14 Must-Do Things on Your Trip to Istanbul
Istanbul, where East meets West, is a captivating city of endless contradictions. Explore its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant neighborhoods with our top picks of things to do in Istanbul.
1. Marvel at the Aya Sofya
Step back in time at the awe-inspiring Aya Sofya, a majestic Byzantine basilica built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Its magnificent dome and glittering mosaics make it one of the world's most beautiful buildings, reflecting its rich history as a church, mosque, and museum.
2. Experience the extravagance of Topkapı Palace
Uncover the secrets of Ottoman sultans at the opulent Topkapı Palace, where centuries of intrigue, excess, and diplomacy come to life. Explore the grand Harem, impressive Imperial Council Chamber, and the stunning Imperial Treasury.
3. Lose yourself in Istanbul's Bazaar District
Wander through the bustling Grand Bazaar, then follow the locals downhill to Tahtakale and the aromatic Spice Bazaar. Discover hidden treasures and unique souvenirs in the vibrant lanes and traditional bazaars.
4. Ride Istanbul’s ferries
Take a ferry ride across the Bosphorus, and witness the breathtaking beauty of Istanbul's skyline from the water. Cruise along the strait to the Black Sea, marveling at palaces, parks, and charming mansions on both shores.
5. Revel in Istanbul's nightlife
Embrace the vibrant nightlife of Istanbul at traditional meyhanes in Beyoğlu, or join young crowds in pubs and cafes in Beşiktaş and Kadıköy. End your evening by savoring late-night street food with fellow revelers.
6. Get acquainted with Turkish contemporary art
Discover the thriving art scene in Beyoğlu with cultural institutions like Istanbul Modern and Pera Museum. Explore galleries in trendy neighborhoods like Karaköy, Tophane, and Dolapdere.
7. Surrender to the steam in a bath house
Immerse yourself in history and relaxation at Istanbul's renowned hamams. Experience the customs of Ottoman society while indulging in warm water and soap suds in luxurious bathhouses like Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı and Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı.
8. Hang out with the cool kids in Kadıköy
Cross the Bosphorus to Kadıköy, the hip Asian-side neighborhood filled with trendy cafes, bars, and boutiques. Enjoy the lively atmosphere, explore street art, and savor stunning sunset views from the shoreline.
9. Sample the flavors of Istanbul
Delight your taste buds with the rich and diverse Turkish cuisine. Enjoy communal meals with meze, kebaps, salads, and fresh seafood. Savor the rustic and honest flavors, and indulge in the joy of eating like a true Istanbullu.
10. Admire the architecture of Süleymaniye Mosque
Visit the grand Süleymaniye Mosque, a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, perched atop a hill with stunning views of Istanbul's waterways. Admire the elegant symmetry and soaring interior designed by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan.
11. Go underground at the Basilica Cistern
Descend into the mesmerizing Basilica Cistern, a fascinating underground water reservoir with rows of columns, brick ceilings, and Medusa-head capitals. This Byzantine marvel is a must-see attraction in the heart of Istanbul.
12. Go tile-mad at the Blue Mosque
Be mesmerized by the thousands of İznik tiles adorning the interior of the Blue Mosque, officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Marvel at its grand prayer hall, six minarets, and its stunning beauty rivaling the Aya Sofya.
13. Ogle the opulence of Dolmabahçe Palace
Step into the opulent Dolmabahçe Palace, an exquisite royal residence adorned with crystal chandeliers, gold gilded ceilings, and marble floors. Experience the grandeur of a bygone era while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Bosphorus.
14. Let your feet be your guide
Take a leisurely stroll through Istanbul's diverse neighborhoods, each with its own distinct charm. Wander through Fener and Balat's historical lanes, sip tea with a view at Pierre Loti Café, or enjoy the peaceful fishing village of Arnavutköy on the Bosphorus.
Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Istanbul, where ancient heritage blends seamlessly with modern life, creating a truly unforgettable experience.