Istanbul is a real gem of a city to explore! Now, it may not be the capital of Turkey but, there’s a whole heap of amazing and some of the best things to do in Istanbul that are dotted far and wide across the city.
A few moons ago, We had the best time exploring a little slice of Turkey when we headed to Göcek. This trip alone made me realise I need to explore so much more of Turkey.
With that in mind, and with lots of advice from local, Ilenia, we’ve managed to bump up our travel lust to explore some of the best things to do in Istanbul.
Take a look at some of the best things to do in Istanbul, below. It’s such a diverse city to explore.
1.) Immerse yourself within The Grand Bazar
Now, if you’re a shopper, you’ll love the Grand Bazar that literally have thousands of stalls selling everything from middle-eastern sandalwood scents, 24 Karat gold, local wood carvings and traditional art.
The only downside of having thousands of stalls is that you’ll likely get them, but that’s all part of the fun! After all, you’re still in Istanbul. An easy way to navigate your way is to remember that every path that leads down a slope will eventually take you to an exit.
Remember, prices are often inflated, especially for visitors – most traders are willing to barter and I recommend you never pay more than half the asking price (if that!). It really is one of the best things to do in Istanbul if you love local souvenirs.
For a gorgeous hotel, check into the Hagia Sophia Hotel. It’s perched right in the old city of Istanbul.
2.) Experience the beauty of The Blue Mosque
Seeing the Blue Mosque is possibly one of the very best things to do in Istanbul…and it’s easy to see why.
Its stunning architecture, beautiful colours and ornate interior make this a must-see stop on your trip to the city.
Don’t forget to sit down, relax and see the real beauty of this wonderful place – it’s mesmerising (even if it’s getting reconstructed).
For a stunning hotel near the Museum of Modern Art, check into the Rixos Pera Istanbul (the same hotel family we stayed at in Gocek, Turkey).
3.) See Hagia Sophia Museum and Church
Literally, Hagia Sophia has to be one of the best things to do in Istanbul if you love iconic architecture and historical spots.
It’s the perfect place to gain a wider perspective on the history of Istanbul and the turbulent past the city has encountered.
Take a look inside and marvel at the breathtaking building and treasured artefacts inside. You’ll love it.
4.) Climb Galata Tower
If you’re looking for some epic views of the city, then make sure to get yourself over to the Galata Tower (which is also a museum).
If you’re an early riser, climb up here early in the morning and watch the city come to life. It really does offer you a whole new perspective of the city.
Oh yeah, and take some comfy walking shoes, too!
5.) Sip on a Turkish Coffee
You can’t go all the way to Istanbul without having a cup of that famous Turkish coffee.
If you’re looking to experience some traditional Turkish cafe culture, remember to visit Okkali Kahave where you can sample a range of blended coffees and flavours from around Turkey.
Popular streets such as Mim Kemal Öke and Atiye all house a range of local and independently owned cafes that are mixed with some of the best Turkish restaurants in the city.
For a great hotel near the waterfront, check into the Legacy Ottoman Hotel. The rooms are so plush.
6.) Shop till you drop in Nişantaşı
If you’re looking to stay away from the malls of Istanbul, head to Nişantaşı and the surrounding areas.
Filled with chic shops and antiques, it’s the perfect place to come to find something very special. Don’t forget to take a wander on the often overlooked side-streets surrounding it, where a number of beautiful art spaces have opened up selling local paintings, artwork and contemporary craft by local artists (like this beautiful creation above).
A perfect place to spend an afternoon and one of the best things to do in Istanbul if you’re looking for local art.
7.) Explore Dolmabahce Palace
Considered by many to be one of the most glamorous palaces in the world, Dolmabahce Palace is a must-see while you’re in Istanbul.
Don’t forget to check out some (if not all) of the 200 rooms inside. Okay, fine… you can’t go in them all – but it’s still worth a good gander around.
For a stunning hotel that’s only 9-minutes away from the Palace, check into the Shangri-La Istanbul.
8. ) Visit Ortakoy
If you wanna a little break from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, take a journey to the picturesque area of Ortakoy. World-renowned for its beautiful Mosque, it’s one of the best things to do in Istanbul if you want to catch a good sunset.
Oh, I almost forgot, Ortakoy is also a great place to find some amazing jewels and has built up a reputation for housing some of the most ornate and sought after jewellery in the whole city.
9. ) Grab some spices at the Egyptian Bazar
Just behind the new mosque, the Spice Bazaar or Egyptian Bazaar is the perfect place to smell, taste and buy some of Turkey’s most famous spices and drinks.
As with most Bazars, prices are inflated and you’re expected to haggle your way to a deal (like most markets in Istanbul).
Don’t forget to try some of the freshly prepared Turkish Delight from one of the many confectionary and coffee traders in the Bazaar.
10.) Explore the quaint charm of Sile
Head to beautiful Sile for a day out of Istanbul, where you can try local seafood (right on the harbour), see the historic ruins of the town’s castle and stroll through the winding streets that criss-cross this colourful town.
A mere 15-20km away, it’s easily accessible by bus, car or taxi, with the best time to visit being around mid-morning.
Don’t forget to listen out for the hum of the Black Sea fisherman’s boats heading back to shore. Packed full of freshly caught fish and shellfish – these boats sell directly to the local restaurants for their lunchtime menu. Yum!
11.) Try baklava at Hafiz Mustafa 1864
Forget counting any calories or cutting our carbs, Hafiz Mustafa 1864 is one of Istanbul’s worst kept secrets.
Its popularity is only surpassed by its delicious and indulgent treats. Head here and gorge on some of the many variations of baklava that will somehow magically disappear into your tummy!
A favourite in the city is the chocolate option that will drive any chocolate lover into a sensory overload.