The top 14 most obvious sights of Istanbul are not necessarily the most obvious things to do in Istanbul. This is not a city where you can expect to witness the least expensive sightseeing. You will be hard pressed to find a more luxurious place to visit, both in terms of service and quality of accommodation and eating. However, if you are in the mood for excitement, then these are the places you want to go.
1. Topkapi Palace
This palace is almost as majestic as the minaret of Fethiye Mosque. Built in the thirteenth century, it is one of the most beautiful examples of Turkish craftsmanship. Inside there are five mosques, plus an observatory and a fortress. The fortress is particularly fascinating: it was purposely built as a fortress to guard the city against external threats. Today it houses the Turkey’s national museum, which has some of the greatest antiquities from the region. There are also many beautiful gardens in addition to the main entrance.
2. Hagia Sofia
If you are looking for a taste of history with a little bit of modern flair then the Hagia Sofia might just suit your needs. This palace is actually seven buildings that were once part of the Roman Empire. The most famous part of the structure is the altar fronted by a grand arch. If you want to see the best example of Roman architecture at its best then this is the place to go.
3. Burgazada Bay
While it may not be the most active or exciting part of the city, it is Istanbul’s most photographed area. There are many reasons for this, mainly because of all the fantastic buildings that are located here. It is the perfect setting for the Istanbul summer. It has long term facilities too, including swimming pools and shopping complexes. Some of the buildings date back to the eighteenth century.
4. Beyoglu Square
This is Istanbul’s most famous public park. It hosts a large number of tourists each day. You are guaranteed to be bombarded by tourists all day. This is the most obvious place for drinking, but it also has plenty of other activities. The most famous shop in the world is situated here, and you can buy anything from expensive leather goods to cheap Tukari carpets here.
Mecidiyekoy is Istanbul’s most popular department store. It is located in Sisli, a middle-class neighbourhood of the old city. This is also a good place to go shopping if you’re looking for some last minute bargains. Be warned, however, that prices at Sisli tend to be very high compared to others in the city. It is a good idea to book your car beforehand to make sure you get to the main areas easily.
6. Galata Tower
The Galata tower is located in the old town of Istanbul. This neighborhood has a very unique architecture and is a great place to take a trip around Istanbul. The top attractions to see in this area include the Blue Mosque, Ciprian Beyoglu (the old bridge), Beyoglu beach, etc. For the tourist who enjoys history, the Blue Mosque is worth a visit as it is one of the oldest mosques in the world. The top destinations in this part of Istanbul are the Beyoglu Fort, Topkapi Palace, Vanished Bridges, etc. There are plenty of good restaurants, bars and nightclubs to enjoy.
7. National Museum
One of the most important museums in Turkey is the National Museum of Modern Art. It houses a wide collection of exhibits dealing with various facets of Turkish history and culture. In addition, there are several other cultural attractions that potential luxury travelers and tourists should not miss. The National Museum of Modern Art is highly recommended for anyone planning a trip to the city.
8. Taksim Square
This is the heart of modern day Istanbul. It is also one of the oldest places in the city. You can find many historic shops and a plethora of interesting touristy hotspots. However, Taksim is not just a place for shopping. The square has also become a place for entertainment and a center for locals and foreigners to get together and socialize.
9. Old Town and Modern Center
The old town is home to many historic monuments and temples. Some of them are quite old, while others are newly constructed. The shopping area is lined with boutiques from some of the biggest names in the world. At the same time, modern amenities are just a few meters away from these shopping centers. If you are new to Istanbul and you want to experience all the fun, then spend your days in this section of the city.
10. Galata’s Cafes
The last but not least, among the Top Ten things to do in Istanbul are Galata’s cafes. While the cafes of Galata offer a wide variety of beverages and pastries, it is their delicious kebabs that are especially popular. You can find both local and international cuisine in Galata, which is situated just a few steps away from the Asian side of Istanbul. To get the most out of your time in Galata, it is suggested that you drink at least one bialy, a cool glass of lemonade, or an espresso while in the neighborhood.
Just east of the Asian Side of Istanbul, you will find the Sultanahmet, which is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Istanbul. The neighborhood is known for its restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The neighborhood hosts a large number of tourists and expats, so it is often bustling with activity. The best thing to do in Sultanahmet is to hop on the trolley bus that goes to the Blue Mosque.
Istanbul’s Sisli neighborhood was built on the ruins of an ancient city. Its history has been greatly influenced by Rome. A stroll through the narrow streets of Sisli will reveal crumbling remnants of Roman fortifications and shops selling antiques. Cheap villas in the neighborhood are affordable compared to other parts of Istanbul. Tourists visiting Istanbul in the vicinity of Sisli can take the commuter bus to get to other parts of the city.
13. Old Town on the European Side
Istanbul has been invaded and assimilated by several civilizations over time. In fact, the city was once a part of the Phoenician Empire. So if you want to soak up some history and culture, spend a few days exploring the fascinating streets of Istanbul’s Old Town. The main highlights of this old town are the world-famous Blue Mosque and the pearl tower, both of which loom large in the Turkish and European sides of the city. Here you can also try out one of the most beautiful spots of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque, an old Byzantine church.
14. Turkish Coffeehouses
Although coffee is not an ideal way to end your tour to Istanbul, you will surely be treated to a delicious Turkish coffee while you’re there. The best coffee shops in Istanbul specialize in serving only the best Arabica beans, providing customers with an aromatic and richly flavoured cup of Turkish coffee. Not to be outdone, there are also a number of trendy bistros serving tasty kebabs and other traditional fare. For some extra special treats, head over to the Turkish coffeehouse at Sisli Korkbasi to experience a delicious kebab with your favourite Turkish snack.