Top attractions in Istanbul
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
- Turkish Lira (₺)
- Time Zone
- UTC (+02:00)
- Country Code
- 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.
Other Sightseeing Options in Istanbul
Want to discover all there is to do in Istanbul? Click here for a full list.
What people are saying about Istanbul
This was a fantastic food tour! It ended up just being me on the tour. My guide, Salih, met me at my hotel and off we went. We started at little earlier because of the restrictions put in place because of the pandemic. All the food I tried was delicious! Salih was a great guide and informative with the sites we passed! Highly recommend if your a foodie or want to try amazing Turkish foods!
The tour guide was great. but unfortunately the weather was pretty bad and the river cruise was cancelled. and because it was booked on a Sunday most things where closed. if I knew that before I would have changed the day. but it was still a great day experiencing Turkey the Palace is absolutely stunning
Great tour, very knowledgeable guide. In 7 hours we learned so much about Tuerkey it’s glorious past, challenging present and promising future. Tired but happy we relax now remembering the unforgettable moments our guide created for us.
The whole experience was great. The hotel pick up was great. The food was amazing and the service. Entertiment was amazing and we had a lot of fun. Great experience.
Great one-day toue to Edirne stopping at all the most beautiful mosques and the medical complex. Guide was well informed and the day went off without a hitch.