There are many things to do on a trip to Istanbul. Many of these are in the historical district, however there others dotted around the city for an extended trip. Click on the markers on the interactive map below to find out more. Alternatively, check the table of contents below the map.


Old city

Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)

Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
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Wow: Largest domed building in the world for close to 1000 years (until Seville Cathedral was built in 1520).
What: See the dome, various iconography and upper galleries if possible.
Tip: Has a considerable entrance fee.

Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace Topkapi Palace seen from a distance. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock  

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Wow: Seat of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years.
What: See the harem, various kiosks, Islamic treasures, the kitchen and the gardens.
Tip: Harem guided tour for a considerable fee. Try the audio guide which comes useful to set the many rooms and things in context.
Tip: Also see the Istanbul Archeology Museum nearby.

Grand Bazaar / Kapalı Çarşı

Grand Bazaar / Kapalı Çarşı
Official Site (external link)Google page (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Go to (external link)
Wow: One of the largest covered markets in existence in the world for more than 500 years.
What: Stroll through the many streets, buy handmade rugs, learn to haggle on prices!.
Tip: You’re typically expected to haggle on the price. Set an initial reasonable price expectation prior to haggling.

Egyptian/Spice Bazaar / Mısır Çarşısı

Egyptian/Spice Bazaar / Mısır Çarşısı Entrance of Spice Bazaar. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
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Wow: Paradise for food and spice enthusiasts.
What: Ask and investigate the many spices and different types of food on offer.
Tip: Chat with the shop owners to learn useful information.

Blue Mosque / Sultan Ahmed Camii

Blue Mosque - see for license terms. Blue Mosque. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
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Wow: Contains more than 20 000 blue tiles and 200 stained windows.
What: Built in 1616, the last imperial Ottoman Mosque. See a real tourist friendly mosque in operation, see the beautiful blue tiles and the reflection of blue light in the interior.
Tip: No entrance during prayer times (external link). Be ready to cover yourself in the Islamic way before you enter, in general modest dressing, for ladies no short skirts and covering the head with a scarf (may be lent at the door), for men; no shorts. Shoes taken off, or covered with provided covers.

Kariye Museum (The Chora Church)

Kariye Museum (The Chora Church)
Go Turkey (external link)TripAdvisor (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Go to (external link)
Wow: One of the best collections of Byzantine art in one of the most beautiful of the Byzantine churches.

Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Muzesi)

Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Muzesi)
Go Turkey (external link)Google page (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Go to (external link)
Wow: Underrated and undermaintained archaeology museum from 1891 containing a large collection of antique artifacts including Tablet of the Treaty of Kadesh (the earliest international one in the world), a dragon inscription from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and Alexander Sarcophagus amongst others.
Tip: See Wikipedia link for other items to look out for.

Basilica Cistern / Yerebatan Sarnıcı

Basilica Cistern / Yerebatan Sarnıcı Basilica cistern. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock Medusa head at Basilica cistern. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
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Wow: Massive underground water reservoir built for Constantinople.
What: Experience the calm athmosphere of the basilica, drink a glass of tea or coffee, listen to live music if any present on the day of your visit, appreciate the sophistication of Byzantians water system…
Tip: See the Medusa head at the bottom of one of the columns.

Across Istanbul

Rumeli Fortress / Rumeli Hisarı

Rumeli Fortress / Rumeli Hisarı
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Wow: Massive fortress from 1452, built by Mehmed the Conqueror in less than 2 years.
What: See a nice view of Bosphorus and the fortress.
Tip: There are sometimes concerts which take place at the fortress which may be a nice experience if you can arrange your timing accordingly.

Dolmabahce Palace / Dolmabahçe Sarayı

Dolmabahce Palace / Dolmabahçe Sarayı Dolmabahce Palace. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock Dolmabahce Palace gate. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
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Wow: Contains the world’s largest crystal chandelier, plenty of late Ottoman style grandeur, and preserved personal room of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk until his death there.
What: The chandelier is in the main section, Ataturk’s room is in the harem section. Separate entry fees for the different sections (main & harem). Guided tours only – the tour guides are not rated as particularly good by various commenters (external link).
Tip: In Ataturk’s room, look for the picture of the clock on the rug on the ceiling, which shows “9:05” the exact time of death of Ataturk and the rug was a gift to him earlier! Opinion on the palace is divided some not being quite impressed. The palace is located outside the old city which may provide a glympse of the life in Modern Istanbul.



Bosphorus / Boğaziçi

Bosphorus / Boğaziçi North-end Asian side (Anadolu Kavagi) of Bosphorus. (taken from Bosphorus at the north. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock Bosphorus vehicle ferries. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
TripAdvisor – Bosphorus Cruise (external link)Bosphorus – Wikipedia (external link)
Wow: Waterway (not a river) that separates Europe and Asia adorned by two magnificent suspension bridges.
What: Take the very pleasant boat trip from Besiktas or Eminonu as described in TripAdvisor.
Tip: At the north-end (Anadolu Kavağı) of the Bosphorous you can get off the boat and have fish and wine or rakı at one of the restaurants. Agree on a price first before settling in a restaurant. Make sure you catch the last boat back!
Tip: If you cross any of the bridges on road look out for the ‘Welcome to Asia’ and ‘Welcome to Europe’ signs.

Ciragan Palace. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock A traditional passenger ferry. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock Dolmabahce Palace as seen from Bosphorus. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock

Taksim & İstiklal Avenue

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Wow: The Tünel funicular station (external link) at the end of Istikal Avenue is the second oldest (and the shortest) underground system in the world (after London).
What: The most popular centre of entertainment, nightlife and eateries of Istanbul. Also the neighborhood of many old and prestigious schools and embassies. See Nightlife for more on Taksim.
Tip: You can take the tram from Taksim square to Tünel station or on the way back on the historical tram if you get tired easily to cut your walking in half.
Tip: Be mindful of strangers striking up a conversation and then offering to take you to a bar/cafe. Many scams are reported, see Your safety for more information.

Kanyon Shopping Mall

Kanyon shopping centre. See URL for license conditions;
Google Maps Info (external link)Wikipedia (external link)
Wow: Example of modern architecture as an open-air shopping mall which won the 2006 Cityscape Architectural Review Award in the “Commercial Built” category.
What: Visit for ultra-chic shopping at one of the many luxurious stores including Harvey Nichols.
Tip: Very close to Levent metro station easily reachable from Taksim.
More: See CoolHunting (external link)

Istanbul Modern Museum

Istanbul Modern Museum
TripAdvisor (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Official Site (external link)
Wow: Largest collection of modern art in Istanbul.
What: Visit to see a different modern face of arts in Istanbul apart from all the historical sites. Also has a rich reference library.
Tip: Visit the highly acclaimed (but pricey) cafeteria with the magnificent views of Bosphorus.


Miniaturk - see URL for license terms
TripAdvisor (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Official site (external link)
Wov: It is the world’s largest miniature park with its 15,000 m2 (160,000 sq ft) model area with 105 models.
What: See models of 45 buildings from Istanbul, 45 from Anatolia, and 15 from Ottoman territories that today lie outside of Turkey.

Leander’s (Maiden’s) Tower / Kız Kulesi

Maiden's Tower - See URL for license terms;
TripAdvisor (external link)Wikipedia (external link)
Wov: The tower of various legends was featured in many films including the James Bond film The World Is Not EnoughHitman and the popular Turkish TV series Kurtlar Vadisi.
What: Houses a popular and swanky (and pricey) restaurant and a cafe.
Tip: You can take the shuttle boat near the shore to get there.

Cevahir Shopping Mall
TripAdvisor (external link)Wikipedia (external link)Google Info (external link)Official site (external link)
Wov: The largest (inner-city) shopping mall in Europe (6th largest in the world).
What: Although not particularly beautiful or interesting except for its size, may be also worth a visit to have a look around and do some shopping from the many different offerings.
Tip: Very close to Şişli metro station easily reachable from Taksim.

Hamam experience

Try one of these hamams;
Süleymaniye Hamamı Official Site (external link)Wikipedia (external link)
Çemberlitaş Hamamı Official Site (external link)
Gedikpaşa Hamamı Official Site (external link)

Whirling Dervishes / Galata Mevlevihanesi

Official Site (external link)Vikipedi (external link)

See this page (external link) for recent information on the whirling dervishes.

Princes’ Islands / Adalar

Wikipedia (external link)


Karaköy Cruise Dock

The drop off point for cruises is here (external link). More information is here (external link).


World heritage Istanbul on Unesco (external link) website.

Website on Istanbul on Go Turkey (external link) and Explore Turkey (external link).

Overview pages on Trip Advisor Things to Do (external link) , World Heritage Istanbul  (external link)Istanbul: Things to Do (external link)

An extended Sultanahmet district walk (external link)

Istanbul’s must-sees (external link) on Guardian.