City of Two Continents - 27 Things to Do in Istanbul

Located in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a melting pot with a rich history stretching back to the times of Turkish Ottoman and Byzantine Empire. Its skyline is a mix of old minarets and modern skyscrapers, dotted with the seagulls of Bosphorus.  

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If you plan to visit Istanbul, we have arranged the list below for you. Discover the most interesting places to visit and things to do in Istanbul! 

1. Hagia Sophia

Originally built as the principal church of Eastern Orthodoxy some 1,500 years ago, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque after the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453. This architectural wonder still stands today, where you can see the images of Christian saints and Islamic calligraphy side by side.    


2. Topkapi Palace Museum

The palace compound was the main residence of Ottoman sultans as well as their administrative center for 400 years. Today, it's open to public as museum where visitors can walk through the interiors and find precious collections from the time of Ottoman Empire. 

3. The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)

Only 2 minutes walk from the Hippodrome of Constantinople, this imperial mosque from 17th century has cascading domes and 6 soaring minarets with architectural style resembling that of Hagia Sophia. Visitors call it the Blue Mosque due to the blue colored tiles dominating its majestic interior.  

4. Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is located within the walled city in Fatih district. Stroll around this historic market from 15th century and explore some 4,000 shops selling carpets, textiles, lanterns, ceramics, metalware, tea, spices, scents, and Turkish delicacies.  

5. Basilica Cistern

Istanbul's underground is dotted with hundreds of old cisterns to store water. Basilica Cistern is the largest one, constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. This beautiful cistern located not far from Hagia Sophia is supported by 336 marble pillars in ancient Greek style.   


6. Dolmabahçe Palace

As the Ottoman Empire began a rapid westernization in the 19th century, a new palace in Western style was built for the royal family on the European coast of Bosphorus strait. Unlike the Topkapi, Dolmabahçe Palace incorporates elements of Baroque, Neoclassical, and Beaux-Arts style. 


7. Bosphorus Cruise

Rent a private boat or hop into a public ferry for a cruise along the Bosphorus strait all the way to the last harbor before the Black Sea, and watch the seagulls fly over the skyline of Istanbul. In quieter days, you can even spot a group of dolphins swimming freely on the strait!

8. Ortaköy

The historic neighborhood was once a cosmopolitan area with high number of Greek, Armenian and Jewish population. Today, the area is a tourist trap with lots of café, pubs, and restaurants facing the Bosphorus Bridge. The beautiful Ortaköy Mosque from 19th century can be seen from the pier. 

9. Emirgan Park

Located in Sariyer district, this public park was named after a 17th century Persian commander. Emirgan Park is known mostly for its Tulip Festival every April, where you can see thousands of tulip flowers bloom in the park. Little trivia: the word tulip is derived from Turkish word 'turban'.

10. Cağaloğlu Hamam

Do you love to be pampered in the spa? Try an authentic Turkish bath experience in this historic hamam from 18th century. Enjoy the rubbing and bubble massage session, relax yourself in hot room, and sip traditional Turkish tea. Cağaloğlu Hamam is open for both men and women.

11. Istiklal Street

This busy pedestrian street located in Beyoğlu district is filled with 19th and early 20th century buildings, reflecting a changing era of Turkish society. Find chic restaurants, boutique stores, and bookshops along the street or hop into the historical tram for an exciting ride.  

12. Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Discover valuable artifacts from ancient Greek, Roman, other civilizations around the world in this fine museum. Located in Fatih district, this is the first museum in Turkey established by Sultan Abdulaziz in the 19th century. Its notable collections include Alexander Sarcophagus and a panel from Ishtar Gate.  


13. Miniaturk

Walk through some 135 historical structures in this unique miniature park. Miniaturk is a popular destinations featuring models of landmarks in 1:25 scale from all of Turkey and Ottoman territories, including the famed Hagia Sophia, Temple of Artemis, and Mostar Bridge.  

14. Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

Situated inside the Gülhane Park, this museum displays various inventions and instruments created by Muslim scholars during the Golden Age of Islam from 9th to 16th century. Most of them are new replica, including water clock, astrolabe, celestial sphere, water pump, and siege weapons. 

15. Istinye Park Mall

Shop and relax at this luxury mall with impressive architecture in Sariyer district. Istinye Park Mall is filled with famous international brands, as well as quality local products. You can also find a green open-air park inside the mall.  

16. Suleymaniye Mosque

This historic mosque complex was the largest worship house in Turkey for more than 400 years. Its construction was commissioned by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, surrounded by facilities such as hospital, hamam, public kitchen, and madrassa. The sultan and his wife is also buried in this complex. 


17. Şehzade Mosque

Şehzade means "Prince". This 16th century mosque was established under the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent for his son, Prince Mehmed who died in a young age. This is an early work example of Mimar Sinan, the imperial architect who also designed Suleymaniye Mosque. 

18. Hagia Irene

This sister church of Hagia Sophia is located inside the complex of Topkapi Palace museum, preserving Byzantine architecture from 1,500 years ago. After the Conquest of Constantinople, Hagia Irene was used by Ottoman military as an arsenal. Today, it's open to public as museum and concert hall. 


19. Jewish Museum of Turkey

Located in the neighborhood of Karaköy, the museum displays centuries of history and traditions of Turkish Jews since at least 500 years ago, when a group of Sephardim refugee arrived in the Ottoman Empire after fleeing from persecution in Spain. 

20Çamlıca Tower

Soaring at the height of 369 meters (1,211 feet), Çamlıca Tower is currently the tallest structure in Istanbul. This futuristic telecommunication tower is equipped with two observation decks on 33th and 34th floors, restaurants, and elevator with panoramic view of the city. 

21. Ataturk Cultural Center

An icon of Istanbul and modern Turkish art, Ataturk Cultural Center (AKM) has been restored and now reopen with new spirit. The building with its striking glass facades is situated in the prestigious Taksim Square, featuring theatre, concert hall, restaurant, library, and art gallery.

22. The Museum of Innocence

If you have read The Museum of Innocence, an award-winning novel by Nobel-laureate writer Orhan Pamuk, then you must visit this amazing place. This little museum displays more than 1,000 ordinary objects connected directly to the story in the novel, from cigarette butts to salt shaker.   

23. Spice Bazaar

Locally known as Mısır Çarşısı (Egyptian Bazaar), this is one of the largest bazaars in Istanbul after the Grand Bazaar. Spice Bazaar is, as its name suggests, a spice trading center attached to New Mosque complex. Almost 100 shops selling goods from spices and sweets to dried fruits and jewelries. 

24. Bağdat Avenue

If the European side of Istanbul has Istiklal Street, then the Asian side has Bağdat Avenue. This elegant street is situated in an upper-class area, filled with department stores and boutique shops selling international brands. You could say the whole street is an open-air shopping mall.

25. Galata Mevlevi Museum

Watch the famed whirling dance in this historic lodge in Beyoğlu district. Galata Mevlevi Museum is the first lodge in Istanbul dedicated to Mevlevi Order, a spiritual community based on the teaching of Rumi. The museum also displays exhibits around the culture and life of sufi practitioners in the past.  

26. Sapphire Observation Deck

Istanbul Sapphire is among the tallest skyscrapers adorning Istanbul at the height of 231 meters (758 feet). Located in the business district of Levent, its upper floor is equipped with observation deck. Enjoy 360-degree panorama of Istanbul from up here, and try their SkyRide 4D helicopter simulation.

27. Çamlıca Mosque

Opened to public in March 2019, this is currently the largest mosque in Turkey. Located in Üsküdar district in the Asian side of the city, Çamlıca Mosque is designed by two female architects, Hayriye Gül Totu and Bahar Mızrak with enormous minarets, domes, a library, and conference hall. 

Additionally, you will find Istanbul a paradise for stray cats and dogs. In every corner of the city, you can see stray cats and dogs roaming the sidewalks and parks safely. Istanbul citizens love to take care of them, providing food and water in many spots.  

If you know other interesting places to visit and things to do in Istanbul, don't hesitate to tell us in the comment section.

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We hope you enjoy your vacation in Istanbul.

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