Things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the cities in Turkey. It is rich in culture and history and is known worldwide for its tourist activities. Istanbul has a lot to offer you from historic mosques, to delicious Turkish food and the physical remains of the different empires that all ruled Turkey before the Ottomans decided to take over. There is so much to see in this city filled with culture, romance, history and art. It is truly an experience of a lifetime.

Istanbul Turkey

There is much to do in this city and among the things to do in Istanbul is to firstly visit the beautiful grand mosques that are known as tourist attractions worldwide. The Suleymaniye Mosque is not one of the largest mosques in the city, but it is one of the Ottoman mosques that has preserved its buildings and architecture throughout the many years. Suleymaniye means the ‘magnificent’ and it truly holds up to its name. This was the 4th grand mosque that was built at the time. This mosque was built during 1550 and 1557. The mosque is absolutely beautiful from the inside where it has gardens, ablution fountains and a massive 3 sided courtyard. On the right side of the mosque as you enter, are tombs of Suleyman and his wife Haseki Hurram Sultan. Both of their tombs are built with exceptional tile work with jewel like lights shining through. Taking a trip to the Aya Sofya is one of the many things to do in Istanbul. What was once a Church, then a Mosque and then turned into museum in 1935 is now a worldwide tourist attraction. The building is rich in culture and history from both of the religions and beliefs. There is so much to learn from this museum to acknowledge the beauty, architecture and styles of each and every room, floor and artwork.

Places to visit in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace is one of the most stunning palaces to visit in the city. It is home to some of the world’s most historic and cultural stories, and more history than any museum around the world put together. So much has happened in this palace between the 18th and the 19th centuries when it belonged to the Ottoman Empire as their court. When you enter the main gate to the palace, you can see the decorative styled fountain that was built by Sultan Ahmet in 1728. There are 4 courts in the palace where you can walk around and take a look at the different areas where the Sultans would live, sleep, eat, pray, work and so on. The palace is a major tourist attraction all around the world and it is a great place to go with families and friends. Visiting the Grand Bazaar should also be on your list of things to do in your stay in Istanbul. It is located in Istanbul’s old city and has been there for centuries. Tourists come here to shop, enjoy the famous Turkish tea and try their hand at bargaining prices with shopkeepers. Inside the lanes, you will find more shops and many artisans who are at work. It is a lively and culturally open shopping space for people to enjoy and take back a little something to remember your time in Turkey.


The Basilica Cistern is one of the most magical places we have ever been to. If you don’t know what a cistern is, it is a reservoir for storing water. This particular cistern is no ordinary cistern, as it was made in the 6th century during the Byzantine era. It is one of the most popular attractions in the city and it is easy to see why; there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Back in those days it is easy to see that practicality wasn’t really the main focus of things. Nowadays if a reservoir is built, it is very industrial looking.

The Basilica Cistern, on the other hand, is full of things to marvel at. The columns are absolutely beautiful and feature great art. The reason they look so magical is that they have been affected by water and have a green sheen on them, like submerged items often do. The green shine gives them a mysterious otherworldly look. Don’t be worried though, the cistern is very well maintained and has been renovated often, so there are no safety issues. We wouldn’t recommend missing out on a visit here if you are in Istanbul.

The Bosphorus Bridge is one of the best modern sights in Istanbul. In a city filled with so much historical beauty it is refreshing to see that the new things are beautiful as well. The bridge was always remarkable and was the 4th largest bridge of its kind when it was made. Nowadays the most outstanding aspect of the bridge isn’t its size, but rather its lighting. The whole bridge has a system of LED lights which are controlled by computers. These lights can change colors and show patterns.

Istanbul is already a beautiful city but the Bosphorus Bridge lighting up and changing colors is a sight to behold. What we liked to do was find a bench or spot which had a good view of the bridge, and just talk with our friends while eating snacks. The bridge looks like any other bridge in the day so we would recommend coming here in the night time, when the lighting is visible and active. It is also a great photo opportunity, as anyone who seen this bridge in the background of your photo is bound to ask you what that thing is. Videos work even better.

The Chora Church used to be a church, then it became a mosque, and now it is a museum. To us, this cycle is actually a very good representation of the steps Turkey has gone through, and how much its history varies from other countries. Turkey is half Asian and half European, truly one of the most unique countries in the world. The Chora Church was a church in the byzantine era, and was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman era. It was converted to a museum after World War 2.

The interior of the church is decorated with the original mosaic tiles which were here when the place was a church. The mosaics are wonderful and historically important, and are great pieces of art as well. The church itself is very good from the outside and from the inside, and it actually does look like a hybrid of both a mosque and a church. We would highly recommend the museum within the building now to anyone who has even a passing interest in history. The frescoes inside the museum are world famous as well, and art lovers from all over the world come here just to be able to admire the frescoes and mosaics themselves.

Welcome to the largest and the grandest palace in all of Turkey. This was the seat of the Ottoman Empire for many years, thus it is easy to understand why everything about it is so grand. The most surprising thing about the Ottoman Empire is how recent it was. The empire still existed till the First World War! This palace was built in 1855, and was built because the ruler thought the current castle was not grand enough. Thus he ordered something which would be much more luxurious and comfortable, which is how we ended up with this palace.

The most awe inspiring thing about the Dolmabahce Palace is the amount of gold and crystals one finds in it. Anything which could be decorated with gold or crystals has gold or crystals on it, and it really makes everything look extremely luxurious. There is also a lot of classical art on display in the palace, as was common in all the major palaces in the world. The palace also hosts a collection of exquisite carpets. There is a chandelier in the main hall which was gifted by the Queen Victoria. We would recommend making sure this place is on your things to do list.

While Istanbul is filled with historical wonders it isn’t lacking in modern entertainment at all. The Dolphinarium Istanbul is one such modern site; if you like dolphins then you are going to love the show here. Most dolphin shows seem to be aimed at children and are very simplistic. The dolphin show that is put on here is nothing like the other dolphin shows, it is extremely elaborate and you will be entertained by it no matter what your age is. You also get to interact with the dolphins very closely. We would recommend going over the whole program available at the Dolphinarium Istanbul to ensure you avail all the great opportunities present here.

Tourists consistently say that their visit here was one of the most fun experiences they had in all of Turkey, and if you visit it once you will understand why they say so. The dolphins are very well trained and you will be amazed by the tricks they pull. Our favorite thing to do here is to swim with dolphins. Dolphins are very playful creatures, and adults and children alike will be delighted to be able to play with them in such a fun atmosphere.


Istanbul is a beautiful combination of Europe and Asia, and Etiler is one of the best places to see the European part of Istanbul. Etiler is one of the best neighborhoods in the city, and is well known for its posh restaurants, hotels, and shops. This neighborhood is one of the most happening in the city, and if at any time you find yourself bored in Istanbul you can head here for a good time.

Etiler is also home to the best shopping mall in Istanbul, Akmerkez, and is also home to many nightclubs. This naturally attracts the local youth to it and it is one of the best places in Istanbul to see the European influences to its culture. There aren’t many skyscrapers here; instead there are many villas and trendy apartments. Le Méridien Istanbul Etiler Hotel is a beautiful hotel located within the neighborhood and makes for a great photo opportunity. It looks like three different blocks have been set on top of each other to make the building. We would recommend looking at the offerings within Akmerkez as well as the restaurants around it in the neighborhood. There are other shopping centers in the area as well.

The Eyup Sultan Mosque is one of the most important landmarks in the ancient city of Istanbul. Located in the city’s Eyup district and within the vicinity of the Golden Horn, the monumental architecture of the mosque comprises of the spot where the close companion of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, Abu Ayyub (‘Eyup’ in Turkish) al-Ansari is reported to have been buried.

The mosque was built by the Ottoman Turks in the year 1453, five years after the great conquest of Constantinople which led to the capture of the city from the stronghold of the former Byzantine Empire. The mosque was built with two towering minarets, but was left in a damaging state due to the devastating effects of an earthquake.

Ottoman Sultan Salem III then commissioned a major renovation project, which involved the entire mosque, with the exception of the two minaret towers, to be brought down and rebuilt. The renovation project was finished in 1800, and more than two decades later, Sultan Mahmud II had the eastern minaret rebuilt in its original design. The burial site of Eyup Sultan is held in great esteem by Muslims around the globe, and as a result, pulls many visitors to this mosque.

The Galata Tower, otherwise known as the Tower of Christ in Latin, is one of the finest architectural attractions in Istanbul and one of the remnants of the former the Byzantine Empire. It is perhaps one of the top most striking landmarks, with its towering cone-shaped building and its impactful presence in the city’s skyline. The tower is located in the Galata quarter of the city and lies north of the junction between Golden Horn and the Bosphorus River. The Galata Tower is visited by many visitors, who enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of Istanbul’s skyline.

Its history traces back to the year 1348, the year in which it was completed and regarded as the tallest tower in the city, then known as Constantinople. The tower has 9 storeys, with a total height exceeding 66 meters including the ornament on its surface and a wall thickness of 3.75 meters. The tower was built to take the place of the former Byzantine tower known as Megalos Pyrgos, which was destroyed in the early 13th century during the Fourth Crusade.
Following the conquest of the Ottomans in the 15th century, the Galata Tower was maintained through several modifications and restoration projects, and later used for spotting fires.

The Golden Horn is a magnificent man made inlet of water, which is a must visit for anyone visiting the city. There are many different boats and cruises available and the inlet itself is easy to get to. Once you are on a cruise or a boat you will discover that this is the best vantage point in the entire city to capture its beauty. The best part is that the inlet passes through both the European and the Asian parts of the city, which means you can take some truly breathtaking pictures. If you have a decent camera and some photography skills then this place will be fantastic for you.

The Golden Horn is what foreigners refer to the place as, but if you mention it to a local taxi driver they will probably know what you are talking about. The local name of the inlet is Altın Boynuz. The views from a cruise on the golden horn are amazing; if you do not want to go on a cruise you can also observe it from the sidelines. We would recommend going in the evening, as the constructions which you will pass by look much more beautiful when they are lit up from the ground.

The Grand Bazaar is Istanbul’s most renowned market and is also recognized as one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. It comprises of more than 3,000 shops with more than 60 streets, attracting a crowd of over 250,000 to 400,000 visitors on an everyday basis. Yearly, the Grand Bazaar caters to more than 91 million people, causing it to be listed as the most preferred place to shop in the world.

The Grand Bazaar is located in Istanbul’s Fatih district, named after ‘Fatih’, the conqueror of Constantinople. The Bazaar stretches from east to west, with a distance that roughly covers the Beyazit and Nuruosmaniye mosques.
The Grand Bazaar came into fruition shortly after the Conquest of Constantinople. Between the year 1455 and 1456, Sultan ‘Fatih’ Mehmed II, ordered that an edifice be erected for the purposes of textile trading and named ‘Cevâhir Bedestan’, or Bedesten of Gems in English.

The word ‘bedesten’ was taken from the Persian word ‘Bezestan’, which means ‘market of the cloth sellers’. The market was very close to the Old Palace, which was the palace of the first Sultan. The construction of the marketplace finished in winter season between 1460 and 1461. Over the years, the Bazaar underwent substantial changes, and the major renovation project in 2012 did much to renew the glory of the Ottoman stronghold’s famous Bazaar.