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Things to do in Istanbul

Things to do in  Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul

Once known as Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul's position on the Silk Road has made it an economical, historical and cultural center, serving as an imperial capital multiple times for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. With both Asian and European sides to the city, there's a lot to explore. The old walled neighborhood of Sultanahmet is home to some of the most recognizable sights, such as the Hagia Sophia, with its dazzling mosaics and the enormous dome that has covered this space since the sixth century, when it was a Roman basilica. You'll also want to experience Topkapi Palace—containing lavish interiors and many Christian and Islamic relics—as well as the Blue Mosque and the giant underground Basilica Cistern. City views of the river suggest the next step: A Bosphorous cruise, navigating along the vast expanse of water that unites two continents, provides a wonderful way to see the banks of the Golden Horn. To delve into the local culture, as well as for help with haggling, visitors can take a private tour of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, containing some of the richest smells in the world. For longer visits, tours from Istanbul can take visitors far and wide to the remarkable rocky landscapes of Cappadocia, the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Ephesus, and even to the WWI sites of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Top 10 attractions in Istanbul

#1
Bosphorus

Bosphorus

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The Bosphorus Strait defines Istanbul. It is the divide between Europe and Asia, and the main connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Dotted with parks and elaborate Ottoman mansions, including Dolmabahce Palace, and spanned by three intercontinental bridges, the Bosphorus is the veritable heart of the city.More
#2
Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

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Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) is the ultimate covered market. Its 5,000+ vendors hawk carpets, beaded bracelets, gold and silver jewelry, multicolored lanterns, leather goods, ceramics, belly-dancing outfits, and more. With goods available at all price points, you’re sure to find the perfect souvenir in the bazaar’s labyrinthine alleys.More
#3
Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

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Rising high above its namesake neighborhood, Istanbul’s Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) dates back to the Genoese presence in Constantinople in the 14th century. An elevator takes you up to a viewing platform located under the roof, which offers panoramic views of the Old City peninsula and Beyoglu neighborhood.More
#4
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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Explore the grandeur of Ottoman architecture at the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), located on Istanbul’s Old City peninsula. Opened in 1616 to rival the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) across the way, the six minarets punctuating the Istanbul skyline and 20,000 blue Iznik tiles decorating its interior are designed to inspire awe.More
#5
Taksim Square (Taksim Meydani)

Taksim Square (Taksim Meydani)

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Taksim Square (Taksim Meydani), Istanbul’s main modern hub, is located at the end of the pedestrian thoroughfare Istiklal Avenue (Istiklal Caddesi). A popular meeting place, Taksim Square is anchored by the Monument of the Republic and buzzes with activity day and night. The area historically hosts public celebrations, parades, and demonstrations.More
#6
Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

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Built in an opulent European style, Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) was the home of the Ottoman sultans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the fall of the empire. The giant crystal chandeliers, marble staircases, and lush carpets that adorn the interior reflect the shift toward Istanbul’s more European way of thinking.More
#7
Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi)

Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi)

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Located on an islet in the Bosphorus Strait, just offshore from Istanbul’s Uskudar neighborhood, Maiden’s Tower (Kiz Kulesi) is a historical site that has inspired myths and legends. The Ottomans expanded and rebuilt the structure, and today it contains a restaurant and bar with views of the city.More
#8
Bursa

Bursa

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The city of Bursa is an excellent place to learn about Ottoman history. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed municipality was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and contains numerous historic sites. Located in the foothills of Mount Uludag, Bursa is also known for its lush scenery and thermal hot springs.More
#9
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

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Built in 532 as the world’s largest place of worship, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) shifts its identity with the times but never loses its grandeur. Converted from a church to a mosque during the Ottoman era and becoming a museum in 1935, the pink-hued Old City building is one of Istanbul’s don’t-miss attractions.More
#10
Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

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Built in the 17th century, the covered Spice Bazaar is Istanbul’s fragrant hub for all things flavorful. Piles of pepper, saffron, teas, and dried apricots nestle alongside shops selling colorful Turkish delight, silk scarves, and glass mosaic lamps. Take time to chat with vendors, sip tea, and haggle for the perfect price.More

Trip ideas

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top activities in Istanbul

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

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Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

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Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha

Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha

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Recent reviews from experiences in Istanbul

star-5
A lot of fun
Artemisia_T, Jan 2022
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
It’s a good way to see touristic spots in Istanbul if you want to avoid getting lost and ask questions.
star-5
Istanbul in one day
Molly_G, Jan 2022
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Istanbul Tour
There is so much to see and do and Oz was very knowledgeable and highlighted the best places to see in 1 day.
star-5
A Day Well Spent!
Renae_P, Dec 2021
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
This tour is a great way to see and learn about many of the highlights of Istanbul.
star-5
Amazing tour of the main...
Shirls, Dec 2021
Istanbul Ottoman Tour: Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque
Amazing tour of the main attractions in Istanbul.
star-5
Breathtaking Istanbul Views!!
Mark_C, Nov 2021
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
My husband and I went on this cruise to get to see Istanbul in a different way and it more than exceeded our expectations.
star-5
A must do
Mathis_S, Nov 2021
Taste of Two Continents Food Tour
This tour was so much fun and in addition to tasting countless amazing foods in 10 different restaurants, you get to see a lot of Istanbul that you might not otherwise have seen.
star-5
A must-do for the Old City
Rebecca_L, Nov 2021
Full Day Historical Walking Tour of Istanbul Old City from Hagia Sophia
Great, comprehensive tour, would definitely recommend to see the old city and get an insight into Istanbul’s past and present, fascinating to discover the stories behind the hidden elements you wouldn’t even know to look for!
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Highlights of Old Instanbul historical sites
Robert_H, Oct 2021
Istanbul Sightseeing Walking Tour
His English is excellent and he was able to keep us on schedule.
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This cruise was one of my favourite Istanbul activities.
Esther_B, Jul 2021
Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht Istanbul Bosphorus (Small-Group)
This cruise was one of my favourite Istanbul activities.
star-5
Wonderful tour
Maria_M, Sep 2021
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
Highly recommend this tour if you want to see the beauty of Istanbul.
star-5
Awesome cruise
Zoila_M, Sep 2021
Bosphorus tour İstanbul 3 Hours Tour With 1 Hour Stop in Asia Side for Shopping
You get to see Istanbul's splendor from the Bosphorus canal.
star-5
Fun day
Andrew_J, Sep 2021
Full Day Istanbul Old City & Bosphorus Cruise Tour incl Lunch & Tickets
This is a fun day trip to see the main sights of Istanbul.
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Istanbul at a glance one stop!
WasifZaman, Nov 2021
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
Its a efficient way to see and get an idea of most of the important things that happened in Istanbul and rich Turkish history.
star-5
Incredible experience cruising the Bosphorus on a beautiful yacht.
Sonia, Sep 2021
Bosphorus Cruise on Yacht with Stopover on Asian Side (Morning or Afternoon)
Highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for a fun and unique way to see Istanbul.
star-5
Great experience, totally worth it.
Corina_C, Sep 2021
Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace Half Day Tour
Erol is an amazing guide, very knowledgeable and with very good English skills.
star-5
BEST 7 Hours with a private guide exploring the Old City
Laura_C, Jan 2022
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Istanbul Tour
He gave us wonderful recommendations of city attractions for us to confidently fill our trip for the next few days.
star-5
Exceptional Service
nsababu, Jan 2022
Private Pick-up&Drop-Off Airport Transfer in Istanbul with Mercedes-Benz VITO
Although my driver did not speak much English, he still was pleasant and he worked so hard to get me safely to my hotel.
star-5
Well worth it!
Elina_E, Jan 2022
Cappadocia Dream - 2 Days Cappadocia Travel with Balloon Ride from/to Istanbul
Other than that the tour was extremely well organized; everyone showed up on time and all my questions were promptly and clearly answered, the program to see many different places of interest was well balanced; overnight stay at a good hotel, not in town though, but perfect for a taste of a cave-style room; lunches and breakfast included in the tour were excellent.
star-5
All the Must Sees in one day!
Kimberly_T, Dec 2021
Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace
It was under renovation due to a recent earthquake so there was really not that much to see but the beautiful ceiling.
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Best Experience in Istanbul
Christine_C, Nov 2021
Historic Off the Beaten Path Tour of the Real Istanbul
It was amazing to see the city through the eyes of an Istanbulite.

All about Istanbul

When to visit

Spring is a beautiful time to explore Istanbul, when dolphin sightings are possible along the Bosphorus and the International Tulip Festival casts a wave of color through the city’s parks. To avoid the crowds, visit in fall when the cruise ships have left and the humidity drops—travelers on a budget will appreciate the post-summer drop in prices, too.

Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
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