What are the best places to visit in Istanbul? Let’s read about the best things to do in Istanbul Turkey, and popular tourist attractions in Istanbul for first-timers. So check the best Istanbul itinerary.
Come fall in love with beautiful Istanbul – a silhouetted city with a confluence of many cultures, a bi-continental city of Eurasia where West meets East. So let’s read some of the best things to do on a 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 a beautiful historical 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 the Greeks, Romans, and Ottoman empires.
That is why you feel multicultural vibes with a perfect combination of Mediterranean and Islamic cultures. This magical city has 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.
TURKEY IN 5 DAYS – TURKEY ITINERARY
TURKEY ITINERARY 5 DAYS
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul – Overnight stay in Istanbul
Day 2: Istanbul City Tour – Overnight stay in Istanbul
Day 3: Fly to Denizli from Istanbul – Pamukkale Tour – Overnight stay in Kusadasi
Day 4: Ephesus Tour – Fly to Kayseri from Izmir – Overnight stay in Cappadocia
Day 5: Cappadocia Tour – Fly to Istanbul from Kayseri
ISTANBUL TOUR ITINERARY – VIDEO TOUR
Best Things To Do In Istanbul Turkey – 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. Indians having valid USA visas get e-Visa to 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 throughout Istanbul.
Plenty of charming neighborhoods 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 the perfect location in Sultanahmet.
Click here to book a 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 Istanbul – Best places to visit in Istanbul
Also known as Aya Sofia. A former church, then a mosque, and now a museum is this city’s most famous and visited attraction. Also, it is the 8th wonder of the world due to its incredible architecture.
FACTS ABOUT HAGIA SOPHIA –
- Built-in 325AD it collapsed two times.
- Once upon a time, it was the world’s most prominent place of worship.
- Converted to a mosque in 1453 when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans.
- It is a museum since 1935.
- Constructed by East Roman Empire and was the biggest church in that period.
- The 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 THE BLUE MOSQUE
Take T1 Tram towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach it 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 was built in the 6th century with 336 columns.
- It met the water requirement from forests 16 km from the palace through ducts.
- Known as Basilica, as this site was a church once upon a time.
- Byzantine type of architecture with beautiful columns and corridors.
- Currently, columns are illuminated with special lighting, making this place unique and beautiful.
- Famous for two upside down and sleeping heads of Medusa. There is a 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 it 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 a 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 museums.
- 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, so take Tram T1 towards Bagcilar direction from Kabastas direction and get down at Sultanahmet. You can reach it by bus, ferry, and public taxis.
A medieval cylindrical stoned tower in the Galata / Karakoy neighborhood of Istanbul. A very iconic, unique monument that adorns the beautiful skyline of Istanbul.
It is located on the conjunction of the 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 by fire and earthquake.
- The present tower was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Genoese, and first, it was made in 528 in the Byzantium period.
- It served as many offices like The Fire Tower, and the Ottoman Military Band and was used as a prison too.
- Earlier it was named 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 you have to climb two floors by a spiral staircase.
- The view from this tower during the early morning or at sunset is fantastic.
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 carries lots of vehicles daily.
- Also known as Marty’s bridge.
- It is lit with glittering LED lights at night.
- One of the world’s famous bridge as it joins two continents.
HOW TO REACH BOSPHORUS BRIDGE
You will cross this bridge often when you come from Sahiba Gokcen airport or from the European region to the Asian area or vice-versa. It can be done by taxi, but you get a fabulous view through Big Bus and can also pass underneath on cruises or ferries.
- Take the tour of this silhouetted city with views of the magnificent skyline consisting of minarets & monuments by cruise.
- Istanbul’s Golden hour is very famous, so taking an evening cruise across the Bosphorus strait must be the most beautiful thing to do here.
- The cruise is generally 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 the setting sun.
HOW TO REACH PORT TO CATCH CRUISE
- There are huge pier and dock to catch public ferries and cruises at Eminonu Pier, from where you get wide variety 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 achieve 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 antique style of business skills. It is one of the largest and oldest markets in the world.
FACTS ABOUT GRAND BAZAAR
- Considered 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 styles 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 bus.
- If you take the funicular and public ferry, you must 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 in Istanbul. It looks like a grand boulevard-styled street located in the Beyoglu neighborhood.
- It starts at Taksim Square and ends at the Galata Tower.
- There are funky bars, quirky cafes, colorful buildings, night entertainment, street performers, boutique shops, and branded shops.
- Most a crowded streets as it is trendy among locals and tourists too.
FACTS ABOUT ISTIKLAL TAKSIM SQUARE
- The splendid architectural buildings on both sides of the streets were palaces, and 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 a fun taking rides while hanging on the stairs as the speed of the 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 walk down this beautiful 1.5km stretch.
Located on the banks of the Bosphorus Sea in the Besiktas neighborhood, this magnificent and grand palace used to be the 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 adorn 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.
SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE – Best Places To Visit In Istanbul
Located in the Faith district, 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 sunset.
ENTRANCE – FREE
HOW TO REACH SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE
Take Tram T1 and get down at Eminonu station. While cruising across the Bosphorus strait, you can also admire its beauty with sunset.
BEST 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, and street art and now becoming increasingly popular among tourists for funky colorful tours of Istanbul.
WHAT TO DO IN BALAT
- Get lost in zig-zag streets on the hilly slopes of this neighborhood.
- Admire or take photos of 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 within walking distance from Hagia Sophia & Basilica Cistern towards Gulhane Tram station. They have a special vegetarian menu with Turkish-style of lower seating on carpets & cushions with authentic local décor.
And if you want Turkish vegetarian food with a view of the Bosphorus bridge and the 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, 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 – Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
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 complete. Or you can book a Whirling dervish show at the historic station of Sirkeci Railway station from where the Orient Express story originated.
- Click here to book this show. Or you can book an entertaining Turkish dance at HodjaPasha cultural center which is held only on specific days. Click here to book Turkish dance.
- Nearby HodjaPasha Cultural Center, there are beautiful narrow alleys, quirky Turkish restaurants, colorful, funky seating areas, and 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 Istanbul
April to September – Summer and Peak tourist season.
March to October are shoulder seasons.
November to March – off-peak season due to winters. Less crowded and more affordable.
COMMUTING IN ISTANBUL – Istanbul Turkey Itinerary
- Public Transport is very well developed and highly efficient to reach from one place to another. The whole city is connected through buses, ferries, trams, metros, and funicular networks.
- The frequency of this transport also is excellent, and you don’t have to wait a long to catch the other tram or bus if you miss one.
The ticket costs 2.67 TK(Turkish Lira) for one ride, and commuting in public transport is safe with standard precautions.
You can also hire yellow-colored cabs that run on meter and 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 at 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? – Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
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 –
This country has many roadways, either from the Asian or European sides. 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 from the European side only.
By Sea –
This city is located on three seas, so waterways are very efficiently developed here. You can reach Karakoy Port of Istanbul from many cruises offering Istanbul by sea tours.
GENERAL FACTS & TIPS ABOUT ISTANBUL | Best Things To Do In Istanbul City Tour
- The currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TL). You will find many reliable exchange houses across the city and can exchange them from here. Don’t carry too much-exchanged currency from your home, as you get reasonable rates here.
- If you want to avoid International roaming, purchase a 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, there are free WiFi spots at many places.
- Istanbul is a city of past, present, and future, so there are many things to do.
- You will need at least 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 historical, you must walk a lot. Wear comfortable footwear; 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. Still, water divides Istanbul into three regions – the European side Old Town region, the European side New Town by the Golden Horn & Asian side by Bosphorus Strait.
- Istanbul is built on 7 hills and 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 by Agatha Christie – “Murder on Orient Express” was conceptualized and written here at Hotel Pera Palas. You can also spot that favorite station of Constantinople quoted in this book, just opposite Sirkeci Tram station.
- Istanbul has more than 3000 mosques.
- Grand Bazaar attracts more than 250000 to 400000 tourists daily.
- This city was damaged by fire, earthquakes, and invaders and 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 vast and crowded, so once you enter this city for a few hours or a day, you will not feel adjusted or think of overrated tourist places. But after a day you would love this city and its magic. It has a unique charm to be-spell you.
- Not only Istanbul is worth visiting in Turkey, but there are certain other places and there are amazing things to do in Cappadocia, Ephesus, Antalya, Ankara, Izmir, Pamukkale, Bodrum, Konya, Kusadasi, Fethiye, Cesme, Bursa, Trabzon, and many more .
Turkey Itinerary 5 Days
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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