Istanbul is one of the most vibrant cities in Turkey that has so much to see and experience for different types of visitors. It is blessed with the vibe of the ancient era along with the pace of modernity. And both these aspects offer several enthralling things to do in Istanbul. From indulging in immersive experiences to strolling in historical sites, the choices are limitless to make your tour unforgettable.
Activities to do Istanbul open multidimensional ways to embrace fun, thrill, sacredness, and entertainment. Therefore, this city has become one of the favorite holiday hotspots in Turkey as it has something for everyone. Check out the list of top-rated things to do in Istanbul for an amazing holiday.
Let’s Uncover Top 16 Things to do in Istanbul
- Appreciate the unique structure of Hagia Sophia.
- Experience Ottoman Royalty at Topkapi Palace.
- Seek blessings at Süleymaniye Mosque.
- Explore Basilica Cistern.
- Discover history at Kariye Museum.
- Absorb the sacredness of Blue Mosque.
- Indulge in Bosphorus Cruise Fun.
- Admire the architecture of Dolmabahçe Palace.
- Enjoy shopping at Grand Bazaar.
- Dig into the past at Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
- Know the cultural significance of Atik Valide Mosque.
- Witness the historical treasure at the Museum of Innocence.
- Get a traditional Turkish Bath at Hamam.
- Envelope in the beauty of Istanbul’s nightlife.
- Taste various dining options.
- Attend a belly-dancing show.
1. Appreciate the unique structure of Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia, which translates to ‘holy wisdom,’ is a Byzantine architecture masterpiece. From its intricate design to its historical significance, this monument has proved why it is one of the best places to see in Istanbul. Thus, visiting this most cherished landmark of the city is listed as one of the top things to do in Istanbul.
You can admire the interior of this place and feel the peacefulness around you. Don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the sacred domes and ancient mosaics at the site. Istanbul, one of the most famous tourist places, has several features from the past that are lovingly preserved in the museum.
2. Experience Ottoman Royalty at Topkapı Palace
A visit to the royal palace is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace has been the residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years. So you can admire the fine specimen of Ottoman Architecture, and here you can experience the royalty of that time.
Explore the palace premises, which have extensive collections of treasures, including jewelry, porcelain, robes, weapons, shields, armor, miniatures, Islamic calligraphy manuscripts, and murals. The Museum of the Ancient Orient, the main Archaeology Museum; and the Tiled Pavilion of Mehmed the Conqueror, showing Istanbul through the Ages are the most exciting displays you must not miss.
3. Seek blessings at Suleymaniye Mosque
One of the finest things to do in Istanbul is to absorb the tranquility of the famous Suleymaniye Mosque and learn about its fascinating history. This ancient mosque has a height of 53 m dome and is surrounded by tranquil gardens. Apart from getting a blessing, you can admire the harmonious design and layout. A famous Ottoman architect, Sinan, built the magnificent Mosque for Suleyman the Magnificent in the late 16th century.
Moreover, you can explore the mosque complex which features gardens and a three-sided forecourt with a central domed fountain. Do not miss walking through the Ottoman cemetery here marked by tombs of Sultan Suleyman and his wife, Haseki Hurrem Sultan. A famous Ottoman Architect, Sinan, built the magnificent Mosque for Suleyman the Magnificent in the late 16th century.
4.Explore Basilica Cistern
Knowing history through first-hand experience is one of the top activities to do in Istanbul for history buffs. If you are one of them and looking for a place to explore, do visit Basilica Cistern, a historical landmark of the city. You can find 336 columns in 12 rows by exploring this architectural feat.
The most notable features of the cistern are the column bases known as the Medusa stones. These are located in the northwest corner with their Medusa head carvings. Explore the scenic and spooky setting of beautifully lit columns and the soft melody of trickling water. The Basilica Cistern was a former imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors.
5. Discover history at Kariye Museum
Heritage is one of the integral aspects of Turkey’s tourism, and Istanbul is the right place to experience it. Kariye Museum in Istanbul is a 5th-century structure, and its charm has been glorified over time.
The museum is fantastic, where you can discover the different preserved items. In addition, you can check out the impressive Byzantine artistry. And exploring a range of themes from the savior Jesus Christ to the New Testament stories, this museum has it all. This museum’s vibrant 14th-century mosaics and frescoes along the walls and domes are incredible.
6. Absorb sacredness Blue Mosque
A walk through the ancient mosque is one of the most exciting things to do in Istanbul. One of the most photogenic landmarks, the Blue Mosque adds majorly to the charm of the city. You can admire its architecture and the artifacts that will take you back to the old days. First, however, remember to attend a historical narrative and a light show on summer evenings.
A grand architectural gift to Istanbul, The Blue Mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I. The 17th-century mosque is a beauty to marvel at. Adorned with ten thousand Iznik tiles, the entire three-dimensional color effect makes the mosque one of the finest achievements of Ottoman architecture.
7. Indulge in Bosphorus Cruise Fun
A trip to Istanbul seems incomplete without taking a Bosphorus Cruise ride. It is an experience of a lifetime that offers plenty of opportunities to indulge in fun-filled activities. This cruise tour provides a breathtaking view of the city and both the European and Asian shores of the famous waterway. Apart from it, you can experience great history, culture, and other fun. You can choose several cruises: short one (to the second suspension bridge and back), long one (all the way to the Black Sea and back), and a sunset tour in summertime.
8. Admire the Architecture of Dolmabahçe Palace
Experience Turkish Renaissance style through spellbinding interiors, a blend of Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical and Ottoman elements in Dolmabahçe Palace. This tourist attraction is considered one of Turkey’s most impressive architectural gems. By strolling in this palace, you can see French-style furniture and impressive frescoed ceilings.
You can also spend some peaceful time in the exquisite garden decorated with fountains, ornate basins, and blooming flower beds. In short, each element of this palace has something to give you wow factors. This palace was built by Sultan Abdulmecid I in the 19th century.
9. Enjoy Shopping at Grand Bazaar
Shopping is one of the most entertaining things to do in Istanbul. And Grand Bazaar is one of the prime hotspots to enjoy a delightful moment. It is one of the oldest markets in the world and provides a fantastic opportunity for exploration. This market has covered space with around 5,000 shops and was built in 1461.
And today, it has been a hub of international and local trade. The maze of pleasures lures the hearts, minds, and pockets of travelers in Istanbul. It won’t be wrong to say that the Grand Bazaar is the ultimate oriental shopping experience. The best things to buy from Grand Bazaar include exquisite textiles, jewelry, spices, lanterns, pottery, and souvenirs. Bartering is an absolute must.
10. Dig into the past at Istanbul Archaeology Museum
Learning about the history by visiting the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is ranked among the things to do in Istanbul. The museum is a must for hasty art lovers and history enthusiasts. And you can take your time to explore the sections of the museum.
It has three sections in the complex: The Archaeology Museum, The Museum of Ancient Oriental Works, and The Tiled Kiosk Museum. The rich heritage here will keep you occupied for hours. This is a complex that brings together many artifacts from Turkey and then the Middle East. Also worthy of a visit is Istanbul through the Ages, with some interesting artifacts on display.
11. Know the Cultural Significance of Atik Valide Mosque
Uncovering the history and culture at once is one of the top activities to do in Istanbul. Atik Valide Mosque is the ideal choice, which is counted as one of the historical masterpieces. Named among the best creations of the master architect Mirar Sinan, it is one of history’s finest and most preserved pages. Commanding over the city skyline, the spectacular creation is truly awe-inspiring. The mosque was built on the town of Uskudar’s highest hill in 1583 for Valide Sultan Nurbanu, wife of Selim II.
12. Witness the historical treasure at the Museum of Innocence
If you are willing to get a unique experience on your Istanbul trip, head to the Museum of Innocence. The museum exhibits the elements based on the famous novel by the same name as the museum which you would love to explore. You can find a great collection of more than a thousand objects by visiting this museum. And the collection presents what the novel’s characters wore, heard, saw, collected, used, and dreamed of, all meticulously arranged boxes and display cabinets.
The Museum of Innocence is a 19th-century house created by famous novelist Orhan Pamuk as a companion to his novel of the same name. The entire collection of things used by fictional characters is quite interesting to explore. You can imagine a story as you explore this collection. This is apt for light-hearted sightseeing, one of Istanbul’s top places to check out.
13. Get a Traditional Turkish Bath at Hamam
There is nothing better to rejuvenate on your vacation in Istanbul than getting scrubbed in a Hamam. In fact, this is one of the best experiences in Istanbul. Think of pampering your body and senses like this after a long day of walking, taking in historical sights, and the other pleasures of the fascinating city. Having a traditional Turkish bath at a hammam is a must experience in Istanbul.
Start the session by relaxing in a steamy room, lying on hot marble, and listening to the soothing sounds of running water. Then, get a quick soapy body scrub, followed by a ‘Sultan Massage’.
14. Envelope in the beauty of Istanbul’s nightlife
Indulging in the exciting nightlife is one of the best things to do in Istanbul at night when the sun goes down, and the party vibes emerge at different places in the city. You can find numerous nighttime activities in this city in Turkey. Istanbul has it all: live performances, cruises, events, concerts, dining, and whatever you wish for. As modern as it is ancient, Istanbul’s nightlife is splendid and has everything you could ask for.
For a quiet and cultural night, attend a live performance while sipping on your favorite drink. If you would love to dance the night away, have a go at concerts of current and past world stars. Parties of fun, dance, and music are popular at the open-air venues by the Bosphorus.
15. Taste Various Dining Options
Enjoying different cuisines will make you feel good and give you the best memories of your trip. No doubt that tasting a variety of foods is one of the top things to do in Istanbul for food lovers. In fact, Turkey’s kitchen is among the richest of all, blending flavors of different continents and cultures. So, every tourist can find numerous options to give their tummy a delightful treat.
The Turkish delights that you must not miss are Baklavas, a glass of Aryan, doner, ice cream, and many other options available there. The dinner must be extended with nargile, sheesha, hubbly bubbly – whatever you call it. There are numerous hookah bars in Istanbul where you can continue socializing till late.
16. Attend a belly-dancing show
The belly dancing show in Istanbul has a different charm that can give you a feel of the famed tale Arabian Nights in Istanbul. And if you are inclined towards art and dance, Istanbul has a treat for you in the form of belly dancing. Therefore, you must add a belly dancing show to your list of exciting things to do in Istanbul.
This exquisite dance of the graceful dancers, the groovy music, and the setting will whisk you into a fairytale of Arabian Nights. However, if you are looking for a performance with more than just an entertainment factor, then make sure to catch Hodjapasha Dance Theatre. There are quite a number of exciting shows, from folkloric belly-dancing performances to some contemporary ones.
So now that you are aware why Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most charming cities, offering a wide range of exciting activities to experience. Clearly, whether you are inclined towards history, culture, or looking for just thrill and fun, this city covers it all for you. An Istanbul tour package from Indian Holiday will include all major attractions, and of course, all the exciting things to do, as stated above, and so much more. Further, with the customizable option, you can design the tour as per your requirements.
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