A city as huge as Istanbul deserves to be explored to the fullest extent and if you are not sure where to begin your exploration from, we’ll share some of the must see places that you need to check out before leaving the city divided between two continents! Istanbul, which is currently the largest city in Europe and previously known as the center of the Ottoman Empire is situated on both sides of the Bosphorus, has been the bridge between Europe and Asia for centuries. Istanbul is a place that blends its historic roots and modernity effortlessly, creating an interesting destination with much to offer visitors from around the world.
The vast majority of Istanbul's famous attractions may be found here, in the city's touristic center. You'll find plenty of things to do, see and eat to keep you busy here, including the breath-taking Aya Sofia, the magnificence of the Topkapi Palace, and the aroma of Turkish street food filling the air is just going to be something you’ll definitely enjoy as you continue to fall in love with Turkish cuisine. Don’t forget to stuff yourself with Turkish delight as well. Hagia Sophia needs no introduction as it is a world famous attraction already. The enormous structure was opened in 537 by Emperor Justinian and constructed over two previous churches. Hagia Sophia was intended to be the most magnificent and majestic building ever built as a tribute to God.
In the wake of the Ottoman invasion of Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was transformed from a church to a mosque. Up until 1935, the structure served as a mosque before being transformed into a museum. The Hagia Sophia lost its status as a museum on July 10, 2020, and was converted back into a mosque. Recently, the Blue Mosque has also reopened fully to the public after 5 years of restorations and it is absolutely stunning from inside! Don’t forget to try the dried fruits sold in various shops dedicated to selling just that! You’ll definitely enjoy trying the unique varieties that can be found in Turkish nut shops.
Another one of Istanbul's top attractions is the Basilica Cistern, a sizable underground water storage facility. Possibly the most peculiar site in the city, it is a magnificent display of Byzantine engineering. The awe-inspiring architecture and vast interior of the cistern offer a welcome respite in the summer. The entrance to the Basilica Cistern of Istanbul is across the street from the Hagi Sophia. This huge underground water container was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in 532 to meet the water needs of the Great Palace. This great feat of engineering only confirms yet again that those were the peak times of the Byzantine Empire with such architectural marvels being built. The Grand Bazaar, which has more than 4,000 stores offering jewelry, lanterns, rugs, leather goods, hookah, ceramics, and other items, is the biggest market in Istanbul and, according to some estimates, the biggest covered market in the world, is also one of the many historical sites you should have on your bucket list.
There are plenty of other marvels that may be recent, as recent as the 19th century, that you can find on the European side of Istanbul, wherever you may go.Istiklal Street is Istanbul's primary center if Taksim Square is its beating heart. One of the nicest things to do while visiting in Istanbul is to take a stroll down the street that was originally known as the "Grande Rue de Pera.” You’ll find many bars and restaurants on this avenue that can be the perfect places to be at on a weekend! Istiklal Street is a pedestrian-only street that is bustling with people during the day for shopping and with people at night for entertainment. If you’re searching for great views along the Bosphorus Strait then you can check out Bebek and also visit the Rumeli Fortress that is located on the narrowest part of the Bosphorus and was built more than 700 years ago!
The Dolmabahce Palace has been described as one of the most luxurious and picturesque places in the city to visit as a tourist. Turkey's most grand palace, constructed in the 19th century using 14 tons of gold leaf, combines traditional Ottoman design with Neoclassical, Baroque, and Rococo European architectural styles. Six Ottoman sultans lived there from 1856 to 1924, and Queen Victoria gave it the largest Bohemian crystal chandelier in the world as a gift. The Dolmabahce Palace was constructed along the Bosphorus seashore, which makes for a spectacular site but be advised that the entry fee is quite steep per person and if you’re traveling with your family then it’s best to admire it just from outside.
Being a wise tourist in 2023 is definitely advised and a must if you want to avoid being scammed and don’t want to pay exorbitant amounts so skip that Bosphorus Tour Cruise and hop on a public ferry that’s equally good but costs you less than 25 TL (two ways). The most affordable and exciting way to admire the brilliant skyline of Istanbul and the wonderful old and new architectural marvels that line the cityscape on the European and Asian sides is by taking such a ferry while also enjoying snacks and drinks, live music, and clean facilities onboard!
Istanbul has some of the best modes of public transportation you’ll find in this part of the world so take full advantage and have a great time without worrying about the cost! Just like how it is in any major city in the world, restaurants near touristy sites are designed to charge more and offer subpar food to their customers solely because of their close proximity to a well known attraction but if you are looking for a proper dining experience and don’t want to be unsatisfied with what you order and eat then scroll down through the alleys and see places wherever you see a line or people waiting! Definitely don’t forget to check out the Golden Horn while you are here as well!
If you are a museum lover then Istanbul is the city for you! There are several museums in the city that are dedicated to a wide range of things and amongst them, if you prefer to know more about the topic then the Istanbul Archeology Museum is worth a trip! It is one of the more decent museums open in Istanbul and something many people definitely seem to enjoy visiting while on their trip to Istanbul! The ancient orient’s charm can be found on every street corner and if you’re looking to take some Instagram worthy pictures in front of stained glass windows and beautiful ceramic tiles then visit the Palaces along the Asian side or the wonderful neighborhoods on the European side. You can also admire the sunset from the Galata Bridge as you scroll down the bridge and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Istanbul!