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Istanbul
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Top attractions in Istanbul

See all tours & things to do in Istanbul

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

Great historical attraction brought to life.

Thank goodness we booked the tour. Our guide took us on a route around the whole palace, including the harem, bringing each place to life as we passed through. It all took a good three hours. Imagine how long it would have taken us if we had tried to do it alone ! Much, much longer. Or, more realistically, we would have missed a lot of places and missed out on the stories and the descriptions our guide provided to really understand palace life. The guide spoke very good, well articulated, English. Ours was a small group of seven, so it was easy to keep together, hear the guide and have the opportunity to ask questions. Sadly, there are still inaccessible areas under renovation, but that didn't detract too much from the experience. Skipping the ticket queue was a great time saver as well. Just be aware that there is a lot of walking with some flights of stairs too. But it is well worth it for this fascinating attraction. Wear comfortable footwear and have a bottle of water in your bag.

An amazing experience, extremely well organised, worth every penny.

I don't know where to start! Everything was extremely well organised. Everyone was very polite, always on time and very pleasant to be with. The local guides were very knowledgeable (and I am an art historian), friendly, polite, genuine. I am a woman in her 60s, I travel solo and never felt lonely or scared. I met wonderful people who shared the same tours. I could not recommend this tour enough. An amazing cultural and human experience.

Very pleasant experience, great activity

Very well organized by local agency in Istambul. The cruise trip is beautiful, food average. Suggestion: the trip should start earlier, to get the views of the Bosphorous chores at sunset and then full dark. The ship sails just at 21h00, so it's a full night scenario only and it's a pitty to loose the sunset.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise with Entertainment Reviewed by Patricia, 28/08/2019

Fantastic guide, great insights into life within the palace walls

Best tour we've had. Easy access. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide who has personally researched the records of the palace and the various sultans. Gave us an understanding of how the various levels of the people and the sultans lived their day to day lives. Unfortunately no flying carpets

Excellent knowledgeable and pleasant guide!

Mev was very pleasant, knowledgeable about history and culture of Istanbul historical sites. Very good listener and patient when questions are asked. Strongly recommend her as a professional guide! Thanks.

Historic Istanbul Half-Day Tour Reviewed by Arjun, 09/09/2019