Top attractions 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!
1. 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!
2. 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!
3. 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.
4. 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!
5. 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!
6. 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!
7. 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!
8. 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!
9. 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.
10. 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 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
- Turkish Lira (₺)
- Time Zone
- UTC (+02:00)
- Country Code
- 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.
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
The tour was amazing! Our guide Oguz Ates was very educated, fluently speaking English, explained the history and all details in very interesting way! Thanks a lot! We were lucky to be only 2 persons in group, maybe because of low tourist winter season. The tour was very nice and interesting!! Don’t shy to buy the tour via GetYourGuide, everything is well organized! Even if you are lost and can’t find the meeting point, you can call the company and they help with everything!
We had a great tour with Ozzie! After being scammed earlier in the day visiting some other sites, it was a relief to meet Ozzie and have a in depth and peaceful tour of the palace. He shared with us a lot of history about Turkey and all the details of the palace. It is a stunning building inside and out with some incredible details! Definitely worth a visit and we enjoyed having Ozzie guide us through with all his knowledge!
Very nice, interesting and informative tour our Gide Cetin is very knowledgeable and passionate about his job, he explained to us the history of Topkapı palace in a very interesting way, we felt we were watching a movie! Highly recommended!
The cruise was great! Even we were late for our time, but the manager let us join the next boat. Thanks a lot. The trip takes 2 hours, very relaxing and beautiful for this price.
Our tour guide was Mr Furkan Sari. We was an excellent guide who explained to us about Turkey’s history pretty well. We really enjoyed our tour with him