25 Things to Do in Istanbul: Discover now

 In Things to do, Turkey

Istanbul is one of the world’s greatest cities, there are so many wonderful reasons why you should visit this city. Istanbul is old, dating back thousands of years, and with that, there are many historical places to visit. Plan a rejuvenating visit to the Hamam, go treasure hunting around antique markets, feast on incredible food, and much much more during your sojourn in this vibrant metropolis. 

Our carefully curated list is every bit as varied and exciting as the city itself, and trust us when we say there is something here for everyone. But don’t just take our word for it, scroll away and start planning your next adventure. Istanbul is gorgeous, with its assortment of mosques and their colorful tile work and dramatic architecture. Istanbul is charming and is home to Hagia Sophia, an amazing architectural feat and one of the wonders of the world. If you have plans to visit Istanbul you should know that there is a lot to see here Turkey tour packages! You can easily fill five days of your time in Istanbul. Hopefully, you have at least three days on your itinerary but more time is ideal.

Things to do in Istanbul are: 

  • The Hagia Sophia
  • The blue mosque
  • The Grand Bazaar
  • The basilica cistern
  • The Chora Church 
  • The Galata Tower
  • Topkapi palace
  • Mosque of Suleyman
  • Eminonu square
  • Galata bridge 
  • Rustem pasha mosque 
  • Cruise at Bosphorus Strait 
  • Take the commuter ferry 
  • Ortakoy
  • Istiklal street 
  • The spice market
  • Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
  • walls of Constantinople 
  • Eyup Sultan mosque 
  • The Hippodrome of Constantinople 
  • Gulhane park
  • Buyukada
  • Museum of innocence 
  • Kilic ali pasa hammam
  • Ferikoy flea market

1. The Hagia Sophia


Hagia Sophia is a domed monument that was built originally as a cathedral, but now it has been transformed into a museum. It is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul where you can witness both Byzantine and Ottoman effects under one dome. You can witness here the unique blend of Christianity and Islamic Art and must-see Things to do in Istanbul. 

Location: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydani, Istanbul

Entry fees: 72 Liras

2. The blue mosque


It is considered to be one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul which draws tons of visitors towards it due to its breathtaking beauty. This iconic attraction is a must-visit for every traveler and it gives a chance to the visitors to soak into the culture and tradition of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. This historic mosque features wonderfully curvaceous exteriors and six slender minarets. It got its nickname from the blue Iznik Tiles that are present inside the mosque. 

Location: Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydani, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

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3. The Grand Bazaar


This is the biggest covered market in the entire world and you can see people haggling to get the best deals. If you’re looking for the best Turkish delight then Grand Bazar is your idol stop and must things to do in Istanbul. It consists of thousands of shops where you can buy everything ranging from silk garments to jewelry to leather and carpets. This Bazaar has 40 rest houses, 18 gates,61 covered streets, and 25,000 full-time staff. The 554-year-old Bazaar is the perfect place to end your tour by stocking up some souvenirs for your loved ones.

Location: Beyazıt, Kalpakcilar, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

4. The Basilica Cistern


This is one of the largest underground cisterns in Istanbul that is considered a marvel of Byzantine engineering and gives you a chance to learn about the lives of great personalities in the past and is a must thing to do in Istanbul. One of the most prominent attractions of this cistern is the Hen’s eye column which has a teardrop motif on it. It has a Cafe and lighted elevated walkways for the convenience of visitors.

Location: Alemdar, Istanbul

Entry fees: 20 Lira

5. The Chora church


Dating back to the 11th century it is a masterpiece of Byzantine art and architecture with intricate designs depicting religious themes. It is a drop-dead gorgeous fresco Laden and mosaic church that is considered to be one of the best examples. It is supported by columns and surrounded by 16 distinct long windows illuminated by natural light. The walls of the church depict biblical stories and have images of the Virgin Mary. It is one of the best things to do in Istanbul for those seeking the best of religious bliss.

Location: Dervisali, Kariye camii, Istanbul

Entry fees: 30 liras

6. The Galata tower


Climb to the top of this medieval tower for beautiful views of Istanbul. Dating back to 14 century, it offers a perfect viewpoint to admire the city skyline including the iconic domes and minarets of the old city. Galata Tower is a  Genoese Tower that measures around 220 feet has nine stories and is a must things to do in Istanbul. It houses a restaurant on the top of the tower that features Turkish dance performances and traditional cuisines.

Location: Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, Istanbul

Entry fees: 35 Turkish Liras for adults.

7. Topkapi palace


This palace is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul and served as the administrative quarter of the Ottoman rulers and a must-see things to do in Istanbul. This complex features opulent courtyards lined with hand-painted tile work and decorated rooms. The main highlight of Topkapi Palace is the Harem, where the Sultan’s concubines used to spend their time. It also has an imperial council chamber, an imperial treasury, and a sacred safekeeping room.

Location: Cankurtaran, Istanbul

Entry fee: 72 Liras

8. Mosque of Suleyman


This is one of the most significant landmarks of Istanbul that was built by the Ottoman architect Sinan between 1549 and 1575. It grounds the seven hills of Istanbul and the building is a perfect fusion of grandiose and simplicity. 

Its 350 m high down is the most notable feature of the building. You can find an Ottoman cemetery in the garden area where Sultan Suleyman and his family members were cremated. It is one of the largest and most popular mosques that is worshipped by Islamic devotees from all over the world.

Location: Süleymaniye Mah, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

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9. Gulhane Park


This is one of the oldest urban parks in Istanbul that tourists frequent to seek peace. During the Ottoman period, it formed the outer garden of Topkapi Palace and could only be visited by the royals, but in the 16th century, it was opened for public visit. The park is known to be a breeding ground for tulip flowers which makes the park look like a wonderland. The park also offers a view of the Golden Horn, the Istanbul Strait, and the sea of Marmara and is a must-visit things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Cankurtaran, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

10. Eminonu square


Eminonu is a very busy, slightly chaotic spot in Istanbul. This harbor area sits on the Golden Horn, a famous waterway that runs through the city. From Eminonu you can visit the mosque, the spice market, and famous restaurants or catch a ferry that will take you to any number of places in Istanbul.

Location: Eminonu, Rustem pasa, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free, Ferry rides are chargeable.

11. Galata bridge


The bridge spans the Golden Horn, joining the older sections of Istanbul with the more modern neighborhoods. A walk across this bridge is a must-have things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Golden Horn, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

12. Rustem pasha mosque


Rustem Pasha mosque is a very small mosque that is famous for its Iznik tile work. It does not look like much on the outside, but it is what is on the inside that counts. Well, the tile work in this mosque is some of the best in Istanbul.

Location: Rustem pasa, Hasircilar Cd.

Entry fees: Free

13. Cruise at Bosphorus Strait


Istanbul is the only city to spend two continents, Europe and Asia. The Bosporus River divides the two continents. Cruising on the Bosporus Strait is a great way to see more of the city. The cruise leaves from Emynonu in the morning and travels north towards the Black Sea and must Things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Bosphorus River, Istanbul

Entry fees: 4900 INR onwards

14. Take the commuter ferry


For the best and cheapest experience in Istanbul, take the commuter ferry from Eminonu across the Bosporus Strait to Kadikoy. This round-trip excursion takes about an hour and costs as little as 2$. If you don’t have time to do the full-day Bosporus Cruise, this journey on the commuter Ferry is the perfect alternative. Enjoy the views of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. This is a great things to do in Istanbul at sunset because the views of the Sultanahmet district are amazing.

Location: Bosphorus River

Entry fees: 160 INR

15. Ortakoy


Ortakoy is a trendy neighborhood in Istanbul. Stroll the shops, dine at the restaurants, and see the iconic Ortakoy Mosque. 

Location: Beşiktaş, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

16. Istiklal street


Istiklal Street is a famous street in the New District of Istanbul. It is a pedestrian street that can get very crowded. This area feels different than the rest of Istanbul. It is here that you will find Gap, Starbucks, and Nike. But it is a beautiful street, especially with the tram that runs up and down the road.

Location: Beyoglu, Istanbul

17. The spice market


The Spice Bazaar in Turkey also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, was built in the 16th century and features rows of stalls selling spices, sweets, tea varieties, dried fruits, and other goods, is one of the largest bazaars in the city. Located in the Eminonu quarter of the faith district, it is the most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar and a must-see things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Rustem Pasa, Faith, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

18. Walls of Constantinople


These gains walls were built in the 5th century. They stretch for 3.5 miles from the sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. Designed to keep invaders out of Constantinople, these walls were only breached twice: first by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and later by the Ottoman invasion in 1453. While in Istanbul, you can walk a portion of these walls.

Location: Dervis Ali, Hoca Cakir cd, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

19. Istanbul Museum of Modern Art


Found in 2004, Istanbul Modern is considered to be Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art and Things to do in Istanbul. After a five-year hiatus, the new and improved Istanbul Modern reopened its doors to the public this last year, unveiling an architectural makeover for the ages.

As you wander through the exhibition galleries, immerse yourself in the rich collection of works that span decades, celebrating pioneer artists and emerging talents. 

Location: Tophane Iskele caddesi 1, Beyoglu, Istanbul

Entry fees: 350 Liras

20. Eyup Sultan mosque


This is a mosque much less visited by tourists than the other mosques on this list. Located in an area outside of the main touristic zone, when you are here, Istanbul feels “authentic.” This is a beautiful area of the city. From the mosque, follow the walking trail uphill through the cemetery. It is a beautiful walk and from the top, you get a great view of the Golden Horn and Istanbul and a must-see Things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Eyup Merkez, Eyupsultan, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

21. The hippodrome of Constantinople


Built in the 4th century AD, the Hippodrome was the site of chariot races.In the Hippodrome are two obelisks. The Obelisk of Theodosius is the ancient Egyptian obelisk of King Tuthmosis III. It was erected in the 15th century BC at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. It was moved to Istanbul in the 4th century AD by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. The Walled Obelisk, the older-looking of the two obelisks, is younger than the Egyptian obelisk. 

Location: Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

22. Buyukada


Buyukada is the biggest of nine islands that make up the Prince’s Island just off the coast of Istanbul. Ride on a ferry from Kabatas or Bostanci for a short trip to this island sanctuary, which has a rich history that can be traced back to the Byzantine Empire. Rent a bicycle and ride through its historic streets with lavish Ottoman-era mansions, and meandering pathways and stumble upon a perfect spot to case out on Marmara sea and Things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Adalar, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free, Guided tour cost starts at 2000 INR

23. Museum of Innocence


Inspired by renowned novelist Orhan Pamuk’s novel of the same name, the Museum of Innocence is situated in the quarter of Cukurcuma, where much of the book transpires. The Museum of Innocence is a must-see things to do in Istanbul for anyone interested in the cultural and material history of Istanbul.

Location: Firuzaga, cukurcuma caddesi, Istanbul

Entry fee: 1500 INR onwards

24. Kilic ali pasa hammam


The Hamam ritual is an unmissable things to do in Istanbul and there’s no better place to do it than inside this architectural masterpiece dating back half a millennium. The work of renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, the kiln Ali pasha Hamam was built between 1578- 1583 to serve the marine forces in the Ottoman navy and was reopened to the public in 2012 after a major restoration. 

Please note that the Hamam is open to women in the morning and men in the afternoon. 

Location: Kemankes, Karamustafa pasa, Istanbul

Entry fees: 8500 INR

25. Ferikoy flea market


It is inside the vast covered marketplace in the Bomonti every weekend, the ferikoy flea market and organic Bazaar is a great places to shop for fresh produce and hunt for antiques and Things to do in Istanbul. 

Location: Cumhuriyet, Semt pazarı, Istanbul

Entry fees: Free

1. What is Istanbul famous for?

Istanbul is famous for being a bridge between Europe and Asia. It’s known for its historic landmarks like Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace as well as its bustling market, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife.

2. When should I visit Istanbul?

April to June and September to November are ideal times to visit Istanbul The weather is pleasant during these months, avoiding the summer scorching heat or winter chill.

3. What are the top attractions to visit in Istanbul?

The top things to do in Istanbul are Hagia Sophia, the blue mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and the Bosphorus cruise.

4. What are the options for outdoor activities in or near Istanbul?

Istanbul offers several outdoor activities like exploring Prince’s Island on a ferry, visiting Belgrade forest for hiking, picnicking, take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. 

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