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

Perfectly on time, comprehensive of the tops attractions of the Palace

I did not want to book a tour over 2 hours as I like to get info about what I am visiting but at the same time I like to have time for me to explore what I liked most during the explanations. I would suggest to add two options, one excluding the Harem and one including it. I paid for it but of course it was already clear to me that it was not included in the tour. Guide started the tour perfectly on time, he was friendly and provided clear explanations. I think the tour is a good balance for those that want to get tips on the attractions but do not want to join an half day tour.

Topkapi Palace: Guided Tour with Fast-Track Entry Reviewed by Federica, 23/04/2019

It was great. The service was great, the show was very entertaining..

Loved the fact that there were people from different countries across the world and at the end of the show we all sang We are the world together... Also loved the service, the waiters were very attentive and caring.. The unlimited drinks was great, only downside for me was the food... Quite a lot of starters of traditional Turkish food I guess but didn’t enjoy them.. Overall it was a wonderful experience- Got to see the whirling dervish and a belly dancer

Orient Bosphorus Dinner and Show Cruise Reviewed by Adetomi, 23/04/2019

Very informative tour. Friendly, helpful your guide.

Nothing to criticise. Great tour, lovely guide. People on my group were late (people collected before my hotel). So I had to wait an hour before pick up, their communication was good. I wonder what you can do about that? It's not very fair when other people cause you to have much less time in these spectacular mosques. Guide did his best to get us in quickly.

Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque Small Group Tour Reviewed by Nicola, 22/04/2019

A guided tour definitely enhances your experience.

Our guide, Adil, was knowledgeable, courteous and experienced. I definitely recommend hiring a guide if you've never previously visited. Also reduces wait time for admission, especially during holy dates. The guide handed us a paper ticket for admission when we arrived. The guide communicated effectively via text before our appointment. You will be free to walk about Hagia Sophia after your your ends. There are restroom and concessions outside of the Hagia Sophia. There are opportunities to purchase souvenirs inside and outside the building. Prices are reasonable. Excellent experience. Excellent dollar value.

Hagia Sophia Tour with a Historian Reviewed by David, 22/04/2019

Good. We will revisit and use your service again.

Pluses - Very interesting routes. Staff was helpful and explained well. Boat trip was great. Minuses - Blue route comes one every hour and the last bus was at 16.00.