Looking for the best places to see in Istanbul? We got you covered! Here is a guide about the top things to do in Istanbul, a city that effortlessly blends history and modernity. As you explore this captivating metropolis, you’ll traverse a path where empires rose and fell, leaving their indelible mark. From iconic landmarks to hidden antique treasures, Istanbul offers a diverse and enthralling range of experiences. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a culture seeker, or an adventure lover, this bustling city has something for everyone. Our guide will walk you through the must-see sights in Istanbul. We ensure that every visitor embarking on this journey is in for a truly remarkable experience.
Most important places to see in Istanbul by an insider!
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Hagia Sophia is one of the most recognized buildings all over the world. It is one of the must-visit points for foreign tourists coming to Istanbul. What makes Hagia Sophia one of the most important buildings in the world is its deep history and unique architecture. Hagia Sophia was used as a basilica by the Byzantine Empire. It converted into a mosque with the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. Then it was turned into a museum during the Republican period. Today, it is still possible to see traces of Pagan, Orthodox, Catholic and Islamic religions in Hagia Sophia. In 2020 it was converted into a mosque again.
Maiden’s Tower (Kız Kulesi)
The Maiden’s Tower is not only an iconic figure of Istanbul which is located on the Asian side of the city but also attracts the attention of many local and foreign tourists and those living in Istanbul. The Maiden’s Tower and its architecture is also a popular subject of movies, poems, and books. In short, the ‘Kız Kulesi’ is one of the most popular historical buildings in Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a captivating labyrinth of over 4,000 shops. This is making it one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Tourists should visit to experience a sensory journey through Turkish culture. It’s a place to shop for unique souvenirs, sample local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere. The Grand Bazaar is a treasure trove of history and craftsmanship, offering an unforgettable shopping and cultural experience.
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
The Blue Mosque, officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a mesmerizing masterpiece in Istanbul. Tourists should visit to admire its exquisite blue Iznik tiles, grand minarets, and serene ambiance. This architectural wonder offers a glimpse into Istanbul’s rich history and spiritual heritage, making it a must-visit for travelers seeking cultural and visual delights.
Galata Tower, known for its imposing appearance, is counted among the oldest towers in the world and is present on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. Located in Galata, the hippest area of Beyoğlu, this historical building offers a unique view and sheds light on the ancient history of Istanbul. The Galata Tower was built in 528 by the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius as a lighthouse. Over the decades the tower was severely damaged and restored in 1348 by the Genoese. In 1628, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi wore eagle wings made of wood on his back and flew from Galata Tower to Üsküdar. Engravings were made in England about this flight, which attracted the attention of Europe. The Galata Tower is now open for visitors and tourists can climb the tower by lift to enjoy the stunning panoramic view over the Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
Topkapi Palace, a symbol of Ottoman grandeur, is a historical gem in Istanbul. Built to commemorate the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, it once served as the empire’s seat of power. Today, it’s a magnificent museum featuring diverse architectural styles and serene courtyards. Highlights include the intricate Harem, the panoramic views from the Circumcision Chamber & Baghdad Pavilion, and its vast collections of art and cultural relics. This sumptuous icon offers a splendid journey into Istanbul’s history and heritage, with must-see objects like the renowned 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond and ever-changing temporary exhibitions.
Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı)
The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, also known as Mısır Çarşısı, is a vibrant and aromatic marketplace nestled within narrow covered lanes. It’s a sensory delight where tourists can expect to find an array of spices, nuts, dried fruits, sweets, and herbs, filling the air with tantalizing fragrances. Visitors can engage with friendly shopkeepers, explore hidden gems nearby, and enjoy a sensory overload. The Spice Bazaar offers a unique opportunity to discover Turkish culinary treasures, herbal remedies, and traditional delights, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a rich cultural and sensory experience.
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı)
The Basilica Cistern, also known as Yerebatan Sarnıcı, is a captivating underground wonder in Istanbul. This ancient reservoir, dating back to the 6th century, is a testament to Byzantine engineering and has been the backdrop for numerous films and documentaries. Tourists are drawn to its mystique and grandeur, featuring rows of towering marble columns submerged in shallow waters, creating an eerie and enchanting atmosphere. Its historical significance, architectural marvel, and intriguing ambience make the Basilica Cistern a must-visit attraction for those exploring Istanbul’s rich heritage.
The Süleymaniye Mosque, a magnificent masterpiece in Istanbul, stands as one of the city’s most significant architectural and historical landmarks. Commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in the 16th century, this grand mosque is not only a stunning example of Ottoman architecture but also a testament to the empire’s cultural and religious importance. With its impressive domes, elegant minarets, and intricate interior decoration, the Süleymaniye Mosque provides an immersive experience into Istanbul’s rich history and Islamic heritage. Tourists are drawn to its serene courtyards, beautiful gardens, and breathtaking views of the city, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of Istanbul’s cultural and architectural legacy.
Dolmabahçe Palace, a true jewel on the shores of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, stands as a symbol of opulence, grandeur, and European architectural influence. Constructed in the 19th century, it served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire, showcasing a harmonious blend of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. This magnificent palace is not only a testament to Ottoman extravagance but also a reflection of the empire’s transition into a more modern era. With its exquisite interiors, chandeliers, and the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, Dolmabahçe Palace is a captivating historical site that offers insights into the opulent lifestyles of the Ottoman sultans. Tourists are drawn to its lush gardens, lavish halls, and the famous Grand Ceremonial Hall, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking to delve into Istanbul’s imperial past and European architectural heritage.