Are you looking for the top best things to do in Istanbul? Find out the must-dos and unique experiences you’ll never forget on our guide with insider advice, tips, and easily book Istanbul tours.
1. Explore and admire Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, also known as the Church of the Holy Wisdom or the Church of the Divine Wisdom, is an ancient Byzantine church in Istanbul and one of the world’s great greatest architectural works, as well as accepted as the 8th wonder of the world.
Being converted into a mosque by Fatih Sultan Mehmet after Istanbul’s conquest in 1453, it was than converted to a museum in 1935 and finally in 2020 it was declared as a mosque. The magnificent architecture and stunning mosaics inside make it a must-visit spot.
Insider Advice: Kickstart your Istanbul adventure with the Istanbul E-Pass or Istanbul Tourist Pass. These passes provide free access to around 70+ top attractions, tours and essential local services in the city with around 70% savings.
2. See Topkapi Palace, one of world’s richest museums
Topkapi Palace is one of the most visited sights in Istanbul, as well as the richest museums in the world. The palace is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Turkish history and culture, offering a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. Topkapi Palace was the home of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. The palace is now a museum that displays Ottoman artifacts, including weapons, ceramics, and textiles.
Among them is one of the world’s largest diamonds, the most precious Islamic relics, a map with the earliest portrayal of America, high-quality Chinese porcelain, rare Islamic gilded miniatures, and calligraphy examples from numerous Muslim Asian empires. The artifacts are a sight to behold.
3. Enjoy Bosphorus with Bosphorus Cruises
The Bosphorus Cruise is one of the most famous, distinctive, and amazing types of entertainment available during your trip to Istanbul. It is also one of the greatest ways to experience and appreciate the city’s most gorgeous views and sensations from the water.
Public ferries, boat tours, sunset cruises, lunch or luxury romantic dinners on luxury yachts. The best way to experience Istanbul by sea.
Don’t Miss: Camlica Tower
Camlica Tower is one of the best places to experience Istanbul like never before from its very famous and spectacular vantage point. This new iconic tower will provide you a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of the city that will definitely surprise you.
Situated on one of the picturesque hilltops of the Istanbul, the Camlica Tower stands as a true architectural masterpiece, exciting culture, history, and contemporary design. Soaring to a remarkable height of 369 meters, it is considered to be the tallest structure in Turkey, and it provides an unrivaled vantage point from which to admire the breathtaking panoramic views of Istanbul and Bosphorus.
You are able to have a wonderful dining experience here with a range of optional delights – choose from breakfast, lunch, or dinner to complement your experience.
Tour Booking Advice
While the tower is situated along Uskudar, on the Asian side of the city, uphill along Uskudar, you are able to find excursions with private hotel transfers in air-conditioned luxury.
4. Have mystical evening out with Whirling Dervishes Show
The Whirling Dervishes Show will take you to another realm! It can be considered as one of the most mystical ceremonies in the world. During the performance, you will get supernatural sensations.
It is, without a doubt, one of Istanbul’s must-see sights. It is a spectacular religious event said to bring dervishes closer to God. This Mevlevi spiritual ceremony will leave you feeling calm and wonderful! The best way to experience Istanbul’s entertainment by night.
5. Take a walk along the famous Istiklal Street
Istiklal, a street that stretches for about 1,400 meters between Tunel and Taksim Square in Beyoglu district, is without a doubt the most famous street of Istanbul and even Turkey. A must-visit places in Istanbul especially for first-time visitors.
Istiklal Street has a lively and lively structure for 24 hours and is home to many activity areas from cafes to bars, shops to boutiques, restaurants to buffets, movie theaters to nightclubs. There are a number of historical buildings worth seeing such as Salt Beyoglu, Borusan Culture and Art Center, Atlas Passage, Aznavur and Aleppo passages, Terkos Passage, St. Antonine Church, Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, and Flower Passage.
6. Admire the impressive Sultanahmet Blue Mosque
The Sultanahmet Blue Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Istanbul that was built with the order of Sultan Ahmed I at the beginning of the 17th century during the Ottoman period. The mosque is a unique structure that has brought a new perspective to mosque culture which showcases one of the most successful examples of Turkish-Islamic architecture.
The mosque’s interior walls are adorned with hand-painted blue tiles, and at night, the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes.
7. Enjoy panoramic views on top Galata Tower
The Galata Tower is undoubtedly one of the most famous monuments in Istanbul, providing the most spectacular views of the whole city. It offers stunning views over the entire Istanbul peninsula and its surrounds and is located at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
It is also one of Istanbul’s most prominent attractions, overlooking Galata and Karakoy from its perch. Its brilliant lights can be seen from all across the city at night.
8. Admire the unique Basilica Cistern
A city as old as Istanbul has many layers of history, and the Basilica Cistern, the greatest of the underground cisterns, is located under the surface. The cistern is located between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The atmospheric reservoir was built in the sixth century for the Byzantine emperor Justinian and is reinforced by 336 columns, many of which have been reused from other ruins throughout the years.
The Medusa-head column bases and the carp that swim silently in the poorly lighted waters are popular subjects for photographers. The best time for you to visit is anytime the queue appears to be short, particularly on a hot summer day—it is always cooler beneath.
9. Admire the Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Istanbul Archaeology Museums is considered to be among the top 10 historical museums in the world. The museums consists of three main museums that include; the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Pavilion. And so general name is called “museums”.
You can see different historical artifacts from many parts of the world, as well as royal sarcophagi discovered near Sidon, Lebanon. Important artifacts belonging to the from the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia are exhibited in the Museum of the Ancient Orient. Tiles collected from various regions of Anatolia are exhibited in the Tiled Kiosk.
10. Experience the legendary Maiden’s Tower
A tower situated between two continents, Asia and Europe, a tower with many stories to tell, many things that entice visitors to learn more about this magnificent structure. The Maiden’s Tower is probably one of the most world-renowned and historical sights of Istanbul. A must-see place for travelers coming to Istanbul.
During the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, the island was used for surveillance and base purposes, as well as various towers were built. The building, which was used by the military to control maritime traffic during the Republican period, has undergone various renovations. Today, it serves as a restaurant and museum for its visitors upon its restoration process. Various events are also held at the tower.
11. Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace is one of the most spectacular palaces in Besiktas, located on the shores of the Bosphorus. The palace’s interior reflects the grandeur of the era and is created in the style of opulent European palaces. The entire palace structure is breathtaking. Over 50,000 artifacts are housed in the palace’s hundreds of chambers. And it was also home to six sultans and their families.
Dolmabahce Palace is the largest palace in Turkey, with 285 rooms, 6 hammams, 46 halls, and 68 restrooms spread across 45.000 m2. The palace’s interior and external design includes elements of the Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Ottoman architectural styles. It was built by Sultan Abdülmecit and continued until 1856, and since 1984 it serves as a museum.
12. Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi)
The Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi) is one of the world’s largest and most seasoned covered marketplaces, with 61 covered roadways and over 4,000 stores on a total area of 30,700 m2. The covered bazaar attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors every day.
With 91,250,000 annual visitors, it was also ranked first and widely regarded as one of the world’s most important shopping destinations. You are able to find carpets, rugs, souvenirs, spices, jewelry and many other products. Traditional Turkish attire is also available.
13. See all of Turkey in a couple of hours at Miniaturk
Enjoy a fun family tour that allows you to explore all of Turkey’s most renowned sights in one trip. Miniaturk’s 650,000 sq ft garden grounds are packed with over 100 amazingly designed 1:25 size structures.
The two Turkish landmarks are the Blue Mosque and Ataturk International Airport, replete with terminals, runways, and taxiing Turkish Airlines passenger planes. The park is located on the northeastern shore of Golden Horn, about 20 minutes north of Istanbul.
14. Have a spicy day out at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar is a top tourist attraction, covered market and one of the most important shopping stops in Istanbul where you can find various products such as souvenirs, jewelry or spices in a historical building.
Established in 1664, the Spice Bazaar still exists as a reflection of the commercial understanding of the Ottoman Empire. In the past, this place used to be a huge shopping center where products from all over the world meet with buyers. Later on, it took its current name due to the sale of products brought from Egypt.
15. Enter the cockpit of a plane at the Rahmi M Koç Museum
This one-of-a-kind museum on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterfront houses a massive collection of historical Turkish exhibits related to transportation, industry, and communications.
There are historic automobiles, trains, vintage airplanes, and even a submarine. There is also a planetarium on-site. Kids may attempt scientific experiments in the interactive museum or explore the cockpit of a Bellanca jet for a fascinating, hands-on experience. The Rahmi M Koç Museum costs roughly 21 lira to enter, with extra prices for the submarine and planetarium.
16. Ride the rollercoaster at Vialand
Families visiting Istanbul may experience exhilarating rides on the Nefeskesen rollercoaster, which can reach speeds of 110 km/h in 3 seconds.
This is one of the rides available in Vialand, Turkey’s first and largest amusement park. Its expansive grounds are packed with activities for people of all ages. Go on a splashing swift river excursion on the ilgin Nehir rafting experience, with rafts seating up to 9 people.
17. Experience marine life at Sea Life Aquarium
It is the world’s fifth-biggest aquarium, including beautiful sea animals, the largest shark collection in Europe, the Digital Aquarium, the Turtle Hospital, and thematic zones.
18. Tourist Bus Tour of the City
A fantastic day out activity aboard an open-topped double-decker tourist bus. The upper deck of the city sightseeing bus provides a superb vantage point for the city’s stunning panoramic vistas and allows you to take photographs.
19. Enjoy a Turkish Coffee at the Pierre Loti Hill & Café
Located in the Eyup district of Istanbul, Pierre Loti Hill and its Cafe is a famous hilltop that offers an enchanting view of the city. One of the best places to enjoy a panoramic views of Istanbul. The hill is named after the famous French writer and adventurer Pierre Loti, who fell in love with Istanbul and often visited the hill to enjoy the view.
Pierre Loti Hill offers stunning panoramic views of Istanbul and the Golden Horn. The entire Golden Horn can be seen clearly from the hill. You can explore the hilltop park and enjoy a cup of traditional Turkish tea or Turkish coffee. The café features a large terrace with comfortable seating areas that provide the perfect spot to sit back, relax, and take in the breathtaking views.
So, if you are just in Istanbul for a few days, you might want to reconsider going there for tea or Turkish coffee.
20. Relax on a fantastic Turkish Bath & Hammam
Turkish baths are really very ideal for those who want to relax and deal to unwind at any time. When it comes to find out where to relax on your busy Istanbul city break, the historical Turkish bath and hammam ritual is one of the genuine must-dos in Istanbul. You can enjoy the hot water, body scrubs, as well as traditional massages.
Come along and discover the best hammams in Istanbul to enjoy this unique experience in these Turkish baths.
21. Experience and enjoy the Turkish & Islamic Art
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is the first museum where Turkish and Islamic art works are exhibited collectively and regularly. The museum is situated in the palace erected by Suleiman the Magnificent’s Grand Vizier, Ibrahim Pasha (c.1493–1536), along the western part of Sultanahmet Square.
The museum has a collection of about 40,000 relics spanning from the 7th century to the present and exhibitions of fine art, crafts, carpets, manuscripts and calligraphy, wooden works, stonework, glass, metal and ethnography sections.