So you’re travelling to Istanbul and you have no idea where to begin. That’s understandable, the city is massive (it spans two continents!) and it has so much to offer in terms of mosques, markets, museums and foreign culinary delights!
Here are 50 THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL to get your travel planning started:
(1) Visit the Spice Bazaar. This is the second largest covered market after the Grand Bazaar. Here you’ll be able to pick up spices, nuts, dried fruit, Turkish coffee, loose leaf tea, and even Turkish delight!
(2) Go to a whirling dervish show. Turkey is home to the Mevlevi Order of Sufi whirling dervishes. The dervishes spin themselves into a trance-like state that brings them closer to God, and it’s a unique religious ceremony to witness. You can read more about my experience here and book a whirling dervish experience here.
(3) Listen to the call of prayer between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The most beautiful call of prayer I listened to took place between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (which although is no longer a mosque, still keeps a prayer room). One muezzin would sing out part of the prayer and then the second muezzin would respond from the other minaret. It was a magical thing to experience, so if you find yourself in the area during prayer time, I suggest you grab a seat at one of the park benches and just listen.
(4) Eat a kumpir. A kumpir is a loaded baked potato. The server will mix the potato with cheese and butter until it’s light and fluffy, and then you can choose from an assortment of toppings including olives, hot dogs, pickles, corn, peas, bulgur and more. It’s the perfect snack to go.
(5) Get naked at a hamam. If you’re ready to shed your inhibitions, then head over to the Turkish bath. For the full experience you’ll want to opt in for the body scrub and massage. Don’t worry, the hamam is segregated into male and female only areas.
(6) Ride the red street car. One way to see Istiklal Avenue without having to weave your way through the crowds is to ride the streetcar from one end of the strip to another. The streetcar has a decidedly vintage feel and it makes for a pleasant journey through Istanbul’s shopping hub.
(7) Walk across Galata Bridge. Yes, you could very well ride the light rail across, but if you choose to walk, you’ll get to see all the locals fishing from the bridge, the vendors selling sesame covered pretzels, and the boats carrying passengers down the Bosphorus.
(8) Eat a sesame seed covered pretzel. You can pick up one of these tasty pretzels at any bakery in town, but I suggest you grab one from the little red stands along Istiklal Avenue. It just adds to the experience.
(9) Take a boat tour down the Bosphorus. If you only have a few brief days in the city and you know you won’t be able to cover all of the main attractions, taking a cruise down the Bosphorus is a great way to get a glimpse of Istanbul’s main points of interest. You’ll ride past Dolmabahçe Palace, the Rumeli Ruins, the Maiden’s Tower, and many mosques, mansions, and gardens along the way.
(10) Order Turkish chicken breast pudding. There is nothing appetizing about the thought of this dish. Chicken for dessert? Well…yes, but before you protest, let me tell you that you can’t actually taste the chicken. Tavuk Göğsü, as the dish is known, is prepared by boiling chicken breast in water and then shredding the meat into small fibrous pieces. The meat is then boiled again, this time with milk, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and rice flour. The end result is a sweet pudding which you can top off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
(11) Drink Turkish tea. If you come to Istanbul you have to drink tea out of a tulip-shaped glass. Turkish tea is prepared in a rather unique way using a teapot that has two level: one to boil the water, and the other to brew the tea. You then pour the tea into the glass and dilute it with the hot water so that it’s made to your taste.
(12) Eat börek. Börek is a traditional Turkish pastry made of flaky dough. It can be stuffed with feta cheese or minced meat as a savoury treat, or if you prefer something sweeter, you can eat it plain with a little bit of icing sugar sprinkled overtop. You can dive deeper into Turkish cuisine with this 3-hour foodie tour.
(13) Marvel at Hagia Sophia. This architectural wonder has a long history which has seen it go from Eastern Orthodox cathedral, to Roman Cathedral, back to Eastern Orthodox cathedral, to mosque, and now it’s a museum. The exterior may not seem too impressive, but once you’re inside and you catch a glimpse of the heavenly domes and ancient mosaics, you will be in awe. With the 1-hour guided tour you can learn more about the history and skip the line to get in!
(14) Visit Little Hagia Sophia. The Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus, also known as Little Hagia Sophia, is a former Eastern Orthodox church. It is believed that this church was built as an architectural experiment by the same architects who would go on to build Hagia Sophia shortly after. Better test things out on a smaller scale before committing to the main project, right?
(15) Go underground at the Basilica Cistern. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul. Most of the columns in the cistern appear to have been recycled from the ruins of other buildings, and among them you’ll find two carvings of Medusa’s head used as column bases, as well as a column with tear shaped engravings believed to have the power to make your wishes come true.
(16) Sample Turkish delight. Also known as lokum to locals, Turkish delight is a popular gummy treat. The best place to sample Turkish delight is at Hafiz Mustafa, where you can choose from flavours that include rose, cinnamon, mint, strawberry, lemon, orange, kiwi, pomegranate and apple. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
(17) Indulge your sweet tooth with baklava. The Turks really know what they are doing when it comes to sweets. Baklava is made with layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Forget the scones and clotted cream; this is what you need at tea time!
(18) Drink a glass of Ayran. This is one of those drinks that you either love or hate. Ayran is considered the national drink in Turkey and it is a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt. It’s especially popular during the summer months.
(19) Test your bargaining skills at the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a place for serious shoppers. With more than 3,000 shops and covering an estimated 61 streets, this place is dizzying yet so worth a visit. You’ll notice that some streets specialize in certain goods with those shops selling nothing but leather, silverware, carpets, ceramics or spices. There will be lots of glittery things to catch your eye, so you may want to come prepared to spend.
(20) Smoke hookah. Argilah, nargile, sheesha, hubbly bubbly – whatever you call it, there is an ample supply of hookah bars in Istanbul where you can lounge around while you smoke the water pipe and sip on a class of tea or coffee.
(21) Eat a doner. Doner is a Turkish dish made with meat cooked on a spinning vertical rotisserie. The meat can be lamb, beef, or chicken, and it’s served in a pita with vegetables and a few toppings. It’s a tasty and affordable lunch which you can find in any part of the city.
(22) Enjoy the view from Galata Tower. Located in Beyoğlu, this tower looks like it would be better suited as Rapunzel’s home in a fairy tale. There is something magical about the pointed cylindrical roof, and the views from the outer balcony are breathtaking.
(23) Buy yourself a glass lamp. The colourful glass lamps you’ll see hanging in almost every establishment in the city make a great souvenir to take back home. If you are looking for a bargain on these, I suggest you try purchasing them outside the Grand Bazaar and away from the main touristy areas; you’d be surprised at how drastically the prices drop. A medium sized lamp should run you $15-20 USD.
(24) Dine with the best view of Istanbul. If you want a restaurant with a great view that won’t break your wallet, I recommend Hamdi Restorant. The 180-degree views showcase the Süleymaniye Mosque, Rüstempaşa Mosque, Galata Tower, and the Bosphorus. Not only that, but they make a delicious köfte and roasted eggplant.
(25) Go to a belly-dancing show. If you’re after a performance with more of an entertainment factor, then you’re in luck because Hodjapasha Dance Theatre (the same venue that puts of the Whirling Dervish performance), also has folkloric and belly-dancing performances. You can also watch a belly-dancing and folk show as you cruise down the Bosphorus. Prepare to be whisked back into 1001 Arabian Nights.
(26) Visit Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The Istanbul Archaeological Museums actually consists of 3 different museums which are located near Topkapi Palace. These are the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. If you enjoy getting up close with history, you’ll enjoy a visit here.
(27) Pet the stray cats. Istanbul is a city were cats reign supreme. The strays are well taken care of by locals who leave out food, water, and even pillows for these cats to sleep on.
(28) Visit the Chora Church. The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora may not be the largest of the Byzantine churches, but it’s certainly known for being one of the most beautiful. The highlight are the various mosaic panels which recreate biblical scenes and still dazzle centuries later.
(29) See the Valens Aqueducts. When the Romans passed through Istanbul, they began construction of a water system that would supply the city’s growing needs for fresh water. The water that travelled down these aqueducts was stored in open reservoirs and underground cisterns across the city. Today, the surviving section of the Valens Aqueduct is 921 metres long.
(30) Visit Beylerbeyi Palace. This palace, whose name means Lord of Lords, is situated on the Asian side of Istanbul. The palace was built along the banks of the Bosphorus and it was used as the summer residence by the Ottomans.
(31) Have a home-cooked dinner with a local family. This can be a fun way to get to know the local culture and try new dishes. If you can’t get enough of the köfte, lahmacun, and pide, then consider some home-cooking and Turkish hospitality.
(32) Feel like a giant at Miniatürk. This rather unique miniature park is home to small-scale recreations of structures found in Istanbul, Anatolia, and other Ottoman territories that today lie outside of Turkish borders.
(33) Have Sütlaç for dessert. This is the Turkish version of rice pudding. It is said that the recipe made in Topkapi Palace contained rose water. You can also get this dish with chopped walnuts and raisins, which I think adds a nice flavour.
(34) Take a day trip to the Princes’ Islands. The Princes’ Islands is a cluster of 9 islands which lie off the Asian shores of Istanbul. The islands get this name because during the Byzantine and early Ottoman period, members of dynasties who fell out of favour were often sent to exile there. Today it is a popular place for families and couples to visit on the weekends, and the only form of transportation is horse and cart – very romantic.
(35) Visit the Blue Mosque. Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque’s two most striking features are its 6 minarets and blue domed exterior. You’ll want to dress modestly and if you’re a woman you’ll need to wear a scarf over your head as this is still a functioning mosque.
(36) Eat Turkish pizza. Lahmacun is considered to be the Turkish equivalent of pizza. This thin dough is topped with minced meat, vegetables and herbs.
(37) Go to the Maiden’s Tower. There is much debate about the story behind this tower which sits on a small islet located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. Local tale says that the tower was built by a wealthy man who was trying to protect his daughter from a prophecy spoken by an oracle – a prophecy foretelling the death of the man’s daughter by a snake bite. To prevent these words from coming true, the father built a tower to keep his daughter safe in the water. Of course a snake would eventually find it’s way to the tower when the father came to visit with a basket full of fruit.
(38) Stroll along Emirgan Park. This is one of the largest public parks in Istanbul and it is located along the banks of the Bosphorus. Emirgan Park also plays host to the annual Tulip Festival, so you’ll want to check that out if you are in town in the spring.
(39) Hop over to the Asian continent. Most visitors tend to stick to the European side, but if you venture over to the Asian side via ferry, you’ll find that the city has more of a local feel. The pace of life seems a bit slower and there are hardly any tourists around.
(40) Eat Turkish ice cream. Turkish ice cream is called dondurma which literally means freezing. What makes Turkish ice cream different from other types of ice cream is that it has a rather sticky texture and it is a bit more resistant to melting. Don’t believe me? Take a bite and try not to get the stringy ice cream all over your face.
(41) Catch a football match. Istanbul has an extensive list of football clubs, so if you’re in town during the football season, you can catch a live game of footy.
(42) Ride the funicular. If you need to give your legs a little rest, then riding the funicular is the easiest way to deal with Istanbul’s hills. The Tünel line is the oldest underground metro line in continental Europe, and the second oldest in the world after London.
(43) Drink pomegranate juice. Stop at one of the many street stands and order yourself a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. It’s both tart and sweet, and the antioxidants offer great health benefits.
(44) Visit the Süleymaniye Mosque. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia may be better known, but the Süleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul. For that it is worth the visit.
(45) Race around the Hippodrome. Today a public square, the Hippodrome of Constantinople was a place for horse racing and chariot racing. During the Byzantine empire, this place would have been the beating heart of social activity.
(46) Go to the Ortaköy Mosque. This mosque stands along the waterfront of Ortaköy pier square. While it is much smaller than many of the mosques in the city, Ortaköy Mosque is unique in the sense that it is a perfect example of Baroque architecture.
(47) Get a taste of royal life at Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace is the largest royal residence in Istanbul and it served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. The grounds are massive, but perhaps the most impressive part of it all are the Harem Apartments – a place with more than 400 rooms for the Sultan’s many concubines, wives, children, and extended family members. You can get a skip the line ticket for Topkapi Palace here.
(48) Pretend you’re a sultan at Dolmabahçe Palace. This palace was home to 6 different sultans towards the end of the Ottoman period. While in the past the Sultan and his family had lived in Topkapi Palace, times were changing and the Ottoman’s felt Topkapi was lacking the luxury and style of the new era. Naturally, a new palace had to be built. And what’s a new palace without the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier? (Courtesy of Queen Victoria.) You can book a 1-hour guided tour of the palace here.
(49) Walk along the Walls of Constantinople. When Constantinople became the new capital of the Roman Empire, defensive walls were erected to fortify the city. The 7-kilometre walk along the remaining portions of the wall offers a window into the past.
(50) Get lost and see what surprises the city throws your way. Istanbul is a great city to get lost in. So if you’re feeling rather adventurous, why not leave the guidebook behind and just head out on foot to see what you can discover for yourself.
Where to stay in Istanbul
When it comes to finding accommodations in Istanbul, there’s no shortage of options. The hard part is deciding in which of the many neighbourhoods you want to stay! Here are some different options for you to consider:
If you want to be in the heart of the Old City, then Sultanahmet is an excellent choice. You’ll be within walking distance to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Underground Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, and countless other attractions. The only downside to this neighbourhood is that it can be a little bit pricey – you are paying for the location.
What I like about this neighbourhood is that it has a local feel while still catering to visitors with shops, restaurants, and bars. If you want to be in a very lively area, then stick close to Istiklal Avenue, and if you’re looking for a quieter area, you’ll also find it here – there are plenty of apartment rentals and small boutique hotels in the back streets. Beyoglu has great transportation options and you can be in the Old City in a matter of 20-30 minutes.
This neighbourhood is located on the Asian side of Istanbul and it feels very local. I found it to be a lot more relaxed than the European side, and the prices were also much lower. Getting to the Old City from here is fairly easy as it’s just a matter of hopping on a ferry, but do keep in mind it’ll take you longer to reach the main attractions.
Have you been to Istanbul?
What’s your favourite thing about the city?
I knew the (stray) cats were special in Istanbul! I was there just a couple of weeks ago and absolutely love it! http://sandierpastures.com/travel/europe/memories-of-istanbul.html
I can’t think of a better city for cat lovers 😉
Thank you for the information, Audrey. Very helpful!!
I’m going to Turkey after a week and as a, woman traveling by myself, didn’t know what to do and what you suggested is very directive…. so is it safe to explore the city by myself? Will there be tour guide who can show around? Please kindly advise?
U were absolutely right about the Turkish Ice cream in fact I learnt that its made to be sticky .It is known as the stretchy ice cream which u can actually STRETCH !! this is due to some ingredients the Turkish use it is a 500 year old technique and is currently taking the world by storm .Its already hit UK and America ! Its nice to know it originated from Turkey.
SOLD! There were plans to go with Turkish-German friends to Istanbul, but that’ll have to wait. This post isn’t “helping” with that all important gravitational pull: to know, to see, to taste, to smell, to experience the “hot chaotic mess” that is Istanbul. Thanks for your post, Audrey!
Glad you enjoyed the post, Henry. Hopefully you’re able to reschedule the trip soon. It really is a great city to be in.
awesome, that is a lot of info to take in. bookmarked for that date who knows when in the future that i make it to turkey! 🙂
I hope you get to visit soon! There is so much to do there, you’ll need at least one week to cover the main sights. 🙂
This is a truly amazing and incredibly tempting list of opportunities to explore this incredible city! You have the gamut and offer something to delight everyone – and every sense!
Istanbul is one of most interesting, exotic, beautiful cities in the world. Add to that great Turkish food and the friendliest people…what more can you ask for? BTW the “pretzel with a sesame seeds” is called a simit. You can buy them from bakeries or stands, but you will also see boys carrying them on a wooden board on their heads, especially by the Galata Bridge…buy one from them!
This is a great list thanks Audrey! I will be heading to Turkey for the first time in a couple months so this will definitely come in handy.
Audrey! So many beautiful pictures! I am in love 🙂 🙂
I am so excited to finally be traveling to Istanbul this summer (and Europe in general as I’ve never been). This list will totally come in handy as I begin planning my trip!
I love how you compared the Galata Tower to Rapunzel’s home! My favourite part of Istanbul was Topkapi Palace, and second comes the Asian side with its local life. I wouldn’t mind going back to Istanbul and have more of it. It’s a city that has so much to offer!
Great list! You guys really did a lot. If I were to add anything it would be to learn to swing the tespe (prayer beads) Love the Kumpir, love it!! I also love the sloppy joes. Not sure what they’re called but they’re the best drunk food int he world 🙂
a kumpir sounds amazing
Great list Audrey! One of the best posts I’ve read from Istanbul.
What a comprehensive list! I too love your photos, especially the more intimate captures of life. I also thoroughly enjoy the suggestion to pet stray cats. Now I’m craving Turkish tea, a doner, and some hookah haha!
I love wandering around the spice markets when I’m anywhere in Turkey – the smells are gorgeous. As probably one of the biggest potato fans, I’m intrigued about this kumpir – hot, fluffy AND topped with olives, hot dogs, pickles, corn, peas, bulgur and more?! I need to get my hands on it.
Great list! The Blue Mosque looks amazing, much better than I though and seen it on TV. I would love to explore it one day. I love the idea of indulging myself in traditional Turkish börek :).
Wow. This is such a great list! I can’t believe I still haven’t been here.
Never been to Istanbul, but would love go! It’s an interesting destination with lots of unique things to experience. I’m looking forward to trying its different cuisines. 🙂
very concise posting. Although been there twice you realise you have not seen anything!!!
The best part: There’s plenty more to do in Istanbul!
Great list Audrey! Will definitely keep this in mind when I finally get myself to Istanbul. 🙂
We LOVED Istanbul and did a lot of the things on your list. We were lucky too because our really good friend is Turkish and he showed us the city!
I’ve never been to Istanbul but you really made me want to go NOW. There are plenty of things on your list that I’d happily do and experience. Thanks for the tips 😉
After reading this post, I think Istanbul is worth a visit. Your tips are really helpful in planning the trip.
Wow! I visited Istanbul earlier on this year and I thought I managed to cram a lot in! The only thing I would add is to watch some live Turkish folk music on a Sunday night at Munzur bar not far from Taksim Square. We were the only westerners in there, everyone was so friendly and we even got dragged up to join in with some Turkish dancing 🙂
Gosh, this brings back so many memories! I even ate at Hamdi Restorant! We seem to have many of the same tastes in activities as I did most of the non-meaty things you listed. Istanbul is such a wonderful city. One thing we did not listed here was to take the boat all the way up the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. We chose a cloudy day, but we still got a foggy look at the Black Sea! Istanbul is totally worth a trip!
What a great list! Can’t wait to make it to Istanbul! 🙂
I’m going to Istanbul, Turkey in 5 days and I don’t have any plan in mind! This is really helping me lol! 🙂 I just really hope I can pronounce things right. I’m really Excited!!!!
Well, I’ve done all of these things in Istanbul except 25, 32 and 41. 🙂 Hiking around Rumeli Hisari and having kahvaltı by the Bosphorus are 2 of my fav things too!
Do you think it is necessary to hire an English speaking guide for the first day you arrive. We will be there in late may for six days.
No, you really don’t need a guide to show you around, unless of course you want one. It’s very easy to get around the city and visit the attractions on your own. If you would like a guided tour, there’s always the option of taking one of the hop-on-hop-off tours, which usually come with audio guides (or sometimes a real guide!).
I’m a Venezuelan and I love traveling! last year I backpacked through Europe with the inteRail awesome experience …… Good article and blog by the way! I’ll keep reading your adventures around the world.
If you go to Venezuela or plan to let me know, i might help you.
You should also wander around “Balat”, in Golden Horn. Where is recently discovered by turkish bobos and thanks god still pure. If you check there from wikipedia, you’ll learn that it’s a jewish quarter. This information’s not completely wrong, but Balat is mainly and famously rum(in english greeks of Turkey) quarter. Probably the reason is that ancient jewish quarters are very known around the world by tourism and people don’t know nothing about rums. You should see “Fener Rum Erkek Lisesi”, an ancient minority high school, still active with its nearly fourty students. This is one of the most beautiful structures in Turkey, unfortunately not so popularised by turks. In Balat, you can see greek-named streets, ancient greek writings on the buildings. And also at the other side of the Fatih peninsula, there’s another beautiful and smaller rum fisherman quarter, Samatya. Perfect for “raki-balık”. :))
For all art events, travellers can check ” TimeOut Istanbul”website, which is in english. Turkey’s main event ticket company is “Biletix” which is in english too.
Great article covering all the things to see in Turkey. I would love to be there and hope your post will help me a lot of make a travel itinerary for Turkey. BTW, which DSLR camera did you use to take the photos? You shot some stunning photos 🙂
I’ve been to Istanbul for many times (8 I think, but who’s counting) and love it! Istanbul is probably the only city I would really LOVE to live. Like you wrote in your post, you just cannot get bored here! The mixture of old and new, traditional and modern lifestyle is simply unique! I think no matter, what interests people have, istanbul have it all! 🙂
Some additional things to try.
Meet up with a local from Couch Surfing who can show you around. Best way to experience Turkish culture is with a Turk.
Eat an ıslak burger in Taksim, perfect after clubbing/ late night pub food!
Also, order a traditional Turkish ice cream. Very fun and unique experience. 🙂
Drink a Turkish coffee. (Most similar to espresso but definitely its own unique drink) There is a place near Taksim that is said to be the original Türk Kahvesi place.
Play Tavla (backgammon) while you sip Turkish tea and smoke nargile.
Drink Salep in the winter or traditional Ayran in the summer.
Eat Mantı, with the garlic yogurt sauce, prepared by the village women! YUM!
Try traditional Ottoman cuisine!
Drink Rakı (Turkish alcoholic beverage) Especially if you like licorices (Rakı and licorices are both made from aniseed. Very potent meant to be drank with food (meze) fish or meat. Take care to drink slowly so you don’t become drunk.
Eat at a Meyhane, a traditional Turkish restaurant.
Drink Boza with cinnamon while you munch on some dried chickpeas. <3
Try a gözleme made in the traditional way by the village women! Spinach is my favorite.
Visit Rumeli Hısarı (Rumeli Fortress) and climb the walls. Great view of the Bosphorus from the top and CHEAP 3TL entry fee. 😀
After visiting Rumeli, dine at one of the upscale fish restaurants on the Bosporus in Bebek. (Right beside the fortress) Beautiful sea view.
Curious about Turkish history? Tons of things to do BUT check out the Military Museum (Near Taksim) and while you are there make sure you watch the traditional Ottoman band. Free with Museum admission. Wonderful cultural experience.
Thanks for that it was very helpful from you Nancy 🙂
Thanks for that it was very helpful from you 🙂 Hope I visit Istanbul soon.
Thank you for this list! Ooh- Cats!
I am so looking forward to discovering these treasures next week when I travel to Istanbul with my friend for a holiday. I`ve been to Turkey a few years back, but have only ever stopped over at the airport in Istanbul en route to Izmir. So, it will be a great adventure to actually SEE the city this time!
Hi there, I am a person who was born and raised in Istanbul but moved out at 19 yo. This summer, we will visit Turkey for 3 weeks with my boyfriend (who is Indian) and did not know where to start and what to show. I loved your list and actually will definitely use it to plan wisely our days in Istanbul. Thank you 🙂
I’m glad to hear you found the article helpful, Alynna! Istanbul is such a fun city and I’m sure you and your boyfriend will have a wonderful time travelling there. Have a great trip! 🙂
Thanks so much for the insight of the city. Surely this is going to be a guide for me for our holiday.
perfect guide for istanbul!
Hi Audrey, what amazing tips about Istanbul, its helping me a lot to plan my trip to Turkey this year! Your blog is amazing! I hope you can visit my travel blog too: Packing my Suitcase 🙂
This is awesome.Next month I’m going to Istanbul and this is a list which will be done. Maybe I add some things, I hope so. Take care, kisses.
I am a Turkish girl living on the Asia side. I have a few suggestions for you as I have been living here for a long time.
It is called simit not ‘sesame covered pretzels’ if you say that no one will understand.
Don’t take the bus. There are smaller ones you can get on to. The big busses will be filled with locals and it is literally a torture get on, ride and get off. You can take the yellow taxis. But they are not the taxis you individually take. They are called dolmuş, it means filled actually. For a small amount of money you can go many great places. But since Turkish lira is cheap I suggest you take the taxi.
Taxis, track the road and seem like you know where you are going. Because most of the taxi drivers will get off the road and charge you more.
Bağdat Street, Kadıköy, Taksim are the best places you can shop. Many known labels have stores there such as Mango or Nine West and they are cheaper here. Beware the fake. There are many, many stores that sell it for really cheap. If they are piled up and about 30 they are fake.
Most of the sellers have a tourist price. They sell stuff cheaper for locals and more expensive for tourists.
Don’t try to walk anywhere you are not sure you can go. In European cities you can walk a city in a day but not in Turkey. Even if it seems close. It is not.
If you are wandering in streets you don’t know, try to walk on crowded streets. Especially late at night.
1 Euro is 3 Turkish liras, so Turkey is one of the best places to shop. Even though İstanbul is the most expensive city.
Don’t eat döner or any meat in corner streets. They are usually made of chicken or something else they will harm you. Look up for good places first before going.
I hope you follow these and enjoy trip in İstanbul.
I like the info you just presented. how do I reach you in Istanbul for more info? I will be in Istanbul from 26th September 2014 to 1st October 2014.
I’d like to know when the shops on Taksim square such as mango go on sale?? Once I travelled to Istanbul in july and they were all 70% discounted, wondering when that would happen again
Thank you for your suggestions! I
Planning on visiting Istanbul in a few weeks and only staying for three days . Do you think we need a tour guy ? Thanks
Thank you so much for the post! Great information. As a woman, did you feel it’s a safe city. Me and my 2 sisters are considering a visit.
Spent a week in Istanbul 2 years ago and absolutely fell head over heels in love. I have quite a few stamps myself and Istanbul is to date my most favourite city in the world, with only Cape Town coming in at a close second. Busy planning a second trip to Turkey to see the rest of what this country has to offer and stumbled on your blog. I love ticking of lists, and could tick all 50. One of my favourites: listening to the call of prayer from the muezzins while lying on the grass (all seats on the park benches already taken) staring up at the sky and the trees overhead. Strangely peaceful and magical.
Yay!! Love this list!! I’m planning on a visit to Istanbul for a week in April 2015. Do you recommend a good book to read up on before my visit? I’m a little overwhelmed by ALL the different history of the city itself and the different changes it has made throughout history. Also, do you think 8 days is enough time to venture a little further from the city, maybe to Ephesus or Troy for a day? Not sure how far they are from the city, or how realistic it is to go to either on a day trip.
Hi Gretchen, apologies for the delay in replying. I’m just seeing your comment now. I think 8 days is plenty of time to cover a lot of the attractions in the city, that being said, it might be a tight schedule to make it to both Ephesus and Troy. I did some quick googling and it looks like the trip from Istanbul to Ephesus would take at least 10 hours one way so you’d likely want to stay overnight. And from Istanbul to Troy it appears to be 6 hours one way, and again, you’d probably want to spend the night there. I hope that helps a bit!
I only did 11 of thoses when I went to Istanbul- (7, 15,16,19,22,25,35,39, 44,47 & 48). Wish I’d had time to do number 37- sounds awesome! But I partied is Taksim as number 51 on your list instead 🙂
I am visiting Istanbul in next month for 3 days . In my tour package I have optional tours to 1) Bursa Full Day Tour: (Includes Lunch) & 2) Bosphorus+Topkapi Palace Tour : (Includes Lunch)
I need to choose only one destination from the above two. Could any one please recommend which among them is best?
Hi Babitha, I didn’t go to Bursa, so I can’t really compare the two. Topkapi Palace is beautiful and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around, but personally, I did find the tour of the Bosphorous a little dull. I looked at Bursa online and it seems to have some really cool natural landscapes and it would also give you a chance to get out of Istanbul and experience a different city, so that’s something to consider. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
You had me at #4 Kumpir. My best friend and I are planning our trip to Turkey right now and we both salivated at your picture of the baked potato =)
Please also do’not forget to do Helicopter Tour over istanbul..;) In 15 Min you can see a lot of places. And it is cheap starting from 49 Euro.
Pretty much covered everything. Thanks a ton, Audrey. This city and its people are amazing.
I am no fan of big cities as I usually find them boring and expensive but in the last week of November 2014 one of my very close friend dragged me literally to visit Istanbul. I am ever so grateful for this experience as the place just blew me away. No words can ever describe the subliminal charm of Istanbul on the new visitor . It Is like being exposed to a beautiful painting or natural beauty which appeals to your heart by bypassing reason.. Istanbul is neither Eastern or Western or Islamic or Christian or secular or modern it is all of those ALL at once. There is no other place like magical Istanbul. This pluralism is not just for show but because of its location where East meets West ISTANBUL has evolved that unique blend of values which cannot be found in any other City on earth.
Planning to visit Istabmbul this Nov 18th through 23rd. How is the weather then, and if you can give me some tips what to do at that time in Istambul. Thanks
Thank you very much for this advice. I absolutely love Istanbul. Something that you may want to include in this blog is the culinary walks provided by http://www.spooninmypocket.com. I took one of them and it really shows the Turkish culture. The people in Istanbul absolutely love food and that really shows in the food we tasted during the tour. It is a nice change to the crowded, busy tourist spots in Istanbul
The Princes Islands is a MUST if your going to Istanbul. Heybeliada is stunning and less built up than Buyukada. Stay at The Karamanyan boutique apartments, for a trendy and chic romantic experience.
I do love Istanbul and looking forward to visit Istanbul in 2015 during summer holidays
If your travelling to the Princes’ Islands stop off at Heybeliada stay at the Karamanyan apartments, just voted in the top 10 self catering apartments in Turkey by The Guardian newspaper, they are run by an english couple. They offer an authentic and stylish island retreat, perfect for any traveller. The Karamanyan building itself is a 200 yr old Ottoman timber mansion that onced housed the visiting monks travelling to the 11th century monastery on the hill opposite. The Penthouse has stunning views to this monastery, and they stretch all the way back to Istanbul city. In the evening you can see the city lights twinkling as dusk settle in. Check out the website: http://www.karamanyan.com
What a wonderful list, Audrey. I started with ten things to do in Istanbul but I’m thinking it could easily grow to over a hundred. Istanbul is such a fascinating city.
I just went to Istanbul and Cappadocia with my husband to celebrate our 8 wedding anniversary. We almost followed ur entire list in Istanbul in 5 days. And i must compliment u for such details as it was a great guideline to get insights of Istanbul as a local.
Thanks so much for this great list of things to see and do in Istanbul. We are stopping over for 5 days this summer and are just starting do our research and your list is an excellent start. I also enjoyed the comments added by everyone. Thanks very much, we are excited about our upcoming trip.
İstanbul is very big old city with beautiful places. I’m living in İstanbul. I’m a student so i can show you the beauties of the city. I can share my flat.Just e mail me the date of visit. They are all free. I just want to improve my English. e-mail: email@example.com
This is the best list to discover Istanbul! If you try to do all of these things, you need more than 10 days but I think it will be unforgetable journey in your life 😉
I absolutely love Istanbul, the city where east meet west. You definitely have to take an Istanbul Food Walks Tour. Its a great way to get off the tourist trail and explore and taste the real istanbul.
IstanbulFoodWalks.com . Best part of the trip!
Thanks so much for all this information. I head to istanbul in two weeks time for four days and didn’t really know what to do. Now my list is full and I’m looking forward to trying lots of tasty food. Thanks so much. X
I do love Istanbul and looking forward to visit Istanbul in 2015 during summer holidays
i know we are not in Istanbul but we would love to see the Blue Cruise http://www.mybluecrusie.com
listed on your list, i think blue cruises is in top ten things to do.
Please check it out and if you travel south be our guest on board.
I will be in Istanbul this May 7-13, 2015 and thank you for all these tips and recommendations, very useful.
Wow. This is a great list. Thanks for posting it. I arrived today and am very excited to do as much of this list as possible.
woow sounds like soo much fun I can’t wait I’m going in 2015 summer holidays for two weeks really excited … I hope it’s a memorable trip ..still don’t know what hotel to stay at though cud anyone reccomend a nice quiet friendly place ? Thanks
istanbul is great city with friendly people too friendly but i enjoyed every minute i loved the cats and the cruise and the dances
You made a great list.But i think you didnt go Nevizade. You must go Nevizade to drink a little alcohol or hot/cold drink with crowds.People enjoy with in istanbul
I am a local and I must say this is a very good list 🙂
Great list of things to see and do in Istanbul. I am heading to Turkey in August. Keep it up 🙂
What time of the year did you visit? I plan on going in December and it’s been difficult trying to find things to do during that time.
Hi Michelle, I was there in October and November and the city was still buzzing with activity. The main attractions would be open year round – except for a handful of holidays – but it really shouldn’t affect your travel plans.
I read your article and absolutely loved it! In fact I went to Istanbul last November for a week and experienced everything that you had mentioned.!! It is a magical city for sure…from people to food to sights and ambiance!!!! I fell in love with the city!!
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı): This is a very magical underground cistern with dimmed light; there comes a classical music and sound of dripping water. Its a very romantic experience. Its like you find yourself at one of the fairy tales.. This is my all time favorite spot in Istanbul.
If you are visiting Istanbul and searching for a unique local experience, as a local, i can share my top 20 to do list with you. Please contact me so that I can email it to you.
Also I am an Airbnb host, having an apartment located 10 mins walk to Taksim Square. I love meeting new people and share my experiences with them. Lets keep in touch!.
Your blog was my guide ?
Hi guys. I live in Istanbul since I was born 🙂 Istanbul is still incredible to me and wonderful, exotic.. all of you must see. Have a nice day!
This is a great comprehensive list. There are so many amazing things to see and do in Istanbul, but also outside of Istanbul.
I cannot recommend Kapadocia (Cappadocia), Pamukkale Travertines and the ancient Roman cities of Hierapolis and Ephesus enough, not to mention the underground city of Derinkuyu. I absolutely love Turkey and cannot wait to head back there. So much history and culture. Thank you so much for reminding me 🙂
Hello, i will be leaving for ISTANBUL this september 2015 ,Hope this guidance will help me there,are there any good night clubs/discos???
This is ONE AMAZING and very thorough guide. You’re not working for the tourism board are you? I will recommend it to anyone going to Istanbul – and only wish I had a ticket in my hand right now so I could do everything you suggested.
Great list of things to see and do in Istanbul. I am heading to Turkey in August. It really is a great city to be in.
Thanks! Glad the article was helpful. Enjoy your trip to Turkey. 🙂
Great Insight. I am travelling to Istanbul in December (Alone) and was wondering what all can I do. I am spending about 5 nights there. I am sure I would be able to cover most of the city with your help. Thanks again! 🙂
Thanks a lot for information given here. I have a plan to visit Istanbul on May 2016. Really can’t wait to experience this nice city ?
Even local people who lives in Istanbul should take this post as reference. 🙂 I am sure they miss some of them. Great tips after all. Thank you for sharing.
I might be coming this Feb 2016 in Istanbul, any recommendations for a decent but cheap hostel?
I’ve always rented a mix of private rooms or apartments through AirBnB when visiting, so I can’t personally recommend any hostels based on first-hand experience. That being said, I’d suggest going on Hostelworld and choosing a place based on the ratings and reviews. Enjoy Istanbul! 🙂
This is a great guide for the future visitors and for locals also. Thanks…
AUDREY love you I followed all your recommendation I really enjoyed If you people want a cheap shopping and absorbed a Turkish culture (very quite) just goto Asian Side area is Uskudar from kabatash take a boat ride price is 4 lira one way you will really enjoy. Must see tokapi palace hagia Sophiya and Galata Tower.
This post brings back so many great memories of Istanbul. The call of prayers between the mosques was almost like a “rap-off” amazing. And the calls of “chai chai chai” as men walked around offering tea for 1 lira. Great people and even better food. Midye Dolma is one of my top 10 street foods of all time and Kadikoy market is great for food, much better than the Spice Bazaar.
We spent 2 months in Istanbul and haven’t seen it all. Although we ate almost all the dishes available! Absolutely love Turkish food!
Planning our return to Istanbul in a couple of months 🙂
You have posted really nice article. This helped a lot to me as I’ll be visiting Turkey next month for my official trip. I will surely visit the places you have mentioned. Turkish food especially dondurma is the most enticing thing which I want to try.
Thanks for sharing superlative list of places and other things to-do in Turkey. 🙂
Eating a kumpir in Istanbul, bathing in a hamam, touring Bosporus, Hagia Sophia, is in my bucket list. Not exactly this. But I would like to do everything from this list. This is a lot of info. Deciding on one thing is difficult.
You have covered the places so amazingly!
I will be visiting istanbul this month for an academic conference and will have just two days to visit the places. Is there anything you can suggest.
What a wonderful post! I want to share another tip for transportation: If you have internet connection on your tablet or mobile phone, use https://taksiyle.com/en just before taking a taxi from airport, hotel or restaurant. It will help you to avoid potential taxi scams in Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and other metropolitan areas in Turkey. Also it will give an outline about the routings.
Great tips to know about Istanbul. I loved that pretty cat. Thank you for sharing.
seriously! this is the best article i have read for my plan to turkey!! simply, you are awesome.i like how you organize it in points along with pictures and brief explanation for everything. i’ll take it copy paste and follow your words 😀 ….love it sincerely…
Also love the colourfull streets in Balat. And you can make a jump-photo above the Buyuk Valide Han with the istanbul view. You can also see istanbul at the Galatatower. Go to Uskudar to Maidentower, little island, for another view. Don’t forget the Turkish breakfast. I love Istanbul, the city with character.
What an amazing guide to Istanbul!. Just like you, it is one of my favorite cities too. Hope to be back in Istanbul soon!
Love your post! Travelling to Istanbul next month and I haven’t decided where to go and what to see. Thanks for the list ❤
Very useful list. Thanks for this information. I really love Istanbul.
Love Your youtube Channel, you both make a great couple. You are inspiration and I have started a travel blog!
I love Turkey and İstanbul! Thank you.
Istanbul is a fantastic place to be, cant wait to be there again for the 2019 UEFA Super Cup Finals. How is the internet connectivity in Instanbul cause I need the internet to remain online. A friend of mine recommended rentnconnect and Skyroam pocket WiFis let me know if anyone has had an experience with the two companies
hey thanks for the great article!
Istanbul is a great city especially in winter!
It is a great article, great things to do listed in Istanbul, but one of the best things can be free walking tour in the old city with official tour guides. They give great understanding history of Istanbul, This a good one that you may like to check; http://www.freeistanbultours.com