Top Things to Do Istanbul

Top Things to Do and See in Istanbul: From Bazaars to Mosques

Istanbul, the city that sits on the border between Asia and Europe, is a place that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the bustling Grand Bazaar to the iconic Blue Mosque and the breathtaking Bosphorus Strait, there are so many things to do and see in this fascinating city.

If you love shopping, then the Grand Bazaar is a must-visit destination with over 4,000 shops to explore. The Blue Mosque, one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks, is a marvel of architecture with its 6 minarets and stunning blue tiles. The Hagia Sophia, once a church and then a mosque, is a breathtaking piece of history that has been transformed into a museum.

A cruise on the Bosphorus offers a unique perspective of the city, allowing you to see famous landmarks like the Maiden's Tower and Dolmabahçe Palace. And of course, no trip to Istanbul is complete without indulging in the delicious Turkish cuisine. Don't leave without trying the baklava, simit, and Turkish delight.

The Topkapi Palace, once the residence of Ottoman Sultans, now houses relics and artifacts from Ottoman history, including jewelry, manuscripts, and weapons. Take a walking tour of the old city of Istanbul to discover hidden gems and explore the narrow, colorful streets that are full of surprises.

Experience a Turkish bath, relax and rejuvenate in a hammam, or watch a mesmerizing Whirling Dervish ceremony, a Sufi Muslim tradition that celebrates spiritual enlightenment.

Visit the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is undoubtedly one of the must-visit places in Istanbul. As one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, it offers a unique shopping experience like no other. With over 4,000 shops selling different kinds of goods, it is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of Istanbul. You can find everything from Turkish rugs and ceramics to spices and jewelry. But the Grand Bazaar is more than just a shopping destination. It's a bustling hub of activity where you can see local artisans at work and interact with friendly shopkeepers. Don't forget to try some Turkish tea while you're there and haggle to get the best prices. The Grand Bazaar is truly a shopper's paradise that should not be missed during your trip to Istanbul.

Explore the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is one of the most famous attractions in Istanbul. It was built in the early 17th century and features a unique blend of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture. The mosque is famous for its six minarets, which were considered a symbol of wealth and power at the time of its construction. It's called the Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles that cover the walls, domes, and arches of the interior. It's a perfect place to visit for anyone who appreciates beautiful architecture and history. Make sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering the mosque.

Admire the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul. Built in 537 AD as an Orthodox church, it was later converted into a mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. Today, it serves as a museum and is a symbol of Istanbul's multicultural history. Its stunning architecture features a blend of Byzantine and Islamic influences, with a massive dome, intricate mosaics, and towering minarets. The Hagia Sophia is a must-see when visiting Istanbul for its historical and architectural significance, and for the unique experience of seeing the two religions' symbols and designs intertwined in a single building. Don't forget to arrive early to avoid crowds and admire its beauty in peace.

Take a Cruise on the Bosphorus

If you want a unique view of Istanbul, taking a cruise on the Bosphorus should be at the top of your list. The Bosphorus is a narrow strait that separates Europe and Asia, and cruises along its waters offer stunning views of both continents. You'll get to see famous landmarks like the Maiden's Tower and the Dolmabahçe Palace while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze.

There are several options for Bosphorus cruises, ranging from short tours to full-day excursions. You can choose between public boats or private yachts, depending on your budget and preferences. Some cruises even include a meal or live entertainment, making for a truly memorable experience.

If you're interested in learning more about the history and culture of Istanbul, you can opt for a guided tour that offers informative commentary throughout the cruise. Alternatively, you can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.

Indulge in Turkish Cuisine

When in Istanbul, one of the must-have experiences is indulging in the local cuisine. Turkey's unique blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors make for a mouthwatering culinary adventure. There are countless places to explore and try traditional dishes, but make sure not to leave Istanbul without trying baklava, a sweet pastry filled with pistachios or walnuts and soaked in honey syrup. Simit, a ring-shaped bread covered in sesame seeds, is a staple street food in Istanbul and a perfect snack while exploring the city. And of course, Turkish delight, a sugary confection flavored with rosewater, pistachios, and other flavors, is a must-try dessert. Istanbul's culinary scene is sure to satisfy even the most discerning foodies and leave lasting memories of flavor and culture.

Visit the Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace, located in the heart of Istanbul, was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years. The palace is now a museum that showcases the opulent lifestyle of the Ottoman era. Visitors can explore the courtyards, gardens, and rooms that were once occupied by the sultans and their family members. The museum houses an impressive collection of Ottoman relics, including jewelry, weapons, and manuscripts. Be sure not to miss the famous Topkapi Dagger and the Spoonmaker's Diamond. The palace also offers stunning views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. A visit to Istanbul is not complete without a trip to the Topkapi Palace.

Get lost in the Streets of the Old City

If you want to truly experience Istanbul, there's no better way than getting lost in the streets of the old city. The narrow cobblestone streets and colorful buildings are a photographer's dream, and each corner holds a new surprise. Take a walking tour with a local guide to discover the hidden gems of Istanbul, like the boutique shops, quaint cafes, and art galleries tucked away down secret alleys. You'll also get to see some of the city's most historic landmarks, like the ancient city walls and the Hippodrome. Don't forget to try some traditional Turkish street food along the way, like the famous simit pastry or savory börek. Getting lost in the streets of Istanbul is an adventure you won't forget.

Experience a Turkish Bath

If you're looking for a unique experience in Istanbul, a visit to a Turkish bath is a must. Also known as a hammam, these traditional bathing houses have been a part of Turkish culture for centuries. The ritual typically involves a series of steps, starting with a warm room to prepare the body for the steam room. Here, you'll be given a special cloth to cover your body while you sweat out toxins. After that, a masseuse will use soap and water to scrub your skin, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

There are many hammams to choose from in Istanbul, ranging from historic buildings to modern day spas. Some popular options include the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, which dates back to the 16th century, and the Cagaloglu Hamam, which has hosted famous figures such as Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale. No matter which hammam you choose, you're sure to leave feeling relaxed and refreshed.


Watch a Whirling Dervish Ceremony

If you're looking for a unique and mesmerizing experience in Istanbul, be sure to watch a Whirling Dervish Ceremony. The whirling dervishes are a group of Sufi Muslims who perform a ceremonial dance that represents the journey of the soul towards spiritual enlightenment. The dance is known as the Sama and is performed in a circular motion with the participants wearing traditional clothing, including long skirts and cone-shaped hats.

The Sama is a spiritual practice that originated in the 13th century and is still practiced today. The dance is accompanied by traditional Turkish music and chanting, creating a serene atmosphere that will leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed. You can watch a Whirling Dervish Ceremony at various venues in Istanbul, including the Galata Mevlevihanesi and the Hodjapasha Cultural Center.

Attending a Whirling Dervish Ceremony is a great way to learn more about Turkish culture and spirituality. It's an unforgettable experience that you won't want to miss during your time in Istanbul.