Things to Do in Istanbul: From Hagia Sophia to Shopping Sprees

When it comes to “things to do in Istanbul,” this captivating city at the crossroads of Europe and Asia offers a treasure trove of experiences. Steeped in history and culture, Istanbul allows you to marvel at architectural marvels like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, explore the bustling Grand Bazaar, or cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through this vibrant and captivating city.

Historical Places in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia history

Hagia Sophia

Witness the architectural marvel that once served as a church, mosque, and now a museum, showcasing the blend of Byzantine and Ottoman influences. Marvel at the breathtaking mosaics, towering dome, and intricate calligraphy adorning the walls.

Topkapi Palace

Delve into the opulent world of Ottoman Sultans, exploring their grand chambers, courtyards, and imperial treasures. Imagine the grandeur of court life as you wander through the Harem quarters, the Treasury housing priceless jewels and artifacts, and the expansive gardens offering stunning city views.

Basilica Cistern

Descend into an underground world and discover the mystical depths of this ancient cistern, once a vital water source for the city. Be captivated by the mesmerizing atmosphere created by the flickering light reflecting on the water and the 336 columns, some adorned with Medusa heads.

Grand Bazaar

Navigate the labyrinthine alleys of this historical marketplace, experiencing the vibrant atmosphere and unearthing unique souvenirs. Haggle with friendly shopkeepers for hand-woven rugs, intricate jewelry, delectable Turkish delights, and spices that will tantalize your senses.

Istanbul Cuisine

Turkish Cooking Class

Turkish Cooking Class

Learn the secrets of Ottoman cuisine under the guidance of local chefs, mastering traditional dishes like “manti” (dumplings), “imam bayildi” (stuffed eggplants), and “baklava.” Unleash your inner chef and recreate these delicacies at home, impressing your friends and family.

Food Tour of Istanbul

Embark on a delicious journey, indulging in iconic Turkish delicacies and street food favorites like “lahmacun” (Turkish pizza), “simit” (sesame-encrusted bread), and “döner kebab.” Explore hidden gems and sample local specialties while learning about Istanbul’s rich culinary heritage.

Bosphorus Dinner Cruise

Savor a delectable Turkish meal joining Bosphorus dinner cruise while cruising along the scenic Bosphorus Strait, witnessing stunning cityscapes illuminated against the twilight sky. Enjoy breathtaking views of iconic landmarks like Dolmabahçe Palace and the Bosphorus Bridge as you indulge in a memorable dining experience.

Turkish Tea and Baklava Tasting

Experience the sweet side of Istanbul’s culinary scene, indulging in the iconic combination of fragrant Turkish tea and rich baklava – one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Savor the delicate flavors of the flaky pastry layered with nuts and syrup, perfectly complemented by the soothing warmth of the tea.

Cultural Traditions

Whirling Dervish Show

Whirling Dervish Show

Witness the mesmerizing Sufi ritual of the Whirling Dervishes, experiencing a display of spiritual harmony and movement. Be captivated by the graceful rotations and hypnotic music as the dervishes transcend the material world through their whirling dance.

Turkish Bath Experience

Rejuvenate your body and soul in a historic Hamam (Turkish bath), indulging in traditional cleansing rituals and relaxation techniques. Experience the therapeutic benefits of the steam room, scrubbing, and massage, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Turkish Folk Dance Performance

Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture through a captivating performance of traditional Turkish folk dances, adorned with colorful costumes. Be mesmerized by the rhythmic energy and storytelling elements woven into each dance, a celebration of Turkish heritage.

Turkish Calligraphy Workshop

Learn the ancient art of Islamic penmanship from experts, mastering the beautiful script and creating your own artistic pieces. Discover the meditative practice of calligraphy and connect with the rich artistic tradition of the region.

Popular Things to Do in Istanbul

Bosphorus Boat Cruise Tour

Bosphorus Boat Tour

Bosphorus cruise between the continents of Europe and Asia, enjoying breathtaking views of Istanbul’s iconic landmarks along the Bosphorus Strait. Spot historic palaces, mosques, and bustling neighborhoods lining the shores as you experience the unique charm of this waterway.

Çamlıca Hill

Ascend to the top of Çamlıca Hill for panoramic vistas of the city’s sprawling skyline and serene surrounding landscapes. Capture breathtaking photos and enjoy a moment of peace amidst the city’s vibrant energy.

Princes’ Islands Day Trip

Escape the city bustle and enjoy a car-free day trip to the charming Princes’ Islands, exploring by bike or horse-drawn carriage. Discover hidden coves, historical mansions, and a slower pace of life on these idyllic islands.

Istanbul Parks and Gardens

Find solace amidst the vibrant greenery of Emirgan Park or Gulhane Park, offering peaceful oases within the bustling city. Unwind amidst the fragrant flowers, manicured lawns, and historical landmarks found within these beautiful parks.

Arts and Culture

Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern

Explore the dynamic world of contemporary Turkish art in a modern museum setting, showcasing the works of renowned artists like Fahrelnissa Zeid and Burhan Dogancay. Engage with thought-provoking exhibitions and discover the artistic evolution of Turkey from the 20th century onwards.

Pera Museum

Delve into diverse collections encompassing Orientalist art, captivating ceramics, and renowned paintings. Admire the works of European and Ottoman masters alongside intriguing collections of Anatolian weights and measures, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural tapestry.

Turkish Carpet Demonstration

Witness the intricate craftsmanship of Turkish carpets, a centuries-old tradition passed down through generations. Be mesmerized by the skilled weavers as they meticulously knot threads using vibrant colors and intricate designs, creating stunning carpets that are as much works of art as they are functional pieces.

Turkish Music Concert

Immerse yourself in the soulful melodies of traditional Turkish instruments like the ney (reed flute), the oud (lute), and the kanun (zither). Experience the unique musical heritage of the region, characterized by captivating rhythms, improvisation, and emotional depth.

Istanbul Outdoor Activities

deluxe hot air balloon ride in cappadocia travel store turkey

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia

Embark on an unforgettable journey above the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Witness the iconic fairy chimneys, carved dwellings, and volcanic rock formations from a unique perspective as the sun paints the sky with vibrant hues. Riding on hot air balloons strikes the tourists and visitors as one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

Black Sea Day Trip

Discover the charming coastal towns and fishing villages along the Black Sea, a region known for its lush greenery, serene beaches, and unique cultural experiences. Explore local markets, savor fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere of the Black Sea coast.

Istanbul Helicopter Tour

Admire aerial views of Istanbul’s iconic landmarks and scenic beauty, capturing a unique perspective of the city’s sprawling expanse. Soar above the majestic Hagia Sophia, the Bosphorus Bridge, and the historic Topkapi Palace, creating lasting memories of this captivating city.

ATV Safari in Taurus Mountains

Embark on a thrilling off-road adventure through the Taurus Mountains, a majestic mountain range offering breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife. Explore rugged terrain, discover hidden waterfalls, and experience the adrenaline rush of navigating challenging trails on an ATV.

Best of Istanbul

Istiklal Avenue Istanbul A Guide to the Beating Heart of the City

Istiklal Avenue

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Istiklal Avenue, a popular pedestrian-only zone filled with shops, restaurants, and street performers. Discover independent art galleries, historical buildings, and a diverse mix of locals and tourists, capturing the essence of modern Istanbul.

Kadıköy Market

Explore the bohemian vibes and culinary delights of the Kadıköy Market – one of the Istanbul tourist attractions, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Browse through stalls overflowing with fresh produce, handcrafted souvenirs, and local delicacies. Savor a cup of Turkish coffee at a traditional cafe and soak up the laid-back atmosphere of this charming neighborhood.

Balat Neighborhood

Wander through the colorful streets and antique shops of the historic Balat neighborhood, a former center for the Jewish and Greek communities. Admire restored Ottoman-era wooden houses, discover hidden courtyards, and unearth unique treasures in the neighborhood’s many antique shops.

Rahmi M. Koç Museum

Discover a fascinating collection of historical vehicles, industrial artifacts, and technological innovations housed in a former industrial complex. Explore exhibits showcasing the evolution of transportation, communication, and technology, offering a glimpse into Turkey’s industrial heritage and scientific advancements. The museum is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

Things to Do in Istanbul with Family

Miniaturk Istanbul


Explore miniature replicas of Turkey’s most iconic landmarks, providing a fun and interactive way to learn about the country’s history and architecture. Marvel at miniaturized versions of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Ephesus, sparking the imagination of children and adults alike.

Istanbul Aquarium

Dive into a world of marine life and underwater wonders at the Istanbul Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Encounter over 15,000 species from the world’s oceans, including sharks, penguins, and rainforest creatures, offering an educational and captivating experience for the whole family. Visiting the aquarium is one of the popular fun activities in Istanbul.

Princes’ Islands

Enjoy a relaxing day of cycling and picnicking on the car-free Princes’ Islands, a group of nine islands accessible by ferry from Istanbul. Explore charming historical houses, discover hidden beaches, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of these idyllic islands. This is certainly among the most beautiful places in Istanbul.

Istanbul Toy Museum

Delight in a collection of vintage and modern toys from around the world, housed in a beautifully restored historical building. Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with classic toys and discover the diverse ways children have played throughout history.

Whether you seek historical immersion, artistic exploration, outdoor thrills, or family fun, Istanbul has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and prepare to be enchanted by the magic of this unique and unforgettable city.

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