with sweet baklava, oriental lukum and, of course, the most diverse halva.
7. Walk through the Grand Bazaar
Address: Kalpakcilar Cad. Sorguçlu Han No: 22
Working hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9:00 to 19:00
Grand Bazaar. Photo: @tupisaravia
There are many bazaars in Istanbul, but the most famous is the Grand Bazaar. Once there, you can easily feel like a hero or heroine of an oriental fairy tale. Everything around is shining and sparkling, and every now and then you hear loud talks and bargaining between buyers and sellers.
Even if you are not planning to buy anything, the Grand Bazaar is a must-visit. This bazaar is considered one of the largest markets in the world and was built in the 15th century.
You will be amazed at what you see here. Apart from the stalls with goods, there are two mosques, more than 30 hotels, several fountains, a whole school, a couple of baths and even its own police station.
8. Cistern Basilica
Address: Alemdar Mh., Yerebatan Cd. 1/3
Ticket price: 20 Turkish Liras for adults and 5 Turkish Liras for children
Opening hours: Every day from 9:00 to 18:3
Basilica cistern is one of the biggest and best preserved ancient reservoirs of Constantinople. It was thanks to this reservoir that, during the siege, the locals were able to live on.
Over time, the need for the cistern disappeared, but its historical significance has only increased. Inside, it looks like a whole underground palace, wandering through which many tourists dream.
9. View the city from the hill of Pierre Loti
Do you want to admire the city from above? Climb the hill of Pierre Loti. It’s named after a French writer who, locals say, even wrote his novel in a cafe on this hill.
10. Visit Dolmabahçe Palace
Address: Dolmabahçe Cad. Beşiktaş
Ticket prices: Tickets for the main part of the palace are 60 Turkish Liras.
Harem” part – 40 Turkish Liras
To the pavilions and mansions 20 Turkish Liras
Gardens: 5 Turkish Liras.
Everyday from 9:00 to 16:00
Dolmabahce Palace is loved by many tourists and locals alike. It stands out noticeably from all the other historic buildings you are used to seeing in Istanbul.
The first thing you will see when you get to the palace is the magnificent panoramic view of the Bosphorus Strait. The palace itself is often compared to famous European mansions. When you walk through the palace grounds and its corridors you will understand why these comparisons cannot be avoided.
This palace is recognized as a symbol of the change of the usual architectural style to a more European.
If you do not want to spend your whole vacation in mosques, you can go to the old Jewish quarter Balat. Here you will see a different side of Istanbul. The streets of the quarter are full of interesting colorful houses and vintage shops. Photographs against the backdrop of the local structures come out very original.