Things to do in

Istanbul

East meets West, Byzantine meets Ottoman, bustling meets leafy — Istanbul is full of eclectic surprises.

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Top 10 things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul's strategic location between Europe and Asia on the ancient Silk Road has made it one of history's most important cities. A list of its points of interest would be long enough to bridge the Bosphorus, so here's a top 10 to make your itinerary more manageable!

  • Hagia Sophia

    1. Hagia Sophia

    In Hagia Sophia, the immense dome crowning this church turned mosque turned museum was an architectural miracle in its time, although it took a lot of trial and error to get to that point: it collapsed twice!

  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque

    2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque

    Also commonly known as the Blue Mosque, the fine İznik tiles adorning this magnificent structure may make it appear bluer than it actually is!

  • Dolmabahçe Palace

    3. Dolmabahçe Palace

    The glorious Dolmabahçe Palace dominates the European shoreline of the Bosphorus where it served as the key administrative center in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Topkapi Palace

    4. Topkapi Palace

    Topkapi Palace, the one-time home of many Sultans, not only offers spectacular views of the city, but also houses treasures that make the Crown Jewels look like Claire's Accessories!

  • Galata Tower

    5. Galata Tower

    As early as the 1600s, Ahmet Çelebi is said to have flown across the Bosphorus from the top of the Galata Tower. Most visitors will probably be content with the incredible views!

  • Grand Bazaar

    6. Grand Bazaar

    The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest markets on the planet. A constant source of wonder, it's also one of the world's most visited places. Expect crowds at any time!

  • Süleymaniye Mosque

    7. Süleymaniye Mosque

    The stunning Süleymaniye Mosque was built for Suleiman the Magnificent by the great architect Sinan. If you're feeling peckish, Ali Baba across the road might be the best restaurant in town for Turkish beans!

  • Spice Bazaar

    8. Spice Bazaar

    The Spice Bazaar otherwise known as the Egyptian Bazaar was created in 1660 and remains the place to go for spices, nuts, Turkish delight, and other divine tastes and smells!

  • Basilica Cistern

    9. Basilica Cistern

    One of Istanbul's most unusual sights, Roman relics have been reappropriated by Byzantian builders to support this complex system that once brought drinking water into the city.

  • Maiden's Tower

    10. Maiden's Tower

    Perched on top of a tiny islet in the Bosphorus strait, this historic lighthouse was once a watchtower. It now also serves as a popular restaurant and café with splendid views of the city's shoreline.

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

What top attractions are a must-see in Istanbul?

Planning Your Visit

  • How many days?

    Istanbul is a cartographical labyrinth with sights and experiences awaiting you round every corner. How long to stay depends on how immersed you want to get, but a week should be enough to cover the most famous attractions.

  • How to get from the airport to the city?

    Havataş Shuttle Buses are available from outside the terminal and leave every half an hour for Taksim between 4:00AM and 1:00AM. Taking a taxi is, however, the most convenient way, and shouldn't be more expensive than the shuttle service between a group of four. Be sure to ignore the hustlers inside the airport and take an official vehicle from the taxi rank at the terminal exit.

  • Where to stay?

    The key touristic areas are Fatih and Taksim, and which to stay in depends on the nature of your stay. Fatih is the old town and home to many of Istanbul's historic landmarks. Taksim, on the other hand, is modern and appeals more to those visiting the city to shop, dine, and party. Traveling between the two is simple, so don't worry if you fancy hitting the dancefloors after the Hagia Sophia!

Good to know

  • Language
    Turkish
  • Currency
    Turkish Lira (₺)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (+02:00)
  • Country Code
    +90
  • Best time to visit
    The weather is good at all times of the year, but it may be a good idea to avoid the summer if you do not like extreme heat.

Sightseeing in Istanbul

Möchten Sie alle Aktivitäten in Istanbul entdecken? Sehen Sie hier die vollständige Liste.

What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 12,519 reviews

Me and wife want to thank Mr. Matt. We both enjoyed the whole tour, it was a great day. He interspersed history with humour and kept us all interested. He gave us time to explore on our own, as well as guide us though the historical sites. We were very lucky to have had him as our tour guide.

Our guide in Gallipoli, Buland, was excellent. Very knowledgeable. Also excellent was guide Burak for the Troy part of the tour. Really learnt a lot more than if we’d done it ourselves.

The guide was super Mehmet showed us the best places within a short time.I would recommend this tour to everyone whomwants to see a lot of Istanbul within a short time.

Numan is a great guide! He's very pleasant, knowledgeable and flexible. He accommodated to our interests and thanks to him our stay in Istanbul was wonderful

Such a lovely atmosphere, must be on your bucket list if visiting Istanbul