Cherish Your Vaycay with 22 Best Things to Do in Istanbul

things to do in Istanbul
Engin Yapici

If you haven’t been to Istanbul on your turkey trip, then you have missed it all. Istanbul stands among the world’s great metropolises as there are many things to do in Istanbul.

After being conquested by the Ottoman empire Istanbul got its glorious place as the empire’s heart. But Istanbul was officially renamed after the turkey was established with its illustrious history. Istanbul being a tourist attraction offers awe-struck visitors.

Istanbul offers the big four the Hagia Sophia Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar which are must-exploring places. You can pay a visit to the popular and moat-visited places of or near Sultanahmet’s old city district. As there are so many eye-catching things to do throughout the city.

Explore Istanbul’s main attractions and things to do in Istanbul, turkey.

1. Hagia Sophia Mosque

It is the most marvelous and dazzled church because of the eye-catching beauty it possesses. Almost 1000 years when Byzantine Emperor Justinian entered the church and yelled “God bless you for judging me worthy of such a task. I have outdone you, Solomon!” The Hagia Sophia Church is also known as Aya Sofya in Turkish. And the emperor made the bold declaration of the empire with great wealth and technological prowess in the world.

things to do in Istanbul
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As strongly stated by the king himself the church surrounding the throne is considered to be the world center. The Hagia Sophia is the most photogenic and beloved landmark in turkey. It got converted to a mosque after the Ottoman empire conquered but it was again converted to a museum at the end of 2020 it is now finally a museum.

2. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi palace is another magnificent palace built in the 15th century by Mehmet the conqueror where Ottomans first ruled.

It is an Islamic art offering vast and complex art with affluent enclosures banded by complex hand-painted tilework. And with a maze of lavish rooms with boundaries of walls ad towers. Apart from this, there are so many things to do in Istanbul.

Moving onto another popular attraction is the Harem complex where the sultan lived with their mistresses and children. And the second court offers you so many rooms, kitchens, and the lavish interiors of the council chamber. And the third court has all the sultan’s private rooms in the palace.

But the interesting thing is the third court has the imperial treasury. And also offers a vast collection of Prophet Muhammad antiques in the safe-kept sacred room.

3. Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmet I’s gifted this breathtaking architectural gift to the capital. You know why this magnificent mosque is blue because of its splendid blue color.

This one of its kind mosque was built between 1609-1616, but it caused a lot of disturbance among the Muslims. Because it has six minarets same as the Great Mosque of Mecca later Mecca added a seventh minaret to pacify.

It was originally known as Sultan Ahmed mosque and the interior is decorated with many Iznik tiles. And this color effect in the overall space of the mosque offers excellent ottoman architecture.

Have a visit to the beautiful gardens between the two big Blue Mosques and Hagia Sophia to get the marvelous views. And with the glory to visit Istanbul. Join the evening prayer to mesmerize with the godly feels around.

things to do in Istanbul
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You can go to a local nearby located Arasta Bazaar where you can buy local handicrafts with high-quality designs. No mood for shopping then shops in the Great Palace Mosaic Museum between the Arasta bazaar and the mosque.

The tiny museum has it all which shows a 250-square-meter mosaic pavement made in the 50s. Mosaic tile design was discovered and entailed excellent information panels.

4. Basilica Cistern

Istanbul has Basilica Cistern as the most unexpected and most-visited tourist attraction and one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Byzantine emperors used to technique to store the water in a palace-like underground place with 336 columns and 12 rows and supplying water.

It was started construction by Constantine the Great but Emperor Justinian took the completion process into his hands and completed it in the sixth century.

For the construction of Basilica Cistern many columns used were used and repurposed from classic structures and had decorative carvings. Medusa stones are used for building columns with Medusa head carvings. And the northwest corners are incredibly lit, and steady waves around you and the best place to visit.

5. Hippodrome

Hippodrome was built by Septimius Severus in CE 203, then it was completed by Constantine the Great in CE 330. It hosted many chariot races, marvelous games, fictional conflicts, and dramas so were considered the epicenter of Byzantine public life.

It is counted as the best things to do in Istanbul, because of the stones, and gallery walls. A Meydan you can catch many glimpses of several monuments. You will find a fountain on the northwest side built in 1898 by the Ottoman Sultan with German Emperor William II.

If you will head toward the southwest you will notice three ancient antiques:

  • a 20-meter-high Egyptian obelisk.
  • Constantine’s Serpent Column 
  • a stone obelisk.

6. Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Istanbul archaeology museum is just a walk away from Topkapi palace. It offers a plethora of artifacts describing turkey, middle east showing the region’s rich history.

You should visit all three sections of the museum. This museum of ancient orient houses offers a collection of pre-Islamic art and antiques to insight into the heritage.

things to do in Istanbul
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The archaeology museum has a variety of statuary and tombs. And it is also well-known for the sarcophaguses founded during the Ottoman empire and architect Osman Hamdi Bey in Sidon, Lebanon. Istanbul is shown through the exhibit rooms which helps to get a vast history of the best things to do in Istanbul.

It was built by Mehmet the Conqueror, the tiled pavilion has housed varied ceramic art and pavilion and is considered the museum’s third structure.

7. Grand Bazaar

After enjoying some fun things to do in Istanbul now it’s time for shopping and that’s too at Grand Bazaar! It is just exciting as other museums and historic sites.

Grand Bazaar is a massive market and exactly the world’s first shopping mall. Because it occupies an entire city place covered with thick walls between the Nuruosmanye and Beyazt Mosques. And this Bezayt mosque covers the site of Theodosius I’s Forum and is similar to that of Hagia Sophia’s architecture.

things to do in Istanbul
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You have varied options of 11 gates to enter the Grand Bazaar. The Burned Column is located near the bazaar’s Divanyolu Caddesi entrance. It has a labyrinth of vaulted-ceiling lanes studded with stalls.

It has every Turkish souvenir and handicrafts to get as a memory of a visit. And the best thing is The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Topkapi Palace is all within a walking distance of the Grand Bazaar.

You would see different trades spread out at the stalls with specific sections. Constantine the Great built this porphyry column of a 40 metre high stump in his forum. Because of his continued participation in so many monument constructions housed a bronze statue of Constantine until 1105.

8. Suleyman Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque is now where you should pay a visit to Istanbul’s well-known landmarks and among the best things to do in Istanbul. It is situated on the hill above Sultanahmet district and has honed the badge of the beautiful mosque.

It was honored for Tukey’s popular Ottoman-era monuments. And was gifted by the famed Ottoman architect to Sultan Süleyman I. And if you look at the interiors of the Süleymaniye Mosque, the 53-meter-high dome has so many proportions and designs to notice.

And the garden area is the most serene place of the Ottoman-era cemetery with the tombs of Sultan Süleyman and his wife, Haseki Hürrem Sultan. Visit süleymaniye mosque when you visit Istanbul, turkey.

9. Spice Bazaar

To all the foodies and spice fanatics the spice bazaar is where you can taste the famous lokum( the special Turkish delight) and some dried fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. And the interesting fact you get now is it is made by taxes lifted by the Ottoman rule of Egyptian goods and named (Msr arşs) which means “Egyptian Market.”

Spice Bazaar is the best things to do in Istanbul and the most popular attraction among tourists. But find yourself lucky if you don’t get to a crowded place or the large hoards of people would be stepping on you. It is among the most popular spice markets worldwide so, enjoy the strong fragrances of spices.

things to do in Istanbul
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You can visit the spice market from the main entrance of Yeni Cami ( New Mosque) inaugurated in 1663.

10. Dolmabahçe Palace

Next, we move on to the lavish and larger-than-life Dolmabahçe palace built by the Ottoman empire in the 19th century, and a lot of European influence can be seen through the architecture. Sultan Abdülmecid I replace Topkapi palace with it for Sultan’s primary residence.

Dolmabahçe palace was used as a residence for officials during the establishment time of the Turkish Republic, and later Atatürk died in 1938.

Flower beds emanate beauty and fountains, and ornamental basins create a scenic view. Masterclass architectural rococo, baroque, neoclassical, gigantic crystal chandeliers, and the Turkish empire had great use of gold, French style furnishings, and frescoed ceilings creating resonant style to sheer magnificently built Dolmabahçe palace.

11. Chora Church

You know Chora means “country” in Greek is the adorable Church of St. Saviour of Chora. It is located on the outskirts of the city walls of old Constantinople. Counted among one the best museums and one of the places must things to do in Istanbul Turkey.

The brilliant Church had gone through many refurbishments from the 11th to 14th Centuries. Chora Church was built in the fifth century, and the current standing marvel is the sixth reconstruction after being destroyed in the ninth century.

things to do in Istanbul
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The Church was transfigured into a mosque before becoming a lovely museum in 1945, followed by the Turkish empire’s conquest of Constantinople. The Church was re-opened and again to a mosque in 2020.

It is well-known for its vibrant mosaics used in the 14th century, but it turned into a museum in 1945. Along with narthexes and frescoes with walls and domes.

12. Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

Coming down to another museum placed in the Ibrahim Paşa, he was the Grand Vizier to Sultan Süleyman. It will take you to Ottoman and Islamic art.

You will cherish the carpet collection presented and be honored with the best in the world of textiles.

things to do in Istanbul
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It is an elucidating place for carpet lovers and a must-visit thing to do in Istanbul. Embark on the journey to explore the world of carpets.

You will look up to ceramics, calligraphy, and wood carving dating from the 9th century CE to the 19th century.

13. Little Aya Sofya

So a little story here is when Justinian wanted to build Hagia Sophia but he made a miniature first and named it little aya Sofya.

It was originally known as The Church of Sergius and Bacchus, but the similarities with the Aya Sofya led to its nickname becoming its official name.

It was also among the conversions, but it continued to be the mosque. Its interior glimpses at the lavish setups and beautiful buildings of Istanbul and you shouldn’t miss it.

Get a walk to narrow alleyways along the Ottoman monuments, and some dilapidated central Sultanahmet.

Relaxing here with a cup of tea in the gardens of Little Aya Sofya helps to recharge batteries for adventures.

14. Rustem Pasa Mosque

Counting onto the beautiful Rüstem Paşa Mosque has beauty of its own or the collection of Iznik tiles.

Blue mosque has already grabbed the eyeballs, but the gorgeously hand-painted intricate designs in blue, red, green hues and cover the interiors and exteriors.

Because of being less populated, you can admire it from close up without any stampede! It’s a picture-perfect mosque with lined-up stalls with all the hustle-bustle near the spice bazaar.

15. Yedikule Fortress

Yedikule because it is a castle with seven towers the fortress is built in the 5th century under Emperor Theodosius II and formed the southern section of Constantinople’s defensive walls.

Going further the blocked era is Porta Aurea with gold-plated doors. And the conquested by the Ottomans used it as a defensive structure for prison and executions. It is restored to the top of the battlements for spectacular views of the Marmara sea.

16. Galata Tower

It is situated on the Galata bridge and Istanbul’s attraction center. In the 14th century, the Genoese built this tower similar to the Golden Horn.

It has the best panoramic views of the whole city and is considered a vantage point from which to view Old Istanbul.

It is standing 52 m high for a long time and was Istanbul’s tallest building. It can be damaged due to extreme weather and restored multiplayer. Walk around the neighbors like Taksim square, Galata tower, tunnel square, and Dervish Lodge in the bustling markets.

things to do in Istanbul
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The observation deck and the top restaurant are one of the best things to do in Istanbul, offering the best skyline of old Istanbul. However, be aware that it is a prevalent sight, so arrive early or prepare to queue. However, be aware that it is a prevalent sight, so arrive early or prepare to queue.

17. Bosphorus Strait

Your Istanbul trip is incomplete without a trip on the Bosphorus cruise, the famous waterway that connects the Black sea to the Marmara sea.

You will get the best views of Istanbul from the water in the Bosphorus excursion ferries and relax with your family. The ferry starts from Eminönü ferry dock and travels through the village and fortress of Anadolu Kava into the Black Sea.

It includes all the inclusive places of defensive fortresses, Ottoman palaces, and the Bosphorous bridges. The long Bosphorus is a total of 2 hours stops in Anadolu Kavağı for three hours and set the full day to explore the city.

From spring to fall, Short Bosphorus Tour offers daily afternoon sailings. And this return ferry cruise heads up the Bosphorus before turning around.

18. Turkish Delights

Around the galata tower tour you will find so many Turkish delghtts and their very own Turkish tea and Turkish coffee while people gazing. However, Turkish Delight can be purchased anywhere in Istanbul.

things to do in Istanbul
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Because Istanbul is famous for its delicious Turkish food and sweets, you can have more things to do in Istanbul.

19. Whirling Dervish

As earlier discussed in the Galata Tower you will get it all, cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants, and enjoy special Turkish shows like belly dancing and whirling dervishes. Nothing is more exciting than watching talented Belly Dancers and Whirling Dervish performances in Istanbul

And the 1001 Turkish Nights Performance will amaze you. You will enjoy the music, a Fasil orchestra with a glass of wine, gin, vodka, and Raki, and counted among the best things to do in Istanbul.

The Istanbul City Pass allows you to visit 30 different attractions, including a whirling dervish show in Hodjapasha Hamam.

20. Istanbul Modern

Now, this Istanbul modern gallery has a collection of Turkish classic art with a seasonal calendar of exhibitions. It hosts local artists from different countries annually, hence making the Istanbul site just not only for historical sightseeing.

Being in one the best places to have a glimpse of Turkey’s contemporary art scene. But, in addition to the famous galleries, Istanbul Modern has a theater and a library.

The solid foundation for the art museum is being built in Karaköy. And, galleries are non-permanently housed in a historic building.

21. Istiklal Street

Istiklal street is a heated-up street with a lot of hustle-bustle in the city. It’s a 1.4-kilometer of stretch crossing cinemas, boutiques, cafes, and clubs. Looking for most things to do in Istanbul this is one of them!

things to do in Istanbul
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Try Turkish delight treats or medications. If you don’t want to walk, you can take the historic tram to Taksim Square.

22. Fatih Mosque

The 15th-century mosque was shattered by natural calamity and was replaced by another monument with domes and minarets. Don’t you think it is a must-visit historical thing to do in Istanbul?

It is also a popular pilgrimage site because it is the first of Istanbul’s grand mosques to be built.


Istanbul is a well-known cultural capital of monotheistic religious communities, with different histories and architectural domes and minarets. You will find a lot of legendary buildings by ancient rulers along with warm places and a lively atmosphere

Istanbul, turkey is one of its kind city which has it all for its visitors. Along with simple, modern living is also supported by many things to do in Istanbul. You can also stay in the many accommodations without creating holes in your pocket.

I hope this article will help you enjoy some best things to do in Istanbul, Turkey!

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