Istanbul is the largest and most famous city in Turkey. This ancient city is a place where east meets west and a city where you can find one of the biggest bazaars in the world. Istanbul is also home to many historical places and it’s definitely one of the best places to visit in Turkey. This article will give you some interesting things to do in Istanbul, Turkey. Let’s discover with us!
Interesting things to do in Istanbul
Completed in the 6th century on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a millennium until the completion of Seville Cathedral in 1520. Before being converted into a mosque in the 15th century and later into a museum in 1935, Hagia Sophia served as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Hagia Sophia is among Istanbul’s most popular and iconic historic sites and for good reason: its massive, transcendent dome is breathtaking and can easily be gazed at for hours. Considered to be an architectural marvel even today, its walls are adorned by Byzantine mosaics featuring feature portraits of bygone emperors and representations of Christ.
They are two runic inscriptions engraved into the marble parapets on the top floor gallery, thought to have been graffitied there by the personal bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors during the Viking Age.
2. Shopping in the Grand Bazaar
After visiting historical monuments in Sultanahmet, it is customary to come to the Grand Bazaar at the end of the day. Grand Bazaar, built-in 1461, charms people and attracts visitors like a magnet. Even people who are tired of waiting in line at the museums in Sultanahmet all day long cannot resist the idea of shopping in the Grand Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is home to 67 streets and more than 3000 shops and is one of the last representatives of traditional shopping in Istanbul. For shopping lovers, the Grand Bazaar is among the top 10 things to do in Istanbul.
3. Visiting Spice Bazaar
It’s a habit of the locals to come to Eminonu Square and visit the shops around Spice Bazaar on weekends. The square in front of the Spice Bazaar is the symbol of Istanbul Old City and is famous for its pigeons.
Even though Spice Bazaar is the star of the neighborhood, many different kinds of things can be found on the streets that surround the historical center. The cheapest of everything, be it textile items, bakery items, ornaments or toys can be found in this neighborhood.
Although the New Mosque stands out with its imposing architecture, there are also secret gems on the back streets. For example, Rustem Pasa Mosque which is decorated with the most beautiful examples of Iznik tiles should definitely be visited before leaving this neighborhood.
4. Wandering inside the Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace is rightfully a sight you can’t afford to miss while in Istanbul. This complex of kiosks and pavilions contained by four lush green courtyards is where generations of sultans had their principal residence for almost half a century.
Top attractions at Topkapi Palace are the Harem, an adorned ‘cage’ of the sultan’s women, the treasury storing the crown jewels (containing the famous Topkapi dagger), and the weapon’s room boosting the Ottoman’s fine craftsmanship even when it came to making swords and bows.
Also, don’t forget to walk all the way till the end for breathtaking views of the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus, and Golden Horn.
5. Bosphorus Cruise
A trip to Istanbul is not complete without a Bosphorus cruise. Not only provides it a nice overview of the city, but both the European and Asian shores of the famous waterway also have a lot to offer – century old palaces and mansions galore.
There are several cruises you can take: a short one (to the second suspension bridge and back), along with one (all the way to the Black Sea and back), and a sunset tour in summertime.
The latter used to be my favorite, but became the victim of its own success. These days I prefer to take the full Bosphorus day tour, or the shorter version if you are pressed for time.
6. Visiting Blue Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is Istanbul’s most famous site and is the top thing to do in Istanbul. A visit to the city would not be complete without laying eyes on its beauty. It’s known by its more common name, The Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles surrounding the walls of its interior.
It is still a functioning mosque but visitors can enter if they follow the rules. Long pants should be worn and women must have their shoulders and heads covered.
Located in the old city, it’s the perfect way to start your day before moving on to the other sights nearby. Across the Galata Bridge crossing the mouth of The Bay of Istanbul you’ll find the Galata Tower on the North Bank of the Golden Horn.
It offers the best panoramic views of the city and an excellent vantage point to gaze upon Old Istanbul.
Until the 1960’s it was a watchtower for city fires, but today it is open to tourists to walk around its balcony near the top of the 67 meter (220 feet) high tower.