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What to See in Istanbul 2023: 22 Must-Visit Spots!

Are you planning a trip to Istanbul and wondering what to see in this vibrant city? Look no further! Istanbul is a city that offers an array of tourist attractions, from historical sights such as Sultanahmet Square to bustling nightlife in Taksim Square and Beyoglu's Istiklal Street.


Start your sightseeing journey by exploring Taksim Square and Beyoglu, popular areas for tourists. Guided tours are available to help navigate the bustling streets so you can make the most out of your visit. Don't forget to visit the magnificent Topkapı Palace and Süleymaniye Mosque, and take a relaxing break at Gülhane Park.



If shopping, dining, and experiencing Turkish culture is on your list of tourist attractions, then Istiklal Street (Istiklal Caddesi) in Beyoglu, close to Taksim Square and Sultanahmet Square, is a must-visit destination. Take a walking tour down this lively street and immerse yourself in the local culture.


Don't forget to explore the top tourist attractions in Istanbul, such as Taksim Square and Topkapı Palace. And while you're at it, don't miss trying delicious Turkish cuisine! A food tour is an excellent way to sample local dishes, with Kadıköy Sineması and Beyoglu being top spots for foodies.


Whether you have one day or seven days in Istanbul, there are plenty of tourist attractions and tours to explore. From the vibrant Taksim district to the delicious Turkish food, there is something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of this beautiful city.


Visit the Iconic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Marvel at the Stunning Architecture of Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

Two landmarks that should be on every traveler's list are the iconic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. These beautiful mosques are not only architectural marvels but also hold significant cultural and historical importance, making them perfect for sightseeing. Visitors can also explore the museums within these landmarks or take a walking tour of the area with guided tours available.


The Hagia Sophia, also known as Aya Sofya, is a must-see sightseeing destination in the old city of Istanbul, Europe. Originally built as a Byzantine church in 537 AD, it was later converted into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. Today, it is a museum that offers guided tours to millions of visitors every year.


One of the most striking features of Aya Sofya, also known as Hagia Sophia, in the old city is its massive dome, which measures around 100 feet in diameter and towers over 180 feet above the ground. The dome rests on four piers and forty arched windows that flood the interior with light. Visitors can admire the intricate mosaics and frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings of this impressive structure while sightseeing. Nearby, one can also visit the Blue Mosque for more breathtaking sights.

One of the highlights of a visit to the museum inside Hagia Sophia is the Deesis mosaic located above the imperial door. It depicts Christ flanked by Mary and John the Baptist, who are pleading to save humanity from judgment day. The mosaic is considered one of the finest examples of Byzantine art and is a must-see on any tour of the museum.

Admire Six Minarets And Cascading Domes Of Blue Mosque

Another stunning mosque worth visiting in Istanbul is the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. This beautiful mosque, one of the highlights of a day tour in Istanbul, got its name from its blue-tiled interior walls that feature over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles. It's not just a mosque, but also a museum that showcases the rich history and culture of Turkey.


The mosque, which was built between 1609-1616 during Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I's reign to rival neighboring Hagia Sophia's grandeur, is now open for visitors to tour as a museum during the day. The architecture features cascading domes topped with six minarets arranged symmetrically around its central dome, making it a must-visit destination for those interested in history and culture.


Visitors can take a tour of this active mosque any day to admire its exquisite beauty up close. The mosque's interior is spacious and well-lit, with stained glass windows that create a colorful ambiance inside. If you are interested in Islamic art, this mosque museum is definitely worth a visit. Don't forget to take off your shoes before entering the address!


Learn About the Rich History and Cultural Significance of These Two Landmarks

Visiting Hagia Sophia museum and Blue Mosque tour is not just about admiring their architectural beauty but also learning about their rich history and cultural significance. Make sure to plan your day ahead and check the address before visiting.

Hagia Sophia, located at its historical address in Istanbul, has been witness to several significant events in the city's history. As the largest church in Christendom for over 900 years, it remains one of the best things to tour and visit today. After the Ottoman conquest, it served as the main mosque of Istanbul and continues to be a symbol of religious tolerance and unity between different cultures.


Similarly, Blue Mosque holds great importance in Turkey's Islamic culture. It was built during a time when Istanbul was an important center of Islamic art and architecture. Its six minarets represent Sultan Ahmed I's desire to make it one of the most magnificent mosques in the world. If you're planning to visit Istanbul, make sure to include a tour of the Blue Mosque in your itinerary. It's a perfect place to spend a day exploring the rich history and culture of Turkey. The address of the mosque is Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey.


Marvel at the Splendor of Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace

Explore the Magnificent Ottoman Palaces

If you're planning a day tour to visit Istanbul, look no further than the magnificent palaces that dot the city. Two of the most impressive are Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace, both of which offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Ottoman sultans.


Topkapi Palace: A Window into Ottoman History

Topkapi Palace is a sprawling complex that was once home to generations of sultans and their families. Today, it's one of Istanbul's top tourist attractions, drawing visitors from around the world who come to marvel at its intricate architecture and learn about Ottoman history.


As you tour Topkapi Palace, you'll find yourself transported back in time to an era when sultans ruled with absolute power and luxury was taken for granted. Highlights of your visit include a day spent exploring the palace's many treasures.

  • The Harem: Visitors can tour this section of the palace during the day, where they can admire stunning tilework, ornate furnishings, beautiful gardens, and catch a glimpse of the sultan's wives and concubines.

  • The Treasury: Here you'll find some of the most valuable objects in Turkey, including jewel-encrusted swords, golden thrones, and priceless works of art. Take a tour any day to see these treasures up close.

  • The Imperial Council Chamber: This room, which is a must-see on any tour of Ottoman history, was where important decisions were made during the height of Ottoman power. Its walls are adorned with intricate tilework depicting scenes from court life.

In addition to these highlights, there are dozens of other rooms and courtyards to explore on a tour at Topkapi Palace. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to take it all in!


Dolmabahçe Palace: A European-Inspired Masterpiece

While Topkapi Palace is a testament to traditional Ottoman style, Dolmabahçe Palace represents something entirely different. Built in the 19th century, this stunning palace was designed to reflect European tastes and sensibilities. If you're planning a tour, make sure to add Dolmabahçe Palace to your itinerary.

As you tour through Dolmabahçe Palace, you'll be struck by its grandeur and elegance. Highlights of the tour include:

  • The Crystal Staircase: This breathtaking staircase, made entirely of Baccarat crystal, is a must-see on the tour and leads up to the ceremonial hall.

  • The Ceremonial Hall is a must-see on any palace tour, with its massive chandelier weighing over 4.5 tons.

  • The Harem: Like Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe has a harem section that was once home to the sultan's wives and concubines. It features beautiful tilework, ornate furnishings, and stunning views of the Bosphorus.

In addition to these highlights, there are dozens of other rooms and galleries to explore at Dolmabahçe Palace. Whether you're interested in Ottoman history or simply appreciate beautiful architecture, this palace is not to be missed.


Other Must-See Sights Near Topkapi Palace

While you're in the area visiting Topkapi Palace, be sure to check out some of Istanbul's other top attractions as well. Here are a few suggestions:


gulhane park

Gülhane Park: A Serene Oasis in the Heart of Istanbul

Located right next to Topkapi Palace, Gülhane Park offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul's busy streets. This beautifully landscaped park features gardens, fountains, and walking paths where you can relax and enjoy nature.


Süleymaniye Mosque: A Masterpiece of Ottoman Architecture

One of Istanbul's largest mosques, Süleymaniye Mosque is an impressive sight that shouldn't be missed. Built in the 16th century by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, it features intricate tilework, soaring domes, and beautiful courtyards.


Galata Bridge and Tower: Panoramic Views of the City

For breathtaking views of Istanbul's skyline, head to Galata Bridge and Tower. From here, you can see everything from the city's ancient walls to its modern skyscrapers. Be sure to try some Turkish delight while you're there!

If you're wondering what to see in Istanbul, be sure to add Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace to your list. These magnificent palaces offer a glimpse into Turkey's rich history and culture, and are not to be missed. And while you're in the area, don't forget to explore some of Istanbul's other top attractions as well!


Explore Underground at the Basilica Cistern

A Glimpse of Istanbul's History and Architecture

Istanbul is a city that has been shaped by its rich history, and one of the best ways to explore it is through the Basilica Cistern. This underground building from the 5th century CE is not only an engineering marvel but also a testament to Istanbul's architectural heritage.


Discover the Intricate Interior and Tilework

The interior of the Basilica Cistern is impressive, with its massive columns, brick arches, and intricate tilework. The cistern was built to store water for the city's inhabitants during times of drought or siege. It was named after the basilica that once stood on this site, which was destroyed during riots in 532 CE.

As you walk through the cistern's dimly lit corridors, you'll be surrounded by rows of columns that seem to stretch into infinity. The sound of dripping water echoes throughout the space, creating an eerie atmosphere that adds to its mystique.


Church Frescoes and Egyptian Obelisk Inside

One of the most striking features of the cistern is its collection of church frescoes. These ancient works of art depict religious scenes and figures from Christianity, including medallions with images of Jesus Christ. You'll also find an Egyptian obelisk inside, which was brought to Istanbul during Roman times.

The obelisk stands tall in one corner of the cistern, surrounded by water that reflects its image like a mirror. It's hard not to be awed by this ancient artifact and imagine what life must have been like when it was first erected over 3,500 years ago.


Take a Short Walk on Ground Level

After exploring the interior of the cistern, take a short walk on ground level to witness its waters and walls up close. The water level fluctuates depending on the season, but you'll always be able to see the fish that swim among its columns.

The walls of the cistern are also worth a closer look. They're made of brick and mortar, with occasional niches that once held oil lamps. The soft glow of these lamps would have illuminated the space in ancient times, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that's hard to replicate today.


A Great Spot for History and Architecture Enthusiasts

Overall, the Basilica Cistern is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Istanbul's history and architecture. Its underground location makes it a unique experience, while its impressive tilework and ancient artifacts provide insight into the city's past.

Whether you're exploring Istanbul for the first time or returning for another visit, don't miss out on this incredible spot. The Basilica Cistern is truly one of Istanbul's hidden gems, waiting to be discovered by curious travelers like you.


Pera Museum: A Haven for Modern Art Lovers

If you're an art enthusiast, the Pera Museum is a must-visit destination in Istanbul. The museum boasts an extensive collection of modern art pieces from both local and international artists. You'll find works by famous artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet alongside contemporary Turkish artwork.


One of the most significant collections at the Pera Museum is the Orientalist Paintings exhibit. This display features paintings that depict Ottoman-era life, culture, and landscapes. Visitors can admire vividly detailed scenes of bazaars, harems, mosques, and other iconic places in Istanbul.

The building itself is also worth admiring as it's an excellent example of neoclassical architecture. It was once a hotel built-in 1893 but has since been renovated to become one of Turkey's leading cultural centers.


Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts: A Must-Visit for History Buffs

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts offers visitors a glimpse into Turkey's rich history through its vast collection of artifacts. The exhibits showcase various aspects of Ottoman life such as clothing, weaponry, ceramics, calligraphy, and more.

One highlight is the carpet gallery which displays some of the world's oldest carpets dating back to the 13th century. These carpets are incredibly intricate with unique designs that reflect different regions' cultures across Turkey.

Another fascinating exhibit is the Islamic calligraphy section which showcases beautifully written Quranic verses on paper or ceramics plates by skilled artisans over centuries.

Visitors can also enjoy interactive exhibits such as virtual reality experiences where they can explore ancient Ottoman palaces or try their hand at traditional crafts like pottery making or weaving.


Exploring Asian Side with Family to Immerse in Culture & Era

While Istanbul's European side may be more popular among tourists, the Asian side offers a unique cultural experience that's worth exploring. The Kadikoy neighborhood is a bustling hub of activity with lively markets, restaurants, and cafes.

One must-visit spot is the Haydarpasa Train Station which dates back to 1908 and served as the gateway between Istanbul and Baghdad. It's an excellent example of early 20th-century architecture and has been featured in several movies.

Another attraction on the Asian side is the Maiden's Tower located on an islet at the entrance of Bosphorus Strait. According to legend, a sultan built it to protect his daughter from a prophecy that claimed she would be bitten by a venomous snake. Visitors can take a boat ride to reach this iconic landmark and enjoy stunning views of Istanbul's skyline.


Shop at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar

A Shopper's Paradise: Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar

Istanbul is a shopper's paradise, and there is no better place to experience this than at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. These bazaars are among the oldest covered markets in the world, with a history dating back to the 15th century. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest indoor marketplaces in the world, with over 4,000 shops spread across 61 streets. Meanwhile, the Spice Bazaar is known for its fragrant spices and herbal remedies.


Wide Range of Goods: Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar

At these bazaars, you can find almost anything your heart desires. From traditional Turkish carpets to handmade ceramics, jewelry to leather goods, spices to teas - you name it! The sheer variety of goods on offer here can be overwhelming for first-time visitors.

One of the best things about shopping at these bazaars is that you get to interact with local merchants who are passionate about their craft. They will happily answer any questions you have about their products or even give you a demonstration on how they were made.


Traditional Turkish Candy: A Must-Try!

While strolling through these bazaars, don't forget to try some traditional Turkish candy. You'll find vendors selling all kinds of sweet treats like lokum (Turkish delight), baklava (a sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and honey), and helva (a sweet confection made from tahini). These candies are perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth while exploring these bustling markets.


Skip The Ticket Lines: Step Back In Time At The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is not just a shopping destination; it's also an important historical site in Istanbul. This sprawling complex was once home to the ancient chariot races and has been a center of trade for centuries. Skip the ticket lines and step back in time as you explore the labyrinthine alleys and streets of this historic landmark.


Delicious Local Cuisine: Grand Bazaar And Spice Bazaar Restaurants

After all that walking, you're bound to get hungry. Luckily, both bazaars are home to some fantastic restaurants serving up delicious local cuisine. From traditional kebabs to fresh seafood, there's something for everyone here. One popular spot is Pandeli, located inside the Spice Bazaar, which has been serving up classic Ottoman dishes since 1901.


Experience Unique Istanbul: Chora Church, Ortaköy Mosque, Üsküdar District, Yedikule, Galata Tower, Hippodrome, Walls of Constantinople, Rumeli Fortress, Cruise the Bosphorus Strait


Byzantine Architecture at Its Finest: Chora Church

If you're looking for a stunning example of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul's historic city center, look no further than the Chora Church. Originally built as a monastery in the 5th century AD and then converted into a church in the 14th century AD by the Byzantines, this beautiful structure boasts intricate mosaics and frescoes that depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. The building's exterior is also impressive with its red brick facade and ornate dome.


A Picturesque Mosque on the Bosphorus Strait: Ortaköy Mosque

Located on the European side of Istanbul along the Bosphorus Strait is Ortaköy Mosque. This picturesque mosque offers visitors stunning views of both the strait and nearby Bosphorus Bridge. The mosque itself was built in neo-baroque style during the Ottoman era and features a large central dome surrounded by four smaller domes. Surrounding it is an open-air market where visitors can find souvenirs or enjoy some traditional Turkish street food.


Explore Üsküdar District on Istanbul's Asian Side

For a more laid-back experience away from Istanbul's bustling city center, head over to Üsküdar district on Istanbul's Asian side. This charming area offers beautiful views of old city landmarks like Hagia Sophia while still retaining its own unique character. Stroll along its narrow streets lined with cafes or take a walk down to its waterfront promenade for panoramic views of Istanbul's skyline.


Ancient Fortress near Sea of Marmara: Yedikule

History buffs will appreciate visiting Yedikule - an ancient fortress located near the Sea of Marmara. Built during the Byzantine era, this impressive structure boasts massive walls and towers that are still mostly intact today. The fortress was used as a prison during Ottoman times and visitors can explore its dark dungeons to see where prisoners were once kept.


Medieval Tower with Panoramic Views: Galata Tower

For some of the best panoramic views of Istanbul's skyline, head over to Galata Tower in the heart of Istanbul. This medieval tower was built by the Genoese in the 14th century AD and offers visitors breathtaking views of both the city and Bosphorus Strait from its observation deck. Visitors can also enjoy a meal at its rooftop restaurant while taking in the view.


Witness Ancient Chariot Races at Hippodrome

If you're interested in ancient history, be sure to visit Hippodrome - an ancient chariot racing arena located in Sultanahmet Square. Built by Emperor Septimius Severus in 203 AD, this historic site played host to many important events throughout Byzantine history such as coronations and public executions. Today, visitors can see remnants of its original structures like Obelisk of Theodosius or Serpent Column.


Walk Along Walls That Have Stood for Centuries: Walls of Constantinople

The Walls of Constantinople are another must-see attraction for history buffs visiting Istanbul. These massive walls were built by Emperor Constantine I in 324 AD to protect his new capital city against invaders. Over time they were expanded upon by other emperors until they reached their current size - nearly 6 miles long with more than 100 towers! Visitors can walk along these walls which have stood for centuries and admire their impressive construction.


Explore Rumeli Fortress on Bosphorus Strait

Located on the European side of Istanbul along the Bosphorus Strait is Rumeli Fortress. This Ottoman-era fortress was built in just four months in 1452 by Sultan Mehmed II to help him capture Constantinople from the Byzantines.


Make the Most of Your Time in Istanbul

If you're wondering what to see in Istanbul, you're in for a treat. This vibrant city is full of history, culture, and stunning architecture that will leave you breathless. To make the most of your time here, we've compiled a list of must-see attractions that will give you a taste of everything Istanbul has to offer.


Visit the Iconic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque

No trip to Istanbul is complete without visiting these two iconic landmarks. The Hagia Sophia was once a church, then a mosque, and now a museum. Its stunning domes and intricate mosaics are truly awe-inspiring. The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is famous for its six minarets and blue tiles that adorn its interior walls.


Marvel at the Splendor of Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace

Topkapi Palace was once home to Ottoman sultans and their families. Today it's a museum where visitors can explore its opulent rooms filled with treasures from the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahçe Palace is another impressive palace on the Bosphorus shore that boasts European-style architecture with Turkish elements.


Explore Underground at the Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is an underground water reservoir built during Byzantine times. It's an eerie but fascinating place to visit with its columns rising out of water and dimly lit atmosphere.


Get Artsy at the Pera Museum and Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

For art lovers, Pera Museum offers exhibitions ranging from Orientalist paintings to contemporary art pieces while Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts showcases traditional arts such as calligraphy, ceramics, textiles among others.


Shop at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world offering anything from jewelry to carpets, spices to souvenirs. Spice Bazaar is another market where you can find a variety of spices, Turkish delights and other sweets.


Experience Unique Istanbul

Apart from the main attractions above, there are many other unique places to visit in Istanbul such as Chora Church with its stunning mosaics, Ortaköy Mosque with its picturesque location on the Bosphorus shore, Üsküdar District with its Ottoman architecture and lively food scene, Yedikule dungeons that date back to Byzantine times, Galata Tower offering panoramic views of the city, Hippodrome showcasing ancient chariot races and Walls of Constantinople & Rumeli Fortress that once protected the city from invaders. A cruise on the Bosphorus Strait is another experience not to be missed.


In conclusion, Istanbul has so much to offer that it's impossible to see everything in one trip. However, by visiting these must-see attractions above you'll get a taste of what makes this city so special. Don't forget to try some traditional Turkish cuisine along your way!


FAQs

Q1: What's the best time of year to visit Istanbul?

A: The best time of year to visit Istanbul is during spring (April-May) or autumn (September-November) when temperatures are mild and crowds are fewer than summer months.


Q2: Is it safe for tourists in Istanbul?

A: Yes, generally speaking it's safe for tourists in Istanbul but as with any big city travelers should take precautions such as avoiding unfamiliar areas at night and keeping an eye on their belongings.


Q3: How do I get around Istanbul?

A: Public transportation options include metro lines, buses and ferries. Taxis are also available but make sure they use a meter before getting in.


Q4: Are credit cards widely accepted in Istanbul?

A: Yes, credit cards are widely accepted especially at hotels and restaurants but it's always a good idea to have some cash on hand for smaller purchases.


Q5: What are the dress codes for visiting mosques in Istanbul?

A: Visitors should dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering mosques. Women should cover their heads with a scarf and wear long skirts or pants, while men should avoid shorts and sleeveless shirts.

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