Truly East meets West – Istanbul straddles two continents to flourish into a cultural menagerie.
Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and the victorious Ottomans all put down roots here, leaving behind architectural triumphs and culinary secrets.
In this guide to the top places to visit in Istanbul, you’ll sample that famed Istanbul diversity!
– The Blue Mosque
The name gives it away – built in the 17th-century, the Blue Mosque has made history with its famously blue interior.
Over 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles adorn its walls, highlighted by the glow of natural light.
The arched beams and majestic build will no doubt have you gaping in awe too.
Impressed? Visit more exquisite mosques in Istanbul:
– Basilica Cistern
You’ve never seen an underground complex quite like the Basilica Cistern, capable of storing 80,000m³ of water.
More intriguingly, it was built in the 6th century to feature ancient Ionic and Corinthian columns. The Byzantine Empire’s water system is nothing to scoff at!
Keep an eye out for the upside-down heads of Medusa and other fascinating features.
– Interior of Topkapı Palace (Seraglio)
– Shopping at Grand Bazaar
No, but really – these cavernous halls are stocked with vendors after vendors, all ready to bargain for the sake of bargaining.
Grand Bazaar is a massive spread of trinkets, carpets, clothing and everything else spanning dozens of streets. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, visit for its incredible atmosphere.
Spice Bazaar is a slightly smaller cousin, featuring spices, teas, sweets and dried goods. Pick up herbal remedies or bite-sized snacks.
– Red Tram on Istiklal Avenue
Shop ‘til you drop at the modern and pedestrian-friendly Istiklal Avenue.
Known for its trendy boutiques and luxury brands, many flock there for a wardrobe revamp.
You can simply chill at its plethora of restaurants and cafés too, or make your way up the hill to Taksim Square via tramway.
There are plenty of ornate buildings around the area so take a walk.
– Alexander Sarcophagus, Istanbul Archaeology Museums
History isn’t just classroom teachings and memorizing dates. Explore Istanbul’s vast museum collections and marvel at the depth of its culture.
– Church of Holy Saviour in Chora
Istanbul is brimming over with visual goodies, many with ancient history and displaying immense artistry.
Here are some iconic attractions to include on your bucket list:
Watch those skirts twirl but don’t just laugh and clap your hands – the Whirling Dervishes is more than a simple performance.
The dance is in worship of Mevlana; these whirling Dervishes enter a prayer-trance to bridge humans and the God.
Do reserve seats in advance as many plan for the show as a last-minute addition, only to find it’s sold out.
Taking the ferry across the Bosphorus Strait isn’t the same as taking a cruise.
As you travel along both European and Asian shores, take in the fabulous palaces and waterfront mansions, the dynamic façades and characterful streets.
Some even take you out to the Black Sea; others take you to quaint neighborhoods you wouldn’t otherwise traverse.
Remember to pack your camera to nail those postcard-worthy shots!
– Turkish Bath in Istanbul
Turkish baths are famous, not just for their stunning composition, but also for its rejuvenating bathing rituals.
Enter the echoing chambers and steaming waters to wash away the day’s exhaustion. Then lie on hot marble, relax into the sound of running water and settle in for a deep tissue massage or scrub.
There’s no end to the various faces of Istanbul, only countless treasures to discover.
Seeing is believing.
So remember to be respectful, stay curious, venture into its dynamic districts and embrace what this city has to offer.
Which activity are you looking to cross off your Istanbul bucket list first?
Let us know in the comments below!