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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
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
#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
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
#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
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
#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 central market for all things flavorful. Piles of pepper, saffron, teas, and dried apricots sit next to 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
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
#10
Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisari)

Rumeli Fortress (Rumeli Hisari)

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Built over just four months, the 15th-century Rumeli Fortress played a key role in the fall of Byzantine Constantinople. Together with the Anatolian Fortress (Anadolu Hisarı) on the Bosphorus, Rumeli Fortress was used by the Ottomans to cut off aid and supplies to Constantinople. Today, it serves as both an open-air theater and site of historical interest.More

Trip ideas

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top Markets in Istanbul

Top activities in Istanbul

Ephesus Trip from Istanbul

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Ephesus Trip from Istanbul

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Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht

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Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht

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Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

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Istanbul New Airport Private Transfer

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Istanbul New Airport Private Transfer

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Recent reviews from experiences in Istanbul

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Fantastic Tour and Guide!
Hannah_L, Jan 2021
Ancient Rome Under Istanbul
If we return to Istanbul, we will not hesitate to see if she is available for other tours.
star-5
Amazing Experience
Fatima_E, Nov 2020
Istanbul Sightseeing Walking Tour
We covered so much in about 3 hours and I got to see everything I wanted to.
star-5
Great tour and tour guide semih
michael_k, Oct 2020
Small Group Tour: Essential Istanbul
Great day tour of Istanbul with tour guide semih kzk, he is very knowledgeable, intelligent, helpful, I learn alot from him he was GREAT,, tour around Istanbul to see to most important sites like hagi sophia and blue mosque was a dream come true I am
star-5
Great tour and tour guide with Dilek
michael_k, Oct 2020
Istanbul Princes Islands Tour With Lunch
princess island is very beautiful to visit tour was a successful because of Dilek and how nice princess island is.
star-5
A must in Istanbul
Billy_G, Oct 2020
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
If you're in Istanbul and want to see the sights from the water this is the cruise to take!
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Istanbul private day tour
joseph_c, Sep 2020
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Tour
His English is excellent and he is highly knowledgeable about each site and Istanbul as a whole.
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Hagia Sophia
Elliot_B, Sep 2020
Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace
We thoroughly enjoyed the day, saw exactly what we wanted to see from our short trip and would definitely recommend this one day tour for anyone only travelling here for a long weekend.
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Must-see in Istanbul! Perfect tour!
Ivy_O, Oct 2020
Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht
He was a good storyteller and had great English.
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Wonderful Private Tour!
Marisa_S, Oct 2020
Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Tour
This curated private tour was a fantastic way to see Istanbul!
star-5
Fantastic Tour!
Tory, Oct 2020
Bosphorus Full Day Tour: Bosphorus Cruise, Uskudar and Dolmabahce Palace
Afterwards, he gave me some great advice and tips on things to do in Istanbul.
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Awesome experience in Istanbul
Iryna_A, Sep 2020
Full Day: Classic Istanbul Tour Including Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace
Very passionate and extremely interesting, she made us fall in love in this city and country all over again 👏🏻 We walked a lot but not in any rush, lunch was delicious and we enjoyed shopping at grand bazar afterwards Canan was lovely and helpful wit
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Istanbul Street Food
Doug_S, Apr 2020
The 10 Tastings of Istanbul With Locals: Private Street Food Tour
This is a really good way to see and taste a portion of Istanbul.
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The best way to see Istanbul
Erin_G, Mar 2020
Private Tour: Istanbul in One Day Sightseeing Tour including Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace
We saw everything we wanted to see with no hassle or lines!
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Between continents
Silviu_P, Mar 2020
Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Turkish Night Show (All Inclusive)
The view from the ship was amazing as we passed the main touristic attractions on the both sides of Istanbul!
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Cultural wow!
kingsongeo, Feb 2020
Byzantine Churches of Constantinople Private Tour (Visits from Exterior)
Lutfallah, the guide, skillfully navigated the city.
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Turkish cuisine and delicacies
Hameed A, Jan 2020
Taste of Two Continents Food Tour
This tour is a great way to see what turkish food has to offer.
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ISTANBUL WALKING TOUR
audiocodes19, Jan 2020
Istanbul Classics & Highlights Full Day Tour
we recommend this Istanbul walking tour which covers most of the main attractions.
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Best value for money deal
GlobeTrotting749536, Dec 2019
Istanbul Tourist Pass: 35+ Top Attractions/ Services
Major attractions within walking distance and efficient back up tram and bus services.
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AMAZING TOUR
631sanjayb, Nov 2019
MINI Group Full Day Istanbul Tour (Max. 10 pax)
We would recommend this tour to all our friends who want to visit Istanbul
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Day tour
RuennHwa, Oct 2019
Bosphorus Full Day Tour: Bosphorus Cruise, Uskudar and Dolmabahce Palace
Tour guide was extremely professional and had an excellent grasp of history and the historical significance of the Bosporus and the city of Istanbul as well as the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

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