Istanbul is a popular tourist destination and the safest city in Europe. It’s a stunning city with a rich architectural and historical past, a skyline of the mosque, and minarets surrounded by water. Istanbul is the only intercontinental metropolis in the world. It enjoys abundant sunshine and green and blue space. The people of Istanbul, the Turks, are friendly, warm, and welcoming, even when conducting business.
What are some popular spots to see, or what can you do to enjoy your stay in Istanbul? The first step you should take on arrival is to get an early morning ticket or pass to any of the popular destinations.
Istanbul is commonly known as an old city or a new city. The popular spots found in these cities include:
The Old City
The Galata Bridge links the Old and New Cities; the Galata Tower offers stunning views from the top; Dolmabahce Palace; Istiklal Street, a famous pedestrian street; and Taksim Square, the most important historical monument. sceneries
The New City
Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace.
Istanbul cuisine city guide
In the Old City
Getting fresh seafood at the best price while going to the vibrant Kumkapi area is the best.
Alternatively, the Sultanahmet area offers a good selection of affordable restaurants.
In the New City
There are many local eateries and restaurants with plenty of fresh fish dishes in the Lincoln Pasaji food court and the adjacent street.
Try Ustam Musa Adana or Konak for kebabs.
For a high-class Turkish meal, try Satan, and for Ottoman cuisine, go to Tugrai.
The most suitable months to visit are April through November, when you can avoid the frequently wet and gray winter weather.
Things to do in Istanbul during a visit are many and fun.
Shop for spices and souvenirs at the Spice Bazaar
The Eminonu area, also known as Egyptian, is one of the oldest markets in Istanbul. In the Eminonu area, you can find everything related to food. Everyday food items to be found there include spices, dry fruits, coffee, tea, cheese, Turkish Delight, and other high-quality foodstuffs. The shop owners are very hospitable, kind, and polite, but I tried to convince you to buy everything they offer. As a result, it is best to be cautious and purchase what you need. And bargaining for items will be an advantage, as most shops are discriminatory with their prices.
Inside and outside the stores, it can be brimming with locals selling and tourists buying. I prefer going to shop earlier to avoid the crowd. I learned that with a smaller group, the buyer could negotiate with the seller and get a better bargain.
One last tip: best to check the days markets are open.
The Bosphorus Keeper Sandwich is unbeatable. It will be an unforgettable experience to stop by for a beautiful kipper sandwich at Balk on the Quayside before or after the boat tour.
The aroma of freshly caught fish wafts through the Quayside as it smokes on a great barbecue. Sitting by the Bosphorus and munching on one of these, tucked into a fresh roll with a generous sprinkling of salad and wrapped in a snug package, is a heavenly experience. Plus, those glasses of strong tea with sugar are also popular and available, as is a refreshing homemade lemonade, my favorite beverage made from pickled red cabbage and sweet vinegar.
And although the “jury” is not unanimous on the latter, it is the perfect detox after a possible night of Angora Kavaklidere. I paid L4 for the kipper sandwich and L3 for the cabbage drink. Do the math and enjoy the treat.
Balek Ekmek, Istanbul’s cheapest but most excellent sandwich, comes highly recommended.
The Blue Mosque
Once you have queued for 30+ minutes and passed through airport-style security, this medieval building will keep you in constant amazement. Although it is now a museum rather than a working mosque, women are to dress modestly in headscarves; thankfully, its provided if needed. All tourists must remove their shoes. It is remarkable to think of its age and the history it has seen. Restoration and conservation in mosque areas mean you cannot access all corners or the upper levels, but some ancient paintings can be visible from the floor. Take pair of binoculars for a more clear view.
It’s worth the 30+ minutes’ wait; incredible architecture and construction.
I have visited many countries and mosques, but this one is exceptional and incomparable. You, too, will enjoy a tour of The Blue Mosque. It is a must-visit place in Turkey.
Surrender to the steam in a bathhouse
There are few chances to wander wild and uninhibited through this Ottoman Empire relic. Yet Istanbul’s popular hammams hand you that opportunity. Hammams, or bathhouses, are rich in classic history and superb architecture. The hammams offer you more than just bathing. A trip to the hammam is all it takes to steam you back to activity after a long day of hustling, feeling tired, and getting dirty. Fortunately, both the Old and New cities offer the services of hammams. The places to find them include Tophane, Klç Ali Paşa Hamam, and, in Sultanahmet, the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam.
The things to do in Istanbul hammams’ is limitless.
Admire the architecture of Süleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye is one of the most important mosques in Istanbul. The architecture is beautiful, the interior painting is gorgeous, and the views of the city are stunning. It offers a perfect field of vision of the Bosphorus separating the Asian side and European sides of Istanbul! The interior of this Ottoman-style mosque is exquisite and magnificent, just like its namesake, “Suleymaniye.” I rank it on par with Hagia Sophia, but I could not tour it due to ongoing construction purposes. There is no shortage of mosques in Istanbul; there is always another to tour instead.
Suleymaniye is one of the most important mosques in Istanbul. The architecture is beautiful, the interior painting is gorgeous, and the views of the city are stunning. There were very few visitors when we got there, which just added to the place’s charm.
Hammams and Turkish Baths
A visit to Istanbul, Turkey, would be incomplete without a Turkish bath. I always visit a Turkish bathhouse when I visit Istanbul, Turkey. The treatment I get is worth the time and money spent. Generally, the individuals who run most bathhouses are cautious and respectful professionals. The owner and workers at these bathhouses pamper and treat you like a king, so the memorable experience keeps you coming back for more.
Their prices are reasonable compared to what is charged in Europe or the United States for spa services, even for their most luxurious packages. You will personally enjoy the serene feeling most bathhouse scenery creates in combination with the scrub and massage. Their facility is comfortable enough to relax while taking in the view.
To get the best scrubs and massages, shop around and find what suits your personality in terms of facility and price so you get the most bang for your buck.
You can be sure to sleep like a newborn baby as it completely refreshes and renews the body.
The Dogançay Museum, situated in a lovely old house in the Beyoglu district, houses paintings by Turkish artist Burhan Dogancay. Brilliant contrast: modern images in an old house. If you need a rest, there is a lovely Turkish tearoom.
The museum is in central Beyoglu, but you usually only pass it on the street. When I visited the place, there was an exhibition of “Burhan Doançay as a Photographer,” which was quite impressive. The staff was friendly and guided me through the floors.
I accidentally noticed this museum while walking around the Nevizade area and Balo Street. The accessible entrance sign motivated me to check out what was inside. I entered, and it was a 3-floor gallery with images taken by the artist DOGANCAY over forty-something years from different parts of the world! The photographs are educational, realistic, spontaneous, taken from real-life streets, and thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed the pictures on the walls because they were so bright. I recommend visiting it as you are strolling the central Beyoglu streets.
The Hippodrome is a fantastic place to visit! You’ll want to do a bit of research on the web.
Sultan Ahmet Park: The Hippodrome is a large square with a small crowd most of the time. Part of it leads into Sultan Ahmet Park, a bee hive of activity busy with adults, couples, friends, families, and children. Both the square and park offer many places to sit and rest or “people watch” in sunny and shady areas. The park’s main feature is the Fountain and the colored light show it puts on from dusk into the night. Well worth seeing.
The Dolmabahce Palace
This Palace was excellent. It was easy to follow the flow through the buildings, and the audio guide was excellent. Shame you cannot take photos inside. The Painting Museum was one of the best art exhibition rooms I have visited; the presentation and lighting are excellent, and the paintings are fascinating, particularly those from Istanbul and those with military histories. I was surprised at the comments about the condition of the infrastructure; it seemed fine to me. I spent around 3 hours here. The walk from Kabatas metro station takes less than ten minutes and is well-marked along the water.
In the 1800s, the Ottoman sultans felt that the Topkapi Palace no longer suited their needs, so they built a large palace on the shores of the Bosphorus. Inside, the Palace disallows photographs. The building is enormous, and the audience hall that ends the tour would be impressive in nearly any building on earth.
Yerebatan Underground Palace: Basilica Cistern
This place is truly astounding: it’s unique, superbly laid out for observers to savor grandeur, and perfectly lit up to create the ambiance that takes you away. But this is the secret that makes all captivating. You have come early to be among the first groups to get in. Once it’s crowded, it loses most of its charm.
Don’t miss this opportunity!
I have been to this site twice to soak in the engineering masterpiece, starting from the concept design and construction of this medieval cistern that still holds water today. You don’t need to be an engineer like I am to be impressed.
“Beware of unscrupulous cab drivers.”
I just got back from Istanbul after a 4-night city break. I need to warn travelers to be extremely vigilant regarding taxis. I got ripped off twice in 2 days, though a small amount, but it might have been ample. A fake 50 lira note, equivalent to 3.64 Canadian, pass on to me by a cab driver deliberately. Then, when I got a cab to the airport, the driver said it was 53 lira; I gave him 55; he then showed me two 5 lira notes and said I had given him this instead of a 50 lira note; I thought it was my mistake and swapped the 5 for a 50, then drove off. But I realized I only had 50 lira notes, and I was again a victim of fraud. Other cab drivers quoted me inflated prices for a journey I knew was close.
Another thing about taking a cab is that the traffic is so bad that it will take ages to get anywhere; instead, take the tram, walk, or other alternative transportation. I loved Istanbul and would go back, but please be warned about some opportunist cab drivers and always double-check what money you give them; steer clear of 50-lira notes.
Things to do in Istanbul are much more fun if you can find them. The key is to learn to explore.