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Whether you're a first-time visitor or you're planning another unforgettable trip to this iconic city, this guide is here to highlight the sights and delights that you mustn't miss in Istanbul!

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Thrill Seeker
  • Nature Lover
  • Trendsetter

10 Places

18 City Tips

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10 Places

Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)

Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites, History Museums

Topkapi Palace

History Museums

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

Flea & Street Markets

Sultanahmet District

Historic Walking Areas, Neighbourhoods

Blue Mosque

Sacred & Religious Sites

Sehir Hatlari Cruise

Boat Tours

Adalar Islands

Islands

Taksim Square

Neighbourhoods

Basilica Cistern

Ancient Ruins, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites

Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul City Walls)

Ancient Ruins

Maddie S's City Tips

  • Bus/Tram: İETT city buses accept tokens and Istanbulkart, while private buses (green and white) take TL. Buses reach most anywhere in the city and typically cost 1.50TL or less.
  • "Istanbulkart": buy this if you intend to use a lot of public transit. Cheaper than tokens, and easily bought/refilled at city kiosks, it can be used on buses, trains, and ferries!
  • Taxis: easy to hail, but take one called by a hotel concierge if possible. Drivers are a bit reckless and seat-belts are rare. Make sure to ask for a price quote ahead of time!
  • Tram: easy connection to most great stops in Old City, as well as Taksim square. Connections also available to most metro lines- though be aware that there's no ticket transfer.
  • Walking: a fantastic way to get around! Just be sure to take a map (not everyone will speak English), sturdy shoes (some roads are cobbled), and a jacket - the weather fluctuates.
  • Metro: great for transferring to trams, especially heading into the old city center. Buy a one-way token at a "Jetonmatic" machine by inserting money and pressing "onay."
  • Ramadan: During this holiday, it's polite not to order alcohol until sundown, and many establishments may not serve it. You may need ear plugs; drummers signal the sunrise at 5am.
  • Entering a Mosque: it is customary to wash hands and remove shoes. Women must wear headscarves. If you do not have one, the mosque will have a selection for you.
  • Price listings: in general, you can haggle anywhere, even in some restaurants. However, never try to pay far under asking- this is considered rude, and the deal will be off.
  • Water: some restaurants will not have the price of drinks (water especially) on the menu. Ask for the price before ordering, or they will charge exorbitant amounts at the end.
  • Ferry: great for seeing the Bosphorus, and an easy way to travel between the European and Asian sides of the city. Also used to access The Princes' Islands.
  • Restaurant musicians: some establishments have performers who will play at your table. This is, however, a paid service. Tell them "no thank you" if you don't want to tip 5TL.
  • Street scams: a common scam is for someone to invite you out to a club or eatery, especially in Taksim. They often pretend to be tourists. Don't go; they will hustle you.
  • Hamam: at the Turkish bath it is common to tip about 10% of your group's bill. Do this when your attendants come to see you off and say goodbye.
  • Fresh fish: unless you're going for a quick & easy fish sandwich on the water in Old City, Samatya square is much better priced for seafood than anything on the Bosphorus.
  • Tipping: taxi service is not tipped. At restaurants, anywhere between 5-10% is acceptable, but make sure to bring cash! Credit card payments do not have the option of adding tip.
  • Eating Out: if you're budget conscious but want traditional Turkish food, try a "büfe." This small store carries every kind of Turkish food you could desire, at half the price!
  • Hotels: it is customary to tip baggage carriers and maid service 5TL for services. But feel free to go up to 10TL or more, if the experience is exceptional!
  • Save
    Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
    Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites, History Museums
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Converted from a church to a mosque, and now a breathtaking museum tiled in gold, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) was built in 537AD and remains not only a tribute to human imagination, but an impressive feat of art, engineering, and architecture. This location is for the history enthusiast, the art enthusiast, and qualifies as a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Eat/drink before arrival. There is a food stand/café outside, but it is largely overpriced.
    • The entry fee gives you access to both floors. The second floor is home to many of its breathtaking mosaics.
    • As of 2014, please be aware that some sections are under construction. The scaffolding may detract from some first floor views. However, it's important to preserving this treasure!
    • The Emperor Alexander mosaic can be a bit tricky to find, if it's your first time. It's on the 2nd floor, southwest of the north gallery, on a corner opposite the other mosaics.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Beautiful 22/08/2017
    • Amazing 21/08/2017
    • Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
    Address:
    Ayasofya Square, Sultanahmet
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 522 1750
    Other:
  • Save
    Topkapi Palace
    History Museums
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    A short walk from the Hagia Sophia, this Palace-turned-museum houses fantastic ancient relics, waterfront views, and, in the warmer months, beautiful gardens. A great spot to enjoy the view at a café while soaking in more culture and history.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Tickets for general admission can be bought in advance and sometimes at a discount if you order online and print from the hotel.
    • Konyali Lokantasi is the on-site restaurant. It has a terrace with views, and delicious food; however, it is a bit expensive. If you go at lunch, the buffet is a good deal.
    • Tickets for touring the harem are purchased separately. Take a guided tour to avoid the wait to enter, and to get the lowdown on the stunning maze of rooms inside.
    • Opening hours are 9am-6pm (April 15th-Novemeber 1st), and 9am-4:45pm (November 1st-April 14th).
    • Ticket sales stop 45 mins before the palace closing time.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Lovely 22/08/2017
    • Amazing place 22/08/2017
    • Topkapi Palace
    Address:
    Cankurtaran Mahallesi, Topkapi Palace Museum, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
    Gulhane Park, near Sultanahmet Square
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 522 44 22
    Other:
  • Save
    Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
    Flea & Street Markets
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Not far from Topkapi Palace (about fifteen minutes by public transport), the Grand Bazaar in the Old City is a place to get your adventurer's blood flowing. After learning the history of some of the city's greatest landmarks, experience the culture via the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest marketplaces. Located on the Silk Road of yore, it's good for anyone who is ready for shopping, eating, and interacting with the locals!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Haggling is standard fare at the Bazaar! Ask for prices on items you like, but don't be afraid to argue them down a little. Items will never have price stickers on them.
    • Food: locals enjoy food on the outskirts and further-flung courtyards of the Bazaar. Try visiting the Cebeci Han, get kofte and dolma at Burc Ocakbasi, or kebab at Aynen Dürüm.
    • Safety: the Bazaar is relatively safe, but pickpocketing does happen. Just be aware of your wallet/purse at all times, and do not keep cards, metro tokens, or jewelry in pockets.
    • Pricing: because the Bazaar has become a hotspot for visitors, taking a short walk to the shops and stalls just outside of it will yield lower prices for the bargain hunter.
    • Must-buys: some items to consider from the Bazaar are: Turkish coffee sets, Turkish Delight, Chalcedony, Tea, and of course, rugs! Wander first; many stalls sell similar wares.
    • "What country are you from?" is a common question. Feel free not to answer, as often the price you are quoted will be based on the seller's impression of your nation's wealth!
    • Coffee: Sark Kahvesi café is very famous for its coffee and atmosphere. Grab a cuppa and play some backgammon while you're there!
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #32 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A must see place in Istanbul 22/08/2017
    • Souvenir shops mainly lamps and carpets 21/08/2017
    • Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
    Address:
    Beyazit Gate
    Istanbul 34126
    Turkey
    Phone:
    21-+90-534-631-01
    Other:
  • Save
    Sultanahmet District
    Historic Walking Areas, Neighbourhoods
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Sultanahmet District is a great place to relax and unwind after so much walking. Take a rest stop at one of the many cafés for a Turkish coffee and a game of chess, or be more luxuriant and get all of the day's dust and ware off at one of the many Turkish Baths in the area - the neighborhood is famous for its Hamams! This is the perfect spot to unwind and rejuvenate while enjoying the metropolitan atmosphere.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • While many Hamams in this area cater to tourists, they are suggested for a first timer to understand the process, and also for the special care taken to cleanliness as a result.
    • Bus(ted)! Trams and buses marked for "Topkapı" in this area will not take you to the Palace, but to another neighborhood entirely. Board these only to see the 'canon gate.'
    • Sultanahmet is home to the Mosaic, Archeology, Turkish and Islamic Art Museums. While the Great Palace of Mosaics is the cheapest, MoA has historical artifacts not to be missed!
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Spiritual place 21/08/2017
    • Sultanahmet 20/08/2017
    • Sultanahmet District
    Address:
    Sultanahmet
    Istanbul 34012
    Turkey
  • Save
    Blue Mosque
    Sacred & Religious Sites
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Located in Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) is an architectural marvel still in use for services today. Known for the cobalt blue tiles that line its interior, this spot is a world-famous destination due to its sprawling courtyard, magnificent mosaics, and vast minarets. Enter via the old Hippodrome.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Guides: The Blue Mosque does not have any official 'guides', though walking tours are common. Do not accept help from anyone who claims to be a guide; this is a pricey scam.
    • Free entry: as it is a place of worship, there is no charge for entry.
    • Bring a bag: remember, you will have to remove your shoes to enter, so it's best to bring your own shopping bag along for easy carrying once inside.
    • Times: The Blue Mosque is open daily for tourists between the hours of 8:30am-12pm and 1:45pm-4:30pm.
    • Photos: it is respectful not to take photos of worshippers during prayer times.
    • Toilets: the nearest bathrooms will cost you 1TL per person to use. Go ahead of time.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Spiritual experience 22/08/2017
    • Blue is not so blue 21/08/2017
    • Blue Mosque
    Address:
    Sultanahmet
    Sultanahmet Mah
    Istanbul 34122
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 518 13 19
    Hours:
    Fri
    13:30 - 15:30
    Sat - Thu
    08:30 - 11:30
    13:00 - 14:30
    15:30 - 16:45
    Other:
  • Save
    Sehir Hatlari Cruise
    Boat Tours
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    A Bosphorus cruise is a great way to see both the European side and the Asian side of Istanbul, as well as some of the sights, including the river itself, the coastal architecture, and the famous suspension bridges connecting the two continents. Sehir Hatlari, the public ferry, offers a particularly affordable way to take in the city, but there are also private tour options, ranging in price and inclusive offers.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Rain or Shine? It can sometimes be best to go when it's cloudy out, or raining lightly. It doesn't obstruct the views, but it does cut down on the crowds.
    • The ferry offers an informative headphone guide as an option.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #11 of 76 Boat Tours & Water Sports in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Long Bosphorus Cruise 16/07/2017
    • Affordable 06/07/2017
    • Sehir Hatlari Cruise
    Address:
    Evliya Celebi Cad. No:1 - 4
    Kasımpaşa , Beyoğlu
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 313 80 00
    Other:
  • Save
    Adalar Islands
    Islands
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Widely known as Princes Islands, Adalar Islands is a great place to end your day, grab dinner, or even retire to your archipelago-bound hotel. The main island, Büyükada, is made up of charming architecture and sandy beach fronts. Take one of many horse-drawn carriages, hike up the island, or go for a swim. No cars are allowed on the islands, so it is incredibly tranquil.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    • Foodie
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Beach Goer
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    Tips
    • Horse around: taxi service is a horse and carriage here. Some phaeton drivers also offer tours; this is a relaxing way to see the island, which can otherwise involve a steep walk.
    • Biking: there are numerous rental shops at your disposal (most of them open late). Rentals are priced well, but shops may keep your ID as collateral until the bike is returned.
    • Ottoman Mansions: the island is dotted with amazing homes dating far into the past. A long walk is suggested to explore the many side streets and sprawling homes in the area.
    • Agia Yorgi: taking the arduous climb to this peak yields the best view on the island. And don't worry about the strain; refresh yourself with wine and sausage at the peak's café!
    • Beaches: be aware that most beaches on the island do charge a fee for usage. These fees are usually between 10-40TL per person.
    Plan to stay:/
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #75 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • One ticket - several islands 12/08/2017
    • Great tour of Heybeliada and Büyukada! 29/07/2017
    • Adalar Islands
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    09:00 - 00:00
  • Save
    Taksim Square
    Neighbourhoods
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Taksim Square is perfect for any nightlife enthusiast. Restaurants stay open late, and the area is resplendent with nightclubs, dance halls, and bars. It is also easily accessible by metro and bus.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Trendsetter
    • Like a Local
    • Thrill Seeker
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • Culture: for a little bit of culture, check out the Independence Monument at the center of Taksim Square, and head over to nearby Gezi Park for a quiet moment.
    • Ramadan: if you travel during this holiday, make sure to check out Taksim during Iftar! The city streets, and the square, become strewn with families having outdoor picnics.
    • Whirling Dervishes: this is a good place to buy tickets to see the Dervishes perform, as the Galata Mevlevihanesi is famous for them. Tickets are sold on the street.
    • Gezi Parkı: note that parts of the park are currently under construction. As this is controversial, there are occasionally protests in the area.
    • Food: prices range here, from fast food to the very high-end. It's a great place to stock up on spices, try some fresh fruit, or buy an assortment of sweets for a snack later.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #66 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    • Amazing crowded place 21/08/2017
    • Not much to do 21/08/2017
    • Taksim Square
    Address:
    Gumussuyu Mh.
    Beyoglu
    Istanbul 34437
    Turkey
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    00:00 - 23:59
  • Save
    Basilica Cistern
    Ancient Ruins, Architectural Buildings, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Located near to the Blue Mosque, the ancient hallway of the Basilica Cistern is hauntingly lit. Roman columns have been keeping the underground cistern spacious and beautiful since 532 AD. Soak in the history, and do it in style; you are able to take photos in old Ottoman dress once inside.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Audio Guide: it's jam packed with useful, colourful, and interesting information and easier than craning your neck around crowds to read the wall plaques.
    • By night: the lines can be out the door during the afternoon hours, so it's best to visit the Basilica nearer to its closing hour, at 6:30pm or else very early in the morning.
    • Medusa's Head: giant, and one of the most interesting artifacts in the Basilica... just be sure not to look directly into her eyes!
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Wow 22/08/2017
    • Full of columns and a few statue heads 21/08/2017
    • Basilica Cistern
    Address:
    Alemdar Mahallesi, Yerebatan Caddesi, No:1/3
    Istanbul 34410
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 512 15 70
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    09:00 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul City Walls)
    Ancient Ruins
    See more photos
    Maddie S Says:

    Free to wander, the walls of Constantinople were built by Constantine the Great, and span across land and sea. Much of the impressive structure still stands, and its expanse can be enjoyed along the coast, making it a picturesque and historic walk.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Where to begin: starting at Chora Church means you begin with a wonderful view, and are only a short walk from the Valens Aqueduct.
    • Under Construction: be aware that not all of the wall is still intact. As of 2014, parts of it are currently under restoration to preserve the historic construction.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #95 of 1,073 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • BEWARE - Packs of Rabid DOGS on isolated parts of the wall! 16/07/2017
    • Amazing Walk to Chora and Yedikule Fortress 31/05/2017
    • Walls of Constantinople (Istanbul City Walls)
    Other:
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