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20 Unmissable Things to Do in Istanbul 2023

Istanbul is a vibrant city that offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity. It's no wonder why it's one of the top destinations for travelers to Turkey. A well-planned Istanbul itinerary should include visits to the best places and attractions, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. But there's so much more to see and experience beyond these iconic landmarks.

One of the must-do things in Istanbul is experiencing a traditional Turkish bath or hammam. This is a unique cultural experience that dates back centuries and provides an opportunity for relaxation and rejuvenation. Turkish food is another highlight of any trip to Istanbul with its delicious flavors and diverse range of dishes including kebabs, baklava, and Turkish delight.

If you're looking for some fun things to do in Turkey - Istanbul, Istiklal Street is a popular shopping and entertainment district that offers visitors a chance to experience the local culture while enjoying some of the best things the city has to offer. You can find live music performances by street performers or enjoy delicious Turkish coffee at one of the many cafes along this bustling street.

For those seeking a more unique experience during their visit to Istanbul, consider taking a local guide who can show you hidden gems throughout the city. They can take you off the beaten path where you can discover lesser-known attractions like colorful street art or quaint neighborhoods filled with boutique shops.

istanbul city view

Admire the Blue Mosque: Experience Islamic Architecture

The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks. The mosque's stunning Islamic architecture and intricate details make it a must-see building among Istanbul's many mosques. Here are some reasons why you should visit the Blue Mosque:

Marvel at the Beautiful Blue Tiles

The Blue Mosque gets its name from the beautiful blue tiles that adorn its interior walls. These tiles create a serene atmosphere inside the mosque and add to its overall beauty. The tiles were made in Iznik, Turkey, and were brought to Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire. In addition to blue, you'll find green and red tiles throughout the mosque.

Experience Traditional Islamic Architecture

The Blue Mosque is an excellent example of traditional Islamic architecture. The mosque features multiple domes and six minarets - four at the corners and two at the entrance. The central dome is 23.5 meters in diameter and 43 meters high, making it one of Istanbul's largest domes.

Climb the Tower for Great Views

If you want to see great views of Istanbul, climb up one of the towers located on either side of the entrance gate. From there, you can get a bird's eye view of Sultanahmet Square and take stunning photos with the Egyptian obelisk in the background.

Visit a Perfect Blend of Traditional Islamic Architecture and Modern Art

While traditional Islamic architecture dominates much of what you'll see inside the mosque, there are also modern touches throughout that make it unique. For instance, there are stained glass windows that let light into certain areas of the mosque while adding color to others.

The Chora Church (Kariye Museum): Discover Byzantine Mosaics

Nestled in the heart of Istanbul's Fatih district, the Chora Church, also known as the Kariye Museum, is a hidden gem that visitors to Istanbul should not miss. This Greek Orthodox church was built in the 5th century AD and has undergone several renovations over time. The church is famous for its stunning Byzantine mosaics and intricate tile work that depict scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Byzantine Mosaics

The highlight of a visit to the Chora Church is undoubtedly its beautiful mosaics. These mosaics are some of the finest examples of Byzantine art in existence today. The mosaics depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments, including stories from Genesis and Exodus, as well as scenes from Christ's life such as his baptism, crucifixion, and resurrection.

Visitors can spend hours admiring these beautiful works of art. The colors used in these mosaics are still vibrant today despite being over 1,000 years old. You'll be struck by how much detail went into each piece; every mosaic tells a story through carefully crafted images.

Location & Transportation

Located near the Golden Horn, visitors can easily reach The Chora Church using public transportation such as buses or trams. It's also possible to combine a visit to this church with other nearby attractions like Hagia Sophia or Basilica Cistern.

FarawayFiles Reply Paul Healy

According to FarawayFiles reply Paul Healy, "The Chora Church is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Byzantine art and architecture." And he couldn't be more right! This church is an incredible example of Byzantine architecture with its stunning domes and intricate tile work.

Greek Orthodox Church

Originally built as a Greek Orthodox church during the Byzantine era, the Chora Church was later converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. The church was then converted back to a museum in 1948, and extensive renovations were carried out to restore it to its former glory.

Explore Topkapı Palace: Step into Ottoman History and Culture

Step into Ottoman History and Culture at Topkapı Palace

If you're a history buff, a visit to Istanbul's Topkapı Palace is an absolute must. This magnificent palace offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Ottoman Empire, showcasing its opulence and grandeur. Located in Sultanahmet Square, the palace is easily accessible and just a short walk away from other popular tourist spots like Ortakoy.

A Walking Tour of the Palace

A walking tour of Topkapı Palace takes visitors through its many rooms and exhibits, including the Harem and the Treasury. The Harem was once home to the sultan's family and concubines, offering an intriguing look into their daily lives. The Treasury houses some of the most valuable artifacts from the Ottoman era, including priceless jewels and ceremonial objects.

One of the highlights of any visit to Topkapı Palace is undoubtedly climbing to the top for breathtaking views of Istanbul's skyline. From here, visitors can take in stunning panoramic vistas that stretch out over both Europe and Asia.

The Importance of Topkapi Palace

Topkapı Palace was once home to generations of sultans who ruled over one of history's most powerful empires. Its importance cannot be overstated; it served as both a political center and a symbol of power for centuries. Today, it stands as one of Istanbul's most important historical landmarks.

Visitors are encouraged to take their time exploring this magnificent palace complex, taking in everything from its ornate architecture to its exquisite gardens. A visit here is truly an unforgettable experience that offers unparalleled insight into Ottoman history and culture.

Shop Till You Drop at the Grand Bazaar: One of the Oldest Covered Markets in the World

Grand Bazaar: A Great Spot for Shopping Enthusiasts

The Grand Bazaar is a shopper's paradise, with over 4,000 shops selling everything from traditional Turkish goods to unique souvenirs. The bazaar dates back to the 15th century and is one of the oldest covered markets in the world. Located in Istanbul's Old City, it is a center for trade and commerce, making it an important site in Turkey's history.

Walking through the narrow streets of the Grand Bazaar can be overwhelming at first, but it is an experience that should not be missed. The market is divided into different sections, each specializing in specific types of goods such as jewelry, textiles, ceramics, and spices. As you wander through each section, you will find yourself surrounded by vibrant colors and intricate designs that are unique to Turkey.

If you're looking for something special to take home with you from your trip to Istanbul, then look no further than the Grand Bazaar. From handmade carpets to traditional Turkish lamps and pottery, there is something for everyone at this iconic market.

Spice Bazaar: A Must-Visit for Those Seeking Exotic Spices

Located within the Grand Bazaar is another famous market known as the Spice Bazaar. As its name suggests, this market specializes in exotic spices and herbs from all over Turkey and beyond. The aroma of cinnamon, cumin, saffron, and other spices fills the air as you walk through this vibrant marketplace.

In addition to spices, visitors can also find teas, dried fruits, nuts, oils and other culinary delights at this bustling market. Whether you're a foodie looking for new ingredients or simply want to experience some local flavors during your trip to Istanbul – a visit to the Spice Bazaar should definitely be on your list!

Old City: A Center for Trade and Commerce

The Grand Bazaar is located in Istanbul's Old City, which is also known as the historic peninsula. This area of the city has been inhabited since ancient times and is home to many important sites such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque.

In addition to its historical significance, the Old City is also a center for trade and commerce. The Grand Bazaar played an important role in this aspect of the city's history and continues to do so today. Many of the shops in the bazaar have been owned by families for generations, passing down their knowledge and expertise from one generation to another.

Dolmabahçe Palace: Marvel at the Lavish Lifestyle of Ottoman Rulers

Located in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century. The palace is known for its opulent architecture and lavish interiors that reflect the beauty and life of people during that time.

As visitors enter the palace, they are immediately struck by its grandeur. The crystal staircase leads to a series of rooms adorned with ornate furnishings and exquisite decorations. The grand ballroom is particularly awe-inspiring, with its massive chandelier and intricate ceiling frescoes.

Beyond the palace itself, visitors can also explore other nearby attractions such as traditional Turkish cafes where they can indulge in delicious sweets like baklava and Turkish delight. For those seeking a unique cultural experience, attending a performance by the whirling dervishes or catching a movie at the historic Kadıköy Sineması theater is highly recommended.

To fully immerse oneself in history, it's worth taking a walk along the city walls which date back to the 15th century. Along this route, visitors will encounter many historical landmarks including mosques, churches and palaces that offer glimpses into Istanbul's past.

There are plenty of options available near Dolmabahçe Palace ranging from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels. Some popular choices include Hotel Momento Golden Horn located in Eminonu or Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah situated in Beyoglu.

Take a Dinner Cruise on the Bosphorus: Enjoy a Romantic Evening

Looking for a romantic evening in Istanbul? A dinner cruise on the Bosphorus Strait might be just what you need. With stunning views of Istanbul's skyline, this is an experience you won't soon forget.

Food Tour on the Bosphorus

One of the best things about a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus is that it's also a food tour. You'll have the chance to taste Turkish cuisine while admiring the beauty of the river. From fresh seafood to delicious meze plates, there's something for everyone.

Day Trip to Black Sea

If you have more time to spare, consider taking a day trip to the Black Sea by commuter ferry from Istanbul. During your journey, enjoy breakfast at one of the restaurants on the shore and take in breathtaking views of both land and sea.

Guided Tours

For those who prefer guided experiences, there are many tours available that explore different parts of Istanbul and its friendly people. Join one of these tours for an informative and fun-filled adventure along the Bosphorus Strait. These tours include stops at historic landmarks and scenic spots, providing an opportunity to learn more about Turkey's rich history while enjoying stunning views.

Rooftop Bars and Restaurants

Another way to enjoy breathtaking views along the Bosphorus is by visiting one of its many rooftop bars or restaurants. Sip cocktails or indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine while taking in panoramic views of Istanbul's skyline.

Bosphorus Passes

If you want to explore different parts of Istanbul without breaking your budget, consider getting a Bosphorus pass which allows multiple rides along the river. This will give you ample opportunities to discover new areas and meet friendly locals who are always willing to share their stories with visitors.

Discover Istanbul's Hidden Gem: The Chora Church (Kariye Museum)

If you're planning a trip to Istanbul, chances are that the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are at the top of your must-see list. While these iconic landmarks are certainly worth a visit, there's another attraction that often goes overlooked by tourists: the Chora Church, also known as Kariye Museum. Located in the Edirnekapi neighborhood of Istanbul, this hidden gem is home to some of the best-preserved examples of Byzantine art in the world.

A Brief History of The Chora Church

The Chora Church was originally built as a small chapel in the 4th century. Over time, it was expanded and renovated several times before being decorated with stunning Byzantine mosaics and frescoes in the 14th century. These intricate works of art depict scenes from the Bible and portraits of saints, all rendered with incredible attention to detail.

In 1948, the Chora Church was converted into a museum and renamed Kariye Museum. Today, visitors can explore its impressive architecture and history while admiring its priceless artwork up close.

Exploring The Kariye Museum

One of the most striking features of Kariye Museum is its stunning mosaics and frescoes. From floor to ceiling, every inch of this church is covered in intricate designs that tell stories from both Old and New Testaments. One particularly famous mosaic depicts Jesus Christ surrounded by angels; another shows Adam and Eve being cast out from Eden.

While these artworks alone are worth a visit, there's much more to see at Kariye Museum than just mosaics and frescoes. The building itself is an architectural marvel; it features a central dome supported by four arches as well as several smaller domes throughout.

Visitors can also explore other parts of this historic site such as its narthex or entrance hall, which is adorned with frescoes depicting the life of Mary. There's a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas that houses even more stunning mosaics.

How To Visit The Kariye Museum

Getting to Kariye Museum is relatively easy. Located in the Edirnekapi neighborhood of Istanbul, it can be reached by public transportation or taxi. Once you arrive, you'll need to pay an admission fee to enter; however, this fee is well worth it considering the incredible artwork and history that awaits inside.

If you're looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path attraction in Istanbul, look no further than Kariye Museum. With its stunning Byzantine art and impressive architecture, it's sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor who takes the time to explore its hidden wonders.

Explore Istanbul's Maritime Heritage and Royal Splendor: Naval Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace

Naval Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace are two of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul that showcase the city's rich maritime heritage and royal splendor. These two sites offer a glimpse into Turkey’s fascinating history, architecture, art, and culture. Here are some things you need to know about these attractions.

Interactive Exhibits at Naval Museum

The Naval Museum is located in the Besiktas district of Istanbul on the shores of Bosphorus. The museum features interactive exhibits that highlight Turkey's naval history, including models of ships, weapons, uniforms, maps, photographs, paintings, medals, documents and much more. Visitors can learn about Turkey's maritime past dating back to ancient times through modern-day achievements. One of the highlights of the museum is getting to see one of the world's oldest surviving warships - TCG Uluçalireis submarine - which was built in 1936.

Royal Splendor at Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace is a magnificent palace located on the European side of Istanbul near Besiktas district. It served as the main administrative center for Ottoman sultans during their last years in power before they were replaced by Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The palace boasts grand architecture with over 285 rooms adorned with lavish furnishings such as crystal chandeliers, gold leaf ceilings, silk carpets from Hereke and stunning art galleries featuring works by famous artists like Ivan Aivazovsky.

Istanbul Museum Pass

Visitors who want to explore both these attractions can purchase an Istanbul Museum Pass which allows access to several museums across Istanbul including Naval Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace. The pass can be purchased online or at participating museums for up to five days' usage. This option saves time and money as it provides a discounted rate for multiple entries, which is perfect for visitors who want to explore Istanbul's rich cultural heritage.

Picturesque Views of the Bosphorus

Both attractions are located on the waters of the Bosphorus, offering picturesque views of the sea and the city. Visitors can easily navigate their way to these sites using Google Maps or by taking a leisurely walk along the waterfront. The area around these attractions is also home to several restaurants, cafes and shops where visitors can enjoy Turkish cuisine and shop for souvenirs.

bosphorus view

Experience Unique Adventures: Climb Galata Tower, Visit Eyüp Sultan Mosque, Lose Yourself in Istanbul's Bazaar District

Galata Tower, Eyüp Sultan Mosque, and Istanbul's Bazaar District are the places where you can experience unique adventures in Turkey's cultural hub, Istanbul. Climb Galata Tower to witness breathtaking views of the city from above. The tower is a perfect spot for photographers and history enthusiasts alike as it dates back to the 14th century.

Visit Eyüp Sultan Mosque to learn about Islamic culture and Ottoman history. This mosque is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Turkey and attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is believed that anyone who makes a wish at this mosque will have their prayers answered.

Lose yourself in Istanbul's Bazaar District, where you can find everything from traditional Turkish souvenirs to modern fashion items. The bazaar district is home to some of the oldest covered markets in the world, including the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. You can spend hours exploring these markets while admiring the intricate designs of Turkish carpets, ceramics, and jewelry.

Whether you're an adventurer or a history buff, Istanbul has something unique to offer everyone who visits this vibrant city. From exploring Topkapı Palace to taking a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus, there are endless opportunities for adventure and discovery.

The Chora Church (Kariye Museum) is another hidden gem worth discovering in Istanbul. This museum features Byzantine mosaics dating back to the 14th century that tell stories from both Christian and Islamic cultures.

Naval Museum and Dolmabahçe Palace are two other must-see attractions that showcase Istanbul's maritime heritage and royal splendor. The Naval Museum displays artifacts from Turkey's naval history while Dolmabahçe Palace offers visitors an inside look at how Ottoman rulers lived during their reign.

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