Traveling to Turkey ? Find Out Top Things To Do In Istanbul

Some places leave an indelible imprint on your mind, even though you may not have visited the place in person. It inspires and generates an undying urge within you to explore the place. Istanbul is one such place that has been fascinating me for years. A melting pot of cultures, traditions, and contrasting lifestyles, Istanbul has been on top of my list. One of the most picturesque destinations, this city never fails to impress you with everything. Istanbul, where east meets west, is a perfect example of the celebration of two most prominent cultures. Ruled by the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires, Istanbul was known as Constantinople before it got its present name. With its layered history and complex social fabric, Istanbul is one cosmopolitan city that dwells between two worlds, seamlessly flaunting traditional and modern lifestyle at one place. The enigmatic city of future, Istanbul embraces you with its impeccable charm.

Let’s travel to Istanbul through these eye catching photographs that will place this destination high on your list straight away.

Maiden’s Tower 

Whenever the very first image of Istanbul flashes, the iconic landmark of the City, the Maiden Tower, comes alive in front of my eyes. The most inimitable structure, in the middle of the Bosphorus River, gives Istanbul a unique identity. Known as Kız Kulesi Üsküdar or Leander’s Tower, this legendary tower is located on a small rocky islet, upholding the pride of seeing many civilizations, the cultural shift of the city and changing times in the country. With the purpose of controlling ships passing the Bosphorus, and collecting taxes, The Maiden Tower was built by the ancient Athenian general Alcibiades, during the 5th century. It continued to function under Byzantine times until the Ottoman times when it was used as a Lighthouse. There are many folklores associated with the tower. Some are historical, cultural and romantic ones as well. It depends on you as to which one you want to believe in. Today the tower, houses one upscale restaurant, serving the Turkish cuisines to the guests. It also has a museum which has a free entry for all. Sitting on the bank of Bosphorus River, watching the sun changing shades and setting slowly with the backdrop of the Maiden Tower is nothing less than a painting.

Hagia Sophia

The name, Hagia Sophia means the Church of Holy Wisdom. It is one of the most stunning architectural examples in Istanbul and at one point of time was the epitome of faith. It was a prominent church during the Byzantine Empire and later it was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. Today it serves as the official museum of the Turkish Republic. Standing under the giant dome, when you look up to the designs, patterns, Islamic calligraphy, and paintings, representing both Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it gives one of the most imperishable experiences.

Historic Tram in the Taksim

One thing not to be missed is taking a tram ride in the Taksim neighborhood in Istanbul. Taking a slow ride in the historic red and white tramway will take you back to the old times when people used to heavily rely on the tram services for their daily commuting. Introduced in 1875 in Istanbul, the tram service was closed down in 1961, replaced by taxis and buses.  It caused problems like heavy traffic on the streets, pollution, smog, illegal migration and many others. It was in1990 when the historic tram was re-introduced in the European side of Istanbul. The tram runs in pedestrian-only Istiklal Caddesi from Taksim Square to Tünel Square.

Blue Mosque

One of the top places to visit in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque. Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, it dominates the skyline of Istanbul. Considered as one of the most sacred places in the city, this mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I. The astounding architecture has five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. Intricate detail works on the walls adorned with 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, Islamic calligraphy, stained glass windows and also flamboyant paintings of tulip flowers add a charm to the décor of this historic mosque.

Turkish Tea

You can’t possibly imagine the life of Turkish people without their black traditional tea in a tulip shaped transparent cup. From breakfasts, social gatherings, business meetings, conversations or for that matter any occasion, the Turkish people are obsessed with their tea. In fact, the Turks are one of the top tea consumers in the world. Known as “Cay” in Turkish language, black tea is an integral part of their culture.

Grand Bazaar

The trip to Istanbul is incomplete if you don’t visit the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It has 61 interconnecting vaulted passages, housing more than 4.000 shops, is nothing less than a maze in itself. Built in the 14th century, this is probably the most colorful market in the world and also reputed as the world’s oldest shopping mall. For shopaholics, the grand bazaar is a must visit place in Istanbul. It is said that if you want to know the people of any destination better, you must pay a visit to their markets. As market reflects the lifestyle of the people in a true sense. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul showcases exactly the same. From colorful traditional lanterns, Turkish ceramics, textiles,  mosaic chandeliers, cutleries, food, antique show pieces, perfumes, coffee & tea, jewelry, apparels and what not. You need the entire day to cover the market. And if you are a skilled bargainer, then the Grand Bazaar is just the perfect shopping destination for you.

Cats in Istanbul

You will be amazed to see cats in abundance in Istanbul almost everywhere. They are literally owners of the city. They are one of the essential parts of Istanbul’s identity. The locals feed them, make houses for them and look after them like a family member. It is said that cats have a special place in Islam. The Sultans of Ottoman Empire believed that cats kept the city clean of vermin and rats.

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is a massive water cistern in central Istanbul, built in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. It was built on the former site of a cathedral and lies underground near the famous Hagia Sophia. It is open to the public for visits and concerts and other performances also. –Jessica Norah/ Independent Travel Cats

Turkish Delight

If you are in Istanbul and not having Turkish delight is nothing less than a sin. The soft cubes made from starch and sugar, covered with icing sugar, come with delectable flavors (lemon, rose, orange, mint, cinnamon, ginger, coconut, chocolate, apricot, and much more.). This is probably the best souvenir to take back home from Istanbul. They are called Lokum in the local language.

Istanbul’s Golden Horn

Here Istanbul’s Golden Horn is laid out before you, to the soundtrack of the muezzin’s call to prayer from mosques across the city (imagine!). Galata Bridge, iconic fishing spot and now with restaurants too, crosses the water to the district of Eminönü, where you’ll find the famous Spice Bazaar and you can explore the back streets up to Kapalıçarşı, the Grand Bazaar. There is the view from the roof terrace of Istanbul Place Apartments’ Petraki building in Galata, where you’ll find cafes, restaurants and boutique shops as well as the famous Galata Tower. –Julia Bayne/ Istanbul Place Apartments

Topkapi Palace

For a blue and white lover, Topkapi Palace is a dream. The Topkapi Palace was the major residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. Perched on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn, Topkapi Palace was strategically built to have a fantastic view of the Bosphorus and the surrounding city. Allow yourself some time here because there are four courtyards, a harem, hospital, bakeries, a mint, and beautiful gardens to see. There are also several museums where you will find elaborate Ottoman weaponry, an extensive collection of Japanese, Chinese, and European porcelain, and many other imperial treasures. The palace is covered in blue and white Iznik tiles, having the most beautiful designs. In every room, there are dozens of different tile patterns and one is left with major design inspiration. – Sarah Daisey /Detours with Daisey

Spice Market

Walking in the alleys, filled with aromas of the spices is the must do activity for people, who love exploring markets in any destination. If you like to have some flavors of Turkey, you must head towards the spice market of Istanbul. With a wide range of spices, dry fruits, cheese and nuts, the spice market of Istanbul offers a lot of variety.

Galata Mevlevihanesi

Galata Mevlevihanesi is the historic building in Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood, where Sufi whirling dervish ceremonies are still performed to this day. A ‘Sema’ is an unforgettable experience, where Dervishes whirl in meditation, listening to the traditional flute music played from the balcony above. Galata Mevlevihanesi also houses a small museum which aims to explain something of the tradition in Istanbul. Tickets can be bought on site on the same day, usually Sunday. –Julia Bayne/ Istanbul Place Apartments

Bosphorus Cruise Tour

What a great way to sail through the river, with the incredible views of two continents. Watching the Sun going down in the river, painting the sky with the orange hue with the city dazzled with lights can be the best way to end your day in Istanbul. There are many cruise tours to choose from, and one of the noted ones is Zoe Yacht cruises. There is the Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian Side and the boat on a private Bosphorus cruise. – Zoe Yacht Cruises

Have you ever been to Istanbul ? What did you like the most about Istanbul ?

Check Out hotels in Istanbul


Disclaimer :

This is a collaboration post with Zoe Yacht Cruises, Independent Travel CatsIstanbul Place Apartments, & Detours with Daisey

  1.  The photo credit goes to Pixabay.com for Non-Watermarked photographs, used in the article. 
  2. The Watermarked photographs are owned by the copywriters, who have contributed to this article. Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

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26 Replies to “Traveling to Turkey ? Find Out Top Things To Do In Istanbul”

  1. I’m yet to visit Istanbul sadly, but I’d love to visit one day, hopefully soon! I never knew Hagia Sofia is now the official musuem, I still thought it was a church! Not keen on Turkish delight or cats, but I like Turkish tea, and would really like to see Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque.

    1. Istanbul is a fascinating city and worth a visit at least. I find it quite unique compared to many other international cities across the globe.

  2. I have to admit, I’ve been wanting to visit Istanbul ever since I saw the James Bond film, “The World is Not Enough.” One of the last sequences in the movie take place in Istanbul, and the villainess holds James Bond and M captive on a rocky little island…which looks an awful lot like Maiden’s Tower! Of course, no trip to Istanbul would be complete without visiting the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market!

    1. I so agree with you, Rachelle. Istanbul is a quite unique destination and also one of its kinds. The grand bazaar is nothing less than a maze. Everything about this destination is exciting 🙂

  3. Whoa! Hagia Sophia is absolutely amazing isn’t it. I did pass through Istanbul last year but it was painfully short. I’m hoping to come back and do this city justice. I’ll make sure to check out the Blue Mosque and eat my weight in Turkish Delight 😀
    Alice Teacake recently posted…The Ultimate 3 Day Puerto Princesa Itinerary Travel GuideMy Profile

    1. You must spend a considerable amount of time in Istanbul to do justice to this great city.

  4. I had fallen in love with the city of Constantinople when I had actually read about it in my history books. But I have fallen in love with the city all over again after seeing the pictures here. Every picture looks so epic and professional. To add to it, the city has so many places to explore. I m definitely going to visit this beautiful city and visit every place you have mentioned here. Your pics definitely up the ante of the place.

    1. Istanbul is top of my list and I find everything very fascinating about this city.

  5. First off, I’ve never been to Istanbul, but secondly, if I did I would definitely go to the Bosphorus Cruise Tour! What an amazing, unique experience! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Bosphorus Cruise Tour is must when in Istanbul. Cruising is the best way to explore the city and watch the gorgeous sunset. This is undoubtedly the best way to end your day in Istanbul.

  6. Istanbul looks like such a beautiful place to visit! That’s really interesting about the cats. They probably do keep the mice and other critters under control. Your pictures are really breathtaking! They make me want to go!
    Stacey recently posted…Why You Should Plan an Eclipse Totality Trip for 2024My Profile

    1. Cats in Istanbul is so much part of their lifestyle. The abundance of cats simply makes this city another unique one in the world.

  7. Nice post. You have captured the essential sights and activities nicely. I love Istanbul. Hagia Sophia and Topkapi palace are really awe inspiring. Stayed in both sultanahmet and the newer part of the city. One thing which I didn’t like that much was the food – partly high expectations to begin with, partly prefer the Indian version of the kebabs etc.

    1. I am yet to experience the food in Istanbul. But I am sure that they have some awesome restaurants and cafes in the city.

  8. We are counting down the next 20 days until our trip to Istanbul. We aim to explore way beyond the main sights so the Whirling Dervish performace looks like a must for us! Thanks for the great tip C&K.

    1. Keep me updated about your experience. I am sure that it was going be epic in Istanbul.

  9. I love everything Turkey has to offer; from the spice market, to the culture and from the food to the view of the city in the bay. I’ve never been to Istanbul, but what is definitely on my bucket list, is to visit the Grand Bazaar, one of the worlds biggest markets.

  10. Awesome guide. Istanbul is sooo high on my bucketlist. Can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent researching the city over the years. I love that you said a visit would be incomplete without visiting the Grand Bazaar – this is the one place I’m the most excited about visiting. Just something so magical and special about it! One day…….

  11. Love Istanbul, I’ve been there a couple of years ago, I would love to go back. I remember one of the things I liked the most was the basilica cistern. And what I didn’t like was the Turkish coffee, so weird for me ;))
    Umberta recently posted…Mauritius : Tamarin beach, Trou aux Biches & life at the Maritim ResortMy Profile

  12. Turkey looks stunning, I have been hearing so much about it lately and this post has motivated me more to visit. The city looks amazing through your photos and writing, and great tip for visiting the whirling dancers. amazing!

  13. Ahhh I am dying to make it here! The tea, the shopping, the culture. It all looks so magical! Pinning this for when I finally make it there! Thank you!

  14. Turkey looks like a sigh for sore eyes! wow. Turkey is on my travel bucket list for 2018 and this got me much more excited about the trip haha (even though is a long time from now) Thank you for your recommendations, I’ll make sure to bookmark your post for when I plan my trip. Also, the Turkey delights look oddly yummy haha different but I bet they are delicious 🙂 – Mariella

  15. I had been to twice and every time seems to be less to explore this beautiful country. Blue mosque looks gorgeous and their markets are so wonderful I can get lost any time there. You have written a good guide for the first timers.

  16. Instantly looks like such a beautiful place to visit. This is a great guide for a first timer and it seems like there’s quite a fair bit to do. How much time would you recommend in Instanbul?

  17. Istanbul is a beautiful city, I remember visiting it years ago and I was impressed with the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar, I remember my mom trying to negotiate prices with vendors! I see on your list spot I did miss at the time (it was a day trip unfortunately) so I suppose I will have to go back 🙂

  18. I hope I’ll visit Istanbul myself and wish you too the same! But till then, thanks for this awesome virtual tour!
    Isn’t Turkey a beautiful melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures?!
    Hagia Sofia is an important place when it comes to Art History and recently very much shot to popularity along with the cistern, thanks to Dan Brown!
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