30 Best Things to Do in Istanbul | 2024 (with Photos)

James A. Smith

James A. Smith - Chief Editor

Published: July 3, 2023

Hey there! I'm James, a travel enthusiast with a passion for exploring Istanbul. Through my own adventures and discoveries, I've compiled a list of the top experiences in this vibrant city, aiming to help you make the most of your trip. Let's dive in and uncover the best of Istanbul together!

Awesome & Unmissable Things to Do in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that effortlessly blends its rich history and modernity. This vibrant city is built on seven hills and is one of the best places in Europe to explore Islamic art, culture, and history.

Istanbul is home to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Grand Bazaar, among other top tourist attractions. With so many things to do in Istanbul, you will have an unforgettable time when you visit Turkey.

So, let's take a closer look at 30 of the most awesome and unmissable things to do in Istanbul Turkey.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit Hagia Sophia

Top Choice Hotel

Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus

Our Top Choice Restaurant


Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Babylon Istanbul

Best Time to Visit

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Istanbul, Turkey.

Average Temperature

Moderate with mild summers and cool winters, pleasant.

Transportation Options

Metro, tram, bus, ferry, taxi, car rental, walking.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Explore the bustling streets of Istanbul, where ancient traditions seamlessly blend with modern experiences. Indulge in the rich history by visiting the majestic Hagia Sophia, a grand structure that has witnessed centuries of cultural heritage.

Unwind and soak in the charm of the city by taking a mesmerizing cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, where stunning views of the city skyline and iconic landmarks like the Blue Mosque await, creating lasting memories of your visit to Istanbul.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Passport
  2. Travel insurance
  3. Comfortable walking shoes
  4. Appropriate clothing for the weather
  5. Local currency (Turkish Lira)
  6. Power adapter for electrical outlets
  7. Guidebook or map of Istanbul
  8. Camera or smartphone for capturing moments
  9. Reusable water bottle
  10. Turkish phrasebook or language translator app

What Not to Miss

  1. Topkapi Palace
  2. Hagia Sophia
  3. Blue Mosque
  4. Grand Bazaar
  5. Basilica Cistern
  6. Spice Bazaar
  7. Galata Tower
  8. Dolmabahce Palace
  9. Bosphorus Strait
  10. Taksim Square

What to Avoid

  1. Scams: Avoid falling for tourist scams, such as overpriced goods or services, fake tour guides, or rigged taxi meters.
  2. Crowded areas: Try to avoid extremely crowded areas, as they can be overwhelming and increase the risk of pickpocketing.
  3. Street food: Be cautious when trying street food, as hygiene standards may vary. Stick to popular and busy vendors to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  4. Unlicensed taxis: It's best to avoid unlicensed taxis to ensure your safety and avoid potential scams or being overcharged.
  5. Public display of affection: While it is generally accepted, try to avoid excessive public displays of affection, as it may be seen as disrespectful or offensive to some locals.
  6. Political protests: Be aware of any ongoing political protests and avoid getting involved or being in the vicinity to ensure your safety.
  7. Street vendors: Be cautious when interacting with street vendors, as some may aggressively try to sell you low-quality or counterfeit items.
  8. Drinking tap water: It is advisable to avoid drinking tap water and opt for bottled water to prevent any potential health issues.
  9. Dress code: Respect the local customs and dress modestly when visiting religious or conservative areas.
  10. Walking alone at night: It's generally safer to avoid walking alone in unfamiliar, dimly lit areas at night, especially if you're not familiar with the surroundings.

1. Be Mesmerized by the Tiles Inside the Blue Mosque

Tiles Inside the Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks. It is famous for its stunning interior covered in intricate blue tiles and patterns that create a mesmerizing effect.

Visitors to the Blue Mosque can walk around the spacious prayer hall respectfully. Take a moment to admire the delicate calligraphy and ornate chandeliers of the Blue Mosque.

Remember that the Blue Mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, so visitors are required to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering.

As a testament to the city's rich history and culture, the Blue Mosque is a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul, Turkey. This beautiful mosque is one of the most iconic things to do in Istanbul.

2. Witness the Sultan Ahmed Mosque's Six Minarets

Sultan Ahmed Mosque's Six Minarets

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, boasts six minarets and cascading domes that create a majestic and awe-inspiring sight.

The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets. Due to this iconic feature, it is one of the most striking monuments in the world.

Even if you have no time to enter the Blue Mosque, you should stop to marvel at its six minarets, take photos at sunset from a distance and marvel at the significance of this structure.

The Grand Mosque in Mecca has seven minarets - only just more impressive than the famous mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

3. Get Lost in the Grand Bazaar Colorful Shops

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, dating back to the 15th century.

It is a labyrinth of over 4,000 shops selling everything from Turkish carpets, ceramics, and spices to gold jewelry and leather goods.

The Grand Bazaar is a vibrant and bustling place, with vendors calling out to customers and haggling over prices. It's easy to get lost in the maze of narrow alleys and lanes, but that's all part of the experience.

A visit to the Grand Bazaar is a must for anyone looking to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Istanbul's vibrant market culture.

Remember to keep your possessions close to your body while in the busy and bustling Grand Bazaar.

4. Marvel at the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul's most famous landmarks and a great insight into the city's rich history and culture.

Originally built as a church in the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia was later converted into a mosque and then a museum.

Today, the Hagia Sophia Museum building's stunning architecture features a massive dome, intricate mosaics, and towering minarets, all of which reflect the building's Byzantine and Ottoman heritage.

Visitors to the Hagia Sophia can explore the museum's many galleries and learn about the building's fascinating history. No list of things to do in Istanbul would be complete without a mention of the Hagia Sophia.

5. Step Into the Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Another of the most iconic and historic things to do in Istanbul, the Topkapi Palace is a must-see when you visit Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years, and today it stands as a stunning testament to the opulence and grandeur of the Ottoman Empire.

The Topkapi Palace features lavish courtyards, ornate pavilions, and sprawling gardens, all of which offer a glimpse into the life of the Ottoman Empire.

With Topkapi Palace tickets, visitors can explore the palace's many rooms and galleries, including the Harem, where the sultan's concubines lived, and the Treasury, which houses some of the empire's most valuable artifacts.

A visit to Topkapi Palace is a must for anyone interested in Ottoman history and culture.

6. Discover Turkey's History at the Archaeological Museum

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most comprehensive archaeological museums of its kind in the world. For lovers of archaeology, this is one of the most exciting things to do in Istanbul.

It houses an extensive collection of artifacts from Turkey's ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. The museum's many art galleries feature everything from ancient sculptures and pottery to intricate jewelry and coins.

Visitors can also explore the museum's gardens, which contain a variety of ancient structures and monuments, including sarcophagi and columns.

The museum is a must-see for anyone interested in Turkey's rich history and the ancient civilizations that once thrived in the region. A short distance from the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Blue Mosque, you can hit all of these cultural spots in one day.

7. Enjoy Breathtaking Views of Istanbul From the Top of the Galata Tower

Galata Tower

The Galata Tower tourist attraction is a medieval stone tower that stands 67 meters tall and offers stunning panoramic views of Istanbul's skyline.

Built in the 14th century by the Genoese, the Galata Tower has served various purposes over the years, including as a watchtower and a prison.

Today, visitors can climb to the top of the Galata Tower and take in the breathtaking views of Old Istanbul and the city's landmarks. Moreover, this is a great view of the Bosphorus Strait.

The Galata Tower is also a popular spot for watching the sunset and taking Instagram-worthy photos.

You can cross the Galata Bridge, a 490-meter-long drawbridge found in the Golden Horn estuary, to reach the Galata Tower.

8. Admire the Beauty of Istanbul's Iconic Golden Horn

Istanbul's Iconic Golden Horn

The Golden Horn is a natural harbor and inlet that forms part of the Bosphorus Strait. A visit to the Golden Horn is one of the best things to do in Istanbul, Turkey because it is gorgeous and you are likely to eat well here.

The Golden Horn is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, with its picturesque views of Istanbul's skyline and historic waterfront buildings.

Visitors can take a boat tour of the Golden Horn or simply stroll along its banks and take in the scenic beauty. There are also several restaurants and cafes in the area.

9. Indulge Your Senses at the Spice Bazaar's Aromas and Flavors

Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, is a must-visit destination in Istanbul for anyone who loves food and flavors. The spice market is one of Istanbul's most vibrant and colorful places. Here, visitors can wander through the bustling stalls and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of central Turkey.

The market is a maze of narrow aisles filled with colorful displays of exotic spices, herbs, and dried fruits, as well as shops and stalls selling traditional Turkish sweets like lokum (Turkish delight) and baklava.

Visitors to the spice market can sample the various spices and treats on offer, and even pick up some unique souvenirs to take home.

The Spice Bazaar is a feast for the senses and an essential stop on any food lover's itinerary.

10. Descend Into the Mysterious Depths of the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is a massive underground cistern that was built in the 6th century to supply water to the old city.

With its stunning architecture and two upside-down Medusa heads, which are said to ward off evil spirits, the Basilica Cistern is an eerie and striking chamber.

Visitors to the Basilica Cistern can explore the many columns and arches and learn so much history. The Basilica Cistern is a testament to the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the ancient Byzantine builders.

11. Explore the Intriguing History of Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Church

Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church, Istanbul

Istanbul's Greek Orthodox churches are some of the city's most historic sites and culturally significant buildings.

These ornate structures date back to the Byzantine Era and offer a glimpse into the fascinating history of the old city's Greek Orthodox community.

Visitors can admire the intricate decoration and stunning frescoes that adorn the city walls, and learn about the complex and often turbulent history of the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul.

The churches are a must-visit for anyone interested in the city's rich cultural heritage.

12. Experience the Bosphorus on a Boat Tour or a Walking Tour

Boat Tour

Two of the best things to do in Istanbul, Turkey are a boat tour and a walking tour. You can do one or both of these activities and make sure to soak in the stunning sights of the Bosphorus Strait.

Marvel at the beautiful scenery, including the stunning architecture and charming seaside neighborhoods, while cruising on the water. Istanbul is the only city to span two continents (Europe and Asia), and you can get glimpses of the Asian side from your boat tour.

Learn about the city's history and culture as you sail past iconic landmarks and take in the panoramic views. It's a great way to see Istanbul's beauty and charm from a different angle.

Or, you can experience Istanbul from a unique perspective by taking a guided walking tour along the Bosphorus. Stop by Ortaköy, a river-side town with a lovely local market.

13. Soak Up the Vibrant Energy of Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is one of Istanbul's most lively and energetic public spaces. This bustling square is a hub of activity day and night, with street performers, musicians, and vendors adding to the lively atmosphere.

Visitors can sit at one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the square, people-watch, and soak up the energy of the city.

Taksim Square is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the vibrancy and vitality of Istanbul.

14. Taste the Best of Turkish Cuisine at Local Restaurants

Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and unique blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences.

Visitors to Istanbul can sample the best of this cuisine at local restaurants, where dishes like kebabs, mezze, and baklava are served with flair and flavor.

From traditional Ottoman cuisine to modern fusion dishes, Istanbul's restaurants offer something for every palate. A meal at a local restaurant is one of the most cultural things to do in Istanbul.

15. Explore the Museum of the Ancient Orient

Museum of the Ancient Orient

The Museum of the Ancient Orient is a fascinating window into the history of the Near East.

Located in the heart of Istanbul's historic district, this beautiful museum also houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of ancient civilizations like Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.

Visitors can marvel at intricate carvings, intricate pottery, and stunning works of art that date back thousands of years. The museum is one of the best things to do in Istanbul for anyone interested in the ancient history of the region.

16. Admire the Byzantine Splendor of Istanbul's Oldest Churches

Church of St. Mary of the Mongols

Istanbul has a rich history and is known for its beautiful churches. The city is home to some of the oldest churches in the world, many of which date back to the Byzantine Empire.

Admire the Byzantine splendor of Istanbul's oldest churches, including the Hagia Irene, the Church of St. Mary of the Mongols, and the Church of St. George.

These churches are famous for their stunning architecture, intricate mosaics, and impressive domes.

Explore the history and beauty of these churches, which have survived centuries of change and are a testament to the enduring faith of the city's people.

17. Marvel at the Magnificent Mosaics of the Chora Church

Chora Church

The Chora Church, also known as the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, is a stunning example of Byzantine architecture and art.

The church is famous for its magnificent mosaics that cover the walls and ceilings of the interior, depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

The intricate designs and vivid colors of the mosaics are truly breathtaking and offer a glimpse into the artistic and cultural richness of the Byzantine Empire.

Marvel at the beauty of the mosaics and immerse yourself in the history and artistry of this impressive church.

18. Cross the Galata Bridge and Witness the City's Bustling Waterfront

Galata Bridge

As you cross the Galata Bridge, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of Istanbul's bustling waterfront.

Here, you can watch ferries and boats navigate the Bosphorus Strait, while fishing boats unload their catch of the day.

The bridge itself is an iconic landmark, with its numerous fishing spots and bustling atmosphere.

Take a stroll along the bridge and soak up the sights and sounds of Istanbul's lively waterfront. This is one of the most romantic things to do in Istanbul, Turkey.

19. Experience the Serenity and Grandeur of the Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque

One of Istanbul's most magnificent mosques, the Süleymaniye Mosque, is a testament to the Ottoman Empire's grandeur and splendor.

The mosque features stunning architecture, intricate tilework, and a peaceful ambiance. Visitors can explore the mosque's interior and admire its ornate details, including the impressive dome and towering minarets.

Take a moment to sit and reflect in the mosque's tranquil courtyard, or climb to the top of the hill for panoramic views of the city.

20. Marvel at the Lavish Interiors of the Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

The Dolmabahce Palace is a stunning example of Ottoman architecture and design. Built in the 19th century, the palace served as the residence of the Ottoman sultans and is a true masterpiece of opulence and luxury.

Visitors can explore the palace's numerous rooms and halls, which are adorned with chandeliers, gold leaf, and priceless works of art.

Marvel at the grandeur of the palace's reception hall, or take a stroll through the stunning gardens that surround the palace. With so many things to do in Istanbul, it is easy to miss this gem.

21. Gaze at the Ancient Egyptian Obelisk in Istanbul's Hippodrome

Istanbul's Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was once the center of Byzantine life and culture. Today, visitors can still see remnants of its ancient past.

Just a short walk from the Blue Mosque, this is a sight to behold. One of the most striking features of the Hippodrome is the ancient Egyptian obelisk, which was brought to Istanbul by Emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century.

Standing at over 20 meters tall, the obelisk serves as a reminder of the city's rich and complex history. The Hippodrome used to be the site of chariot races.

22. Step Into the World of Ottoman Nobility at the Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace

Built in the 19th century, the Beylerbeyi Palace was a favorite residence of the Ottoman sultans during the Ottoman Empire. It is a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture and design in the old city.

The palace's lavish interiors feature ornate chandeliers, marble floors, and intricate tile work, while its gardens are a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

Visitors can explore the palace's numerous rooms and halls, including the grand reception hall and the sultan's private quarters, and gain insight into the luxurious lifestyle of Ottoman nobility.

23. Surrender to the Relaxation and Rejuvenation of a Traditional Turkish Bath

Traditional Turkish Bath

A Turkish bath, or hamam, is an essential part of Turkish culture and a must-try experience for visitors to Istanbul.

These traditional bathhouses offer a unique blend of relaxation and rejuvenation, with their steamy interiors and soothing massages.

Visitors can choose from a variety of treatments and services, including body scrubs, massages, and aromatherapy, and emerge feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Whether you're seeking a little pampering or a cultural experience, a Turkish bath is a must-do in Istanbul.

24. Visit the Suleymaniye Mosque

The Suleymaniye Mosque, a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Istanbul.

The mosque, built in the 16th century, features a stunning dome, soaring minarets, and intricate tilework.

The spacious courtyard, surrounded by beautiful gardens, provides a peaceful oasis in the midst of the bustling city.

The interior is equally impressive, with its grand prayer hall, ornate decorations, and beautiful stained-glass windows.

Visitors can marvel at the mosque's exquisite architecture and take in its serene ambiance, making it a must-visit destination for those exploring Istanbul's cultural and historical treasures.

25. Explore the Intriguing History of Istanbul's Byzantine Churches

Hagia Irene

Istanbul is home to many historic churches that date back to the Byzantine Era, such as the Hagia Sophia, the Chora Church, and the Church of St. Savior in Chora.

These churches are filled with stunning frescoes, intricate mosaics, and other impressive works of art that offer a glimpse into the city's rich history and cultural heritage.

Exploring these churches is a must for anyone interested in art, history, or religion, and will provide a fascinating look into Istanbul's past as a center of Byzantine art and architecture.

Visit the Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, and any other Byzantine Church in town if you are looking for cultural and historic things to do in Istanbul.

26. Spend a Day Exploring Uskudar


Uskudar is a district in the Asian side of Istanbul that is rich in history and culture. This neighborhood offers a wide range of historical landmarks and religious sites, including mosques, churches, and shrines.

One of the most prominent historical sites in Uskudar is the Maiden's Tower, which dates back to the Byzantine Era. Stop by the restaurant on the ground floor of the Maiden's Tower for some traditional Turkish food.

It was once used as a lighthouse and a defense tower against enemy attacks. Visitors can also explore the historic Uskudar market, which offers a variety of goods, from local food to handmade crafts.

The district is easily accessible by ferry or public transportation and is a must-visit for any history buff.

27. Sip on a Turkish Coffee and Watch the Sun Set Over Istanbul

Turkish Coffee

Sipping on a cup of traditional Turkish coffee while taking in the sunset is one of the best things to do in Istanbul for couples, families, and friend groups looking for an unforgettable time.

Head to a rooftop cafe or a seaside viewpoint, such as Ortaköy, to enjoy this magical moment. This will be a highlight of your trip when you visit Istanbul.

Turkish coffee is strong, rich, and flavorful, and is best enjoyed slowly as you admire the stunning skyline of Istanbul. It's a perfect way to relax after a day of exploring this fascinating city.

28. Check Out the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art 

 Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

The Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, also known as Istanbul Modern, is a must-visit destination for any art enthusiast. Get an Istanbul museum pass and add it to the list of museums you want to visit.

Located in a converted warehouse in the trendy Karaköy neighborhood, the Museum of Modern Art features an impressive collection of contemporary Turkish art and hosts rotating exhibitions of international artists.

The museum's scenic waterfront location and modern design make it a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike.

After browsing the exhibits, be sure to grab a cup of Turkish tea at the museum café and take in the stunning views of the Bosphorus. This is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul for art lovers.

29. Stroll the Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is one of the most famous and busiest pedestrian streets in Istanbul. Located in the heart of the city center, it stretches a walking distance of about 1.4 kilometers and is lined with shops, cafes, restaurants, and historical landmarks.

It's a wonderful place to take a stroll, people-watch, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Istanbul. Istiklal Street is also a hub for cultural events and festivals throughout the year.

Visitors can enjoy live music, street performances, and exhibitions on the local streets. With so much to see and things to do in Istanbul too, Istiklal Street is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Istanbul.

30. Indulge in Istanbul's Sweet Treats like Turkish Delight


Indulge in the mouth-watering and traditional sweet treats of Istanbul with a taste of Turkish delight. This is one of the most iconic things to do in Istanbul, or anywhere else in Turkey.

This delightful dessert is made from sugar, nuts, and a variety of flavors such as rosewater, lemon, and pistachio.

You can find it in many shops and markets around the city, and it's a must-try for any food lover.

Turkish delight is just one of the many delicious treats you can savor while exploring the culinary wonders of Istanbul.

FAQs About Things to Do in Istanbul, Turkey

Now, let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about things to do in Istanbul, Turkey.

Can you do Istanbul in 3 days?

Yes, you can see the major attractions of Istanbul in three days. With so many things to do in Istanbul, Turkey, it will be hard to see it all in three days, but you can make sure you see the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and a spice market in this time. If you take a comprehensive guided tour of Istanbul, Turkey, you may be able to see most of these attractions in just one day.

How many days is ideal for Istanbul?

Ideally, you should visit Istanbul for 5-6 days to experience its diverse culture, history, and culinary scene. It would be advisable to allocate more than six days if you plan on including day trips from Istanbul. After seeing the top attractions in Istanbul, Turkey, you should also visit Turkish baths and the beautifully preserved mosaics of Chora Church, which depict the life of Jesus Christ. Moreover, make sure you have a balık ekmek (fish sandwich) for at least one lunch.

What is a whirling dervish?

A dervish is a devoted Islamic spiritual person who spins in a trance to reach religious ecstasy. Whirling dervishes do not originate from Istanbul but have become synonymous with the city. You can book tickets to see whirling dervishes perform their rituals.

Summing Up: Best Things to Do in Istanbul

As you can see from this article, Istanbul is a city that never fails to impress with its stunning architecture, rich history, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture.

From exploring the many ancient ruins, historic buildings, and landmarks to indulging in the local delicacies and experiencing the lively atmosphere of the city, there are countless things to do and see in Istanbul.

Don't forget to experience the local cuisine, see a whirling dervish in action and see the big three attractions: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.

Start planning your trip to Istanbul, Turkey, and immerse yourself in this magical city that sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.