Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)

Last Updated on September 26, 2020

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.


In addition, the city 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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Sultanahmet neighborhood

Sultanahmet hosts about all of the most visited historical and tourist sites in Istanbul, such as the Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome)Hagia SophiaTopkapi PalaceBlue MosqueBasilica CisternIstanbul Archaeology Museums and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are situated here and all can be explored by walking.

Read more about Sultanahmet



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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Taksim neighborhood

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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Galata neighborhood

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.

Read more about Galata Read more about Taksim


Take a Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Cruise is one of the more popular and fantastic forms of entertainment on your Istanbul visit.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Bosphorus cruise

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.

Read more about Bosphorus Cruises



Hop-on Hop-off Istanbul City Sightseeing Bus Tour

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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Double Decker City Sightseeing Bus

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.

Read more about Hop On Hop Off Istanbul City Sightseeing Bus Tour


Enjoy the city’s best festivals & events

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)

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 the city, from music and film, to gastronomy and culture.

Read more about Istanbul’s best festivals


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. The city offers wide range of Turkish cuisine at the variety of well established, good and luxury Istanbul restaurants.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Turkish kebab

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.

Read more about Food & Drink in Istanbul


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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)

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.

Read more about Nightlife in Istanbul


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.

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)
Grand Bazaar

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.

Read more about Shopping in Istanbul


Visit the charming Museums of Istanbul

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)

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. The city hosts more than 80 museums and many art galleries showcase all the culture, arts and history; including painting, sculpture, photography and more.

Istanbul Archaeology MuseumsTopkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul Modern, Rahmi Koc Transport Museum and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts are among the best museums in Istanbul that won’t want to miss.

Read more about Top Istanbul Museums


Fun day out at the Istanbul’s Theme Parks

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)

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 IsfanbulAquarium Sea Life and LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

Read more Istanbul’s Top Theme Parks


Tours & Tickets

When planning an Istanbul visit, weekend break, getaway or holiday, there are always plenty of tours, attractions, deals, offers, packages and events to choose from and enjoy in the city.

You may explore the city via daily tours made by the local travel agents with professional guides. It is a very good option if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making all the arrangements including the tickets, waiting at the long queues and 2-ways transportation by your own.

See All Popular Tours & Tickets


Tourist Passes

Istanbul has two major tourist discount passes. You can read more with our tips and comparisons on our Istanbul Welcome Card and Istanbul Tourist Pass pages.


Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)This 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.

Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe comes with Museum pass with Fast Track Entry to 9 museums & ticket for Bosphorus Cruise, 3 tours with a historian Guide (Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Harem, Basilica Cistern ), Public Transportation, Guide Book and Audio Guides for Istanbul and Free Hotel Delivery.

Buy Your Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe


Istanbul Tourist Pass

Things to Do in Istanbul (Essential Attractions + 2020 Insider Guide Advice)This 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 35+ attractions and services including skip the line access and guided museum tours, dinner cruise, hop-on & hop-off Bus, airport transfer, and many more.

Buy Your Istanbul Tourist Pass


Best of Istanbul Attractions

Here we only suggest the proven ways and top rated ones with travelers’ comments. You can feel free to book one of the below top selling tours.

Free cancellation up to 24 hours before activity starts


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