Come fall in love with beautiful Istanbul – a silhouetted city which has a confluence of many cultures, bi-continental city of Eurasia where West meets East. So let’s read some of the best things to do in beautiful Istanbul City tour – a complete Istanbul guide in this post. A bi-continental city with Bosporus Strait dividing this city by Marmara and the Black Sea into the European region and Asian region has wonderful historic past since 660 BCE. Known by many names during ancient times like Augusta, Antonia, Nova Roma, Byzantium, and Constantinople this city has experienced many cultures due to many invasions by Greeks, Romans and Ottoman empires. That is why you feel multi-cultural vibes here with a perfect combination of the Mediterranean and Islamic cultures. This magical city has a vibrant city life and mesmerizing evenings. The numerous attractions like Byzantine churches & museums, Venetian towers, Roman aqueducts(cisterns), majestic Ottoman palaces, splendid rugged skyline across seven hills, minarets with blue waters of Bosporus Strait & the Golden Horn. Let’s read about beautiful places to visit in Istanbul and popular tourist attractions in Istanbul for first-timers.
Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
VISA TO TURKEY
Turkey gives e-Visa to 99 countries. You can click this link to check and apply for your e-Visa done. Indians having valid USA Visa get e-Visa of Turkey within 2 to 3 working days by applying online.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISTANBUL
Istanbul located on seven hills and surrounded by three seas is a huge city with many vibrant neighborhoods. According to many surveys, this city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole world. Therefore it has many hotel stays and apartment stays in the whole of Istanbul. Plenty of charming neighborhood with quirky vibes have wonderful stays and for first-timers, I would suggest don’t experiment much and book your stay near or at –
Click here to book at perfect location in Sultanahmet.
Click here to book stay near or at Taksim Square.
- INTERCONTINENTAL Istanbul – Click here to book my stay in Istanbul.
- Sofitel Istanbul Taksim.
- Point hotel Taksim.
Click here to book hotels near Galata Tower –
Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
Also known as Aya Sofia. A former church, then a mosque and now a museum is the most famous and visited attraction in this city. Also, it is the 8th wonder of the world due to its wonderful architecture.
FACTS ABOUT HAGIA SOPHIA –
- Built-in 325AD which was collapsed two times.
- Once upon a time, it was the world’s largest place of worship.
- Converted to a mosque in 1453 when Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman.
- It is a museum since 1935.
- Constructed by East Roman Empire at first and was the biggest church in that period.
- Interiors of this museum are enriched with holy works of Christianity & Islam.
- Witness splendid Christian mosaics and frescoes from the Byzantine area with Islamic calligraphy holy phrases.
HOW TO REACH HAGIA SOPHIA
Take T1 Tram towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach by bus, ferry, and public taxis.
THE BLUE MOSQUE
One of the most beautiful mosques in Turkey and also in the world.
FACTS ABOUT BLUE MOSQUE
- Built-in the 17th century under the ruler of Sultan Ahmet I.
- It is named as Blue Mosque due to blue tiles – “Iznik” in its interior.
- This unique mosque has 6 minarets which you will not find in another mosque.
- Located in the historic neighborhood of Sultanahmet square in Faith district.
- It is closed temporarily on Friday for Friday prayers.
- Please wear respectful clothing.
FOR TICKETS – The entrance is free.
HOW TO REACH BLUE MOSQUE
Take T1 Tram towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach by bus, ferry, and public taxis.
BASILICA CISTERN (SUNKEN PALACE)
Very unique and unusual museum as it is underground. It is a mystical place with a very unique concept of grand architecture under the ground.
FACTS ABOUT BASILICA CISTERN
- A water reservoir built in the 6th century with 336 columns.
- It was used to meet the water requirement from forests 16 km far to the palace through ducts.
- Known as Basilica as this site was church once upon a time.
- Byzantine type of architecture with beautiful columns and corridors.
- At present columns are illuminated with special lighting which makes this place very unique and beautiful.
- Famous for two upside down and sleeping heads of Medusa. There is mystery why Medusa heads are found in this cistern. Many myths are associated with these heads.
FOR TICKETS – Click here to purchase tickets.
HOW TO REACH BASILICA CISTERN
Take T1 Tram towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach by bus, ferry, and public taxis. Located beside Hagia Sophia after you cross the roads towards the Sultanahmet tram stop.
“Topkapi” means Cannon Gate and once upon a time, it was the residence of Ottoman Sultans (Head or King). It is said that beneath the palatial ground lies the remains of huge Byzantine Acropolis(same as Athens) from the Greek period. This palace is located on the peninsula and is surrounded by three seas – the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus Sea, and the Golden Horn.
FACTS ABOUT TOPKAPI PALACE
- Built-in the 15th
- One of the world’s richest museum.
- For Harem and Hagia irene(formerly a church) you need to buy separate tickets.
HOW TO REACH TOPKAPI PALACE
It is adjoining to Hagia Sophia and so take Tram T1 towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach by bus, ferry, and public taxis.
A medieval cylindrical stoned tower in the Galata / Karakoy neighborhood of Istanbul. A very iconic, unique monument which adorns the beautiful skyline of Istanbul. It is located on the conjunction of Bosphorus and the Golden Horn which means from the top you get a 360 ° panoramic view of this splendid city which is worth it.
FACTS ABOUT GALATA TOWER
- It was built many times as it was destroyed with fire and earthquake.
- The present tower was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Genoese and first, it was made by 528 in the Byzantium period.
- It served as many offices like The Fire Tower, the Ottoman Military Band and used as a prison too.
- Earlier it was named as Tower of Christ by Genoese which is a conical shaped tower.
- Strategically location makes it a perfect place for having a view on its Observation Deck.
- It has a total of 9 floors and till 7 floors elevator takes you up and after that, you have to climb 2 floors by a spiral staircase.
- The view from this tower during the early morning, or at sunset is amazing.
FOR TICKETS – Click here to book tickets in advance. Opens from 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.
HOW TO REACH GALATA TOWER
- By Tram T1(Bagcilar-Kabastas route) and get down at Karakoy. From here you have to climb some colorful steps or hike the narrow cobblestoned ramp to this tower as it located on the small elevated hilly region.
- From Taksim Square/Beyoglu neighborhood it is at a walkable distance or you can catch the vintage red-colored tram from Taksim to the end of Istiklal street and then descend down across Galip Dede street to reach here.
BOSPORUS BRIDGE & BOSPORUS CRUISE
Bosporus Bridge is built on Bosporus Strait which connects two continents – Europe and Asia. The most iconic bridge due to this fact and also adds the charm to this city by forming the unique skyline of Istanbul.
FACTS ABOUT BOSPORUS BRIDGE
- It is 1.5 km long and is not a pedestrian bridge. The lifeline of this city which carries lots of vehicles daily.
- Also known as Marty’s bridge.
- It is lit with glittering LED lights at the night.
- One of the world’s famous bridge as it joins two continents.
HOW TO REACH BOSPHORUS BRIDGE
You will cross this bridge many times when you come from Sahiba Gokcen airport or when you cross from the European region to the Asian region or vice-versa. It can be done through a taxi but you get fabulous view through Big Bus and can also pass underneath through cruise or ferries.
Take the tour of this silhouetted city with views of magnificent skyline consisting of minarets & monuments by cruise. Istanbul’s Golden hour is very famous and so taking evening cruise across Bosphorus strait must be the most beautiful thing to do here. The cruise is generally of 60 or 90 minutes and there are many other options from which you can select as per your likings like dinner cruise, entertainment cruise, or public ferries. The cruise passes along the beautiful sights of Dolmabache Palace, Ciragan Palace, Galata Tower, Beylerbeyi Palace, Rumeli Fortress, Anadolu fortress, Bosphorus bridge, Suleymaniye mosque lighted up and the backdrop of setting sun.
HOW TO REACH PORT TO CATCH CRUISE
There are huge pier and dock to catch public ferries and various cruises at Eminonu Pier from where you get many varieties of ferries, cruises, yachts, and public water transport. Eminonu Pier can be reached through Tram T1 by getting down at Tram stop – Eminonu. You can reach this point by public ferry, public bus or taxi.
More than 500 years old covered ancient style of the market is worth visiting for shopping and to admire the ancient style of business skills. It is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world.
FACTS ABOUT GRAND BAZAAR
- Considered as the most ancient shopping mall in the world.
- The layout of shops and narrow passages forms a maze and therefore it becomes very confusing and also fun to solve this maze while passing through beautiful and colorful shops.
- Colorful ethnic and local products of Turkey are sold here.
- Not only shopping, but you can also admire the tiled ceilings and pillars with some ancient style of works on them.
- Opens from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
HOW TO REACH GRAND BAZAAR
- By Tram T1 (Bagcilar-Kabastas route) and get down at Beyazit stop.
- You can also reach here by public buses.
- If you take the funicular and public ferry then after you have to take the same tram T1 to reach here.
- Taxis can also be taken.
ISTIKLAL – TAKSIM SQUARE
The most famous, vibrant, colorful and crowded pedestrian street of Istanbul. It looks like a grand boulevard styled street which is located in the Beyoglu neighborhood. It starts at Taksim Square and ends at the Galata Tower. All funky bars, quirky cafes, colorful buildings, night entertainment, street performers, boutique shops, branded shops are found here. Most crowded street as it is very popular among locals and tourists too.
FACTS ABOUT ISTIKLAL TAKSIM SQUARE
- The splendid architectural buildings on both sides of streets were palaces, mansions in ancient times which are now converted into shops, restaurants and famous eateries.
- You can also locate Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, a famous church, historical passage – Flower Passage, vibrant bylanes and many night entertainment spots.
- The most famous vintage-styled red-colored tram of Istanbul also passes through this street. People love this tram so much that they take selfies with it while hanging out and children for a fun take rides while hanging on the stairs as the speed of tram is very slow. This tram ride takes you back to olden times and so it is like a time machine that transports you back to the olden era.
- This street is one of the most photogenic streets of Istanbul for architecture, fun, vintage-style transport, eating out and colorful – modern shopping.
HOW TO REACH ISTIKLAL STREET
Drop down at Karakoy Tram stop by Tram T1 near Galata Tower and then climb up by ramp or stairs to reach here. Or you can take the underground metro to Taksim Station and then walk down this beautiful 1.5km stretch.
Located on the banks of the Bosphorus Sea in Besiktas neighborhood, this magnificent and grand palace was used to be residence of Ottoman Sultans after their residence in Topkapi Palace.
FACTS ABOUT DOLMABAHCE PALACE
- It has European Baroque style architecture.
- Built-in the 19th century.
- Interiors are adorned with luxurious chandeliers, crystal glass, marble work, and beautiful carpets.
FOR TICKETS – Click here to buy tickets.
HOW TO REACH DOLMABAHCE PALACE
Take Tram T1 and get down at Kabastas station.
Located in Faith district which and this mosque is the most prominent feature in Istanbul’s skyline. It is said that this is the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul. This mosque looks most beautiful during the sunset.
ENTRANCE – FREE
HOW TO REACH SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE
Take Tram T1 and get down at Eminonu station. While cruising across Bosphorus strait you can also admire its beauty with sunset.
UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL – VISIT BALAT REGION IN ISTANBUL
Admire colorful houses on the southern part of the Golden Horn. This area is known for colorful houses, buildings, cafes, restaurants, street art and now becoming more and more popular among tourists for funky colorful tours of Istanbul.
WHAT TO DO IN BALAT
- Get lost into zig-zag streets on hilly slopes of this neighborhood.
- Admire or take photos with colorful houses in hilly regions.
- Comes under UNESCO Cultural Heritage Project.
HOW TO REACH BALAT
Take the bus from Eminonu and tell the bus driver to drop you at Balat by showing the Google location as they will not understand English much. Taxis are the most convenient way to reach here.
WHAT TO EAT IN ISTANBUL FOR VEGETARIANS – VEGETARIAN FOOD GUIDE IN ISTANBUL
Vegetarians will get a lot of varieties like grilled vegetables cooked in curry style and served with white rice or saffron rice.
Like Greek dish Moussaka you will also get grilled eggplant with spices and curry on sizzler plates with Turkish loaves of bread.
Stuffed bread with spinach or cheese – Gozmele is worth trying out.
Veggie Pide – Boat-shaped Turkish Pizza
Lots and lots of Turkish sweets, Ice-cream and drinks like Anar(Pomegranate) juice, pineapple juice, Grapefruit juice, Turkish tea & coffee.
Almedar Restaurant is at walking distance from Hagia Sophia & Basilica Cistern towards Gulhane Tram station direction. They have a special vegetarian menu with Turkish style of lower seating on carpets & cushions with authentic local décor.
And if you want to have Turkish vegetarian food with a view of Bosphorus bridge, Istanbul skyline then I would suggest Glamour café near Hodja Pasha Cultural Center at Sirkeci Tram station.
WHERE TO HAVE THE BEST SKYLINE VIEW – ISTANBUL SKYLINE
- Observation Deck of Galata Tower
- Eminony Ferry station
- Top of Glamour café
- From Bosphorus Cruise
- Karakoy Bridge
- While driving across Bosphorus Bridge
- Many hotels offer skyline view rooms and so you book this kind of stay. Or you can have dinner with a view at several cafes and restaurants in this city.
- Camlica Hill on the Asian side.
WHERE TO SHOP IN ISTANBUL
Shops nearby iconic Sirkeci railway station, Grand Bazaar, Istiklal street, shops nearby Gulhane Tram station in Old Town area.
Istiklal street and shops near Galata Tower in the new town region.
HOW TO SPEND AN EVENING IN ISTANBUL?
Istanbul is known as the city that never sleeps. So there is multiple choice of evening entertainment for all tastes and styles. You can book whirling Dervishes Sufi shows, sunset tours, a Dinner cruise with belly dance, music concerts, street entertainment on Istiklal street, dinner with a view from a stylish restaurant and many more activities.
- Click here to book the show of Whirling Dervishes to witness a unique Sufism show at HodjaPasha cultural center. Book tickets in advance as sometimes this show is full. Or you can book Whirling dervish show at historic station of Sirkeci Railway station from where Orient Express story originated. Click here to book this show. Or you can book entertaining Turkish dance at HodjaPasha cultural centre which are held only on specific days. Click here to book Turkish dance.
- Nearby HodjaPasha Cultural Center there are beautiful narrow alleys with quirky Turkish restaurants having colorful – funky seating areas with outdoor and indoor options. This lane is known as Hocapasha Restaurant’s lane. Vegetarians too get their food here.
- Istiklal street on Taksim square for quirky pubs, bars, and shopping.
- Galata neighborhood for colorful bars, pubs, cafes & restaurants across the slopy cobblestoned street. Also, you can book your dinner at the top of Galata with special shows with a 360-degree view of the whole city.
- Bosphorus Night Cruise with Dinner and Entertainment to admire the glittering skyline.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ISTANBUL | Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
April to September – Summer and Peak tourist season.
March to October are shoulder season.
November to March – offpeak season due to winters. Less crowded and more affordable.
COMMUTING IN ISTANBUL
Public Transport is very well developed and highly efficient to reach from one place to another. The whole city is connected through the network of buses, ferries, trams, metros, and funicular. The frequency of this transport also is very good and you don’t have to wait a long to catch the other tram or bus if you miss one.
Ticket costs 2.67 TK(Turkish Lira) for one ride and commuting in public transport is safe with normal precautions.
You can also hire yellow-colored cabs which run on meter and you pay accordingly. The problem in this will be the driver does not understand much English, so with the help of a handwritten address or Google map, they will drop you to your destination.
Don’t think about self-drive as this city is very crowded and you will always get stuck in traffic jams or signals. Also getting a parking slot is a big task here.
HOW TO REACH ISTANBUL?
By Air –
Istanbul has two International Airports – Sahiba Gokcen Airport and a new International Airport. They both are well connected with many flights from all over the world.
By Road –
There are many roadways to reach this country either from the Asian side of the European side. Many buses or rent a car take you to Turkey through roads from neighboring countries of Turkey.
By Rail –
This city can be reached through trains while coming from the European side only.
By Sea –
As this city is located on three seas, waterways are very efficiently developed here. You can reach to Karakoy Port of Istanbul from many cruises offering Istanbul by sea tours.
GENERAL FACTS & TIPS ABOUT ISTANBUL | Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
- The currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TL). You will find many exchange houses across the city which are reliable and you can exchange them from here. Don’t carry too much exchanged currency from your home as you get good rates here.
- If you want to avoid International roaming then purchase local SIM card from the airport. You will get choices from Vodafone, Turkcell, and Turk Telekom. Activate your SIM from the booth where you buy the card and in the city at many places there are free WiFi spots.
- Istanbul is a city of past, present, and future and so there are many things to do. You will at least need 3 to 4 days to see most of the major attractions but for wholesome fun, you need a week here.
- As Istanbul is huge and very historic, you have to walk a lot. Wear comfortable footwear and on average, you would walk 15000 or 20000 steps daily. My average was 18000 steps daily in Istanbul, though I used public transport a lot.
- Many people assume Istanbul is divided by water into two regions but water divides Istanbul into three regions – European side Old Town region, European side New Town by the Golden Horn & Asian side by Bosphorus Strait.
- Istanbul is built on 7 hills, 2 continents and is surrounded by 3 seas. So it has a unique charm and magic.
- Tulips famous in the Netherlands originated from this place.
- The famous suspense novel of Agatha Christie – “Murder on Orient Express” was conceptualized and written here at Hotel Pera Palas. You can also spot that famous station of Constantinople quoted in this book, just opposite to Sirkeci Tram station.
- Istanbul has more than 3000 mosques.
- Grand Bazaar attracts more 250000 to 400000 tourists daily.
- This city was damaged by fire, earthquakes, invaders many times and got rebuilt too many times by different cultures. So you can see the influence of all cultures here.
- People of Turkey are very fond of Bollywood(Indian Movies), especially its superstar “Aamir Khan”.
- The world’s oldest underground railway system is located here – The Tunnel.
- This city is very huge and crowded and so once you enter this city for a few hours or for a day you will not feel adjusted or think overrated tourist place. But after a day you would love this city and its magic. It has a unique charm to be-spell you.
DAY TRIPS FROM ISTANBUL | Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
- Click here to book Princess Island Cruise full day tour with lunch.
- Click here to know more about Uskudar day trip from Istanbul.
- Click here to book day trip to Bursa Hilly village near Istanbul.
- Click here to book full day trip to Troy and replica of Trojan horse.
I hope you loved these Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide. If you want to purchase the Istanbul Welcome card which covers many attractions and public transport then read my analysis with all the pros and cons of it.
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