Best Things to Do in Istanbul

This content was last updated on 18.07.2022 23:46

Visitors to Istanbul may find it difficult to grasp the size of the city at first glance. Foreign visitors, in particular, are astonished by the sheer number of options when preparing a list of activities to do in Istanbul. In this mega city with a population of more than 15 million, there is a life that lasts for 24 hours. In some parts of the city, the streets are deserted at night, while in other parts the movement continues until the morning. To fully feel the energy of Istanbul, it is necessary to spend time in the evening hours in Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Ortaköy or Kadıköy districts. Because Sultanahmet, where historical artifacts are located (except during Ramadan), becomes quiet after 23:00.

Things to Do and Activities in Istanbul

Things to do in Istanbul include plenty of walking. Our advice to you is to go to the places you will visit without a car as much as possible. The best way to get to know a city is to walk. Especially in districts such as Sultanahmet, Fener-Balat, Karaköy-Galata, every street is full of history. If you go to the activities you will do in Istanbul by car, you may miss many details that you need to discover.

Take a Bosphorus Tour

Take a Bosphorus Tour

One of the best things to do in Istanbul is to take a Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul. When it comes to navigating the Bosphorus by boat or ferry, we have two options.

One of them is to participate in tours that last 1.5 hours by Turyol boat. Turyol's Bosphorus tour boats depart from Eminönü and Üsküdar. After continuing until Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, they return.

The second option is to go to Anadolu Kavağı with the Private Travel Ferry of the City Lines departing from Eminönü. This activity will take about 6 hours and takes your whole day. However, the 3-hour break at Anadolu Kavağı is enjoyable. You can climb to Yoros Castle and eat fish by the sea.

Tour the Historical Artifacts in Sultanahmet

Tour the Historical Artifacts in Sultanahmet

All domestic and foreign visitors coming to Istanbul to explore the city first start from Sultanahmet. Of course, they are not wrong when we consider historical monuments such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

The most important place of the Historic Peninsula, which was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, is of course Sultanahmet. It offers delicious instagram frames for those who want to visit historical monuments in Sultanahmet and take photos in Istanbul.

Shop at the Grand Bazaar

Shop at the Grand Bazaar

After taking a stroll in Sultanahmet, it is customary to go to the Grand Bazaar and crown the day with shopping. With its history dating back to 1461, the Grand Bazaar attracts people like a magnet.

Even people who wait in long queues in Sultanahmet's museums and get tired during the day cannot resist the temptation to shop in the Grand Bazaar. (especially foreign tourists)

The Grand Bazaar, a huge historical monument with 67 streets and more than 3000 shops, is the last representative of the traditional shopping style that has survived to the present day. Visiting the Grand Bazaar is among the best things to do in Istanbul for nostalgia lovers.

Tour the Spice Bazaar

Tour the Spice Bazaar

Coming to Eminönü Square and visiting the Spice Bazaar are among the best things to do in Istanbul at the weekend. Yeni Cami Square, which has become the symbol of Eminönü, is a feeding spot for pigeons, just like the courtyard of San Marco Cathedral.

No matter how much the region comes to the fore with the Spice Bazaar, a wide variety of things can be found in the streets surrounding the historical bazaar. The cheapest of everything from textile products, pastry materials to jewelry items, toys can be found in this area.

Although the New Mosque is the most striking historical monument in the vicinity with its grandeur and location, a jewel is hidden in the side streets. I would say do not leave this region without seeing the small but very precious Rüstem Pasha Mosque, which is decorated with the most beautiful examples of Iznik Tiles.

Eat Fish and Bread in Eminönü

Eat Fish and Bread in Eminönü

One of the most famous activities of Eminönü, which is one of the most important tourist attractions of Istanbul and visited by millions of tourists every year, is eating fish and bread. Follow the delicious grill smell coming from the fishing boats and taste the fresh fish. In addition to this, you can buy pickle juice from mobile pickles and drink it, and taste sweet or sweet bites at mobile lokma shops.

Take Photo from Galata Tower

Take Photo from Galata Tower

Climbing the Galata Tower and taking photos and seeing Istanbul from a 360-degree angle still maintains its unwavering place among the most beautiful things to do in Istanbul.

Galata Tower, which gives you the chance to see the seven hills of the Historic Peninsula, also gives you a bird's-eye view of the Beyoğlu district and the Bosphorus. If you go up to the tower at a time when the sun is not too strong, you can take wonderful photos.

Also known as Kuledibi, the square has become lively with the wonderful cafes opened in recent years. Spending time around the Galata Tower and exploring the side streets are among the must-do things in Istanbul.

Go to the Historical Turkish Bath

Go to the Historical Turkish Bath

As tourism started to take off in Istanbul in the early 2000s, dozens of hotels were opened and historical baths were restored.

The most beautiful Turkish Bath, which has been overhauled and brought to tourism in recent years, stands out as the Haseki Hürrem Sultan Bath, which is adjacent to Hagia Sophia. This bath, which is adjacent to Sultanahmet Park, was built by Mimar Sinan in the 16th century.

Apart from this, Çemberlitaş, Cağaloğlu, Süleymaniye, Kılıç Ali Paşa and Galatasaray Turkish Baths are among the historical baths of Istanbul.

Visiting the historical Turkish bath is among the fun things to do in Istanbul for foreign tourists. If you are a little interested in history and architecture, you can try to enjoy this traditional atmosphere.

Explore Istiklal Street

Explore Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is a place where people of all ages meet and spend time with each other. Although the environmental arrangements made in the last few years have been the subject of great debate, Istiklal Street still remains a point of attraction.

When you explore Istiklal Street, you have to leave the main road and enter the passages. It is possible to see priceless historical artifacts at points that do not attract attention at first glance. It should be reminded that this street was called Cadde-i Kebir by the Turks and Grand Rue de Pera by the foreigners during the Ottoman period.

This region, which became colorful in the last century of the Ottoman Empire (19th century), still reflects the deep traces of the cosmopolitan life of that period. The best place to see this is the facades of the buildings in Istiklal. When you look carefully, you will realize that many different architectural styles are mixed together and create a unique harmony.

Eat Kokorec, Mussels and Chestnuts on Istiklal Street

Eat Kokorec, Mussels and Chestnuts on Istiklal Street

While you're on Istiklal Street, don't leave without eating mussels and kokorec, some of the most famous street delicacies. Moreover, "Midyeci Ahmet", Turkey's most famous mussel seller, also provides service on Istiklal Street. Of course, finding a place is not easy. Because, especially on weekends, long queues can form at the door. Alternatively, I can say that many street vendors are waiting for you along the street. You can find delicacies such as mussels, kokoreç, corn and chestnuts in Istiklal until late at night.

Visit Byzantine Period Buildings

Visit Byzantine Period Buildings

The first Romans set foot in Istanbul dates back to the reign of Septimus Severus, who reigned in 195 BC. In 330 AD, Emperor Constantine declared Istanbul the second capital of Rome. After the division of the Roman Empire, Constantinople (the old name of Istanbul) remained the capital of Eastern Rome (Byzantine in modern history) until 1453.

There are important historical artifacts surviving in the city, which has risen with Roman architecture for more than 1000 years. Although most of the Byzantine monuments were destroyed during the Latin Invasion in 1204, it is still possible to observe very important historical structures such as Hagia Sophia Mosque, Kariye Mosque, Fethiye Mosque, Zeyrek Mosque.

In ancient districts of Istanbul such as Sultanahmet, Fener-Balat, Vefa-Zeyrek, it is possible to visit Byzantine buildings and take wonderful photos.

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Take a Boat Trip to the Princes' Islands

Take a Boat Trip to the Princes' Islands

Among the things to do in Istanbul on the weekend, taking a trip to the Islands by ferry comes first. You can go to the Islands and cheer up the streets like thousands of people do on the weekend.

The most popular of the islands are Büyükada, Burgazada and Heybeliada.

If you go to Büyükada, you can rent a bicycle and enjoy pedaling in the historical streets. It is also customary to go to the Aya Yorgi (St. George) church at the highest point of the island.

Burgazada is famous for the Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum. There is a mysterious atmosphere in the museum house to hear the inner voice of the famous author. Burgazada also draws attention with its calmness and cafes.

If you go to Heybeliada, you can go to Heybeliada Seminary, located in the forest on the top of the island, and follow the traces of the past.

Taking the Bosphorus tour, which we mentioned at the beginning of the article, and going on the Islands tour, which we have mentioned now, are among the top fun activities to do in Istanbul.

Discover Istanbul's Mosques

Discover Istanbul's Mosques

We can say that the imperial mosques in Istanbul were divided into two architecturally. The first is "Classical Period Architecture" directed by Mimar Sinan, and the second is "Modern Period Architecture" signed by the Balyan Family.

In Istanbul's Historic Peninsula, we see mostly classical architectural works. For example, mosques such as the Blue Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Şehzade Mosque and Fatih Mosque reflect the classical period when the Ottoman Empire was at its peak.

On the other hand, starting from the 18th century, the Ottomans were inspired by the architectural trends in the world and started to use the elements of Modern Architecture. We can trace the traces of this architecture in the mosques lined up along the Bosphorus, such as the Nusretiye Mosque, Ortaköy Mosque, Dolmabahçe Mosque, and Beylerbeyi Mosque.

Of course, the two architectures do not have an advantage over the other. Both carry the traces of a culture that has prevailed in Istanbul for 500 years. While Classical Architecture prefers plain and voluminous structures that are far from ostentatious, Modern Architecture attaches great importance to glamorous decoration and ornamental arts.

Exploring the mosques of Istanbul, examining their architectural styles and taking pictures of the centuries-old tiles in them are among the activities to be done in Istanbul.

Eat Kumpir in Ortakoy

Eat Kumpir in Ortakoy

Almost everyone living in Istanbul knows that Ortaköy is famous for its "Kumpir". You will not have a hard time finding a place, as there are 2-3 bakers per square meter in Ortaköy, whose reputation for baked goods exceeds the limits. As a matter of fact, almost all of the venues in Ortaköy are quite assertive in displaying their skills on kumpir.

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