10 Best Things to Do in Istanbul

Things to Do in Istanbul

10 Best Things to Do in Istanbul – Are you visiting Istanbul for the first time? This bustling city has a lot to offer, with a rich heritage of history and culture, but also a hint of modernity. For travelers, it can be a difficult task to choose exactly where to go and what to visit.

Today, Nomadicabroad, will share the 10 best things to do in the City of Desire in the World, including the main tourist attractions, as well as some lesser-known secrets off the beaten track! 

10 Best Things to Do in Istanbul

1. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Certainly, the tourist attraction that cannot be missed on any travel itinerary in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque, officially called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Built in 1617, its architecture and interior design made it one of the most iconic Ottoman buildings. And, regarding its interior, the blue tiles that decorate it gave rise to its nickname, Blue Mosque.

Hagia Sophia is another historical heritage that is absolutely unmissable. Initially built as an Orthodox basilica between 532 and 537 AD, Hagia Sophia was later repurposed as a Catholic cathedral and then transformed into a mosque in 1453. This monumental construction impresses its visitors both by its exterior, its overlapping domes, and by its its interior, due to the mosaics and luxurious decorations. With admission to the Hagia Sophia History Museum , located just 200 meters from the mosque itself, you’ll get a more in-depth look at this iconic structure.

On the other hand, if you are interested in delving into centuries of history, art and cultural exchange, we recommend booking this Istanbul mosques tour . In addition to visiting the two main ones, you will visit the Suleymaniye Mosque , the largest mosque in the city for over 450 years.

2. Discover the city’s nightlife

For those wondering what to do in Istanbul at night, the Turkish city offers a wide range of nightlife experiences. The areas of Taksim, Kadikoy and Beşiktaş are the most popular, each famous for its bars, nightclubs and other entertainment options. Furthermore, you will be able to walk the streets at ease, as it is safe to walk around Istanbul at night as there are many police officers circulating.

For partygoers, the best way to enjoy Istanbul’s nightlife is with this Pub Crawl , which will take you to Taksim Square and includes VIP access to the city’s three best nightclubs!

3. Relax your body and mind

As much as you can get lost in the madness of this Turkish city, there are also plenty of opportunities to relax. Is there a better place than Istanbul to enjoy a hammam? Also known as a Turkish bath, this experience is the best way to relax after exploring the most interesting parts of the city. You’ll find countless treatment options, many of which include a luxurious spa massage!

One way to experience the essence of the city while relaxing your body and mind is with this Turkish bath at Cagaloglu Hamam, an elegant spa in the heart of Istanbul. But if you want to feel like a real Ottoman sultan, we recommend booking this Turkish bath that also includes a foam massage at the DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul.

4. Grand Bazaar

What can’t you miss in Istanbul? Definitely, walking through the Grand Bazaar is a truly essential cultural experience in this Turkish city. Considered one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world, this maze contains more than 4,000 shops selling everything from spices to valuable jewelry. An unmissable place to visit in the Turkish city.

A peculiarity of the Grand Bazaar is that they will probably offer you Turkish tea, known as cay . If you accept the tea, you are not expected to pay for it or even buy anything, this custom is simply an element of Turkey’s famous hospitality.

In addition to the interesting things you can buy (of which there are many), simply walking through the winding alleys built during the Ottoman Empire and watching the bustling market in action makes this experience worth it! But if you want to explore it in depth, we recommend taking this private tour of Istanbul with an exclusive guide for you and your group.

5. Topkapi Palace

The next place on our list of Istanbul plans is Topkapi Palace. Built between 1460 and 1478, this palace is one of the oldest and most historically significant in the city, serving as the main residence of the Ottoman sultans for almost four centuries. Located in the Fatih neighborhood, the palace, which is now the most important museum in this Turkish city, is an unmissable stop on your trip.

With this skip-the-line ticket to Topkapi Palace , you can explore its courtyards, the Imperial Mint, the Baghdad Kiosk and the Treasury Room, where part of the Prophet Muhammad’s beard is located, considered sacred to Muslims. Culture, history and some of the most valuable objects in the world in one of the main places you cannot miss in Istanbul.

6. Try local cuisine

Known for its diverse food culture, with influences from the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Istanbul truly is a paradise for food lovers. With all the delicacies that can be found in this Turkish city, you are sure to sample many delicious dishes and snacks during your visit.

One of the gastronomic hubs that you should include in your Istanbul travel itinerary is Istiklal Street, which starts at the famous Taksim Square. It is an extensive pedestrian street full of bars, restaurants, street food and mouth-watering sweet shops. We recommend trying the Kumpir, a delicious baked potato stuffed with butter and any other topping you want, including vegetables, ground meat, olives and various sauces. How delightful!

On the other hand, if you want the full experience, this Istanbul food tour is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the city’s culinary culture.

7. Visit nearby islands and cities

While it may seem a little unusual to include tours from Istanbul on your list of the best things to do while in the city, there are plenty of great tours and day trips that are worth checking out if you’re going to be in the Turkish city for a few days.

One of our favorite options is the full-day tour to the Prince Islands , the country’s second best-known and most popular island, which includes stops on the islands of Kinaliada and Buyukada. Rich in history, culture and home to stunning natural beauty, this day trip is the perfect way to experience a more natural landscape and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city!

If you are interested in classic tours , it might be worth checking out this day trip to Troy from Istanbul . You will be able to visit this famous archaeological site, as well as gain a broader view of the reality and fiction of the Trojan War, as described in Homer’s Iliad.

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8. Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Roman Hippodrome of Constantinople dates back to 203 AD and was an arena used for chariot racing during the Byzantine period. Destroyed in the 15th century, Sultanahmet Square now stands on the site of the hippodrome.

However, the outline of the structure is marked in the square, allowing visitors to imagine the epic chariot races that took place there. In this historic place, an Egyptian obelisk over 3,000 years old, the Column of Constantine and the Serpentine Column, which celebrates the victory against the Persians, are also preserved. If you want to learn more about the history and cultural significance of the Hippodrome, we recommend taking this free tour of Istanbul.

9. Explore the city’s museums

As a city truly rich in history, it’s no surprise that Istanbul has an impressive selection of museums. Along with the aforementioned Topkapi Palace museum, we recommend visiting the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Opened in 1891, it was the first museum in Turkey and, to this day, it remains the most important.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum shares space with the Museum of the Ancient East and the Enameled Kiosk Museum, forming a large complex. This colossal museum complex houses more than a million works, countless Greek, Roman and Byzantine artifacts.

If you are visiting the city and want to see the main museums and landmarks, check out the Istanbul E-pass which includes more than 60 attractions and guarantees priority access to the most outstanding museums and monuments.

10. Bosphorus Strait Cruise

The Bosphorus is a strait that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Marmara and marks the limit of the Asian and European continents in Turkey. Therefore, Istanbul is the only city in the world located on two different continents at the same time. Just cross one of the Bosphorus bridges to go from European Istanbul to Asian Istanbul, still within the city.

For these and many other curiosities, a boat trip along the Bosphorus cannot be missing from your list of things to do in Istanbul. To enjoy unforgettable moments, we recommend booking a sunset cruise , where you’ll see the Maiden’s Tower, the Bosphorus Bridge or the majestic Ortaköy Mosque turn orange. And, if you want a more complete experience, in addition to the breathtaking views, this night cruise along the Bosphorus also includes dinner and a traditional show.

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