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Things to do in Istanbul

Things to do in  Istanbul

Welcome to Istanbul

Once known as Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul's position on the Silk Road has made it an economical, historical and cultural center, serving as an imperial capital multiple times for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. With both Asian and European sides to the city, there's a lot to explore. The old walled neighborhood of Sultanahmet is home to some of the most recognizable sights, such as the Hagia Sophia, with its dazzling mosaics and the enormous dome that has covered this space since the sixth century, when it was a Roman basilica. You'll also want to experience Topkapi Palace—containing lavish interiors and many Christian and Islamic relics—as well as the Blue Mosque and the giant underground Basilica Cistern. City views of the river suggest the next step: A Bosphorous cruise, navigating along the vast expanse of water that unites two continents, provides a wonderful way to see the banks of the Golden Horn. To delve into the local culture, as well as for help with haggling, visitors can take a private tour of the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, containing some of the richest smells in the world. For longer visits, tours from Istanbul can take visitors far and wide to the remarkable rocky landscapes of Cappadocia, the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Ephesus, and even to the WWI sites of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Top 10 attractions in Istanbul

#1
Bosphorus

Bosphorus

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The Bosphorus Strait defines Istanbul. It is the divide between Europe and Asia, and the main connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Dotted with parks and elaborate Ottoman mansions, including Dolmabahce Palace, and spanned by three intercontinental bridges, the Bosphorus is the veritable heart of the city.More
#2
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

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Explore the grandeur of Ottoman architecture at the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii), located on Istanbul’s Old City peninsula. Opened in 1616 to rival the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) across the way, the six minarets punctuating the Istanbul skyline and 20,000 blue Iznik tiles decorating its interior are designed to inspire awe.More
#3
Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)

Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)

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Behold the imperial complex of Ottoman sultans at Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), the royal residence in Istanbul throughout the first 400 years of the Ottoman Empire. The palace contains myriad buildings and courtyards, including a treasury, harems, an armory, imperial halls, and royal chambers—all with intricate Iznik tilework and opulent architecture.More
#4
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)

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Built in 532 as the world’s largest place of worship, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) shifts its identity with the times but never loses its grandeur. Converted from a church to a mosque during the Ottoman era and becoming a museum in 1935, the pink-hued Old City building is one of Istanbul’s don’t-miss attractions.More
#5
Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)

Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Meydani)

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Built in the third century, the Hippodrome was the home of now-named Istanbul’s sporting entertainment during the Byzantine era, with a wide track for chariot racing. Today, the route of the old track is covered by Sultanahmet Square (Sultanahmet Meydani), a wide open space in the center of the old city, punctuated by ancient obelisks.More
#6
Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)

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Built in an opulent European style, Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi) was the home of the Ottoman sultans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before the fall of the empire. The giant crystal chandeliers, marble staircases, and lush carpets that adorn the interior reflect the shift toward Istanbul’s more European way of thinking.More
#7
Bosphorus Bridge (Bogazici Koprusu)

Bosphorus Bridge (Bogazici Koprusu)

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The Bosphorus Bridge (Bogazici Koprusu) in Istanbul is one of three continent-spanning bridges over the Bosphorus Strait, connecting Europe and Asia. When it opened in 1973, the 5,118-foot (1,560-meter) bridge was the fourth-longest suspension bridge in the world. And though it has since slid down the rankings, it is still an impressive sight to behold.More
#8
Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)

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Built in the 17th century, the covered Spice Bazaar is Istanbul’s fragrant hub for all things flavorful. Piles of pepper, saffron, teas, and dried apricots nestle alongside shops selling colorful Turkish delight, silk scarves, and glass mosaic lamps. Take time to chat with vendors, sip tea, and haggle for the perfect price.More
#9
Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

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Rising high above its namesake neighborhood, Istanbul’s Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi) dates back to the Genoese presence in Constantinople in the 14th century. An elevator takes you up to a viewing platform located under the roof, which offers panoramic views of the Old City peninsula and Beyoglu neighborhood.More
#10
Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)

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Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) is the ultimate covered market. Its 5,000+ vendors hawk carpets, beaded bracelets, gold and silver jewelry, multicolored lanterns, leather goods, ceramics, belly-dancing outfits, and more. With goods available at all price points, you’re sure to find the perfect souvenir in the bazaar’s labyrinthine alleys.More

Trip ideas

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top activities in Istanbul

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour
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Istanbul Airport Arrival Or Departure Hotel Transfer

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Recent reviews from experiences in Istanbul

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Istanbul trip
Oluwatomi_R, May 2022
Bosphorus Yacht Cruise with Stopover on the Asian Side - (Morning or Afternoon)
I would recommend this site for any tourist that visits or want to visit Istanbul
star-5
Great food tour
KenGarrett, May 2022
The 10 Tastings of Istanbul With Locals: Kadikoy Private Food Tour
Lots of suggestions for sights to see and places to visit in Istanbul.
star-4
Better instructions...
Phillip_A, May 2022
Cappadocia Magic : 1 Night 2 Days Cappadocia Tour Including Hot Air Balloon Tour
Once we finally met the driver he didn’t speak English and could not understand we needed the heat in the shuttle turned off.
star-5
Best day tour
POMPEY_K, May 2022
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
This tour is the best way to see the best in Istanbul.
star-5
Istanbul highlights
Ziad_A, May 2022
1-Day Best of Istanbul Private Tour with the Best Local Guides
She made sure that we visit all the top attractions in Istanbul and also added a few personal recommendations which helped us find the best shopping and dining experiences.
star-5
Fantastic Sunset Cruise
Ben_S, May 2022
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
Beautiful yacht and a great way to understand the true size of Istanbul and be able to see a bunch of the sights all the while hanging out on a beautiful boat.
star-5
See the sights in a relaxed easy going way
Kenneth_H, May 2022
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Istanbul Tour
We only had 2 full days to see Istanbul, our guide Ozan made sure to maximize the sights without wearing us out.
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Worth the time.
Dick_S, Apr 2022
Istanbul Lunch Cruise: Long Circle Bosphorus Cruise up to Black Sea
We got to see where East meets West.
star-5
Beautiful scenery of both sides of Istanbul from the water.
Luisa_P, Apr 2022
Golden Horn and Bosphorus Boat Tour in Istanbul
Great way to see Istanbul from the water, to navigate between Asia and Europe in the same city.
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Our first visit to Istanbul
hongyun_d, Apr 2022
Skip The Line:1 or 2 Days Private Istanbul Guided Tour
Our first visit to Istanbul, Its a Beautiful city and lots of fantastic sites to visit in the old town part of the city.
star-5
Ozhkan is a good guide
9dm7qt2jk6, Apr 2022
Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace
It was nice, you see everything you need to see in istanbul and the guide we had was very knowledgeable
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You Must do this!!!! Fantastic Experience!!!
Aleesha_E, Apr 2022
Istanbul Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
From start to finish this was so relaxing and a perfect way to see the best of Istanbul!!!!
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The best small tour you can take
Aly_F, Apr 2022
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
Her knowledge of the history of Istanbul is second to none and she went above and beyond her scope of work to help out the group on what to do.
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Topkapi Palace & Harem Istanbul Extended Tour
Timothy_M, Apr 2022
Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide
Emre was extremely knowledgeable with outstanding English language skills.
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Great cruise on the Bosphorus.
Brian_F, Mar 2022
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
It was a great way to see Istanbul and is fully recommended.
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Super street food tour
Karin_V, Mar 2022
Istanbul Foodie Tour by Night: Traditional Meyhane & Street Foods
Relaxed tour Lots off useful information I was been several times in Istanbul But Erol showed us places that we never have seen before Hidden places were the locals eat and drink Very nice to see The food he bought for us was very good Thank you Erol for the amazing evening
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The best of Istanbul
Alonzo_M, Mar 2022
All in One Day Istanbul - Historical Tour of Istanbul with Bosphorus Cruise
This was the best way to see a lot of Istanbul in a short time.
star-5
Amazing tour and guide
Everette_J, Feb 2022
All in One Day Istanbul - Historical Tour of Istanbul with Bosphorus Cruise
Yunus shared immense information of Istanbul’s history and was the perfect resource for local activities and guidance.
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Istanbul in one day
Molly_G, Jan 2022
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Istanbul Tour
There is so much to see and do and Oz was very knowledgeable and highlighted the best places to see in 1 day.
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Amazing tour of the main...
Shirls, Dec 2021
Istanbul Ottoman Tour: Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque
Amazing tour of the main attractions in Istanbul.

All about Istanbul

When to visit

Spring is a beautiful time to explore Istanbul, when dolphin sightings are possible along the Bosphorus and the International Tulip Festival casts a wave of color through the city’s parks. To avoid the crowds, visit in fall when the cruise ships have left and the humidity drops—travelers on a budget will appreciate the post-summer drop in prices, too.

Frequently Asked Questions
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