What to Do in Istanbul
Collected by Tommy Alexander, AFAR Staff
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Walk into Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) and look up to the heavens to see why so many conquerors and their respective religions claimed this basilica turned mosque turned museum as their own. Visitors will swoon over the Byzantine gilded mosaics,...
İstiklal Cd., Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The lifeblood of modern Istanbul is the two-mile-long pedestrian street Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), running from Taksim Square to the Tünel train station. It's equal parts touristy and local, commerce and culture, and strolling down...
Kuzguncuk Mahallesi, Kuzguncuk Çarşısı Cd. No:7, 34674 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey
On the Asian side, south of the First Bosphorus Bridge, Kuzguncuk is a charming detour from the well-worn tourist trail and easily combined with a visit to nearby Beylerbeyi Palace. The neighborhood's multicultural past is very much present,...
Salacak Mahallesi, Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, 34668 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey
The Maiden’s Tower, which seemingly floats in the Bosphorus off Asia, is one of the more popular symbols of the city. Once a Byzantine tollbooth and later an Ottoman lighthouse, it’s most famous for a legend involving a princess and a prophecy...
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Adorned with more than 20,000 blue handcrafted İznik tiles, stained-glass windows, and the golden brushstrokes of a 17th-century calligrapher, the Blue Mosque is the legacy of Sultan Ahmet I (1590–1617). The young sultan audaciously wished...
Sultan Ahmet Parkı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
When the sun finally dips behind the minaret skyline and the moon starts to rise, Sultanahmet Park—between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia—brightens up with a colourful lighting display. In summer enjoy the show by savoring a creamy Turkish ice...
Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
If these walls could talk they’d recite plans for military campaigns and tales of love, lust and betrayal that make this former residence and imperial seat of the Ottoman Empire so intriguing. Walk the dazzling tile-and-mosaic-lined...
Beyazıt Mh., 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Soon after conquering Constantinople and defeating the Byzantines in 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II commissioned the beginnings of the Grand Bazaar to reinvigorate trade with the city. More than 550 years later, the bazaar is one of the oldest...
Büyük Valide Han Çakmakçılar Yoluşu No:31 / 82, Mercan Mahallesi, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Visiting the 17th-century Büyük Valide Han in Eminönü is my all-time favorite experience in Istanbul. It's an Ottoman inn that accommodated traveling merchants over 350 years ago and also stored the Oriental and European wares from the wooden...
Eyüp Merkez Mahallesi, 34050 Eyüp/Istanbul, Turkey
Overlooking the Golden Horn in Eyüp, Pierre Loti Hill offers a spectacular panoramic view of Istanbul's seven hills. Linger here for a while and partake in keyif—the Turkish art of idle relaxation—at one of the rustic teahouses and restaurants...
Örnektepe Mahallesi, İmrahor Cd. 7/1, 34445 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Tower over the sites of Turkey like Gulliver, from "Gulliver’s Travels" at Miniaturk. This innovative open-air amusement park, located on the Golden Horn in Sütlüce, allows you to see 1:25 scale miniature models of significant Istanbul landmarks,...
Merkez Mah., 34421 Fatih/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
There are two ways to walk up to the Galata Tower from Karakoy Tram Station: One is to follow the pedestrian traffic and ascend an uninviting steep staircase close to the tram way; the other is to take the more picturesque Kamondo (Camondo) steps...
Akbıyık Cd., 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The cobblestone Akbıyık Caddesi (Road) is one of the few places to head to for a nightcap in Sultanahmet. The street is lined with cafes and bars sporting comfy Turkish divans (cushion lounges) and chilled-out tunes. Enthusiastic staff will...
Vişnezade Mahallesi, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
This decadent palace, which overlooks the Bosphorus from the European side, holds great importance to Turkey. The late-19th-century sultans resided here and ruled the Ottoman Empire from here, and while the Turkish Republic's capital is in Ankara,...
Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
The Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and Museum of Islamic Art in the gardens of Topkapı Palace make up the trio of Istanbul Archaeology Museums. An array of permanent and temporary exhibits display items from sculptures and...
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