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
Cities in Turkey
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What people are saying about Istanbul
The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He guided us through the palace, explaining major details and even interesting side stories related with the palace. He did not seem to rush us and took the time to explain what we should visit and answer any questions the group had. If you want to know more about the palace and its history, I recommend this tour. Although a bit expensive, I believe it is about right in terms of price/quality, as you would be paying around 10£ per hour + tickets. You also have the perk of skipping any queue (in our case there was none because we started early.
Ayhan was super friendly and welcoming. We walked to different restaurants and ate/drank foods I had never experienced before- can’t say I would order them all again :) but it was a truly fantastic and authentic experience. The really neat thing was that Ayhan chose the restaurants in such a way that he literally gave us a cultural tour of the city as well. It was informative for the adults and entertaining for the teens. We liked it so much that we booked the off-the-beaten-track tour to the Asian side with him the next day. Would highly recommend that one, too!
We had a great time with the tour, there where a few areas of knowledge the tour guide seemed a bit lacking (maybe we was the first to ask those questions! Or maybe a misunderstanding) but was courteous and professional and in general enjoyed every moment of it. However it would of been nice to have more of a tour of the bazar than left in it but still I feel it was value for money and would do again also the fast track was incredibly convent.
The organisation of groups at the beginning was frustrating and time consuming. Which meant we did not really start the tour until after 0920. This was a four hour tour but in essence would have been lucky to have been three hours - which questions true value for money.
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.