Istanbul – Must See Sights, Attractions and Activities
This transcontinental city, located on both continents, Europe and Asia, is the most populous city in Turkey and one of the largest worldwide. 3 bridges and several underwater tunnels for cars and subway lines connect the two continents to one another, but one can also use ferries to travel to the other side. Moreover, it has one of the fastest growing metropolitan economics in the world. More than 10 million foreign people visit the city annually, making it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
Taking into account that this city served as an imperial capital for nearly 16 centuries during the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires, one can call this city one of the most significant places in terms of history. So many different nations, cultures and beliefs have affected this area and its cultural and architectural features and structures. Therefore, this is a city of countless (sight-seeing) attractions. Additionally, 85 museums, 166 libraries, 210 art galleries, 260 theatres, 97 cinemas, 3113 mosques, 123 active churches and 10 Holy Patriarchal and Straupedic Monastries located on the Prince Islands, are situated in this marvelous city. There are 2 different airports (Atatürk airport on the European, Sabiha Gökcen airport on the Asian side) and they are currently constructing the third one, which will be the largest of the world.
If this sounds interesting and you are planning to visit Turkey in the future, keep on reading because I got your back! Here are the “Top 10 things” you should definitely do and places you should visit in Istanbul! I decided to include two short video clips instead of pictures for this post.
Top 10 Things To Do in Istanbul
1. Basilica Cistern: The largest cistern that lies beneath Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, which was build in the 4th Century and enlarged by Justinian in 537 AD. Definitely worth a visit!
2. Mosques: Istanbul is home to a few of the most famous mosques in the world and you should not skip them during your stay. It does not matter what religion you belief in or whether you are a believer or not since mosques are open for everyone. Just make sure to dress modestly when visiting them. In my opinion, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), the Süleymaniye Mosque ( largest mosque of the city, constructed by the famous architect Sinan for Süleyman the Magnificent in the 16th Century) and Hagia Sophia ( was a church, became a mosque and is now a museum) are among the most popular one’s and definitely my favorites.
3. Palaces: There are several palaces you can visit in Istanbul. I do not know which one you would like the most, but if I had to pick one, I would go for the “Topkapi” or “Dolmabahce Palace”. However, I suggest that you just google “Istanbul Palaces“ and look at the pictures to decide which one is worth a visit and your time.
4. Shopping and Malls:
For all my fellow shopaholics out there: Innumerable malls and shops are waiting for you…and of course me. Today, Turkey is still one of the most significant textile manufacturing countries and therefore, it is quite easy to find amazing, high-quality items for cheap prices. It does not matter if you want to shop in pricy high-end stores or decide to go for the more affordable alternatives, you will find anything, anything and everything your heart desires.
4.1 Eminönü / Grand Bazaar: You can find pretty much EVERYTHING here. The Grand Bazaar, with 5000 shops, is one of the largest markets in the word and it is not surprising that you can find anything in this place.
4.2 Nisantasi: From Laduree to Chanel and Dior. This neighborhood is your „Go-To“ place if you are into macarons and high-end fashion!
4.3 Istiklal Caddesi / Istiklal Street or Avenue: A place that is visited by 3 million people daily, runs from Taxim Square all the way down to the Galata Tower. You can find a large number of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars here. There is also a mall I like to visit from time to time situated here, the “Demirören mall“.
4.4 My 4 favorite Malls:
4.4.1 Mall of Istanbul:
- with 350 stores one of the biggest malls of Turkey
- host to numerous leading brands in the world
- a gourmet center, MoiPark, specially designed theme park, arts street, performance arts center
4.4.2 Istinye Park: – 300 shops:
- first IMAC theater
- global brands
- cafes, restaurants
4.4.3 Cevahir Mall:
- largest shopping mall in Europe
- second largest shopping mall in the world
- features an incredible number of shops
- an amusement park is build inside of it
- 34 fast food restaurants,14 exclusive restaurants
4.4.4 Forum Istanbul:
- largest shopping center in Europe with 280 brands
- enormous Ferris wheel as tall as the Bosphorus bridge
- Turkuazoo: aquarium with 10,000 different species on 8,000 square meters.
- iMAX movie theater
- bowling alley
- an ice-skating rink
- playrooms for children
5. Galata Tower: Another extremely famous location is the Galata Tower. Interesting fact: In the first half of the 17th Century, a man called Hezarfen Ahmet Celebi flew from this tower across the Bosphorus to the slopes of Üsküdar by making use of artificial wings. A balcony is situated at the top which showcases a beautiful view.
6. Pierre Loti: Have a drink at Pierre Loti! A short teleferic ride from the Eyüp Sultan Mosque to this place will not only provide you with an unforgettable view, but also be a pleasurable adventure!
7. Maiden’s tower: Have dinner at the maiden’s tower! This construction is 2500 years old, was used for many purposes throughout history and is wreathed in numerous legends.
8. Kadiköy: Not only a great place to shop, but also to eat.
- Insider tip 1: If you love coffee, I recommend you to visit Kadiköy, a place located at the Asian side. Here you can find the best Turkish coffee, even with different flavors (e.g. rose, bubblegum, cinnamon), which are usually served with water and a piece of Turkish delight.
- Insider tip 2: If you are a fan of vintage and vintage inspired clothing, visit a small shop called “Irma”, also located in Kadiköy. This little shop sells the cutest dresses that remind me of the Audrey Hepburn movies I love so much! There are only a few of items of each style available and customized in this shop. The sizes are usually quite big and get adjusted to fit your body within one day after you decide to buy the item.
9. Ferries: One can either use them to travel to the other side or to participate in a so called “Inner Bogaz Tour“ to gaze at the amazing view and to enjoy the fresh sea air, while relaxing and recovering from one’s stressful everyday life.
10. Princes Islands: For all the princesses out there – Do not forget to visit the peaceful and quiet Princes` Islands where motorized vehicles are banned. Horse-drawn carriages are the main transportation here.
And most importantly, do not forget to enjoy the food.I certainly did! And you can even feed the pigeons grains (for 1-2 TL). It is a common activity to feed birds and animals in general, especially because it is considered as a good deed.
If you are planning to travel to Istanbul and some your questions remained unanswered, just ask them in the comment section below or do not hesitate to contact us.
Thank you for reading & enjoy your journey!