Without a shadow of a doubt, Istanbul is one of the world’s greatest cities, located in the Marmara region of Turkey . As a cultural hub and one of the most mystical destinations, there are plenty of incredible things to do in Istanbul, from museums and galleries, to historical buildings.
If you’re heading to Istanbul and looking for a hotel right in the heart of the city, then Barceló Istanbul is the perfect choice for you. Sitting next to one of the most elegant districts in Istanbul, in Taksim Square, its privileged location allows you to be absorbed by the vibrant streets of the country’s historical, cultural and financial capital.
Enjoy a cultural adventure in Turkey and check out all the top things to do in Istanbul…
Things to do in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the most visited museums in both Turkey and the rest of the world, due to its significant artistic and architectural achievements, as well as its rich history, religious importance and extraordinary beauty. The museum dates back to the 6th century and is renowned for its preserved mosaics, featuring 30 million gold tiles, and its 6th-century dome. The Hagia Sophia is one of the most cherished landmarks in Istanbul and a must for cultural enthusiasts.
Things to do in Istanbul: Blue Mosque
Facing the Hagia Sophia across a small park and mirroring its domed silhouette, the 17th century Blue Mosque is a sight for sore eyes. The city’s landmark is one of only a handful of mosques in the world to boast six minarets. Aside from its incredible exterior, the mosque is adored for its interior decoration of tens of thousands of İznik tiles. The entire spatial and colour effect of the interior make the mosque one of the finest achievements of Ottoman architecture. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the gardens sandwiched between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, where you can admire their duelling domes.
Things to do in Istanbul: Istanbul Modern
Over the past decade, Istanbul has become known as one of the world’s hubs of contemporary art, and hundreds of galleries have opened to exhibit the works of thousands of talented artists. As Turkey’s first modern art museum, Istanbul Modern is a must for culture lovers, where you can take some time to discover local and foreign painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, photographers, and creative videographers. As well as boasting an extensive collection of Turkish art, the museum also stages a constantly changing program of mixed-media exhibitions by high-profile local and international artists.
Things to do in Istanbul: Basilica Cistern
One of Istanbul’s incredible historical buildings is the Basilica Cistern, built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Venture into this huge underground palace that is filled with ancient wonders such as the column bases, known as the Medusa stones in the northwest corner with their Medusa head carvings, and the Hen’s Eye Column. This sunken palace has so much to hold that they have previously shot scenes of Hollywood movies in it! Be sure to check out this mesmerising landmark and enjoy its mystical ambience for just 20 Turkish lira, open between 9am-7pm every day.
Things to do in Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
As the symbol of the city, Topkapi Palace is now the most visited museum in Istanbul, receiving nearly three million visitors every year. The Topkapi Palace Museum is notable not only for its architecture and collections but also for the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire that it recalls. A collection of lush green courtyards and delicate kiosks, the Topkapi boasts a treasury, as well as views to die for over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn. Many interesting stories and legends are connected with Topkapi Palace, so it’s definitely worth the visit if you’re keen to discover more about the city’s history and culture.
Things to do in Istanbul: The Galata Tower
Take in dramatic panoramic views at The Galata Tower – a recognizable symbol of the city’s skyline, towering at nearly 67 metres high. This is one of Istanbul’s most iconic visuals, overlooking Beyoğlu and Karaköy from its perched position, where you can admire the colourful lights of the towers shimmering at night all over the city. Have a meal or enjoy a drink at the restaurant and cafe located at the top and soak up the city views.
Things to do in Istanbul: Kariye Museum (The Chora Church)
Istanbul has more than its fair share of Byzantine monuments, but few are as incredible as this mosaic- and fresco-laden church. The Kariye Museum boasts a masterful and aesthetically stunning interior that is entirely covered in fine mosaics and frescoes, reflecting the lives of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. Like so many of Istanbul’s historical buildings, the Kariye Museum has a long and chequered past, that reveals as much about the history of Istanbul, as it does the museum itself.
Things to do in Istanbul: Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
Pop along to the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum for a fascinating insight into the complexity and depth of traditional arts. The impressive collection contains services as Islamic art gallery, featuring fine examples of calligraphy in Islamic art, Islamic art paintings, Islamic abstract art and contemporary Islamic art. There is also an enthralling ethnography section, containing information about Anatolian life. The majestic building is made of cool darkened rooms, set around a central garden courtyard, so prepare to be amazed!