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Istanbul, that bridge between the East and the West, remains one of the most interesting places you’ll ever visit. It’s packed with historical buildings that showcase Byzantine and Ottoman architecture but is a hotspot for evening entertainment with rock and jazz regaling party lovers.

Just as easily as you can find centuries-old hammans, you’ll find swanky malls displaying the latest in fashion. This beautiful blend of differences means that there are plenty of things to do in Istanbul to engage in no matter what your preference is.

10 Things To Do In Istanbul

Be it architecture, art, culture, food, or people, checkout these top ten things to do in Istanbul that will take you through the rich heritage of the Russian gems.

1. Visit the Hagia Sophia

the mosque and also a museum

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The splendid Hagia Sophia is a must-see when in Istanbul. The church turned mosque turned museum is almost 15 centuries old and as you climb up to the gallery, you’ll be greeted with incredible Byzantine mosaics. Look up at the ceiling to see the great dome that seems to hover under the reflection of light.

Timings: Open seven days a week from 9am onwards
Entry Fees: 40 TL. Free for children below 12 years.
Location: Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Istanbul

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2. Head to Topkapi Palace

overview of a palace

Along with Hagia Sophia, visiting Topkapi Palace is one of the top 10 things to do in Istanbul. It’s located right near Hagia Sophia so you can visit them both in a couple of hours. The palace was once the residence of the Ottoman sultans and today houses a museum. The collection includes weapons used by the Ottomans, Chinese and Japanese porcelains and copper kitchenware among others.

Timings: Open every day except on Tuesdays. Winter Season: October 30th-April 15th (9am to 4.45pm). Summer Season: April 15th-October 30th (9am to 6.45pm)
Entry fees: 40 TL.
Location: Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Istanbul

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3. Relax at a hammam

the famous turkish bath houses

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One of the fun things to do in Istanbul is to unwind at a hammam. The famous Turkish bath houses were a popular fixture during Ottoman rule and continue to be widely visited by locals and tourists. You can go for the works including a scrub and a soap massage after which you can make use of the sauna and the pool, or opt only for a scrub and a massage.

Best hammams in Istanbul: Mihrimah Sultan Hamamı, Ağa Hamamı, Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı, Cemberlitas Hamami and Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı

4. Attend a whirling dervish show

the whirling dervish show

What better place is there to watch dervishes whirl than in Turkey? It’s one of the top things to do in Istanbul whether it’s your first time here or your 10th! Head to the Galata Mevlevi Museum to see this devotional act performed.

Timings: Every Sunday at 5pm in summer and every other week in winter
Entry fees: 70 TL.
Location: Şahkulu Mh., Galip Dede Cd. No:15, 34420 Beyoğlu/Istanbul

5. Explore the Basilica Cistern

large marble columns and ceiling

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Our list of things to do in Istanbul Turkey continues with an exploration of the ancient Basilica Cistern. Built during the Byzantine period, the subterranean chamber is located close to the Hagia Sophia and features large marble columns that hold up the ceiling. Carvings of Medusa’s head are even used as column bases.

Timings: 9am to 5.30pm
Entry fees: 20 TL.
Location: Alemdar Mahallesi, Yerebatan Caddesi, No: 1/3, Istanbul 34410

6. Shop at the Grand Bazaar

colourful market

Old, large and packed with things that would tempt even a non-shopper, the Grand Bazaar is a colorful market featuring more than 3,000 shops. Haggling for bargains in this massive 15th century market is one of the best activities in Istanbul Turkey. You can find spices, fabric, antiques and home décor items to take back home.

Best places to shop in Grand Bazaar: Yazzma, Eski Fine Arts and Antiques, Abdulla, Özlem Tuna and more.

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7. Enjoy the nightlife!

happening city with a vibrant nightlife

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Turkey’s capital is a happening city with a vibrant nightlife that you absolutely can’t miss. Bars, jazz clubs and nightclubs stay open till the wee hours and one of the best things to do in Istanbul is to explore them. If you crave a local flavor, you can head to venues that host bands playing Turkish-style rock or the more traditional fasil. Aside from chilled vibes and great music, you can expect to gorge on delicious Turkish and international cuisines.

Best nightlife spots in Istanbul: Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi, Nardis Jazz Club, Balkon Restaurant & Bar, 360 Istanbul and Leb-i Derya

8. Cruise on the Bosporus

enjoy the cruise ride on bosporus

Bosporus is an important strait in Turkey and one of the narrowest in the world. Cruising down the waterway is a heady experience as you get to see much of Istanbul. In fact, it’s among the top activities to do in Istanbul. What’s even better is that you don’t necessarily need to splurge; you can take a public ferry and enjoy watching the city’s sights. If you do want to pamper yourself a bit, there are private tours that can be booked.

Best Bosphorus cruise tours: Şehir Hatları and Zoe Yacht

9. Visit Miniatürk

popular landmarrk of the city

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Ninth on our list of what to do in Istanbul turkey is to visit Miniatürk. It’s the best way to see Istanbul in near entirety. The miniature park is spread across 60,000 square meters and features over 100 models in 1/25th scale with nearly 50 of them representing popular landmarks of the city. It also has models of historic structures from different parts of Turkey and a few from other countries such as the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

The park has other attractions as well including a gift shop – perfect for picking up souvenirs – and a labyrinth. There’s also a playground for children.

Timings: 9am to 6pm
Entry fees: 15 TL.
Location: Imrahor Caddesi | Sutluce, Istanbul 34445

10. Take a walk through Istiklal Avenue

explore the istiklal avenue

Rounding up our Istanbul what to do list is Istiklal Avenue, the city’s most famous avenue that sees around three million people passing through each day. The bustle can be overwhelming at times but it’s an unforgettable experience for those who love the energy of a city. Old mixes with new so that fast food joints jostle for space with old establishments. The avenue has numerous attractions and exploring them is one of the best things to do in Istanbul in April as the weather begins to warm but isn’t hot.

Best attractions in Istiklal Avenue: Saray Muhallebicisi, Galata Mevlevihanesi, heritage trams, SALT Beyoğlu, Flower Passage and Hazzo Pulo Pasaji among others.

Truly, Istanbul is one of the best cities in the world to experience a fine blend of culture, modernity, and history. So what do you think about this trending tourist attraction? Do let us know in the comments section below.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Things to Do in Istanbul

What are the best attractions to explore in Istanbul?

Some of the top attractions that you must explore during your visit to Istanbul include Hagia Sophia Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Hippodrome, Istanbul Archeology Museum, Süleymaniye Mosque, Dolmabahce Palace, Yedikule Fortress, and Grand Bazaar.

What is there to do outdoors in Istanbul?

The best things to do outdoors in Istanbul include going for a Bosphorus cruise tour, exploring various historical monuments, dining at several renowned restaurants, and a guided tour to some of the elegant palaces in Istanbul.

Is it safe to visit Istanbul during covid times?

As the tourism industry is slowly reopening, you can visit most of the above-mentioned places and more if traveling in a small group while following all the guidelines released. But don’t take our word for it: check up on the latest travel advisory, Covid-19 measures, and the number of cases before your departure. It is safer to undertake solo travel or with a small group of people to somewhere that is not overly crowded at the moment or has few reported cases.

What is Istanbul known for?

Istanbul is one of the popular destinations among several travel enthusiasts around the world and comprises various astounding architectures built during the medieval times. Istanbul is known for its rich cultural heritage and various luxurious experiences that it offers for its visitors.

What can you do in Istanbul at night?

The best things to do at night include going for dinner on a cruise, enjoying the Turkish night show, experiencing the rich Turkish culture at various renowned restaurants, and shopping at the vibrant markets of Istanbul.

What is there to do in Istanbul for 3 days?

Some of the best things you do during your 3 days tour to Istanbul include visiting various historical sites, dining on a cruise ship, experiencing various renowned restaurants, and strolling around the artistic streets of Istanbul.

What are the best months to visit Istanbul?

Istanbul experiences huge crowds during April to June, and September to October, as it is considered as the peak season to visit this amazing city. If you wish to visit during the off-season, then you may be able to get better deals and less tourists, leading to a better experience.

How many days are required to explore Istanbul?

For a brief visit to Istanbul, a 3 days tour is recommended in order to explore the major attractions in the city but if you want to go for a thorough and relaxing vacation, then 4-5 days are sufficient to explore the hidden gems of the city and spend a relaxing holiday simultaneously.

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Category: Istanbul, Things To Do, Turkey

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