A brief overview of the very best of Istanbul’s tourist zones, districts & neighborhoods, top places to visit and see, sights and points of interest.
Istanbul is located partly in Asia and the other part in Europe. Its geographical position as well as its rich history are responsible for a fascinating melting pot of cultures. Tourists are flocking to experience this magical city full of contrasts for themselves, making it the 5th most popular tourist destination in the world.
Istanbul is a magical composition of two continents, two Worlds, the East and the West, and so the places to visit and see in Istanbul are endless. Istanbul can be considered as the combination of the old and modern city, as well as Islamic and Mediterranean mixture of cultures in a captivating atmosphere.
The beautiful silhouette of the city combines historical sites and monuments such as Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, Venetian towers, Ottoman palaces from the Byzantine, Ottoman and Turkish periods. And the skyline covers monumental minarets with skyscrapers and plazas. And especially the Historical Peninsula and the Bosphorus will cheer up your hearts.
The Historical Peninsula
For the ones who are a true enthusiast of history and want to see the city’s historic sites, we highly recommend you to visit and see the Historical Peninsula of Istanbul (Fatih district), that has been the capital for many civilizations such as the Romans, Byzantine and Ottoman Empire for centuries.
And on the Historical Peninsula, the Sultanahmet neighborhood is the visited sites in Istanbul. A tourist center combining the history, architecture, culture and art, Istanbul’s old city and historical zone, and an important sightseeing, entertainment & shopping area for the tourists for having a nice Istanbul old city walking tour.
Sultanahmet hosts about all of the most visited historical and tourist sites in Istanbul, such as the Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome), Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Archaeology Museums and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are situated here and all can be explored by walking.
The Beyoglu District
For the ones who are a true enthusiast of metropolitan city life and enjoy the city’s lively nights and vibrant streets, as well as most visited monumental sites and museums, we highly recommend you to visit and see the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, that houses the popular tourist neighborhoods of Galata and Taksim.
And From Taksim or Galata, you can walk towards Cukurcuma, Cihangir and Karakoy neighborhoods and feel the city life along their narrow streets dotted with historic facades of old Istanbul, as well as best vintage shops in the city.
Galata is located across the Historical Peninsula, and both historic and cosmopolitan region and entertainment & shopping area for the tourists for having a nice Istanbul city walking tour. Galata is famous for its lively atmosphere and of course the Galata Tower, one of the most popular landmark of Istanbul.
Taksim is a cosmopolitan region, communications hub and an important commercial, entertainment & shopping area for the tourists for having a nice Istanbul city walking tour. It is the modern part and heart of Istanbul. And of course, Taksim Square and the world famous Istiklal Street.
The Bosphorus (Bogazici) is a 19 miles long strait separating the two continents, Asia and Europe, as well as Marmara and Black Sea. Bosphorus is one of the world’s most beautifl and charming natural formations and it will sure cheer up your hearts.
You can explore the Bosphorus by cruising along and visiting the shores of both continents lined up with summer palaces, mansions, fortresses, groves, parks and gardens, by motorboats, yachts and public ferries. And so, the Bosphorus Cruises are amongst the best things to do in Istanbul.
For the ones who are a true enthusiast of culture and art, Istanbul museums offers the best of the city’s historical heritage, culture and modern art. Istanbul hosts more than 80 museums and many art galleries showcase all the culture, arts and history; including painting, sculpture, photography and more. Istanbul Archaeology Museums, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul Modern, Rahmi Koc Transport Museum and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are amongst the best museums in Istanbul that won’t want to miss.
Hop-on Hop-off Istanbul City Sightseeing Bus Tour
Big Bus Istanbul is a cheap way to discover and explore the popular zones of Istanbul which you just couldn’t walk to and see in one day. It drives through the popular sights along the interesting and different districts and neighborhoods of Istanbul and offers informative pre-recorded commentary that is available in 8 languages. The open topped double decker tourist bus really looks cool.
You can get off at any of the designated stops (which means hop-off) and than explore the area and sights on foot at your leisure, and then you can catch the next bus (buses arrive the stops in every 30 mins/60 mins.) from any stop when you’re ready (which means hop-on) to move on and visit the other sights on the route. The stops are all located close to the most visited and famous landmarks and attractions of Istanbul. The upper deck of the city sightseeing bus offers a great vantage point for the amazing panoramic views of the city and lets you take photos.
Insider Tips for First Time VisitorsFor time visitors to Istanbul should check and well plan the area to stay, best time to visit the city, best places to see and top attractions, how to save money, where to go for eating and shopping, airport transfer and public transportation, etc. to make the most of their Istanbul visit easy, budget, convenient, and safe.
We recommend you to read our articles in the First Time Visitors section of our website before you plan your visit.
We also put together the top travel eases below that you can benefit from your trip. Check them out!
Where to Stay?First time visitors should stay in the city center, better to be near city’s top attractions and within easy reach to public transport. Sultanahmet, Galata-Karakoy or Taksim would be your best choice. Continue reading...
Tourist Discount CardsIstanbul has two major tourist discount cards. You'll have access to variety of major Istanbul attractions and services with a fixed price and save a lot.
This is by far the most practical and cheapest way to explore Istanbul, as well as get airport transfer, public transportation card, unlimited internet, etc.
You can read more with our tips and comparisons on our Istanbul Welcome Card and Istanbul Tourist Pass pages.
Istanbul Welcome Card DeluxeThis is a travel discount card that is delivered to your hotel for FREE upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival. You can also receive it from its stand in both two Istanbul Airports.
There are three types of Istanbul Welcome Card and all are valid for 7 days.
- Classic €19.
- Premium €49.
- Deluxe €79.
Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.
Istanbul Tourist PassThis is a digital travel discount pass that is delivered to your phone upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival.
It includes 30+ attractions and services including skip the line access and guided museum tours, dinner cruise, hop-on & hop-off Bus, airport transfer, unlimited mobile internet, etc.
There are four types of Istanbul Tourist Pass:
- 2 day Pass €95 adult - €45 child.
- 3 day Pass €115 adult - €45 child.
- 5 day Pass €135 adult - €45 child.
- 7 day Pass €145 adult - €45 child.
Alternative Buying ChannelsIf you are a Get Your Guide (GYG) or Viator fan for worldwide tour buying, than you can buy these Istanbul discount cards from their links below.
- Viator's 3, 5 or 7 Day Istanbul Tourist Pass from € 115
- GYG's Istanbul Tourist Pass: 3, 5 or 7-Day City Pass from € 115
- Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe by GYG from € 75
- Istanbul Welcome Card Classic by Viator from € 25
- Istanbul Welcome Card Premium by Viator from € 50
- Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe by Viator from € 75
Airport TransfersIstanbul has two international airports. You'll find all the transportation opportunities such as Airport Shuttle, Metro, Train, Taxi, Private Shuttle, etc. from the airports to the city center and vice versa from our pages below.
This is a good option as while the Airport Shuttles or Public Buses will bring you only to the city center and you’ll need to take a taxi to reach your hotel which will seem to be harder for you, private shuttles will drive you just to the entrance of your hotel.
As for private shuttle transfers, we can recommend Kiwi Taxi as we recently tested them and had a great trip to our hotel. We didn't see any bad comments on internet. They have large selection of comfortable taxis, minivans, luxurious cars and 6-19+ passenger minibuses.
You can check and book your transfer from the below widget.