Istanbul was discovered during the Neolithic times and still remains true to its history through its mosques, basilicas, cathedrals and old bazaars. Nestled between the east and west, the places to visit in Istanbul have so much to offer its tourists through their charm and character. All the history buffs will love visiting these ancient sites. What more can one ask for? It is an opportunity of a life time and should not be missed.

Top 18 Places To Visit In Istanbul For The Holiday Of  A Life Time

Istanbul is known for its historical sites that boast of its traditions and  culture. There are so many places to visit in Istanbul and so people will never have a dull moment. Explore some of the breathtaking sites with friends and family and make it a trip to remember.

1. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, is a cathedral, a mosque and at present a museum; and is one of the most beautiful examples of Byzantine architecture. It is one of the best attractions in Istanbul as it an overwhelming piece of architecture anyone will get to see. It is known as the epitome of Byzantine architecture, which with one visit you will know why. The elements in the huge monument are breathtaking as the minute you step inside you will see a massive collection of mosaics, marble pillars and coverings. It became the biggest cathedral built back in 532 and has remained so till the Seville Cathedral was built in 1520.

The church has been a cathedral of the Greek Orthodoxy, the Roman Catholics and a mosque. In 1935, President Kemal Ataturk converted it into the Ayasofya Museum. The detailed marble floors for noticed for the first time in years after the removal of the carpets.

Location: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Best Time to Visit: Mid-April- Mid October

Ideal Duration: 1-5 hours

Entry Fee: 100 Turkish Liras

Popular Attractions: Byzantine architecture

Things to Do: See a massive collection of mosaics, marble pillars and coverings

2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known for its blue interiors and intricate decorations, is absolutely beautiful and located opposite the Hagia Sofia. In 1616, Sultan Ahmed built the mosque to represent the Ottoman power.  It is the most picturesque buildings with its breathtaking architecture. The mosque is the most gorgeous attractions in Turkey that got its name from the blue Iznik tiles. There are over 200 stained glass windows in various patterns and work for natural lighting.

The mihrab is absolutely stunning as it has been carved out of marble. The exterior of the mosque has a collection of domes and towering minarets. One of the things to see in Istanbul is the courtyard that gives you a perspective of the majestic mosque.  It is used for worship and is closed to outsiders during the 6 prayers times of Muslims in the day.

Location: Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Best Time to Visit: May and September to November

Ideal Duration: 2 hours

Entry Fee: Free

Popular Attractions: Architecture

Things to Do: See the courtyard and admire the breathtaking the architecture

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3. Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is the biggest in Istanbul as it was built below the Stoa Basilica.  With its breathtaking architecture, the cistern has several decorated columns. It is the biggest surviving cistern in the city that was built by Justinian in 532. It was made to offer the Great Palace water supply and with its surrounding complex, it holds 80,000 cubic meters of water.  It is one of the best places to see in Istanbul as it is fascinating to see the amount of precision gone into its construction.

The marble columns in the cistern have been engraved with various symbols. At present, there is only a few feet of water, above which platforms were built for people to see it. The columns depict the head of Medusa, which is an interesting feature to see. It is one of the best places to visit in the middle east.

Location: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Best Time to Visit: Mid-April- September

Ideal Duration: 2- 3 hours

Entry Fee: 5 TL for students, 10 TL for adults and 20 TL for foreign travelers

Popular Attractions:  Columns that depict medusa’s head

Things to Do: Admire the architecture and see the columns that depict medusa’s head.

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4. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace

The majestic building in Istanbul for 400 years, has severed as a residence to the Ottoman emperors. At present, it is one of the most significant museums and is the best places to go to in Istanbul.  Topkapi Palace has some of the rarest Museum items of the world and has a number of rooms, chambers and halls that showcase the grandeur of the Ottoman emperors.

One of the many things to do in Istanbul is to see the imperial gate of the palace along with the courtyard, the kitchen, the stables, treasury, gate of felicity, the portrait of the sultan and much more. The most ideal place to see, which tourists should not miss out on is the library of Ahmed 111 along with the terrace restaurant.

Location: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey

Best Time to Visit: Mid November- April

Ideal Duration: 1- 2 hours

Entry Fee: 100 Turkish Liras

Popular Attractions:  Courtyard, the kitchen, the stables, treasury, gate of felicity, the portrait of the Sultan

Things to Do: Visit the library, stables and courtyard

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5. Bosphorus Strait

Bosphorus Strait
Bosphorus Strait

The Bosphorus strait, an international strait, that divides the waterway between Europe and Asia, makes the ideal cruise for the ideal scenic views.  Tourists are given the perfect chance to take a cruise on the international waters while absorbing some of the most breathtaking sites along the way. Most of Istanbul’s tourist spots include palaces like Topkapi, the Yildiz and the Dolmabahçe. Tourists going on the cruise will get a glimpse of Hagia Sofia and Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

One of the many things to do in Turkey is to see the old wooden houses from the Ottoman times.  The suspension bridges connect the two continents across the strait. The most scenic tours is the Bosphorus strait cruises.

Location: Istanbul

Best Time to Visit: December

Ideal Duration: 3 hours

Entry Fee: Per person is 12 TL, 6 TL for children under 12

Popular Attractions:  Topkapi, the Yildiz and the Dolmabahçe

Things to Do: See the old wooden houses from the Ottoman times

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6. Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque 

One of the biggest mosques in Istanbul, took 7 years to build till 1557.  It is one of the best tourist attractions in Istanbul and the popular landmark of the city. It is an imperial mosque and is one of the most breathtaking sites in the city.  Built by Mimar Sinan, it is said to be of the best architects of that time. The complex has several buildings built to be served as a hospital, Quran, schools, public baths and others.

It has a huge courtyard with 4 minarets and the main mosque has a dome surrounded by smaller ones. With its marble, graphite and porphyry columns that adorn the exterior of the mosque are pronounce the colonnade style.

Location: Süleymaniye Mah, Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Cd. No:1, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Ideal Duration: 2 hours

Entry Fee: Free

Popular Attractions:  Quran, schools and public baths

Things to Do: View the stunning sites of the city

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7. Dolmabahe Palace

Dolmabahe Palace
Dolmabahe Palace

The main operation residence for the Ottamans was the Dolmabahe Palace after the Topkapi. It is an amazing imperial structure and was built along the Bosphorus strait. It is a popular tourist attraction and the one of the best places to visit in Istanbul. It was built in 1856 and elements from Baroque, Neoclassical and Rococo styles were used and is the biggest palace in the country. It has been decorated extravagantly and is home to a collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers.

The Bohemian crystal chandelier is the biggest in the world, hanging in the ceremonial hall. Apart from the chandelier, people can also see the crystal staircase and precious stones like Marmara, Porphyry and onyx marble. A vast collection of oil paintings by several European and Turkish artists can be seen.

Location: Vişnezade, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 9 am- 4 pm

Ideal Duration: 2 hours

Entry Fee: 90 Turkish Liras

Popular Attractions:  Oil Paintings and Crystal chandeliers

Things to Do: See the crystal staircase, crystal chandeliers and oil paintings

8. Chora Church

Chora Church
Chora Church

The church, one of Istanbul’s famous places, belongs to the Greek Orthodox and was changed into a mosque by the Ottomans. At present, it is a museum filled with several amazing mosaics and frescoes. The narthex, noas and the parecclesion are three parts of the church, out of which the narthex is further divided into exonarthex and esonarthex. The structure is filled with breathtaking mosaics like Khalke Jesus, and the Genealogy of Christ.

It is a perfect example of the Byzantine empire and should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit when on vacation.

Location: Dervişali, Kariye Cami Sk. No:18, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 9am–5pm

Ideal Duration: 1-3 days

Entry Fee: 65 Turkish Liras

Popular Attractions: Mosaics and frescoes

Things to Do: Explore the different parts of the church: narthex, noas and the parecclesion

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9. Hippodrome

Hippodrome

In AD 203, the construction of Hippodrome was begun by Septimius Severus and was completed in AD 330 by Constantine the Great. It was one of the most important spots in the ancient times when several games, races and conflicts used to take place. Later on, the importance of Hippodrome degraded and now only a small Hippodromes can be seen on the southern side of Istanbul. Hippodrome was most popularly famous for chariot races. Today, you will find none of the activities like racing taking place here and a small city has been developed all around the Hippodrome. However, today the area has been converted into an open-air museum displaying exhibits from the ancient times.

Location: Binbirdirek, Sultan Ahmet Parkı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Best Time to Visit: March to May

Ideal Duration: 2 to 3 Hours

Entry Fee: N/A

Popular Attractions: Obelisk of Thutmose III, Serpent Column, Statues of Porphyrios, Walled Obelisk, Great Palace of Constantinople

Things to Do: Explore the relics of the open-air museum, visit ancient sites and know about the rich past

10. Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

One of the best things to do in Istanbul is to indulge in some traditional shopping and for that you need to go to Grand Bazaar without a second thought. This was the first covered market to open and is also the biggest covered market in the world. The market is a 554 years old bazaar and houses somewhere around 4000 shops selling almost everything. From home décor to traditional clothes, spices, leather, bags, carpets, to silk garments, you will find everything here. The whole market is said to have employed around 25,000 staff and has sixty-one covered streets with 18 gates and around 40 rest houses. This market is best to purchase Turkish souvenirs and handicrafts as you will find local vendors here selling these souvenirs at very affordable prices.

Location: Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 10:00 am to 06:00 pm

Ideal Duration: 4 to 5 Hours

Entry Fee: Free

Things to Do: Shopping, try out local delicacies, attend cultural events

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11. Museum Of Turkish And Islamic Arts

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts boasts of world’s largest and richest collection of Islamic Art. This is a must-visit place in Istanbul for someone who has interest in Islamic and Ottoman art. You will find rich collection of carpets, paintings, coins, and several other things dating back to the 15th century. Another highlight of this museum is its terrace from where enchanting views of the Blue Square can be witnessed. The museum also houses the best rug collection in the world that have been collected from different places across the world and are rare like Seljuk carpets which are found only in this museum and nowhere else. Other than this, the museum is also known for its rich collection of terracotta artifacts, stone work, glassware, ceramic objects and a variety of other valuable objects.

Location: Binbirdirek, Atmeydanı Cd. No:12, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: Tuesday to Monday: 09:00 am to 05:00 pm; Closed on Tuesdays

Ideal Duration: 2 to 3 Hours

Entry Fee: TL 42

Things to Do: Explore the rich collection of rugs from all over the world, marvel at the beautiful views of Blue Mosque from the terrace of this museum

12. Galata Tower

Galata Tower

One of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul is Galata Tower which was built in the 14th century and is around 220 feet tall. The tower also houses one of the best restaurants in Istanbul which is known for its rich delicacies, traditional Turkish performances and enchanting views from the top. This place is famous for a thrilling nightlife experience as you will find several clubs and bars here and also panoramic night views can also be enjoyed from the top of the building. The tower was built in the year 1348 by Genoese and was earlier called the Tower of Christ which was used to detain prisoners during the Ottoman times. The tower has been damaged many times by earthquake but every time it has been restored.

Location: Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 08:30 am to 12:00 am

Ideal Duration: 3 to 4 Hours

Entry Fee: Free

Things to Do: Mesmerize at the scenic views from the top, dine in at the top restaurant and enjoy cultural events

13. Prince’s Island

Prince’s Island

One of the best islands to visit in Istanbul is Prince’s Island if you love sea, adventure and a holiday vacation amidst nature. It is a group of 9 enchanting islands found in Marmara Sea, away from the humdrum of city life hence, a great place for a family vacation both for travelers and locals alike. Earlier, the island used to be a vacation spot for emperors, princess and price as they used to come here to spend some leisure time hence, the island is called Prince’s Island. The island is dotted with wooden bungalows and lemon trees that add to the beauty of this place. Another highlight of this island is that all sorts of fuel vehicles are banned here and only bicycles, electronic buses and vehicles are allowed which makes this island extremely peaceful, quiet and pollution free.

Location: Southeast of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea

Best Time to Visit: Mid-July to Mid-August

Ideal Duration: 3 Days

Entry Fee: Free

Popular Attractions: Burgazada, Heybeliada Island, Kinaliada, Buyukada Tabiat Parki, Adalar Museum

Things to Do: Stroll through the beautiful streets, enjoy cycling tours, visit historical places, enjoy swimming and other water sports

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14. Gulhane Park

Gulhane Park

Another famous place in the list of best places to visit in Istanbul with family is Gulhane Park which was visited by only royal people during the time of Ottoman period however, in the 16th century the park was made open to the public. It is a great place to come with family or kids as there are ample of activities for them to enjoy here. Also, if you are looking for peace and tranquility then also this place is ideal for you where you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. The Park has a playground especially for children where they can play and have fun-filled time. From this park, you can also enjoy stunning vistas of Marmara Sea and Istanbul Strait. The best time to visit this park is when tulip flowers bloom here making it attractive and beautiful.

Location: Cankurtaran, Kennedy Cd., 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: 24 hours

Ideal Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Entry Fee: Free

Things to Do: Enjoy jogging on the jogging tracks, relax amidst nature, kids can play in the playground area

15. Vialand

Vialand

One of the best places to visit in Istanbul with kids is Vialand Theme Park which is spread in a total area of around 6,00,000-meter square offering endless fun and entertainment to kids of all ages. The Park is also called Isfanbul Theme Park and has thrilling rides and games ideal for both kids and adults. The Park also boasts of 4D rides like Angry birds and Dora and Diego. Broadly, the park is divided into three main zones which are adventure zone, game zone and historical zone.

At the park, you can meet and play with your favorite cartoon characters or enjoy several theme rides. Viking, Breathtaking, 5D Little Dolphin, Carousel, Brave Drivers, Little Miners, Crazy River, Magic Room, Little Explorers, Jumping Kangaroo are some of the best rides and attractions of the Vialand Theme Park.

Location: Yeşilpınar, Şht. Metin Kaya Sk. No: 11/1, 34065 Eyüpsultan/İstanbul, Turkey

Timings: Weekdays: 11:00 am to 07:00 pm; Weekends: 11:00 am to 08:00 pm

Ideal Duration: 4 to 5 Hours

Entry Fee:  Adults: TL 169; Children (4 to 14 years): TL 159

Popular Attractions: Isfanbul Shopping Center, Jungle Istanbul, Isfanbul Holiday Home & Suite

Things to Do: Enjoy thrilling rides, meet cartoon characters, visit different theme zones, indulge in different activities

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16. Istiklal Caddesi

Istiklal Caddesi

One of the best places in Istanbul to enjoy nightlife and entertainment is Istiklal Caddesi which has some of the best malls in Istanbul, night clubs, art galleries, theatres, coffee shops and several other things. Istiklal Caddesi is also called Independent Street, lower end of which can be reached via an underground railway, the Tunel located near Galata Bridge. At the east end of the street, you will find a Military Museum which is housed inside Maçka Park and is a great place to explore. Istiklal Caddesi is one of the best places to enjoy the culture of Istanbul where you will find everything from malls, local shops, art galleries to museums, parks, night clubs and coffee shops.

Location: Historic district of Beyoğlu

Timings: 24 hours

Ideal Duration: 6 to 7 hours

Entry Fee: Free

Popular Attractions: Military Museum, Maçka Park, The Atlas Arcade, Vintage Red Tram, The Majestic Cinema

Things to Do: Enjoy clubbing at different clubs, enjoy shopping, explore various art galleries and museums

17. Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Have you explored the museums in Istanbul yet? The Archeological Museum is an impressive historical venue with its collection of artifacts and sculptures from Turkey and the Middle East.  The different sections in the museum include Archeology, Tiled Pavilion of Mehmed the Conqueror, and Museum of the Ancient Orient.  The wealth of treasures on display are from Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, and Hittite civilizations.  With so much history from around the world, the museum should be on the list of places in Istanbul all the history buffs should visit. It is a lifetime of learning that will leave people awe-struck and off course, will ensure they come back for more.

Location: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey

Timings: 9am–7pm

Ideal Duration: 1 hour

Entry Fee: 36 TL

Popular Attractions: Artifacts and Sculpture

Things to Do: Explore the wealth of treasure from various civilizations, discover the artifacts and sculptures

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18. Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

Have you visited the Dolmabahçe palace yet? If you haven’t yet, then you have no idea what you are missing out on. One of the most stunning places in Istanbul, the Dolmabahce Palac has left tourists from around the awestruck. Back in the day, it was an administrative center of the Ottoman empire and naval ceremonies were conducted here. With its reflection of grandeur and never-ending beauty that is reflected through the European style architecture, it is a popular tourist attraction.  Tourists from around the world are attracted to French-style furniture, mammoth crystal chandeliers, and dazzling frescoed ceilings. People should make it a point to visit the palace when on vacation as it is a once in a life time opportunity that no one should miss out on.

Location: Visnezade, Dolmabahce Cd., 34357 Besiktas/Istanbul, Turkey

Timings: 9 am- 4 pm

Ideal Duration: 1 hour

Entry Fee: 60 Turkish Liras

Popular Attractions: European style architecture, crystal chandeliers and frescoed ceilings

Things to Do:  Explore the architecture, learn about the history of the palace and be awestruck by the chandeliers and frescoed ceilings

There are several places to visit in Istanbul, as it filled with several attractions and rich culture. It is the one stop holiday destination that attracts people from around the world. Some of the breathtaking sights will leave people awe struck and craving for more. People should plan and book their flights to Istanbul and enjoy the perfect holiday with their family and friends.

FAQs

Q1. Which are some of the places to visit in Istanbul?

Istanbul is one of the most stunning places to visit in the world as it is filled with the best heritage sites, one shouldn’t miss out on. So, some of the places to visit are Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Dolmabahe Palace, Bosphorus Strait and Topkapi Palace.

Q2. What is Dolmabahe Palace famous for?

It is one of the most amazing structures that is known of its huge chandelier and crystal staircase along the oil paintings.

Q3. How long does it take to a complete tour of the Basilica Cistern?

The complete tour of the Basilica Cistern will take about 2-3 hours.

Q4. How long did the Suleymaniye Mosque take to complete?

The Suleymaniye Mosque took 7 years till 1557. It is one of the best tourist attraction people from around the world should visit.

Q5. When is it the best time to visit Istanbul?

The best months to visit Istanbul is May and between September and November.

Q6. Is it worth visiting all these places in Istanbul?

Yes, it is absolutely worth visiting all these places in Istanbul. It should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit.

Q7. Where in Istanbul is Topkapi Palace located?

Topkapi Palace is located in Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey.

Q8. What makes the columns in Basilica Cistern so fascinating?

The columns have medusa’s head at the bottom, which makes it a fascinating site to see.


Nupur Luthra

A Lit Award Nominee for her novel Silent Murder, Nupur is a budding writer who has traversed through the genres of mysteries, romance, and politics. Today, she shares her travel tales with the world.