Istanbul, a popular city in Turkey, is called the gateway between two continents. The city is a blend of both European and Asian culture, which have often left people mesmerized. With the historical sites, there are so many things to do in Istanbul like visiting the skyscrapers and malls. There are several breathtaking views and the Bosporus strait people should discover and visit. It is a gorgeous city that gives a feeling of being inside the perfect photograph. It is filled with delights for all the senses right from the grounds of the Topkapi museum to the gorgeous blue mosque.

20 Things To Do In Istanbul To Discover The Hidden Gems

The city has a timeless charm and is often referred to as Byzantium and Constantinople. Ancient empires and architectural wonders still stand tall at the heart of the city.  Hagia Sophia is one of the them that has stood the test of time and has always in been in awe for its dazzling mosaics.  Along with visiting the architectural wonders, tourists should visit the markets, the hills and mosques, some of the things to do in Istanbul. People will never have a dull moment and will have the best vacation ever. Don’t miss out on the opportunity of a life time.

1. Begin The Day At Sultanahmet Square- The Heart Of Istanbul

Begin The Day At Sultanahmet Square
Begin The Day At Sultanahmet Square

The heart of Istanbul, Sultanahmet Square is one of the most prominent and historical attractions. It is suggested to stay in the Sultanahmet neighborhood to be at the center of it all. Obelisks, fountains and ancient hippodrome adorn the square, one of the places to visit in Istanbul.  Tourists will get a glimpse of the biggest landmarks to its north and south. The 6th century mosque and at present a museum; and Sultanahmet Mosque’s namesake, Hagia Sophia is quite famous. It is often referred to as the Blue Mosque. Visiting a mosque is a once in a life time experience as it is a chance that may or may not come again.

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

Famous For: Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Basilica Cistern

Timings: 24 hours

Entry Fee: 100 TL

2. Shop At The Grand Bazaar- The Main Marketplace

Shop At The Grand Bazaar
Shop At The Grand Bazaar

Do you love shopping for all kinds of ornaments? You should visit the grand bazaar in Istanbul. Bosporus Strait is nestled at the borders of Istanbul where the black sea meets the inland sea of Marmara and a main hub for trade ships. Tourists can walk around the Grand Bazaar alleys to see the vibrant commercial activities alive and kicking. The market places include indoor souks and lanes filled with peddlers. They have everything right from carpets to leather items to jewelry and trinkets, the most sought-after evil eye ornaments. When on vacation, visiting the market is one of the fun things to do in Istanbul.

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

Famous For: Carpets, leather items, jewelry and trinkets

Timings: 10 am –6 pm

Entry Fee: NA

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3. Enjoy The Breathtaking Views From Camlica Hills

For a change from shopping, you can go Camlica Hills, the highest hills, to enjoy the most breathtaking view of Istanbul. People will get to see the gorgeous view of the skylines over the city.  Cafés and the park at the peak make the ideal resting spot to take in the memorable sights. Tourist will get a view of Istanbul’s Asian and European sides which include tall buildings and outlines of the Bosporus strait and its bridges. Tourists can stay at a hotel in the Uskudar district to be close. Heading to the hills is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

Location: Kısıklı, Çamlıca Tepesi yl, 34692 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Breathtaking views of the city’s skyline

Timings: 8 am- 12 am

Entry Fee:  Free

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4. Walk the Theodosian Walls of Istanbul

One of the historical landmarks in Istanbul, the walls of Constantinople are one of the places to visit in Turkey. The walls of Constantinople are also known as the Theodosian Walls, the Istanbul City Walls, and the Historic walls of Topkapi. Since its founding as Constantinople by the Constantine the great,  several stonewalled fortifications surrounding Istanbul.  The medieval borders with its sections and towers still stand tall. There are parks that surround the walls, where kids can play.  It is a historical wonder people should visit when on vacation in Istanbul and can be boast about it with their friends.

Location:  Istanbul

Famous For: Historical Landmarks

Timings: 3 pm- 4 pm

Entry Fee:  NA

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5. Turgut Kebab Restaurant For The Meaty Turkish Treats To Savor

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Have you ever had kebabs or any other dish in Istanbul? You are in luck. Istanbul has several treats to offer its tourists, including its world-famous traditional kebabs. It is a must do in Istanbul, when on vacation.  The Turkish dish is severed in various styles and flavors right from hand minced, ground and sauteed, tomato and onion flavored or marinated kebabs, rich in spices.  Most kebabs are often cooked in skewers and then sliced, but most aren’t. Turgut kebab is a popular restaurant in Istanbul, which should on everyone’s bucket list of places to eat.

Location: Sultan Ahmet, Akbıyık Cd. No:64, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Kebabs

Timings: 24 hours

Entry Fee: NA

6. Visit Hagia Sophia, The Architectural Wonder Of Istanbul

Visit Hagia Sophia
Visit Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, ‘the holy wisdom’, is one of the most majestic landmarks in Istanbul, built in the 6th century by the East Roman Empire. It was changed into a mosque and then in 1453 was fortified following Mehmed the conqueror’s rule. The architectural wonder’s marbled structure and dreamy interiors is absolutely breathtaking and has always left people awe struck.  The dreamy interiors have calligraphic panels and bronze lamps along with the walls that are covered in gorgeous mosaics made of gold, silver and stones. One of the top things to do in Istanbul is to visit Hagia Sophia as it is a once in a life time chance.

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

Famous For: Calligraphic panels, bronze lamps and Mosaics

Timings: 24 hours

Entry Fee: Free

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7. Pamper Yourself With A Hammam, Turkish Bath

One of the ideal things to do in Istanbul, Turkey, is to pamper oneself with a Hammam, which includes a sauna, steam, full body wash and massage. There are quite a few hammams that offer a traditional Turkish bath and the ideal experience of an old spa. The modern Turkish baths have modern spa elements like aromatherapy and use of essential oils.  Beyazit and Sulaymaniyah baths, and the Kilic Ali Pasha Hamam in Beyoğlu are other kinds people can choose from. It is one of the things to do in Turkey, when on vacation. Pampering yourself with a Turkish bath is a once in a life experience, which people will not have time for back home. It should be on everyone’s bucket list of things to do.  What more can anyone ask for when on vacation?

Location: Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Hamam Sk. No:1, 34425 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Sauna, steam, full body wash and massage

Timings: 8 am to 11.30 pm

Entry Fee: NA

8. Boat out to Maiden’s Tower, A Gorgeous Lighthouse

Boat out to Maiden’s Tower
Boat out to Maiden’s Tower

Maiden’s Tower, which goes back to the 12th century, is nestled on a small islet in Bosporus Strait, 15 minutes away from the docks in Uskudar. Legends say the tower was where a princess met her tragic fate and so the place is moniker. One of the activities to do in Istanbul is to climb to the top floor of the lighthouse and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at the café; and enjoy the view of the city. It is the ideal ways of spending one’s vacation and of course it is a once in a while life experience. It is a relaxed vacation that will leave behind memories and will make one forget their worries.  What more can one ask for when on vacation? Isn’t it the ideal vacation people often want at least once a year?

Location: Salacak Mahallesi, Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, 34668 Üsküdar/Istanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Rooftop cafe

Timings:  9.15 am to 6.45 pm

Entry Fee: 4 TL

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9. Enjoy The Dances At Hodjapasha Cultural Center

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You should go to the cultural center, one of Istanbul’s gorgeous landmarks to enjoy the taste of Turkey’s tradition in performing arts. It was home to the former 15th century Hammam and at present features   the colorful dance performances take place under its high dome ceiling. The mystifying dances are known for their whirling dervishes, which is a Mevlevi order ritual, followed by Rumi’s poems. It is one of the ideal things to do in Istanbul at night and worth a visit and watch. It is a unique dance that is not seen anywhere else in the world and tourists visiting Istanbul, shouldn’t miss out on such an opportunity.

Location: Hoca Paşa Mahallesi, Ankara Caddesi, Hocapaşa Hamamı Sokak 3/B, 34110 Sirkeci/Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Dances

Timings: 9 am- 10 pm

Entry Fee: TL70

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10. Enjoy The Night With Pub Crawl In Galata

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One of the best ways to enjoy a perfect night in Istanbul is to join a pub crawl, which kicks off from the tower pub; where people hop from one bar to another; ending the night at wee hours of the morning.  Tourists will enjoy the drinks, cocktails and games which is a fun challenge to complete. It is situated across the river from the city center, so it is ideal to stay at a hotel in Galata.  It will be the perfect way to have the time of your life in Istanbul.  What more can anyone ask for?

Location: The Tower Pub, Bereketzade Mahallesi, Galata Kulesi Sk. 4/1, 34000 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey

Famous For: Drinks, cocktails and games

Timings: 9.30 pm to 5 am

Entry Fee: Free

11. Explore The Blue Mosque

Explore The Blue Mosque

One of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque boasts of its blue-tiled interior and is a place every traveler should explore. Constructed in the 17th century, the mosque was originally named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Today, travelers coming to see the skyline of Istanbul are sure to be taken aback by the breathtaking view of the mosque which is a part of the skyline. As travelers put it themselves, watching the Blue Mosque from afar is one of the prettiest sights in Istanbul.

Interestingly, the Blue Mosque remains a functioning mosque even today. It is open to visitors throughout the day and one can come to explore this beautiful architectural marvel from the inside. However, the mosque does close entry during the time of prayers each day. When coming here, visitors are advised to dress appropriately. Ideally, your legs and shoulders should be covered while women are advised to cover their hair when entering the mosque.

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

Famous For - Blue-tiled interior

Timings - 9 AM to 7 PM

Entry Fee - N/A  

12. Discover The 1000-Year Old Chora Church

Discover The 1000-Year Old Chora Church

One of the best things to do in Istanbul is to discover the Chora Church. A thousand years old church, Chora Church is said to be much older than. This is a church that was once part of a monastery outside the wall of Constantinople. Visitors coming here today look at it as a gorgeous museum that showcases the decor of the Byzantine-era Greek Orthodox church.

Interestingly, like many other historical structures from the past, the whole idea and execution behind the construction of the ceiling remains a big question as the artists from the 14th century remain unknown.

For visitors, Chora Church is a sight worth seeing. The main highlight of the church is its ceiling that is all framed in gold, covering the entire area. This is a place that shows the architectural genius of the past. So, visit Chora Church and see the beauty of this place for yourself.

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

Famous For - Its Ceiling, Architectural built

Timings - 9 AM to 5 PM

Entry Fee - N/A

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13. Take A Tour Of The Topkapi Palace

Take A Tour Of The Topkapi Palace

Another known architectural marvel nestled in Istanbul, Topkapi Palace was once home to Ottoman sultans. This is a palace that is renowned for its ornate architecture, gorgeous grounds, historical artifacts, and so much more. The artifacts here belong to certain prophets who are familiar to everyone - Moses, Joseph, and Mohammad among them.

The Topkapi Palace offers some breathtaking views of the Bosphorus Strait and is a place where most travelers love to take a tour.

Today, visiting the palace would require you to pay a small fee if a tour of the harem is on your mind. Interestingly, the harem is one of the most beautiful parts of the palace, particularly because the sultan, his family, and his concubines used to live here. Hence, this is the section of the palace that should not miss seeing.

Besides, as far as the whole palace is concerned, Topkapi is a gem in Istanbul and carries a vast history behind it. A tour of this place isn't a bad choice by any means. If you want to get the most out of your tour, hire a guide upon your visit.

Location - Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For - Architectural built, was once home Ottoman Sultans, Sweeping views of the Bosphorus Strait

Timings - 10 AM to 4 PM (closed on Tuesdays)

Entry Fee - 100 TL (42 TL extra for Harem Section)  

14. Explore The Glamorous Beylerbeyi Palace

Explore The Glamorous Beylerbeyi Palace

Another piece of history that may not be as striking as Topkapi but is certainly worth exploring, the Beylerbeyi Palace is a gem that has an interesting history behind it. This is a place that doesn't disappoint travelers, thanks to its glamorous architecture.

As history has it, the palace was used as a summer home for the Sultan and his family towards the end of the Ottoman Empire. This is where most of the visiting heads of states were entertained including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Interestingly, Baylerbeyi Palace was also the last home to one of the last Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid II. It was he who had complete could control of the government during the decline of the empire. In fact, Abdul Hamid II was held for six years at Baylerbeyi Palace until his death in 1918.

Location - Beylerbeyi, Abdullahağa Cd., 34676 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For - Baylerbeyi Palace was home to one of the last Sultans of the Ottoman Empire

Timings - 9 AM to 5 PM (Closed on Mondays)

Entry Fee - 40 TL (20TL for visitors under the age of 18)

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15. Give A Treat To Your Sense At The Spice Bazaar

Give A Treat To Your Sense At The Spice Bazaar

Another significant location to visit in Istanbul is the Spice Bazaar. If you're looking for some edible souvenirs in the heart of Istanbul, this is the place you should definitely visit then. The whole bazaar is home to amazing spices that are inexpensive and their smell is set to win your heart. In fact, if you wish to pick a bit of a Turkish delight at the market, well, there are plenty of spots here to treat yourself to some deliciousness.

What is interesting is the interior of the bazaar which is one of the main highlights. Travelers can, meanwhile, also explore the west side of the building which has a more local feel to it. This is where travelers can shop for things like local cheese, olives, vegetables, and even the highly popular Turkish coffee grounds. So, what are you waiting for? If a local shopping day out is on your mind in Istanbul, then Spice Bazaar is the place for you.

Location - Rüstem Paşa, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For - Things like local cheese, olives, vegetables, and even the highly popular Turkish coffee grounds

Timings -

Monday to Friday - 8 AM to 7 PM

Saturday - 8 AM to 7:30 PM

Sunday - 9:30 AM to 7 PM

Entry Fee - N/A  

16. Explore The Underground World Of Basilica Cistern

Explore The Underground World Of Basilica Cistern

If you wish to explore the hidden wonders of Istanbul, then there's no place better than Basilica Cistern. Visiting this place is like entering into a whole new world. The place is damp and dark and visitors can hear the dripping water. In fact, there are many rows of columns that seem to extend into the abyss.

Besides, if you're exploring Basilica Cistern, then all the way to the back is perhaps the right choice. This is where travelers can find two stone heads that are huge. Interestingly, the origin of the two stone heads still remains a mystery. So, visit this mysterious place in Istanbul and see the hidden wonder yourself.

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

Famous For - Two gigantic head stones

Timings - 9 AM to 5:30 PM

Entry Fee -

5 TL for students

10 TL for adults

20 TL for foreign travelers

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17. Climb To The Top Of Galata Tower

Climb To The Top Of Galata Tower

Want to get the best view of Istanbul? There's no better place than the Galata Tower. One of the most amazing places to visit in the world today, the Galata Tower was built in the 14th century and look out over the Bosphorus Strait towards Sultanahmet. In fact, this is a place from where places like Topkapi Tower and the Blue Mosque are clearly visible without any hassle. Istanbul is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world today and it's because of locations like Galata Tower that you get to see the true beauty of Istanbul.

In fact, a visit to this place is regarded as one of the most fun things to do in Istanbul. The best part? If you're feeling hungry or just want to spend a little more time at the top of the tower, well, Galata Tower even has a restaurant on the top floor where travelers can savor the best of delicacies while embracing the views from up top.

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

Famous For - Splendid views of Istanbul, restaurant on the top floor

Timings - 9 AM to 7 PM

Entry Fee - 35 TL (Free entry for children under the age of 7)  

18. Discover Ancient History At Archaeology Museum

Discover Ancient History At Archaeology Museum

Established in the 19th century as Turkey's first museum, the Archaeology Museum is one of the most amazing places to visit in Istanbul and has been divided into 3 parts - Archaeology, Ancient Orient, and Islamic Art. As travelers put it themselves, the museum is one of the major attractions to explore in Istanbul's old city.

From a large collection of Ancient Greek, Roman, and Turkish artifacts, the museum has enough to fascinate you. In fact, visitors can even find a number of rare objects that were discovered in the Balkans, Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East.

However, it is important to note that the museum stays all day and due to its vast collection, travelers should plan their visit to the museum for the whole day since exploring the whole collection may take a little longer than expected. So, if you're a history buff wanting to dove into the history of Istanbul, visit the Archaeology Museum and spend time exploring the amazing collection.

Location - Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Famous For - Large collection of Ancient Greek, Roman and Turkish artifacts, objects that were discovered in the Balkans, Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East

Timings - 9 AM to 7 PM

Entry Fee - 50 TL

19. Visit The Less Famous Süleymaniye Mosque

Visit The Less Famous Süleymaniye Mosque

Now here's a thing, we know about the Blue Mosque and how famous it is, right? Well, there's one more place where travelers can visit. The Süleymaniye Mosque is a fascinating mosque that hasn't been explored much. It is a place where not many travelers visit. However, it isn't far behind when it comes to offering a perfect glimpse into th rich architecture of Istanbul. The mosque was designed by Sinan (a famous architect) for Süleyman the Magnificent.

Today, travelers can visit this place and find it to be much more than a worship place. Standing as a tribute to both Sinan and Süleyman the Magnificent, the mosque has a complex of buildings that contain a hospital, a kitchen, a school, and so much more.

Besides, two of the main highlights of the mosque are the tombs of Süleyman and Roxalana behind the graveyard. There is also a tomb of Sinan outside the complex to add to a vast list of attractions.

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

Famous For - Its Complex of Buildings

Timings - Open 24 hours

Entry Fee - N/A

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20. Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

One of the most fascinating palaces to visit in Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace is about 600 meters in length and features as many as 285 rooms and 43 salons. The palace was built in 1856 by Sultan Abdüi Mecit. Interestingly, the palace was built in order to prove that the Ottoman Empire was doing fine at the time. However, as history has it, the construction of the palace resulted in completely the opposite.

Having said that, the palace was still an amazing example of the architectural genius at the time. One can find a gold leaf, crystal, and marble in abundance here. Other features of the Dolmabahçe Palace include the Baccarat crystal staircase, the main bathroom, and the ceremonial hall that has a 4.5-ton chandelier.

In fact, there's one interesting thing about the place that is important to note. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic, the palace became home to Atatürk who stayed and died there on November 10, 1938, at 09:05. Since then, all the clocks in the palace show the exact same time.

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

Famous For - Baccarat crystal staircase, the main bathroom, and the ceremonial hall that has a 4.5-ton chandelier

Timings - 9 AM to 4 PM

Entry Fee - 120 TL for a combined tour of the Palace, Harem, and Clock Tower

To discover the Asian and European culture, tourists should visit the city and have the ideal holiday. People will never have a dull moment and should book their flights to Istanbul without thinking twice. It is one the one stop holiday destination people should not miss out on. What more can one ask for when there are a million things to do in Istanbul.

FAQs

Q1. When is it the best time to visit Istanbul?

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

Q2. What are the many things to do in Istanbul?

One of the many things to do in Istanbul is visit the mosques, pamper yourself with a Turkish bath, end the day at a night club, visit the market and much more.

Q3. Is it worth traveling to discover several historical sites in this city?

With its mosques, markets and pubs, it is worth a visit. This is a vacation that may or may not come again, so make it a trip to remember.

Q4. When can one visit the pub in Galata?

One can visit the pub at 9:30 at night and carry on till wee hours of the morning.

Q5. What are the entry fees for Maiden’s tower?

The entry fees for Maiden’s tower is 4 TL. People can enjoy a cup tea or coffee at the café on the rooftop.

Q6. Where is the Hammam, Turkish Bath located?

Hammam is located at Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Hamam Sk. No:1, 34425 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey.

Q7. What is Hagia Sophia, the architectural wonder of Istanbul famous for?

Hagia Sophia is famous for its Calligraphic panels, bronze lamps and Mosaics.

Q8. What is Turgut Kebab Restaurant famous for?

As the name suggests, Turgut Kebab Restaurant is famous for its kebabs.