Here you can find our guide on things to do in Istanbul, including popular tourist attractions, sights, leisure, day and night out activities, trips and tours.
Istanbul offers an unforgettable experience for its travelers, with its colorful daily city life and dynamic nightlife. The beautiful silhouette of the city combines countless historical places, churches, palaces and mosques.
Istanbul is also one of the most lively metropolises in the world that offers variety of intercontinental events, international film, music and theater festivals, international biennials, and more than 80 museums and many art galleries showcase all the culture, arts and history; including painting, sculpture, photography and more.
The Essential Things to Do in Istanbul
Explore Sultanahmet area
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 Sultanahmet neighborhood. It is the best way to get the most out of the city’s sights, sounds, and scents.
In Sultanahmet, you can experience and feel the rich Byzantine heritage and the glory of the Imperial Capital. Sultanahmet will sure make you enjoy the ultimate experience of Istanbul in a nutshell.
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.
Explore Galata and Taksim
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 is home to popular tourist neighborhoods of Galata and Taksim.
Taksim, with its iconic Taksim Square, is the main attraction spot for every tourist and the area is always vibrant with its cheerful tourists taking selfies before the monument or the historic tram. From Taksim, you can continue down to world famous Istiklal Street until you reach the Galata neighborhood of Beyoglu.
Once a Genoese neighbourhood, Galata is home to the famous Galata Tower. 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.
Bosphorus Cruise is one of the more popular and fantastic forms of entertainment on your Istanbul visit.
Typical Bosphorus Cruises begin slightly to the east of the famous Galata Bridge and continues to Anadolu Kavagi which is the Bosphorus’ entrance to the Black Sea making numerous sightseeing stops along the strait.
BigBus Istanbul tour 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.
Experience the Turkish Cuisine
Istanbul offers wide range of Turkish cuisine at the variety of well established, good and luxury Istanbul restaurants.
The traditional Turkish cuisine is really worth a taste. Travelers may choose from a wide range of Turkish kebabs, mezes (starters) and dishes that are mostly based on meat. Also Turkish sweets such as baklava and Turkish delight are worldwide famous.
Enjoy the Lively Istanbul Nights
Entertainment in Istanbul revolves around many of the entertainment venues that the city has to offer. The nightlife in Istanbul has really come alive in recent years and the locals will all tell you that the nightlife spreads out in all directions throughout the city.
Istiklal Street between Taksim and Tunel offers the liveliest nightlife in Istanbul as it caters to college students and the younger crowd. The region is commonly alive with parties every night during the summer months and the locals are extremely friendly.
Another region for a great evening out is Kadikoy, located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. With its numerous little bars, pubs, cafes, and restaurants, you can easily spend the night bouncing from one venue to the next.
Enjoy the Shopping Scene of the City
The variety of the traditional and modern products offered at the Ottoman’s originated historical bazaars and modern shopping malls, makes the city an attraction center for shopping lovers. The famous Turkish carpets made of silk, wool or cotton, jewelries, authentic glass wares, traditional evil eye souvenirs, trendy and creative products, are the popular items that tourists buy on their Istanbul visit.
The world famous Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi) is one of the greatest historical malls in the world, with its more than 4000 shops. The Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) is also very popular where you can enjoy the scenery of the various spices, dried fruits, basketry, jewelry, drapery and haberdashery.
All-in-one Cards for Istanbul’s Attractions & Sights
There are three types of Istanbul passes & cards that you may buy and have access to variety of Istanbul attractions including museums with fixed price and save a lot. We recommend those cards for the travelers that has a stay in Istanbul at least from 3 to 7 days. The most practical and cheapest way to explore Istanbul’s sights.
Istanbul Tourist Pass
The card allows you to choose from 20+ Istanbul attractions so you can pack as much into your stay as possible for a single set price. The card offers guided tours and fast track entry to 8 Istanbul museums including Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum, Basilica Cistern, Chora Museum, Hagia Irene Museum, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and Pera Museum. Plus; BigBus Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour, Bosphorus Dinner Cruise, Whirling Dervishes Show, Bosphorus Boat Trip, Sea Life Aquarium, Princes’ Islands Boat Trip, Hop-on Hop-off Bosphorus Boat Tour, Legoland Discovery Centre, Dialogue in the Dark/Silence, Xtrem Aventures, one way Airport Transfer and Unlimited Mobile Internet Access.
Istanbul Welcome Card
Offers guided tours and fast track entry to 12 Istanbul museums including Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum and Harem, Chora Museum, Fethiye Museum, Galata Mevlevi House, Hagia Irene Museum, Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Istanbul Mosaic Museum, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, and the Rumeli Hisar Museum with professional guides. Plus; a cruise on the Bosphorus and card loaded with 10 tickets for public transport.
Istanbul 5-Day Guided Museum Pass
Offers guided tours and fast track entry to 5 Istanbul museums including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Hagia Irene and Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum. And many pluses.
- 5-Day Guided Museum Pass by Get Your Guide from € 50
- 5-Day Museum Pass and Bosphorus Tour by Get Your Guide from € 56
- Viator’s 5 Days Museum Pass and Bosphorus Boat Tour from € 59
- Museum Pass, Bosphorus Boat Tour and Big Bus Ticket from € 109
- Guided Museum Pass: Skip-the-line Tickets with Guided Tours from € 50
- Istanbul Combo: Museum Pass,Whirling Dervishes Show and Bosphorus Boat Tour from € 69