The things that you will definitely love to do in Istanbul
More than 20 million people are currently living in Istanbul, which was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. People always find it shocking when I tell them the number, but that is the reality. It is difficult to understand its massiveness at first glance. Tourists, especially foreign ones, find it amazing when they realize that there are so many places to visit.
In some of its streets, it was only me and tens of stray animals at night, but the situation is different in other places like Beyoğlu, Taksim, Ortaköy, Kadıköy or Beşiktaş. Those three were full of life and entertainment.
If you want to feel the never-ending energy of the city, you had better visit those districts in the evenings.
In this article, I wil try to give you some recommendations in terms of what to do in Istanbul. I hope you will enjoy it.
- Taking a Bosphorus Cruise Ride
- Historical Monuments in Sultanahmet
- Shopping time at the Grand Bazaar
- Eminonu Square and Spice Bazaar
- Tracing Genoese Colony in Galata
- Eating a Turkish Breakfast with Bosphorus view
- Historical Turkish Bath Time
- Walking from Ortakoy to Bebek
- Cable Car to Pierre Loti Hill
- A Walk Up to the Galata Tower
- Walking through Istiklal Street
- Antique Shopping in Cukurcuma
- Byzantine Heritage in Istanbul
- Visiting the Mosques of Istanbul
- Other Things to Do in Istanbul
Taking a Bosphorus Cruise Ride
What comes to your mind when I say Istanbul? It is the Bosphorus isn’t it? One of the most fun things to do in Istanbul is to tour the Bosphorus with a boat. And there are 3 options when it comes to the Bosphorus tour.
If you stay around Sultanahmet, you can take the 1.5 hour tour with Turyol, which is the closest option. If you are staying close to Taksim Square, Dentur departing from Kabatas will be useful. The third option is to take a full-day Bosphorus cruise tour with the Sehir Hatlari official Bosphorus ferry.
I mostly stay in Sultan Ahmet and that’s why i prefer Turyol which is quite convenient and cheap. However, the other two options are also fun and easy.
Historical Monuments in Sultanahmet
People most frequently start their Istanbul trip from Sultanahmet. What is there to see; Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque and Topkapı Palace. If you love taking photos but still looking for a better place than the ones you have already been, then Sultanahmet is your cup of tea. It gives you the chance to take photos with its mind-blowing historical buildings. The museums in Sultanahmet are very crowded during spring and summer. If you don’t want to wait in line to get a ticket, i would consider taking Istanbul Museum Pass.
Shopping time at the Grand Bazaar
After visiting historical monuments in Sultanahmet, it is customary to go to the Grand Bazaar and crown the day with shopping. The Grand Bazaar, which was built 8 years after the conquest of Istanbul in 1461,attracts people from all over the world like a magnet. Last year, before coming to Istanbul, I spent 3 magnificent days in Cappadocia and I had the chance to buy some souveniers. People told me not to buy any carpets or even little souveniers anywhere else but in Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Fortunately, I compared the prices and the quality and now i can tell you guys..If you like something, go for it. The quality and the prices are more or less the same. Just don’t forget to bargain to get the best price
The Grand Bazaar, which is a huge historical monument and it has 67 streets and more than 4000 shops.
You can buy leather, jewelry, carpets and ceramics from the Grand Bazaar.
Eminonu Square and Spice Bazaar
Another best thing that you can do while in Istanbul is going to Eminonu Square and visiting the Spice Bazaar. At The courtyard of the New Mosque, which has become the symbol of Eminonu, is a point where you can feed pigeons like the courtyard of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The neighborhood of Eminönü is famous for its Spice Bazaar, but still to experience some local shopping, the streets around the bazaar are worth seeing. The streets between the Spice Bazaar and Sirkeci Tram Station are the ideal places to taste the best backstreet cousine.
Rustem Pasha Mosque that is decorated with beautiful examples of tiles from Iznik is also a good place to see. By the way, the mosque is only five-minute walking distance from the Spice Bazaar.
And lastly, if you want to find cheap but good quality stuff, Uzuncarsi Street, which is a couple of minutes to the mosque, can also be seen.
Tracing Genoese Colony in Galata
Galata means the other side, in Byzantium terminology. They used to call that place as Pera that means remote.Byzantine people saw Galata as a place on the other side.
One end of the large chain that stretches between the two sides of the Golden Horn and prevents enemy ships from entering, was connected to Galata. The Byzantine Empire were making huge amounts of money through taxes on spice and silk trade between Asia and Europe. Genoese and Venetian colonies exported spices and silk stuff to Europe through Constantinople. Then it was the Ottomans who continued the same trade in the same way with the Venetians and the Genoese. Today, while wandering the streets of Karakoy, it is still possible to see the traces of the ancient port city of the past. Especially if you go to Karakoy and Galata, you will understand what I mean by the Genoese heritage.
Wandering in Fener and Balat districts
Fener and Balat are two districts whose popularity has increased over the last 20 years. You can visit these neighboring districts easily with a few hours walking tour.
These two districts reflect the true Ottoman spirit at its best.Fener and Balat with its churces, mosques and synagogues is a true mosaic of multiculturalism.
Fener, where the Greek Orthodox people lived, and Balat, which was the Jewish neighborhood, contain an incredible amount of cultural heritage. To fully understand the history of Fener and Balat, it is recommended to visit these places with a private tour guide.
Eating a Turkish Breakfast with Bosphorus view
Both the Asian and European coasts of the Bosphorus are very popular at the weekends. You can experience Turkish breakfast with Bosphorus view which is very popular among the people of Istanbul.
Breakfast can also be enjoyed in popular neighborhoods such as Galata, Cihangir, Sultanahmet or Kadikoy. However, having breakfast with the Bosphorus view is definitely a more inspiring experience. On the European side, Ortakoy, Bebek and Rumeli Hisari are the most popular breakfast areas. On the other hand, the Asian side stands out with its peaceful neighborhoods such as Beylerbeyi, Cengelkoy and Anadolu Hisari.
Historical Turkish Bath Time
Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan and Kilic Ali Pasha Hamams are two historical baths. They have been recently restored and both were built sometime in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan. In addition to them, Cemberlitas, Cagaloglu, Suleymaniye and Galatasaray Hammams are among the best historical baths in Istanbul. I have been to a proper Turkish bath once in my life time and I really enjoyed the experience. Everything was neat and comfortable.
If I were you, I would try to make an early appointment so that you basically would have the whole place to yourself.
Going to a Turkish bath is one of the most fun things I have enjoyed in Istanbul
Walking from Ortakoy to Bebek
In the upper lines, I suggested having breakfast on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. One of the top things to do in Istanbul is to have a Turkish breakfast in Ortakoy and then take a walk along the Bosphorus to Bebek.
The coastal road between Ortakoy and Bebek is the most convenient route for walking and jogging activities along the Bosphorus. You can photograph the Bosphorus bridges, mansions and fishing people on this road. If you enjoy, you can extend the walk to Rumeli Fortress.
Cable Car to Pierre Loti Hill
I have already mentioned about the Sultanahmet, Eminonu, Fener and Balat districts of Istanbul. Now I would love to talk about another historical place called Pierre Loti Hill, which is located in Eyup. You can take the cable car to the top and enjoy the view. There is also Eyup Mosque and Miniaturk Museum to be seen. To see these places, you can either get a taxi or bus and both are not pricey.
A Walk Up to the Galata Tower
When you get to Galata Tower, you will have the chance to see the seven hills of Istanbul and a bird’s eye view of the Golden Horn and also the Bosphorus.
Make sure that the sun is not at its highest point if you want to take beautiful photos. There is a square down at the bottom and you will see many cafes and galleries there. They were opened quite recently.
Walking through Istiklal Street
What I liked about Istiklal Street is that it never sleeps. It is a very busy location. Probably thousands of people walking at the same time. Decorated with colourful flags and lined by brand outlets and beautiful coffee shops,this street has a unique charm. I almost spent a whole day and no regrets.
Maybe it is the best shopping street in Istanbul. It also contains the oldest tramway in Turkey.
Antique Shopping in Cukurcuma
Cukurcuma is a cute little neighborhood with small cafes, boutiques, antique shops and design stores. In addition to this, I have some good news for those who love the Turkish Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk. Cukurcuma is the place where Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence is mentioned. If you’re into taking photo, there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy every minute of your time. Other places for antique lovers are Nisantasi, Kadıköy and Üsküdar street.
Byzantine Heritage in Istanbul
The history of Romans in Istanbul dates back to the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus. In 330, Emperor Constantine declared Istanbul the second capital of the Roman Empire. After the separation of the Empire into two, Constantinople became the capital of Eastern Rome until 1453.
Istanbul, which has been the capital of the Romans and Byzantines for 1000 years, still has an important Roman heritage. There are cisterns and palace ruins from the Byzantine period, as well as a considerable number of Byzantine churches. Today it is possible to visit Hagia Sophia, Chora and Pammakaristos churches as museums. In the old districts of Istanbul such as Sultanahmet, Fener and Balat, Vefa and Zeyrek, Edirnekapi you can visit the Byzantine buildings and take great pictures.
Visiting the Mosques of Istanbul
We can say that the imperial mosques in Istanbul are divided into two in terms of architecture. The first is the Classical Ottoman Architecture, which peaks with Architect Sinan, and the second is the Modern Ottoman Architecture, bearing the signature of the Balyan Family.
In the Historic Peninsula of Istanbul, we see the architectural works of classical period. For example, the mosques built by the sultans such as the Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque and Fatih Mosque reflect the classical period of the Ottoman Empire.
From the 18th century onwards, the Ottomans began to use neo-classical and baroque elements with European influence. Ortakoy Mosque, Dolmabahce Palace and its Mosque and Beylerbeyi Mosque, such as mosques in the Bosphorus, you can observe this new period architecture.
Of course, the two styles have no superiority to each other. Together, they describe the evolution of a culture that reigned in Istanbul for 500 years. While Classical Architecture preferred a more simple style; Modern Architecture uses eye-catching decoration techniques.
Other Things to Do in Istanbul
Of course, there are many other things to do in Istanbul. If you would like to learn more about Istanbul’s museums, public transport, shopping places and local restaurants, you may contact us 24/7.