Top attractions 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!
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!
Also commonly known as the Blue Mosque, the fine İznik tiles adorning this magnificent structure may make it appear bluer than it actually is!
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, 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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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- 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
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What people are saying about Istanbul
I can't even explain how much I enjoyed this "tour". Lucky for me I was the only one booked, so it was just me and my amazing guide, Cetin. It was my first night in Istanbul and this tour was the perfect introduction to the food, culture and history of the city. The food I tried was INCREDIBLE and the number of restaurants we visited was extremely generous. I would recommend this tour for anyone visiting Istanbul. I'll be back to do it again. Thanks again Cetin. This experience felt more like a night out with a friend!
The ticket purchase and subsequent tour was great value for money. The guide was on time and spoke excellent English. The price we paid was significantly less than similar tour providers. The guests however, must arrive at the gate of the palace on time using their own means of transport (a plus for me). Few downsides worth mentioning, the maintenance work at the palace reduced the overall time spent inside it, since many rooms were closed. My ticket did not provide access to the Harem and the painting museum.
The boat is comfortable and the guide is entertaining. It was much shorter than the 150 indicated just above one hour on the water, but you see all splendor at sunset and at night. The fish sandwich is not good and the chips are probably the worst we have tried in a long time. If the name of the activity were not “fish and chips cruise” it would be less embarrassing. Tame you expectations on that and you will be fine
The Staff were friendly, albeit some struggled with English. The staff who helped get the ticket and audio guide were superb. I couldn't speak more highly about the well organised audio guide. Definitely a highlight of our trip. I recommend doing this tour first. As you will feel you have more of a general understanding of Istanbul. The views were stunning. It really showed the best parts.
Fantastic! My guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and interesting to listen to. He took us to all the interesting spots and filled us in with the relevant history. Far better than seeing it on your own. We went to the Tokapi palace and the Hagia Sophia. He was also kind enough to see us onto the bus going back to the airport once it was over.