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 neighborhood, 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.
Enjoy the city’s best festivals & events
The yearly calendar of Istanbul features variety of lively festivals and events for every kind of traveler. You can experience and enjoy the most popular festivals and events in Istanbul, from music and film, to gastronomy and culture.
Experience the Turkish Cuisine
If you are in Istanbul, it means that you are one step away from tasting the delicious meals of the Turkish cuisine, from spicy and hot Anatolian and Aegean dishes freshly cooked with olive oil. 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.
Visit the charming Museums of 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. Continue reading…
Fun day out at the Istanbul’s Theme Parks
Istanbul offers great theme parks ranging from huge ones with variety of great thrills and rides to aquariums, dolphinariums, themed museums and more. Amusement and theme parks are not only the places for fun, but also great places for your kids’ learning and imagination development. We recommend you to visit the Isfanbul (formerly Vialand), Aquarium Sea Life Istanbul and Istanbul LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Continue reading…
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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.