5 Best Areas to Explore in Istanbul for First Time Visitors

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If you are coming Istanbul for the first time and wonder the best areas, districts, neighborhoods and places to visit and explore, you can find a brief information here on our guide. You can discover things to do and exciting locations across Istanbul areas.

1. Sultanahmet: The Historic Center

Historical Peninsula (Fatih district) is the most visited tourist area in Istanbul where all tourists head for most. The region is the old Istanbul inside the city walls with all the sightseeing heavyweights packed together with must-see mosques, museums, palaces and more. The historical peninsula of Istanbul is now within the Fatih district.

Known as the historic heart of Istanbul, Sultanahmet is a neighborhood of Fatih district no visitor should miss. Its cobblestone streets are steeped in history, brimming with Byzantine and Ottoman structures that narrate tales of Turkey’s rich past.


Majority of the popular sites of Istanbul are situated in Sultanahmet. It is the former heart of the Ottoman Empire.

With the popular sights such as the such as the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Archaeology Museums and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet is a natural magnet to millions of tourists in Istanbul also with its variety of souvenirs and carpets, restaurants and cafe, hotels and guest houses. The relatively traffic free region makes it easy to explore around on foot and by tram.

Main Attractions here:

  • Hagia Sophia, an amazing piece of architecture that has been a church, a mosque, a museum, and now a mosque, shows how well Christian and Islamic elements can live together.
  • The Blue Mosque, whose full name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a beautiful building with six minarets and blue tiles inside.
  • Topkapi Palace was the luxurious home of Ottoman sultans. It is now a museum that shows items from the empire.

2. Beyoğlu: The Heartbeat of Modern Istanbul

One of the liveliest parts of Istanbul, Beyoğlu, has a fascinating mix of old and new. Istanbul’s forward-thinking energy can be seen in its busy streets and varied culture.

Main Attractions here:

  • Istiklal Street is the hub of Beyoğlu. It is a pedestrian-only street full of shops, cafes, and street artists.
  • Galata Tower: This stone tower from the Middle Ages gives you a great view of Istanbul.
  • The Pera Museum has a huge collection of art, including one of the most important groups of Orientalist works.

3. Galata: An Artistic Enclave

The Galata neighborhood, which is tucked away near the northern tip of the Golden Horn, has a bohemian, artistic air. It’s the perfect location for taking in the city’s modern art scene and discovering local life.

Main Attractions here:

  • Galata Tower: Dating back to 14th century, the tower is an old Genoese tower overlooking the beautiful Istanbul and has a massive cone shaped structure that was built at approximately 38 meters above the sea level and rises to a height of 62 meters above its base.
  • Galata Mevlevi Museum: Once a dervish lodge, it is now a museum dedicated to the Whirling Dervishes.
  • The Museum of Innocence: This unusual museum created by Orhan Pamuk displays everyday items related to his novel of the same name.
  • Galata Bridge: This iconic bridge is perfect for fishing, people-watching, or savoring some local seafood.

4. Kadıköy: An Asian Gem


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If you are interested in exploring the Asian side of Istanbul, you can go to Kadıkoy, a district that is well-known for its lively markets, street art, and restaurants located on the shore.

Main Attractions here:

  • An open-air market where you may sample a wide variety of Turkish delights, the Kadıköy Market is one of the significant attractions in the area.
  • It is the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll because it provides spectacular views of the sunset. Moda Seaside features this.
  • A prominent shopping strip that features a wide variety of local boutiques and international brands, Bagdat Avenue is a popular shopping destination.

5. Beşiktaş: The District of Palaces

Beşiktaş is more than just a center for sports, despite the fact that it is mostly known for its world-famous football team. Palaces dot the landscape of this region, which is steeped in history and decorated with green parks.

Main Attractions here:

  • The sumptuous palace known as Dolmabahce Palace was the primary administrative hub of the Ottoman Empire during the final years of its existence.
  • Yıldız Park, which was formerly a part of the royal garden of Yıldız Palace, is an ideal location for a picnic or a quiet afternoon.
  • Naval Museum: This museum is an absolute must-see for everyone who has an interest in maritime history because it displays a collection of Ottoman naval history.

The experience of traveling to Istanbul is comparable to removing layers of time. You will discover the stories of empires as you go through its districts, you will see the beginning of civilizations, and you will feel the warmth of its people.

The capacity of Istanbul to combine what is old with what is new, what is eastern with what is western, and what is traditional with what is contemporary is what gives the city its wonderful charm.


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Insider Advice: Kickstart your Istanbul adventure with Istanbul E-Pass or Istanbul Tourist Pass. These passes provide free access to top attractions with around 70% savings.

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