Istanbul is a city with a rich history, vibrant culture, and endless attractions. As a result, it can be overwhelming for travelers trying to decide what to see and do during their trip. To help you plan your itinerary, here is a list of the top things to add to your Istanbul bucket list.
Visit the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is a must-see for any traveler to Istanbul. Located in the heart of the city, this sprawling market is home to over 4,000 shops selling everything from textiles and jewelry to ceramics and spices. Haggling is expected, so be prepared to negotiate prices. While you're there, don't forget to try some Turkish tea or coffee at one of the many cafes.
Explore the Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is a former cathedral turned mosque turned museum, and it is one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks. Built in the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia is a marvel of Byzantine architecture and is filled with stunning mosaics and frescoes. Make sure to climb up to the galleries for panoramic views of the city.
Take a Bosphorus Cruise
The Bosphorus is the strait that divides Europe and Asia, and a cruise along its waters is a must-do activity in Istanbul. There are various cruise options available, ranging from short sightseeing tours to multi-day excursions. On the cruise, you'll have the opportunity to see some of Istanbul's most famous landmarks, such as the Bosphorus Bridge, the Dolmabahçe Palace, and the Rumeli Fortress.
Visit the Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly four centuries, and it is now a museum. The palace is a treasure trove of art and artifacts, including jewels, weapons, and ceramics. Don't miss the Harem, a section of the palace that was reserved for the sultan's family and concubines.
Walk along the Galata Tower
The Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower located in the Galata district of Istanbul. It offers panoramic views of the city, and the observation deck is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The tower is also home to a restaurant and a cafe, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the views.
Explore the Istanbul Archaeology Museums
The Istanbul Archaeology Museums are a group of three museums located in Sultanahmet Square. The museums house a vast collection of artifacts from various civilizations, including the Ottoman Empire, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. Highlights include the Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and the Topkapi Dagger.
Visit the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a stunning example of Ottoman architecture. The mosque is named after the blue tiles that adorn its interior, and it is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors are welcome to enter the mosque and observe the prayers, but be sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering.
Take a trip to the Princes' Islands
The Princes' Islands are a group of nine islands located in the Sea of Marmara, just a short ferry ride from Istanbul. The islands are a popular weekend getaway for Istanbul residents, and they offer a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The largest island, Büyükada, is home to a number of mansions, churches, and monasteries, and it is a great place to explore by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. The other islands, such as Heybeliada and Burgazada, are more laid-back and offer a chance to relax on the beach or enjoy a picnic.
Visit the Dolmabahçe Palace
The Dolmabahçe Palace is another iconic Istanbul landmark and a must-see for history buffs. The palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it is known for its opulent interiors and grand architecture. The palace is home to over 285 rooms, 43 salons, and 6 baths, and it is a great place to learn about the Ottoman Empire's history and culture.
Walk along the Istiklal Avenue
Istiklal Avenue is a bustling pedestrian street located in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. The avenue is home to a number of shops, restaurants, cafes, and cultural centers, and it is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. Don't miss the historic Tünel Funicular, which takes you up to the Galata district.
Visit the Chora Church
The Chora Church, also known as the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, is a Byzantine-era church located in the Edirnekapı neighborhood of Istanbul. The church is known for its stunning mosaics and frescoes, which depict scenes from the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The Chora Church is a great place to learn about Byzantine art and architecture.
Visit the Suleymaniye Mosque
The Suleymaniye Mosque is a grand Ottoman mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. The mosque is named after Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Ottoman sultan, and it is known for its impressive size and architectural details. Visitors are welcome to enter the mosque and observe the prayers, but be sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering.
Explore the Istanbul Modern Art Museum
The Istanbul Modern Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located in the Karaköy neighborhood of Istanbul. The museum features a wide range of modern and contemporary art from Turkish and international artists, and it is a great place to see the city's art scene. The museum also has a cafe and a bookstore, so you can relax and enjoy a drink or a book while taking in the art.
Take a walk through the Gülhane Park
Gülhane Park is a public park located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul. The park is a great place to relax and escape the crowds, and it offers stunning views of the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea. The park is also home to a number of historical landmarks, including the Gülhane Art Gallery and the Kiosk of Sultan Mahmut II.
Visit the Rüstem Pasha Mosque
The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is a small Ottoman mosque located in the Eminönü neighborhood of Istanbul. The mosque is known for its stunning Iznik tiles, which adorn the walls and ceilings of the interior. The mosque is a great place to see Ottoman art and architecture, and it is a lesser-known tourist attraction, so it is often less crowded than the more famous mosques in the city.
Istanbul is a city with a wealth of attractions, and it can be overwhelming to decide what to see and do. These are just a few of the top things to add to your Istanbul bucket list, and there are many other amazing sights and experiences to discover in this vibrant city. Whether you're interested in art, history, culture, or just want to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, there is something for everyone in Istanbul. So pack your bags and start planning your trip – you won't be disappointed!