All the best things to do in Istanbul, Turkey
Things to do in Istanbul? From secret places in Istanbul to the top Istanbul tourist attractions, there is so much to see and do in this city
Step into the sensory city of Istanbul and let the chaotic, heady delights wash over you. Nestled between Europe and Asia, straddling the Bosporus Strait, the Turkish capital is a clash of cultures and an exciting economic and cultural hub for modern-day Turkey. Follow the cacophony of city life through the tantalizing street markets to discover delectable local cuisine and rich Byzantine architecture. There is so much more to this city than meets the eye so be sure to take the time to explore all the innovative and exciting things to do in Istanbul. It is a place for restless souls in search of the next adventure, be it adrenaline-fuelled or inspired by romance. But one thing is for sure, you won’t be short of places to visit in Istanbul. To get you started, here are a handful of our favourites.
Things to do in Istanbul inland and offshore
If you are on the hunt for an authentic experience while still enjoying things to do in Istanbul, be sure to make Taksim Square your starting point. Why? Well, not only is this the central point of modern Istanbul, but it is also the best place for Istanbul sightseeing. Think of it as the heart of the city and the winding streets that connect the old with the new are the veins bringing life to all corners of the Turkish metropolis. From here you can reach anywhere. So, take the opportunity to hop on a Bosporus ferry cruise that departs daily from Eminonu and sail the 32km long strait which joins the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. With the shoreline of Europe to your left and the wooded hills of Asia to your right – this unique experience is one of the best things to do in Istanbul!
Discover the top Istanbul tourist attractions on your next holiday
Off the beaten track experiences and secret places in Istanbul
If uncovering upcoming neighbourhoods before they become cool is your cup of tea, then don’t waste time in venturing to Balat, the Jewish Quarter. This rainbow coloured village inside the city is one of the secret Istanbul attractions that many tourists fail to discover on their travels. The best thing about this area, apart from the rainbow-coloured streets, is the cast iron Bulgarian church which was cast in Vienna then shipped down the Danube on 100 barges before being constructed piece by piece in Istanbul in 1871. If this feat of engineering doesn’t wow you enough, this neighbourhood is a photographer’s playground, full of things to do in Istanbul, so take time exploring the picturesque streets and stop to have a coffee in one of the quaint cafes along the way. If you have time, jump onto the tram to Fener for a spot of antique shopping too.
Places to see in Istanbul, Karakoy
Swap one neighbourhood with another and uncover the enchanting appeal of Karakoy. Deemed as Istanbul’s hippest neighbourhood, this Instagrammable hot spot is the place to head if you’re looking for chic cafes and galleries nestled amongst bohemian boutiques and traditional pastaneler (bakeries). Be sure to check out Istanbul Modern – the first of the city’s cutting-edge galleries with an excellent year-round exhibition program, before slipping off for a traditional Turkish bath experience at the magnificently restored Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami .
A must do in Istanbul!
The Hagia Sophia is considered to be an Istanbul must see destination
Looking for top Istanbul tourist attractions? Climb the Galata Tower
Earn yourself the ultimate holiday selfie and head up The Galata Tower to get to a 360-panoramic view of Istanbul from 60 meters in the sky. This historic monument is one of the best things to do in Istanbul and is one of the highest and oldest towers in the city. It was originally built as part of a defence wall surrounding the district of Galata in the 14th century. Now open to the public, you can soak up the sights of the city from this unique vantage point, all from the comfort of their rooftop cafeteria. It really is one of the top sites to see in Istanbul.
Best places to visit in Istanbul: Grand Bazaar
If you find yourself in a shopping mood still, take a trip to one of the most famous places to visit in Istanbul. While this 500-year old market is not one of the hidden-secret Istanbul attractions, a trip to Istanbul would not be complete without a visit to the iconic Grand Bazaar. Covering over 60 streets and boasting more than 5,000 shops, there are plenty of hidden treasures to be found – from handcrafted leather goods to souvenirs and jewellery. With every day locals and visitors alike, haggling to get the best bang for their buck – do not be afraid to get stuck in and get bargaining, it is one of the many things to do in Istanbul if you want a local experience.
There are so many places to see in Istanbul, it just depends on your interests.
Looking for romantic places in Istanbul? Head to the Belgrad Forest
Often described as the ‘lungs of Istanbul’ this countryside idyll makes for the perfect romantic things to do in Istanbul. If you are visiting Istanbul and crave some greenery, look no further than the Belgrad Forest. Stretching an impressive 5300 hectares, and with its highest point measuring at 230 meters it makes a drastic change from the chaotic sounds of the city. This serene patch of woodland has an essential part in Istanbul’s history. This is because it houses historical dams which during the Ottoman era controlled the city’s water supply. Back then, anyone who caused damage to the dams was punished with the death sentence. While society has moved one, the forest still remains a majestic display of Turkish natural scenery. Enjoy a hike along one of the trails or take a picnic to eat by the lake and enjoy all the outdoorsy things to do in Istanbul.
Enjoy a culture trip and uncover the cool things to do in Istanbul
For those hungry to bet beneath the surface of Turkish culture a visit to the Hagia Sophia is in order. It is reportedly the most visited museum in Turkey and one of the most visited in the world. The cultural significance of this monument is quite profound, so much so that it was declared a UNESCO heritage site. It started life as a church, then a mosque, before enjoying a brief stint as a museum. Today this Istanbul must see destination has reverted back to being a mosque but it remains open as a museum for visitors who are eager to see this incredible architectural wonder first hand. So, if you are looking for iconic things to do in Istanbul, you cannot miss the Hagia Sophia.