Best things to do in Istanbul
Hello from Istanbul where the two continents, Europe and
Asia meet Get ready for a journey through history, food, and entertainment. For
a quick entry, the historic part of Istanbul is called Golden Horn that is
located on the European side and it is the place where you will find the famous
historical attractions like the Blue Mosque and Mosque Hagia Sophia. Imagine
yourself watching a whirling dervish in a mosque, having Turkish tea with a
slice of baklava then taking a ferry between two continents and watching the
spectacular Bosphorus views. This city will mesmerize you.
In this blog post on things to do in Istanbul, I will
talk about the unmissable activities in Istanbul that can attract all kinds of
travelers no matter if you’re 7 or 70. For the famous museums and attractions,
I highly recommend joining a guided tour and buying your ticket in advance to
skip the lines.
Located on the west of the Bosphorus, the European side
is the most popular part of Istanbul where you will find the historical
peninsula, popular museums, and vibrant nightlife. Since most of the attractions are found here,
it is also the most popular place to stay in Istanbul so while you will find
that you’ll spend the majority of your time here, that isn’t to say that the
Asian side isn’t worth a visit.
VISIT A MOSQUE
Once you are in Istanbul, the first thing that will take
your attention is the great number of mosques. Before entering a mosque you
have to wear a long dress or pants and a T-shirt that covers your whole body.
Women must also cover their hair with a scarf. In some of the mosques, they
lend you a scarf but if not, you can buy one from a street seller that can be
found in front of many mosques.
A trip to Istanbul without a visit to the Blue Mosque
would simply be incomplete. Completed over 7 years during the era of Ottoman
Sultan Ahmet, the Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is a
unique site and one of the most famous Mosques in the world. Once you enter the
Blue Mosque you will be impressed by its tiles and gorgeous interior design but
to get the most out of your experience, I recommend you join a guided tour that
covers both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Another must-see mosque in Istanbul city is Hagia Sophia
which was converted into a mosque from a church in the 15th century. Its unique
architecture still keeps its mystery and I assure you will have the most unique
photos while you are exploring Mosque Hagia Sophia.
Ortaköy Mosque is one of
the most picturesque mosques in Istanbul that is located right under the
Bosphorus Bridge. This historic mosque was built in the 19th century and is a
great representative of Ottoman architecture. Another beauty of it is that you
can capture a photo of both the mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge at the same
DISCOVER ISTIKLAL AND TAKSIM SQUARE
There is no doubt that Taksim Square is one of the most
popular spots on the European side and a great place to start your sightseeing.
Taksim square is the entry point of the famous Istiklal Street that goes till
Karaköy. Make sure to allow enough time to explore this colorful street where
you will find so many shops, bookstores, cafes, restaurants, and famous
nightlife. On Istiklal Street, you will also see the historical tram that
operates between Taksim Square and Galata. These trams date back to the 19th
century and have a small passenger capacity but are one of the iconic symbols
of Istiklal Street. It is fun to walk along historical streets but for
nostalgia lovers, I recommend taking a ride.
Here you will have the chance to taste so many local
Turkish food and delicious desserts. Explore some stunning palaces If you are
visiting the city of Istanbul, one of the must-see tourist attractions are
Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace. Palaces were where Sultans lived during
the Ottoman Empire, so get ready to be impressed by the luxury of these
Located in Beşiktaş, Dolbahçe Palace was built in the
19th century during the Ottoman Empire and is a massive palace with 285 rooms
and 43 salons, It does not only have impressive interior design but also offers
amazing views of the Bosphorus. I recommend joining a guided tour to learn
about the Ottoman Empire and explore the impressive rooms of the palace.
Topkapi Palace is for sure the most famous palace in
Istanbul that you must definitely visit. You will be discovering where the
Ottoman Sultans lived, their personal belongings as well as the famous 86-carat
Spoonmaker’s Diamond in Topkapi Palace.
GO SHOPING AT SPICE BAZAAR AND GRAND BAZAAR
Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the world
and is a huge bazaar where you will find numerous colorful shops selling
souvenirs, carpets, and local flavors. This is the perfect place to grab some
souvenirs from your trip.
If you walk 10 minutes north from Grand Bazaar You will
reach Spice Bazaar. As you can guess from the name, here you will find tons of
local spices, local products, and souvenirs. You can also find a great
selection of Turkish Delight here, something you have to try while in
CRUISE ON THE BOSPHORUS RIVER
There are several cruise tours to discover the Bosphorus
river that will enable you to see whole parts of the Bosphorus from the Marmara
Sea to the Black Sea. You can join a cruise from Eminönü, Beşiktaş, and Kabataş
on the European side, or Kadıköy and Üsküdar on the Asian side where you will
see ticket booths for the various companies.
For many of them, you can hop off in one of the stops and
have local food then continue the tour by taking the next ship. Alternatively,
I think the best ones are the themed cruises that give you something a little
bit special. You will usually need to pre-book these but why not enjoy a nice
meal and a show to accompany the gorgeous views.
CRUISE – If you want to enjoy the beautiful views at the most
magical time, this sunset cruise on a luxury yacht with drinks included is the
one for you. This cruise starts at 600 TL (US$57.10) and takes 2.5 hours
departing from the Kabatas pier.
DINNER CRUISE & TRADITIONAL SHOW – For those who want to have
fun, there is also an option to join dinner cruises with live music and
traditional belly dance shows. From 600 TL (US$57.10) you get a 4-hour cruise
including food and dinner as well as pick up and drop off from your hotel on
the European side.
A MINIATURE ISTANBUL AT Visiting Miniaturk is one of the most
family-friendly activities to do in Istanbul. Here you will find 128 miniature
versions of famous tourist attractions in Istanbul such as Hagia Sophia,
Selimiye Mosque, Rumeli Hisarı, and
SPEND SOME TIME IN NATURE
Since Istanbul is surrounded by concrete buildings, you
might want to have a break and enjoy lush green gardens. Here are the best
parks in Istanbul where you can chill and have a great time.
Atatürk Arboretum which is a special botanical park with
wood plants and trees is like an oasis in the desert for those who want to
escape from the busy city life. In the Arboretum, you can take a walk in
amazing nature and take wonderful photos.
The other beautiful park in Istanbul is Yıldız Park that
stands in the middle of one of the busiest districts of the city, Beşiktaş. As
soon as you enter the park, you are isolated from the traffic and crowd of
Beşiktaş. Have a peaceful walk in the park, watch the squirrels and sit on a
bench with a Turkish tea.