36 Best Things To Do In Istanbul In May In 2024

Are you planning a trip to Istanbul in May? You’re in for a treat! The city comes alive with vibrant colors, pleasant weather, and an array of exciting events and activities. From exploring historical landmarks to indulging in delicious cuisine, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are the top 36 things to do in Istanbul in May:

1. Visit the Hagia Sophia

Step into the iconic Hagia Sophia and marvel at its grandeur. This architectural masterpiece showcases the blend of Byzantine and Ottoman influences, with its stunning dome, intricate mosaics, and rich history. Explore its impressive interior and learn about its significance as a religious and cultural symbol.

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2. Explore the Topkapi Palace

Immerse yourself in the opulence of the Topkapi Palace, the former residence of Ottoman sultans. Wander through its lush gardens, admire the exquisite architecture, and visit the various chambers that house treasures such as the Topkapi Dagger and the Spoonmaker’s Diamond. Don’t miss the stunning views of the Bosphorus from the palace grounds.

3. Wander through the Grand Bazaar

Get lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Explore its vibrant stalls filled with spices, textiles, jewelry, ceramics, and more. Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere and haggle for unique souvenirs to take home.

4. Cruise the Bosphorus

Embark on a scenic cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, which separates Europe and Asia. Enjoy breathtaking views of Istanbul’s skyline, Ottoman palaces, and charming waterfront neighborhoods. Choose from various cruise options, including sunset cruises or private boat tours, and experience the beauty of this iconic waterway.

5. Visit the Blue Mosque

Admire the stunning architecture of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) with its cascading domes and six minarets. Step inside to witness the intricate tile work and experience the serene atmosphere of this historic mosque. Remember to dress modestly and observe the mosque’s prayer times.

6. Explore the Spice Bazaar

Indulge your senses at the Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar), where you’ll find a delightful array of aromatic spices, teas, dried fruits, and Turkish delight. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors and fragrances as you explore the bustling stalls. Don’t forget to sample some traditional Turkish treats along the way.

7. Take a Walk in the Sultanahmet Square

Stroll through the Sultanahmet Square, the heart of Istanbul’s historical district. Admire the beautiful architecture of the surrounding landmarks, including the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern. Take a moment to sit in one of the cafes, enjoy a cup of Turkish tea, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.

8. Discover the Basilica Cistern

Descend into the underground world of the Basilica Cistern, an ancient water reservoir built during the Byzantine era. Marvel at the rows of columns reflected in the tranquil water, and learn about the fascinating history of this hidden gem. Don’t miss the famous Medusa heads at the base of two columns.

9. Experience Turkish Hammam

Indulge in a traditional Turkish bath experience and treat yourself to a rejuvenating hammam. Relax in the warm marble surroundings as you receive a soothing massage and enjoy a cleansing scrub. Let the steam and ambiance transport you to a state of bliss and relaxation.

10. Take a Bosphorus Bridge Bus Tour

Embark on a Bosphorus Bridge Bus Tour and cross over the iconic Bosphorus Bridge, connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline and the strait below as you drive across this engineering marvel. Capture memorable photos and soak in the beauty of Istanbul from this unique vantage point.

11. Visit the Istanbul Modern Art Museum

Immerse yourself in the contemporary art scene at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. Explore its impressive collection of Turkish and international artwork, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and installations. Attend special exhibitions and events to gain insights into the dynamic and vibrant art scene of Istanbul.

12. Explore the Chora Church

Discover the stunning Byzantine mosaics and frescoes at the Chora Church (Kariye Museum). Admire the intricate details and vibrant colors that depict religious scenes and stories. Marvel at the craftsmanship and artistic beauty of this hidden gem, which showcases the rich history of Byzantine art.

13. Enjoy a Turkish Cooking Class

Learn the secrets of Turkish cuisine with a hands-on cooking class. Join a local chef and explore the vibrant spice markets to gather fresh ingredients. Then, roll up your sleeves and prepare traditional dishes such as kebabs, mezes, and baklava. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and savor the flavors of authentic Turkish cuisine.

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14. Take a Whirling Dervishes Ceremony

Experience the spiritual and mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes ceremony, a unique form of Sufi meditation. Watch as the dervishes perform their graceful and hypnotic spinning ritual, accompanied by traditional music. Witness this spiritual practice that dates back centuries and gain a deeper understanding of Turkish culture and spirituality.

15. Visit the Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Delve into Istanbul’s rich history at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, located in the Sultanahmet district. Explore its extensive collection of artifacts, including ancient statues, mosaics, sarcophagi, and historical documents. Gain insights into the city’s past and discover the civilizations that have shaped Istanbul over the centuries.

16. Explore the Princes’ Islands

Escape the bustling city and take a ferry to the Princes’ Islands, a group of car-free islands in the Sea of Marmara. Enjoy a peaceful retreat and explore the charming streets lined with wooden mansions and lush greenery. Rent a bicycle or horse-drawn carriage to discover the islands’ hidden gems.

17. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

Take a day trip to Cappadocia and embark on a breathtaking hot air balloon ride. Experience the awe-inspiring landscape of fairy chimneys, rock formations, and cave dwellings from above. Watch the sunrise paint the sky with vibrant colors as you float peacefully in the air. Capture unforgettable moments and create lifelong memories during this magical experience.

18. Take a Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorus

Embark on a romantic sunset cruise along the Bosphorus and witness the city bathed in golden hues. Sail past iconic landmarks, such as the Maiden’s Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, and the Ortaköy Mosque. Enjoy a delightful onboard dinner while being serenaded by traditional Turkish music. Capture stunning views of the illuminated city skyline as the sun sets over the Bosphorus, creating a magical ambiance.

19. Explore the Istanbul Modern Art Street

Stroll along the Istanbul Modern Art Street in Karaköy and immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene. Admire the colorful street murals and graffiti that adorn the walls, showcasing the creativity and expression of local artists. Visit art galleries and boutique shops that feature contemporary artworks and unique designs.

20. Visit the Istanbul Museum of Illusions

Step into a world of optical illusions and mind-bending experiences at the Istanbul Museum of Illusions. Challenge your senses and perception as you explore interactive exhibits, holograms, and 3D installations. Capture fun and unique photos that play tricks on the eyes and create lasting memories.

21. Discover the Pera Museum

Visit the Pera Museum, located in the vibrant Beyoğlu district, and explore its diverse collection of art and cultural artifacts. Admire the works of famous Turkish artists, as well as international exhibitions that showcase a range of artistic styles and periods. Don’t miss the museum’s unique café, housed in a historical building.

22. Enjoy a Turkish Tea and Hookah Experience

Indulge in a traditional Turkish tea and hookah (nargile) experience at a local tea house. Sit back, relax, and sip on flavorful Turkish tea while enjoying the soothing flavors of a hookah pipe. Engage in conversation with locals, play a game of backgammon, and immerse yourself in the relaxed ambiance of Turkish tea culture.

23. Visit the Miniaturk Park

Explore the fascinating world of Miniaturk Park, where you’ll find miniature replicas of Turkey’s most famous landmarks. Wander through the park and marvel at the intricate details of scaled-down versions of Istanbul’s mosques, palaces, and historic sites. Gain a unique perspective on Turkey’s rich cultural heritage in a single visit.

24. Take a Photography Tour

Join a photography tour and capture the beauty of Istanbul through the lens. Explore the city’s hidden gems, picturesque neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks under the guidance of a professional photographer. Learn techniques and tips to enhance your photography skills while documenting your Istanbul journey.

25. Attend a Turkish Music Concert

Immerse yourself in the rich sounds of Turkish music by attending a live concert. Experience the enchanting melodies of traditional instruments such as the oud, kanun, and ney, accompanied by mesmerizing vocals. Let the music transport you to a world of Turkish culture and deep-rooted musical traditions.

26. Discover the Istanbul Aquarium

Escape into an underwater wonderland at the Istanbul Aquarium, one of the largest thematic aquariums in the world. Explore the various exhibits and marvel at the diverse marine life from different ecosystems. Walk through the tunnel aquarium and witness sharks, rays, and colorful fish swimming overhead.

27. Take a Bosphorus Dinner Cruise

Embark on a memorable Bosphorus dinner cruise and enjoy a delicious meal while cruising along the breathtaking strait. Admire the glittering city lights as you pass iconic landmarks such as the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Bosphorus Bridge. Dance to live music and soak in the enchanting ambiance of the city at night.

28. Experience Turkish Cuisine at Local Restaurants

Indulge in the flavors of Turkish cuisine at local restaurants and eateries. Sample traditional dishes such as kebabs, mezes (appetizers), Turkish tea, and baklava. Explore the vibrant food scene in neighborhoods like Beyoğlu, Kadıköy, and Sultanahmet, and savor the diverse culinary delights that Istanbul has to offer.

29. Discover the Istanbul Street Food Scene

Immerse yourself in the bustling street food scene of Istanbul and taste a variety of delicious snacks and treats. Try popular street foods such as simit (sesame-covered bread rings), dürüm (Turkish wrap), kokoreç (grilled offal), and Turkish ice cream. Don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with a serving of traditional Turkish delight.

30. Take a Balat Walking Tour

Explore the colorful neighborhood of Balat on a walking tour and discover its charming streets, historic buildings, and vibrant street art. Marvel at the colorful houses, ornate doorways, and lively local shops. Learn about the multicultural history of Balat and its significance as a melting pot of different cultures and religions.

31. Visit the Istanbul Toy Museum

Step into a world of nostalgia at the Istanbul Toy Museum, home to a vast collection of toys from different eras and cultures. Marvel at the vintage dolls, teddy bears, miniature cars, and other childhood treasures. Relive your childhood memories and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind these beloved toys.

32. Take a Rooftop Bar Tour

Experience Istanbul’s vibrant nightlife scene by embarking on a rooftop bar tour. Enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline while sipping on signature cocktails. Dance the night away to live music or DJ performances, and soak in the energetic atmosphere of Istanbul after dark.

33. Explore the Galata Tower

Climb to the top of the Galata Tower, an iconic landmark that offers breathtaking views of Istanbul. Marvel at the panoramic vistas of the city’s skyline, including the Bosphorus Strait, Sultanahmet, and the Golden Horn. Capture stunning photos and embrace the historical significance of this medieval tower.

34. Visit the Istanbul Museum of Innocence

Discover a unique museum experience at the Istanbul Museum of Innocence, inspired by the novel of the same name by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. Explore the exhibits that showcase objects and stories from everyday life in Istanbul during the 20th century. Immerse yourself in the intimate narratives and personal histories of Istanbul’s inhabitants as you wander through the meticulously curated displays. Gain a deeper understanding of the city’s culture, traditions, and the human experience.

35. Take a Bosphorus Helicopter Tour

Get a bird’s-eye view of Istanbul’s breathtaking beauty with a thrilling Bosphorus helicopter tour. Soar above the city and witness iconic landmarks, such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and the Bosphorus Bridge, from a unique perspective. Capture mesmerizing aerial photographs and create memories that will last a lifetime.

36. Discover the Istanbul Street Photography Scene

Grab your camera and explore the dynamic street photography opportunities in Istanbul. Wander through bustling neighborhoods like Karaköy, Kadıköy, and Beşiktaş, capturing the candid moments, vibrant street life, and architectural details that define the city’s character. Engage with the locals, practice your photography skills, and create a visual narrative of Istanbul’s streets.


As you can see, Istanbul in May offers a plethora of activities and experiences to suit every interest. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, art lover, foodie, or simply seeking adventure, this vibrant city has something for everyone. Plan your trip to Istanbul in May and embark on an unforgettable journey filled with cultural discoveries, culinary delights, and cherished memories.

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