Top 10 Things to Do in Istanbul

Istanbul city is gifted with an amazing blending of cultures and history of East and West.  It is the city that was conquered by many great nations like Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabians. The last two nations not only conquered but also adorned it in their unique way.  Every time you walk in the city street, the layer of history will unfold to you. There is a cosmopolitan vibe in everywhere in this city. European and Middle Eastern are merging here with Turkish soul. Istanbul is so rich in history that it would be a challenge for you to select the top most fascinating things to do in Istanbul.

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10 Things to Do in Istanbul:

There are Byzantine churches and palaces adorned with mosaics and frescoes as well as Ottomans’ grand ambition on architectures. Here are our top ten things to do in Istanbul.

Let’s find, what to do in Istanbul?

10. Galata Tower

Things to Do in Istanbul, Galata Tower
Galata Tower | image credit – Wikimedia/FaceMePLS

Galata Tower stands as sentinel over the city for centuries. This cone-capped cylinder tower is the most striking landmarks in the city and should be always on the list of one of the top things to do in Istanbul. It offers a great panoramic view of the city. Its height is 219 feet. It was the highest landmark in the city for many years.

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Its majesty might be underestimated if one does not consider its time period of construction. As the construction time is 1348, it is not hard to understand that a mammoth technical effort was needed to build this tower at this height at that time. And no wonder why it in in the list of one of the best things to see in Istanbul.

9. Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Istanbul Archaeological Museum, places to visit in Istanbul
Istanbul Archaeological Museum | image credit – Wikimedia/Nevit Dilmen

As a blending place of different cultures and history, what could be more resourceful than visiting Istanbul Archaeological Museum? It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. The museum originally consists of three museums: the Archaeological Museum, the Ancient Orient Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. Prominent art connoisseur and painter Osman Hamdi Bey founded the museum. He was also the first curator of the museum.

Museum of the Ancient Orient has a huge collection of pre-Islamic items.  The Archaeology Museum has an impressive collection of ancient grave-cult sarcophagi. The notable collections are statue of an Ephebos, a marble lion from the Mausoleum of Mausolus, The Saba’a Stele of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III, Balawat gates and so on. Visiting Istanbul Archaeological Museum is one of the top things to do in Istanbul.

Also Read: Top 10 most famous museums around the world

8. Chora Church

Chora Church, What to do in Istanbul
Chora Church | image credit – Wikimedia/Gryffindor

The Chora Church is one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture.  During the Ottoman period, this Orthodox Church was converted to mosque and in 1948, it became a museum. It owns some of the finest and oldest surviving Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. Due to the Muslim prohibition against iconic images, mosaics and frescoes were covered in plaster. This and frequent earthquake in this area took a heavy toll on artwork.

Visiting Chora Church is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.  The Church was reconstructed five times before getting its present look. The Church is famous for its unique internal decoration and it is the main reason to make it one of the major Istanbul tourist attractions. It is one of the top things to do in Istanbul to visit this Church, Mosque and museum.

7. Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul tourist attractions
Basilica Cistern | image credit – Wikimedia/Dpnuevo

The Basilica Cistern with its incredible artwork is in our list of one of the top things to do in Istanbul. Built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Basilica Cistern is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in İstanbul. It was built on 336 columns and was able to store up to 80,000 cu meters of water. This one of the best places to visit in Istanbul was long forgotten.

It was rediscovered by scholar Petrus Gyllius in 1545. Unluckily the then Ottoman rulers did not give it proper respect and used it a dumping ground instead. It was renovated and cleaned in 1985. Basilica Cistern was used as a location in many famous movies. Visiting Basilica Cistern is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

6. Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace, things to see in Istanbul
Dolmabahce Palace | image credit – Wikimedia/Helge Høifødt

Dolmabahce Palace is one of the examples of Ottoman luxury. It was served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922. It is not some places that you can skip from your list of one of the top things to do in Istanbul. It is the place that had been made using 14 tons of gold leaf. Very few palaces in the world could match with it in glamour and grandeur.

The Palace is surrounded by a well-kept garden. It has three sections: the Selâmlık, Harem and Veliaht Dairesi. The design of the castle was influenced by Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles. 3000 visitors are allowed to visit this one of the major Istanbul tourist attractions every day. Visiting Dolmabahce Palace is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

5. Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque, places to see in Istanbul
Suleymaniye Mosque | image credit – Wikimedia/Jean-Pierre Bazard

Suleymaniye Mosque is another Ottoman grandeur in Istanbul. It was no unjustified the name “Suleymaniye”. . It is the largest mosque in the city and a place fill with beauty, serenity and spirituality. The Mosque is gifted with blending the best of Islamic and Byzantine architecture. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. Built between 1550 and 1557, the Mosque was a symbol of Ottoman pride. It was designed by the most talented imperial architects Mimar Sinan.

The mosque was damaged in several times in earthquake. The Mosque has designed in a way to represent Ottoman emperor Suleiman as the second Solomon. The design of the Mosque was influenced by Byzantine Church Hagia Sophia, particularly the domes. Visiting Suleymaniye Mosque should always in the list of one of the best things to see in Istanbul or things to do in Istanbul.

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4. Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar, what to see in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar | image credit – Flickr/Jorge Láscar

The Grand Bazar was the center of old city for many centuries. It is one of the largest and oldest bazar in the world. It is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. It is a chaotic and colorful place with a medieval Arabian look. You might be a little bit surprised to know that it is the most visited places in the world. The amount of visitors is nearly between 250,000 and 400,000 daily.

It is considered first shopping malls of the world although shopping malls conception was not known at that time. No matter what, it has to be in your list of what to see in Istanbul. Apart from huge shopping items, one has to praise its architectural beauty. There is no way it can miss the list of one of the top things to do in Istanbul.

Also Read: Top 10 largest mall around the world

3. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace, places to visit in Istanbul
Topkapi Palace | image credit – Wikimedia/Moonik

Topkapi was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. It is not a hard thing to understand its splendor. It is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. It might be the utmost representation of Ottoman luxury and pride. UNESCO declared it World Heritage Site in 1985 with an admiration of quotation

“the best example of ensembles of palaces of the Ottoman period.”

In the heyday, the palace was home more than 4,000 people. It is obviously one of the major Istanbul tourist attractions. It is quite something to visit palace’s opulent pavilions, sprawling Harem and jewel-filled Treasury. At the end of the Ottoman Empire, the palace was converted to a museum. It should always on top of the list of things to do in Istanbul.

2. Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, What to do in Istanbul
Blue Mosque | image credit – Wikimedia/Constantin Barbu

Still an active prayer house, Blue Mosque is certainly one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. Although its original name is Sultan Ahmet Mosque, it is popular as Blue Mosque. Very few religious places can match in beauty and grandeur with Blue Mosque.  It is a unique Mosque and has quite an exception from other Mosques as most of the Mosques have one or two or four minarets but it has six minarets.

It looks incredibly beautiful blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design. This is one of the best places to see in Istanbul. As it is an active Mosque, you have to avoid prayer time in order to visit the Mosque. It is one of the best things to do in Istanbul to visit the Blue Mosque.

Also Read: Top 10 best travel destinations in Turkey

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul tourist attractions
Hagia Sophia | image credit – Pixabay/niekverlaan

One might feel envious to Istanbul city as it is the place of so many gorgeous architectures. Hagia Sophia is the crown of all. It is without a doubt one of the best places to see in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was a great architectural pride to Byzantine. The Ottoman converted it to a Mosque and heavily fascinated by its architectural beauty that was explicitly prominent in their work.

It is without a doubt should be on top in your list of what to do in Istanbul or things to see in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia has a long history and it was severely damaged at Crusader.  The beauty of Hagia Sophia and its incredible historical and religious importance make it one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.

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