What to Do and See in Istanbul

A unique fusion of ancient history, contemporary culture, and breath taking architecture can be found in Istanbul, a bustling and historical city in Turkey. Istanbul has always been a significant centre of trade and culture due to its advantageous location at the nexus of Europe and Asia.

The Hagia Sophia, a former mosque and basilica that is now a museum, is one of Istanbul’s main tourist destinations. The structure features stunning architecture and has made a significant contribution to both Christian and Islamic history.

Its eye-catching blue tiles and magnificent domes distinguish the Blue Mosque, another must-see sight in Istanbul. Although the mosque is still a functioning house of worship, during specific times of the day guests are welcome to wander the grounds.

The Grand Bazaar, one of the biggest and oldest covered markets in the world, is another attraction open to tourists. Thousands of stores selling anything from spices and textiles to jewellery and antiques may be found at the bazaar.

The Basilica Cistern, the Bosphorus Strait, and the Topkapi Palace are some of Istanbul’s additional top sights. Istanbul is a must-visit location for tourists looking for an outstanding experience because of its rich history, distinctive culture, and breath taking architecture. In this article, we will give you our suggestions on what you should do and see when you visit Istanbul.

  1. Visit the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is a well-known museum with a long and interesting history that is situated in Istanbul, Turkey. The edifice was initially built as a Christian basilica in the sixth century. It was transformed into a mosque in the 15th century and remained thus until 1935, when it was converted into a museum.

The structure itself is a work of architecture, with a sizable dome and beautiful mosaics and frescoes that demonstrate the artisanship and ability of those who built it. Hagia Sophia is known for its magnificent gold mosaics, which portray biblical characters and scenes, and its enormous central dome, which is one of the largest in the world.

Despite its historical significance for religion, Hagia Sophia is now a secular museum that welcomes guests from all racial and religious backgrounds. Visitors may explore all the building’s outstanding design, intriguing history, and breath taking interior beauty.

  1. Hop on Hop off Bus Tours in Istanbul

Popular ways to experience Istanbul’s numerous sights and attractions include hop-on, hop-off bus trips. Visitors can board and exit the bus at any point along the route, making these tours a handy and adaptable way to experience the city.

Seeing many things in a short amount of time is one of the advantages of a hop-on hop-off bus tour. The majority of trips visit Istanbul’s well-known locales, including the Old City’s rich history, the coastline along the Bosphorus, and Taksim Square.

The educational commentary that the educated tour guides deliver is another benefit of these excursions. Visitors who are unfamiliar with the city and want to learn about its history, culture, and architecture may find this to be of particular use.

Hop-on hop-off bus tours are a simple and economical way to experience Istanbul’s many attractions and landmarks because of their numerous bus routes and frequent departures throughout the day. These tours are a fantastic way to see the finest of this exciting and interesting city, whether you are a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor.

  1. Visit the Blue Mosque

One of Istanbul’s most recognizable sights is the Blue Mosque, sometimes referred to as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It is a must-see location for anybody visiting Istanbul because of its magnificent blue tilework, elaborate ornamentation, and substantial size.

The Blue Mosque, which was constructed in the early 17th century under Sultan Ahmed I, is regarded as a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. It has a sizable central dome, six imposing minarets, and a wide courtyard with a fountain.

The Blue Mosque’s beautiful tilework, calligraphy, and floral patterns may be seen on its walls and ceilings, which are open to visitors. The numerous windows allow natural light to enter the space, illuminating it and fostering a tranquil mood.

Visitors must dress modestly and take off their shoes before visiting the Blue Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most significant religious monuments. In order to avoid interfering with the local Muslims’ daily prayers, it is likewise advised to visit outside of prayer times.

  1. Visit the Grand Bazaar

One of the biggest and oldest covered markets in the world is the Grand Bazaar, or Kapalçars in Turkish. This enormous maze of more than 4,000 stores and booths lies in the centre of Istanbul’s old quarter and is a shoppers’ dream.

The Grand Bazaar, which has a history reaching back to the 15th century, is a treasure mine of Turkish and Islamic culture, selling everything from spices, leather items, and souvenirs to traditional apparel, handcrafted jewellery, and pottery.

When visiting the Grand Bazaar, visitors should be prepared to haggle with the vendors, who are frequently amiable and open to negotiating prices. While taking in the vibrant sights and sounds of this bustling market, it is also a perfect spot to enjoy traditional Turkish sweets, snacks, and coffee.

The Grand Bazaar, despite its size and popularity, can be intimidating, therefore it’s advised to take your time and explore the various aisles of the market. Bring many cash, an adventurous spirit, and be prepared to get lost in the maze of streets and lanes!

  1. Take a Bosphorus Cruise

A cruise on the Bosphorus should be included in every trip to Istanbul. A voyage over the length of the Bosphorus Strait, the small canal dividing Europe and Asia, gives breath taking views of Istanbul’s cityscape and its numerous historic buildings.

Visitors can view the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque, among other well-known sites, from the deck of a boat. Additionally, the Bosphorus is dotted with lovely mansions from the Ottoman era and quaint fishing communities, providing a window into Istanbul’s rich history and culture.

The majority of Bosphorus Cruises’ departure points are around the city’s shoreline, and they provide a variety of alternatives, including 1-hour tours and lengthier, multi-hour excursions. Additionally, some cruises include meals or entertainment, such as performances of traditional Turkish music and dance.

The views from the Bosphorus are genuinely memorable, regardless of the sort of boat, you select, and it is an experience you shouldn’t miss when visiting Istanbul.

  1. Visit the Topkapi Palace

For everyone travelling to Istanbul, a must-see attraction is the Topkapi Palace. It is a huge complex of buildings and courtyards that was once at the centre of the Ottoman Empire and served as the Ottoman sultans’ primary palace for more than four centuries.

The Imperial Gate, the Harem, the Treasury, and the Sacred Relics Chamber, which contains the Prophet Mohammed’s sword and other significant religious artefacts, are just a few of the palace’s magnificent examples of Ottoman architecture.

Guests can explore the numerous courtyards, gardens, and structures that make up Topkapi Palace. The Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn can be seen from the palace’s terraces, and the beautiful tilework and detailed embellishments can be found all across the complex.

One of Istanbul’s most visited sights; Topkapi Palace may get very crowded during the busiest travel months. It is a good idea to get tickets in advance to skip the lineups, or think about going during a slower time of day.

  1. Go Watch one of Istanbul’s Football Teams

Watching one of Istanbul’s football teams in action is a fantastic way to experience the city’s love of the game and fully immerse yourself in local culture if you are a football fan.

The three top football clubs in Istanbul are Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas. Matches between the two teams are always fierce and thrilling since each side has a devoted fan base.

Intense supporters of the opposing teams fill the stadiums with a sea of noise and colour, producing an electrifying atmosphere. Even if you are not a die-hard football fan, you will not soon forget an experience.

On the day of the game, fans can purchase tickets online or at the stadium. It is crucial to remember that matches might be rescheduled last-minutely, particularly if there are safety issues or bad weather.

An unforgettable experience that shouldn’t be missed is watching a football game in Istanbul. It is also a terrific way to meet locals who are also passionate about the game and become immersed in the local culture.

  1. Visit the Basilica Cistern

In the center of Istanbul, there is a remarkable underground water reservoir called the Basilica Cistern, also called the Yerebatan Cistern. The Roman Emperor Justinian I to supply water to the city’s palaces and structures constructed it in the sixth century AD.

With a capacity of 80,000 cubic meters and 336 columns supporting its vaulted roof, the cistern is a spectacular engineering achievement. Visitors can admire the elaborate carvings and decorative elements as they wander around the underground rooms and pathways.

The two Medusa heads that are situated at the bases of two columns are one of the Basilica Cistern’s most stunning features. The heads are thought to have been transported from a temple of paganism and used as ornaments in the cistern.

A glimpse into Istanbul’s rich history and architectural heritage may be had by visiting the Basilica Cistern, which is a singular and fascinating experience. The Basilica Cistern is a fascinating sight that is well worth a visit, whether you are a history enthusiast or just searching for something new to see.

  1. Visit the Spice Bazaar

One of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest and oldest bazaars is the Spice Bazaar, commonly referred to as the Egyptian Bazaar. It is one of the city’s main tourist attractions and is situated in the Eminönü neighborhood. Since it was constructed in the 17th century, the bazaar has been a well-liked location for trading spices and plants. In addition to Turkish sweets and souvenirs, visitors can buy a large selection of spices, herbs, teas, and other gourmet items.

The Spice Bazaar is a vivacious, eye-catching location that provides a sensory experience unlike any other. The perfume of herbs and spices permeates the air, and the busy crowds create a lively environment. A number of stores offering Turkish fabrics, ceramics, and other handicrafts are also located within the bazaar. The same families have run many of these establishments for many generations, and the goods they sell are a reflection of Istanbul’s rich culture and history.

Prepare to negotiate over pricing and try some of the regional specialties, such Turkish delight and baklava, when visiting the Spice Bazaar. Except on Sundays and other holidays, the bazaar is open every day. It is advised that tourists arrive early in the morning.

  1. Festivals in Istanbul

Istanbul, the captivating city that straddles Europe and Asia, has an extensive calendar of festivals that honor its rich cultural past and thriving modern culture.

The Istanbul International Film Festival, which presents a variety of local and foreign cinema, is one of the most important cultural occasions in Istanbul. It gives a forum for exploring and appreciating cinema and gathers movie fans, filmmakers, and actors from all over the world.

For fans of music, the Istanbul Music Festival is a blissful pleasure. It is presented by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and includes concerts of classical music by renowned orchestras, soloists, and ensembles in revered settings like the Hagia Irene and Topkapi Palace.

Every two years, the Istanbul Biennial, a major international art exhibition, displays contemporary art in a variety of media, including installations and multimedia presentations. It turns the city into an art gallery and draws visitors from all over the world who are interested in art.

The Istanbul Tulip Festival, which takes place in April, displays the city’s parks and gardens decked out in colorful tulips to give visitors an insight of Turkish customs. Horticultural beauty and cultural legacy are combined in one floral spectacular.

Istanbul’s energetic street life is punctuated throughout the year by festivals honouring everything from gastronomy to jazz music, ensuring that locals and tourists can both feel the city’s vivid energy.

Istanbul is a year-round cultural destination where the old and new collide in a magnificent mix of experiences thanks to its festivals, which represent both its historical importance and its modern energy.