visiting blue mosque

TOP THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL 2024

Find out what are the best things to do and places to visit in Istanbul.

Best Things To Do In Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is one of the most fascinating and thrilling cities you can visit. From breathtakingly beautiful mosques, metropolitan city areas, endless shops, and delicious food, Istanbul is a city that keeps on giving.

If you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time, it may seem overwhelming to choose which of the many attractions is a must-visit. That’s why we made a list of all the must-visit places and things to do in Istanbul. Have a look and plan out your perfect Istanbul vacation!

Top 8 Places You Need To Visit In Istanbul

hagia sophia sunset

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia was, for almost a millennium, the world’s largest cathedral, up until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. This beautiful building with its transcendent dome was completed in the 6th century on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Hagia Sophia served as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church until the 15th century, when it was converted into a mosque. Later in 1935, it became a museum. In 2020 Hagia Sofia was reclassified as a mosque again.

It’s no wonder Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul. It’s an iconic historic site that will leave you in awe of its beautiful architecture and stunning interior.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque got its name because of the prominent blue color of its interior. Also known as the Sultanahmet Mosque, it’s a historic site built during the reign of Ahmed I. in the early 17th century. The interior walls of the mosque are embellished with over 20,000 hand-painted ceramic blue tiles that are breathtakingly beautiful and will leave you breathless, especially when lit up with sunlit beaming through over 200 windows of this marvelous mosque.

Keep in mind that the Blue Mosque is still a functional mosque so visiting it is not allowed during prayer time.

sultanahmet mosque
topkapi palace entrance

Topkapi Palace

Located over the point where the Marmara Sea meets the Golden Horn, the Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of sultans during the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years. A must-see in the historic peninsula is Topkap’s extensive rooms, chamber houses, and exhibitions of different objects, from coffee equipment to the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. With the permanent exhibitions of religious artifacts, weapons, and jewelry, there are also many temporary exhibitions held on the Topkapi Palace grounds.

Galata Tower

Built in the 14th century, Galata Tower was used as barracks, a fire tower, and a dungeon. If you’re in Istanbul, this is one of the must-visit places. We highly advise you to climb the tower because the views of the Bosphorus, Galata bridge, and the entire city are breathtakingly beautiful.

clouds over galata
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basilica cistern

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern was built by Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, but today it’s one of Istanbul’s most intriguing attractions and a must-visit for every tourist. Its original purpose was to store up to 80,000 m3 of water and channel it to nearby places in the city.

This cistern is a true relic of the Byzantine Empire’s water system that features hundreds of ancient Corinthian and Ionic columns. Today the cistern is also used as a venue for different music and cultural events.

Grand Bazaar

A place you must stop by in Istanbul is without a doubt the Grand Bazaar. You can find almost everything here since the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets. Its thousands of small shops you are guaranteed to find just the perfect souvenirs from your visit to Istanbul.

From rugs, lamps, spices, ancient orient trinkets, clothes, and jewelry, there is a shop for everything. And you must try bargaining to feel the true atmosphere of the Grand Bazaar.

You can also visit the Egyptian Spice Bazaar which is smaller than the Grand Bazaar but has an equally amazing offer of traditional spices and teas.

grand bazaar spices
turkish bath hammam

Hamam – Turkish Bath

After a full day of sightseeing and exploring the Turkish baths are a perfect way to unwind while still immersing yourself in the culture of the country you’re visiting. Also known as Hamam, the Turkish Baths are a ritual experience you don’t want to miss while visiting Istanbul.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is an urban area of Istanbul located in the European part of the city, Beyoğlu. It’s brimming with shops, restaurants, and it has a busy nightlife. We highly recommend you visit Taksim and continue to the Istiklal Caddesi or Istiklal Street where you can enjoy the bustling city life and explore many street food shops, cafes, and restaurants.

taksim tram

Top 4 Things To Do When You’re In Istanbul

Once you’ve decided what places and attractions to add to your Istanbul itinerary have a look at some fun activities this wonderful city has to offer.

1.

BOSPHORUS CRUISE

bosphorus cruise

Our number one suggestion on how to spend your time in Istanbul is to book a Bosphorus Dinner Cruise. This is an amazing experience that includes a three-course dinner and dance performances of belly dancers and traditional folk dancers. Enjoy looking at the city illuminated by the night lights as you cruise along Bosphorus Strait.

2.

HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR

hop on bus istanbul

The best way to see all of the city’s must-visit attractions is a Hop-on Hop-off Istanbul bus tour. Learn how to get around and get a better sense of where all of the main sites around Istanbul are by going on this insightful bus tour with an incredible audio guide that will let you know everything there is to know about the Istanbul monuments and attractions.

3.

WHIRLING DERVISH SHOW

whirling dance

The Whirling Dervish Show is a spectacle of dance, music, and light. If you want to have an unforgettable experience while traveling to Istanbul, we recommend going on the Whirling Dervish Dance Show.

4.

TURKISH CUISINE

turkish cuisine

Turkey is known for its delicious food and sweet desserts. It will not be a true visit to Istanbul if you don’t indulge yourself with the famous Turkish Delight or Baklava. There are so many small restaurants and corner food shops to choose from and trust us everything you try will be delicious.

ortakoy mosque

FAQs

What should you not miss in Istanbul?

Places you should not miss out on visiting while in Istanbul are:
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Blue Mosque
  • Dolmabahce Palace
  • Grand Bazaar
  • Basilica Cistern
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Galata Tower
  • Bosphorus Strait

Is 3 days enough in Istanbul?

If you want to visit all of the main attractions of Istanbul and also have some free time to explore on your own and try out food or shop for souvenirs, three days is enough time to visit Istanbul properly.

Which thing is famous in Istanbul?

The top two things that Istanbul is famous for and that you have to visit are Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Luckily they are located right next to each other so you can visit both of these iconic attractions in the same afternoon.

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