Istanbul is a magnificent city with so much to see and do and so much history. It has long been on the crossroad and in the center of civilizations and empires. While much has been written on Turkey's fabled cuisine, here we will focus on what to do in Istanbul. Istanbul is the ancient Roman and Byzantine city of Constantinople (although Turks don't like it if you call the city by its old name). You could just lose yourself in this stunning city for weeks, it just has everything.


The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the central attractions of Istanbul. It is full of so many exotic and unique whares and goods. This is a must-see for every visitor. It has been a bazaar since the end of the Byzantine period in 1455. Here there is an unimaginable amount of Turkish rugs and carpets to buy (maybe you would like to take them on a magic carpet ride?). You can buy just about anything in this bazaar, including a dizzying array of kinds of tea.

  • Number Of Shops: Over 4,000
  • Number Of Covered Streets: 61
  • Number Of Annual Visitors: 91,250,000

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagi Sophia was built as a church by Emperor Justinian I way back in 532-537. This monumental work of the ancient world was redesignated as a mosque in 1453. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the funding of Turkey as a secular state, it became a museum in 1935 and then redesignated as a mosque again in 2020. Today you can see Islamic writings inside the building as well as vintage Christian paintings.

  • Admission Fee: Since Becoming A Mosque In 2020 Admission Is Free
  • Respect: As A Mosque There Should Be No Shorts And Women Should Cover Their Heads
  • Age: Almost 1,500 Years

Moda And Kadikoy

Kadikoy is a very beautiful part of Istanbul on the Asain side of the Bosphorus. This part of the city feels much more like many of the old cities of Mediterranean Europe. This is also home to come of the most liberal and progressive Turks and so it feels very open and relaxed. This is also a favorite location for filming Turkish movies due to the beautiful architecture.

Kadikoy also boasts some of Istanbul's best waterfront. And it faces directly to the old city of Istanbul. Here you can sit on the waterfront and watch the sunset over the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. You can watch the innumerable ferries zip back and forth across the Bosphorus and the many large cargo ships travel up and down the Bosphorus.

The Ferries

Speaking of ferries. These ferries offer some of the best sightseeing in the city of Istanbul. On popular routes, these ferries are leaving every 15 or 20 minutes at peak times. They are large and very comfortable as well as punctual. It has to be one of the best and most popular ferry systems in the world.

  • How To Buy: Buy An Istanbul Card For All The City's Public Transport
  • Cost: Around 50 Cents
  • Travel Time: 20-30 Minutes Depending On Route

Related: 10 Reasons Why Turkey Is Super Underrated

Tower Of Galata

The Tower of Galata is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. This old Byzantine tower was completed back in 1348 and was built to help protect the seaway on Istanbul's flank. When it was first built, it was the tallest tower in Constantinople.

  • Entrance Fee: 30 Turkish Lira (About $4)
  • Summer Opening Hours: 8.30-24.00
  • Winter Opening Hours: 10.00-20.00
  • Days Open: Every day

Basilica Cisterns

The Basilica Cisterns are located close to the Hagia Sophia and were also enlarged during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in 532 AD. These cisterns enable the city of Constantinople to endure many long sieges without running out of drinking water. The Basilica Cisterns actually just the largest of hundreds of ancient cisterns located underneath this great city. Today only a small amount of water is kept in the cisterns so that tourists can see and access them.

Related: These Cities Make Turkey A Popular Tourist Destination

  • Cost Of Admission: 30 Turkish Lira (Around $4)

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque and is one of the finest mosques in the world today. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site and was built between 1609 and 1616. It is utterly stunning and mesmerizing and a testament to human engineering. As of early 2021, it is undergoing significant renovations. So while you can still visit the mosque, you can't see much inside due to the scaffolding and temporary false ceilings. It's only a short walk from the Hagia Sophia.

  • Admission Fee: Free As A Mosque
  • Respect: As A Mosque There Should Be No Shorts And Women Should Cover Their Heads

The Cats

One thing that will impress every traveler to Istanbul (especially in Kadikoy) is the sheer amount of cats. You will be able to see 5 or so cats at any one time in this city. There are also many street dogs, they are normally fat, lazy, chipped, and friendly. Istanbulers love animals and they are all fed. As you walk around the city you will see that all the dogs are fat and the streets are lined with cat food. While they are technically strays, they are better thought of as neighborhood street pets.

In short, Istanbul is bursting with things to see and do.

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