Top 10 Things to Do in Istanbul
Here are my top 10 things to do in Istanbul, in no particular order. I chose these not because they are popular, but because I think they are worth seeing or experiencing. Therefore, for instance, I didn’t include the world famous Blue Mosque, but suggest something different. I also want to draw attention to many hidden gems, often overlooked when preparing for your visit. Enjoy!
Watch The Whirling Dervishes
Here are my top 15 things to do in Istanbul, in no particular order. I chose these not because they are popular, but because I think they are worth seeing or experiencing. Therefore, for instance, I didn’t include the world famous Blue Mosque, but suggest something different. I also want to draw attention to many hidden gems, often overlooked when preparing for your visit. Enjoy! The Whirling Dervishes may look like a tourist attraction, but it’s an actual worship service of Mevlana’s followers. During the ceremony the Dervishes become a bridge between God and humans through a prayer-induced trance. Although high on many visitor’s Istanbul to-do-list, people often had to skip it in the end because seats were sold out. Don’t make the same mistake and reserve your seats well in advance. Check the best Istanbul packages with best attractions.
Amazed By The Magnificent Atmosphere Of Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque
Welcome to Hagia Sophia, where 1500 years of Christian and Islamic history can be seen side-by-side. Once the great cathedral of Constantinople and later an imperial mosque of the Ottoman Empire, this former centre of worship for Christians and Muslims. The world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul has been turned back into a mosque right now. Wonder at the incredible height of the famous dome and the amazing architecture, see the glittering remains of the original gold mosaics and learn about the history of this icon of Istanbul. Standing in the middle of the staggering spacious nave under the 43 meter wide dome 65 meters above your head defies belief – and physics for that matter. Climb up the spiral ramp to get to the gallery and gaze at the splendid Byzantine mosaics, including Christ flanked by Emperor Constantine IX and his wife Empress Zoe. Check out our Istanbul Tours and add Hagia Sophia to your Istanbul itinerary today!
Wander around the imperial Ottoman gardens of Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayı) is rightfully a sight you can’t afford to miss while in Istanbul. This complex of kiosks and pavilions contained by four lush green courtyards is where generations of sultans had their principal residence for almost half a century. Top attractions at Topkapi Palace are the Harem, an adorned ‘cage’ of the sultan’s women, the treasury storing the crown jewels (containing the famous Topkapi dagger), and the weapon’s room boosting the Ottoman’s fine craftsmanship even when it came to making swords and bows. Also, don’t forget to walk all the way till the end for breathtaking views of the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn. You can check out our Guided Istanbul Tour Itinerary with including Topkapi Palace today!
Explore Istanbul With Bosphorus Cruise
A trip to Istanbul is not complete without a Bosphorus cruise. Not only provides it a nice overview of the city, both the European and Asian shores of the famous waterway have a lot to offer – century old palaces and mansions galore. The shimmering expanse of the Bosphorus strait divides Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. Viewing this mesmerising city from one of the many ferries and tour boats that continually cross the Bosphorus offers a new dimension to this destination.There are several cruises you can take: a short one (to the second suspension bridge and back), a long one (all the way to the Black Sea and back), and a sunset tour in summertime. Or you can also prefer to have Boshorus Night Cruise with Dinner. You can check our daily Bosphorus Cruise Tour to enjoy Istanbul.
Be Impressed by the Spoky Atmosphere Of Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan)
Istanbul is not only fascinating above ground, but also underground with the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan). This exquisite piece of Byzantine engineering is a spectacular underground cistern, once bringing drinking water with aqueducts from current Bulgaria to Istanbul. With its dimmed light and classical music to the background sound of dripping water, some find it romantic while others experience it as slightly spooky. Tread the walkways and watch the fish swim between the 336 columns that support the ceiling. Walk all the way to the end to see the Medusa head, placed upside down as the base of one of the columns. Check the best Istanbul packages with best attractions.
Shop for Best Souvenirs of Istanbul at Grand Bazaar
Bargain hunting at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Over 500 years old, but still one of the largest covered bazaars in the world. Its 60 streets contain no less than 5000 shops, 60 restaurants, 18 fountains, 12 mosques, and even a school. This is not a tourist trap as some claim. Locals shop here every day, but odds are they’re better at bargaining than you are. The bazaar is very famous for its carpets, leather, ceramics, souvenirs and jewelry. It’s hard not to get lost in this chaos, so try to remember where you entered before wandering around. You can check out our Guided Istanbul Tour Itinerary with including Grand Bazaar today!
Witness the Istanbul’s Roman ancient history at Archeology Museum
People often skip the Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), and that’s a pity. This is a real hidden Istanbul gem, displaying one of the world’s richest collections of classical antiquities. Top attractions here are the marvelous sarcophagus of Alexander the Great depicting important phases of his life, the blue tiled Karaman Mihrab, the beautiful Tiled Pavilion, and the Treaty of Kadesh – the world’s earliest surviving peace treaty. Not an option with kids? Wait until they see the model Trojan Horse in the children’s section. You can reach the Archaeology Museum by going left down the hill in Topkapi Palace’s first courtyard, or via Gülhane Park. Check the best Istanbul packages with best attractions.
Explore the Suleymaniye Mosque
The truly staggering size of the Süleymaniye Camii (Suleymaniye Mosque) is one of its most distinctive features – built by the legendary architect, Mimar Sinan, it is known as one of his masterpieces, and his largest design. It is not just the awe-inspiring size that is impressive (the central dome stands 47m high), but also the elegantly decorated interior. The Süleymaniye Mosque was designed by the famous architect Sinan for Süleyman the Magnificent, and is a great tribute to both. It’s actually much more than a place of worship. It’s a complex of buildings containing a hospital, a kitchen, a school, etc. Don’t forget to visit the tombs of Süleyman and Roxalana behind the graveyard, the tomb of Sinan outside the complex, and eat kuru fasulye (haricot beans) in one of the many restaurants in the Alley of Addicts. Check the best Istanbul packages with best attractions.
Visit the Blue Mosque
Called the Blue Mosque by foreign visitors because of its interior tiles, it disappoints if you’re looking for lots of blue because the blue tiles are mostly in the inaccessible upper galleries. Otherwise, the mosque is a fine example of Istanbul’s wonderful imperial Ottoman mosques. The mosque (built 1603-17) is the masterwork of Ottoman architect Sedefkâr Mehmet Ağa. It’s built on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium, on the southeastern side of the Hippodrome (map). With its six minarets and a great cascade of domes, the mosque is a worthy sibling to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) just a few minutes’ stroll to the north. Check out our Istanbul packages includes Blue Mosque.
Discover the Dolmabahce Palace : Ataturk’s Home
Dolmabahçe Palace is just fascinating. A few facts to demonstrate my point here. The palace is huge — 600 meters in length — containing no less than 285 rooms and 43 salons. It was built in 1856 by Sultan Abdüi Mecit, basically to prove that the declining Ottoman Empire was doing just fine, whereas the construction resulted in exactly the opposite. Nevertheless, no expenses were spared, proof of which the excessive use of gold leaf, crystal and marble. Obvious key features are the Baccarat crystal staircase, the main bathroom, and the ceremonial hall with its 4.5 ton chandelier. Just seeing the latter is impressive. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk adopted the palace as its home, and died there November 10, 1938 at 09:05. As a tribute, all clocks in the palace show that time. Check out our Istanbul package tours including Dolmabahce Palace.
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