In Istanbul, things to do and places to visit are plenty and visitors are sure to never be bored. Many people claim that even if you live in the city your whole life you may still never see all there is to see. It is for this reason that in Istanbul, tourism is thriving and the magic of this city will continue to attract people from around the world for many years to come. It is with this in mind we have put together a short guide below for newcomers who are not sure where to start and what to see in Istanbul.
1. Hagia Sophia
Of all the places to visit in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is always at the top of the list. This breathtaking structure was built as a church in Byzantine times then converted to a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city. Now, as a museum, it has become the most famous of Istanbul’s sites.
2. The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is another one of the most popular places to see in Istanbul. The true name of this mosque is Sultan Ahmet Mosque but gets its nickname from the beautiful blue tiles covering the walls inside.
3. The Grand Bazaar
Going shopping in the vast market stalls of the historical Grand Bazaar is definitely one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Boasting over 500 years of history and 60 streets with more than 5000 shops, 60 restaurants, 18 fountains, and 12 mosques, no visitor should pass up on a trip to this huge covered marketplace. But be careful not to get lost!
4. Basilica Cistern
To experience one of the most captivating things to see in Istanbul, head underground to the Basilica Cistern. A remarkable feat of Byzantine engineering, these aqueducts once brought drinking water from Bulgaria to Istanbul. With dim lighting in the cistern and the sound of water dripping from the columns, some may find the experience unsettling, however, the Basilica Cistern is undoubtedly one of the more intriguing of Istanbul’s attractions.
5. Chora Church
While it may be outside the normal tourist route, you will not find a better place to visit in Istanbul for pure, untouched Byzantine-style architecture and mosaics. The stunning frescoes which cover the walls and ceilings depicting scenes from the Bible are not to be missed.
6. Topkapi Palace
For those interested in Ottoman history, Topkapi Palace is an Istanbul must-see. This stunning complex of pavilions and courtyards also houses, the infamous ‘Harem’, where the Sultan’s wives lived.
7. Archaeological Museums
Taking a look at the vast collections of amazing historical artefacts going back through thousands of years of Turkey’s history at the Archaeological Museums is unquestionably one of the most fascinating things to do in Istanbul, Turkey.
For many visitors, taking a walk in historical Taksim is one of the top things to do in Istanbul. The quaint classical architecture folds into the exciting Istiklal Avenue, where some of the best shopping and nightlife in the city can be found.
9. Galata Tower
One of the most iconic of Istanbul’s tourist attractions, this ancient tower has witnessed much of the city’s history. Those who climb to the top can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from its balcony.
10. Bosphorous Cruise
Can you really say you’ve seen Istanbul if you don’t take in its beauty from the famous Bosphorous? We think not! There are several different cruises you can take from different ports, but all should provide an excellent view of both European and Asia sides of Istanbul, complete with palaces and old mansions.
On a list of what to do in Istanbul, a visit to lively Besiktas is a must. The general area of Besiktas holds many of Istanbul’s points of interest, such as Ortakoy and Bebek, which are known for their upscale nightlife and Bosphorous views. The center of Besiktas also features excellent restaurants and shopping options. While you are in Beşiktaş you should also pay a visit to another one of the magnificent Istanbul sights, the famous Dolmabahce Palace of the late Ottoman period.
12. The Prince Islands
For a bit of further Istanbul sightseeing, take a trip to the Prince Islands. Take a look into the past by taking a walk past old mansions and cobbled roads. In the summer, there are many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming and you can island hop using the ferry system.