Top Tours & Activities 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!
- CurrencyTurkish Lira (₺)
- Time ZoneUTC (+02:00)
- Country Code+90
- Best time to visitThe 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
- 1Bosphorus Strait
- 2Hagia Sophia
- 4Sultan Ahmed Mosque
- 5Dolmabahce Palace
- 6Istanbul Cable Car
- 7Bosphorus Bridge
- 8Golden Horn
- 9Topkapi Museum
- 10Topkapi Palace
- 11Serpent Column
- 12Sea of Marmara
- 13Hippodrome, Istanbul
- 14Spice Bazaar, Istanbul
- 15Egyptian Spice Market
- 16Beylerbeyi Palace
- 17Rumeli Hisari
- 18Chora Church
- 19Istanbul Archaeology Museum
- 20Hagia Irene
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
If you are curious about cultures and customs, this is recommended. There is no excitement but enlightment.
Our guide had a brilliant knowledge of Byzantine history and the history of Ayasofya. He told funny stories throughout the tour and made sure to show us details such as the viking inscriptions (great fun for us Norwegians). He was passionate about the place and did an effort to make us passionate as well. It was a lovely tour very much appreciated.
Our tour was very efficient and flexible. We had only one day in Istanbul and we saw the major sites of interest with excellent information. Our guide, Saban Sezer had great knowledge of the city and and very fine sense of humor. That made for a very informative, interesting and totally enjoyable day. He even arranged for our transportation around the city and for our return to the airport at the end of the day. In short a the experience was everything that one could wish for. Thank you Saban!
Booked cruise dinner for tomorrow while in Istabnbul. Cruise dinner was really good esp got served lots of drinks. Enjoyed folk and belly dance. But there was bit of interuption by serving staff and people standing around during dance performance which could be improved by ceasing services and making people remain seated during performance. Overall it was very good and worthdoing , made my evening. Recommended.
The guide was fantastic, and it was worth the cost to learn about the Hagia Sophia in detail!