Istanbul
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Top attractions in Istanbul

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Istanbul 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.

Things to Do in Istanbul

Top Attractions in Istanbul

Cities in Turkey

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

Excellent! Really enjoyed great service!

What a beautiful place great service food wasn’t that great but the tour was wonderful! Guide was good too! Thank you!

Fascinating, ethereal and quite beautiful

For anyone interested in spirituality and the beauty of Islamic music, to watch the Whirling Dervishes as they perform their reverent dance, is a privilege and joy. If you are expecting to be entertained by a show, this is not for you.

Well worthwhile. Efficiently organised and intelligent and informative

We were glad we booked this tour. Very efficiently run by the guide. He was easy to find, we left on time and his commentary throughout was intelligent and informative and with a touch of warm humour. My only complaint is that I would have liked it to be longer.

A pilgrimage every Australian should take if they have the opportunity

Visiting Gallipoli has long been something that I have wanted to do to pay homage to our Anzacs and to the Turkish soldiers who fought in this terrible battle. It was long day trip from Istanbul but our guide Burak (whom we met at Gallipoli) was a knowledgeable, helpful, friendly and passionate guide who added so much to the trip. Thank you.

Gallipoli Full-Day Tour from Istanbul Reviewed by Greg, 06/01/2019

Ilker was an excellent, very well-informed and highly motivated guide.

Even though I turned out to be the only person who signed up for Jew Istanbul that day, Ilker gave me the full program, with attention to my interests. It was a most excellent morning for me.

Jewish Istanbul 3-Hour Walking Tour Reviewed by Gary, 05/25/2019