Best Places to visit in Istanbul

Best Places to Visit in Istanbul in 2024

Discover the charm of Istanbul with our guide to the best places to visit in this vibrant city. From the iconic Hagia Sophia and majestic Blue Mosque to the bustling Grand Bazaar and serene Bosphorus Cruise, explore the rich history, culture, and beauty of Istanbul’s top attractions. Don’t miss out on the stunning Topkapi Palace, the historic Galata Tower, and the vibrant streets of Sultanahmet. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a culture enthusiast, Istanbul offers a captivating experience for every traveler. Uncover this enchanting city’s hidden gems and must-see sights with our comprehensive list of the best places to visit in Istanbul.

My journey through Turkey culminated in Istanbul, the vibrant city I explored following a delightful vacation in Kas. Istanbul instantly captured my heart with its seamless fusion of cultural heritage and contemporary allure. Renowned for its breathtaking beauty, Istanbul is a beacon of charm and diversity. Join me as I unveil the top attractions that make Istanbul a must-visit destination.

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PIN for later reference – Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

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About Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest metropolis, stands as a dynamic center of economy, culture, and history. Tracing its origins to the 7th-century Greek settlers, Istanbul thrived as an imperial capital for over 1600 years. Originally named Byzantium in the ancient Thracian language, this city boasts a rich tapestry of heritage.

Plan your visit between April and October for optimal exploration, allowing a minimum of three days to immerse yourself in Istanbul’s myriad attractions fully.

Tip: Carry a scarf to cover your head while entering the mosques.

Fun fact: While Istanbul is undoubtedly Turkey’s most renowned city, it’s not the capital; that title belongs to Ankara. Despite not holding the official capital status, Istanbul remains Turkey’s cultural, historical, and economic heart, captivating visitors with its rich tapestry of heritage and vibrant atmosphere.

Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

When visiting mosques, it’s essential to adhere to specific guidelines:

  • Remember to bring a headscarf to cover your head before entering the mosque.
  • Wear modest and non-revealing attire out of respect for the religious environment.
  • Opt for morning visits to mosques to avoid crowds and maximize your time exploring other attractions in Istanbul.
  • Feel free to capture photographs of the mosque’s architectural beauty, but refrain from taking pictures of individuals engaged in prayer.

In addition to Istanbul’s iconic attractions, don’t miss out on the charming old cafes scattered throughout the city. Fun fact: The café culture in Istanbul dates back to the Ottoman era.

While Istanbul may lean toward conservatism, the city boasts a vibrant nightlife scene, including fantastic nightclubs and open-air rooftop bars. Here’s your guide to experiencing the best of Istanbul’s nightlife.

The Blue Mosque

Built between 1609 and 1616, the Blue Mosque, officially known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a historical gem from the Ottoman era. As part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this imperial mosque is renowned for its stunning hand-painted blue tiles adorning the interior walls.

  • Visitors should note that access to the mosque is restricted 30 minutes before prayer times, with Friday prayers extending into the afternoon, during which entry is prohibited.
  • Entrance to the mosque is free of charge, and it is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except during prayer times.

As of January 2023, the Blue Mosque is undergoing renovations, limiting access to only the women’s prayer hall for visitors.

The Blue Mosque Istanbul
The Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia Mosque

Originally constructed as an Eastern Orthodox Church, the Hagia Sophia Mosque is a cultural and historical significance cornerstone. Built adjacent to the Blue Mosque between 532 and 537 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, it was initially named the Church of the Holy Wisdom, showcasing the pinnacle of Byzantine architecture. In 1453, Mehmed the Conqueror transformed it into a mosque.

  • Visitors should anticipate lengthy queues, particularly on weekends and holidays.
  • Admission to the Hagia Sophia Mosque is free of charge, and it is open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM.
Hagia Sophia Mosque Istanbul
Hagia Sophia Mosque

Basilica Cistern

Constructed during the rule of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, the Basilica Cistern stands as the largest among Istanbul’s ancient cisterns.

For a quieter experience, consider visiting the Basilica Cistern in the late afternoon to avoid crowds.

  • Admission to the Basilica Cistern is priced at 28 Euros and is open daily from 9 AM to 10 PM.

This historic site has also been a backdrop for numerous Hollywood films, including “Inferno” and the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love.”

Basilica Cistern Istanbul
Basilica Cistern

Topkapi Palace and Museum

As a prominent residence of Ottoman sultans and a central administrative hub of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapi Palace and Museum is a captivating destination for visitors. Originally named the New Palace, it acquired the moniker “Topkapi” in the 19th century.

To streamline your visit, purchasing tickets in advance online is advisable to bypass lengthy queues at the ticketing counter.

  • Admission to the Topkapi Palace and Museum is priced at 35 Euros (or 200 Turkish Lira per person), with an additional ticket required for access to the Harem at 100 Turkish Lira per person.
  • Operating hours vary seasonally, with summer timings from 9 AM to 6 PM and winter timings from 9 AM to 4:45 PM, except on Tuesdays when the palace and museum are closed.
  • Plan a visit lasting at least 3 to 4 hours to fully explore the palace and museum grounds.
Topkapi Palace and Museum Istanbul
Topkapi Palace and Museum

Galata Tower

Originally constructed as a watchtower, the Galata Tower is a historic Genoese structure repurposed today as an exhibition space and museum.

For a more serene experience, consider visiting the Galata Tower in the morning to avoid crowds.

  • Admission to the tower is priced at 175 Turkish Lira per person.
  • The Galata Tower welcomes visitors daily from 8:30 AM to 10 PM.

Museum of Innocence

Established by the renowned novelist Orhan Pamuk, the Museum of Innocence is a unique cultural institution dedicated to the narrative of two upper-class Istanbul families. Pamuk authored the novel of the same name in conjunction with the museum, intricately intertwining the museum’s displays with the story’s themes.

Centered on the tale of Kemal, an affluent young man from Istanbul who becomes enamoured with his less privileged cousin Fusun, the museum showcases artifacts that symbolize their romantic journey.

  • Admission to the Museum of Innocence is priced at 65 Turkish Lira per person.
  • Operating hours are from 10 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday through Sunday.

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

As Turkey’s inaugural museum, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts showcases artifacts spanning 1400 years of history. Renowned for its exquisite collection, the museum boasts rare and stunning tiles, rugs, and calligraphy examples.

  • Admission to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is 100 Turkish Lira per person.
  • Visiting hours are from 9 AM to 6:30 PM daily.

Grand Bazaar

Boasting over 4000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest and oldest markets, offering many goods. You’ll find everything under the sun within its bustling lanes, from souvenirs to spices.

Remember to haggle with the vendors when shopping at the Grand Bazaar and avoid accepting their initial prices.

  • There is no entrance fee to explore the Grand Bazaar, which welcomes visitors from 8:30 AM to 7 PM, Monday through Saturday. The market is closed on Sundays.
Grand Bazaar Istanbul
Grand Bazaar

How to Get to Istanbul?

By Air

Two major airports serve Istanbul:

  • Ataturk Airport: Located approximately 25 kilometers from the city center, Ataturk Airport is the closer of the two airports.
  • Sabiha Gokcen Airport: Situated around 35 kilometers from the city center, Sabiha Gokcen Airport is another significant airport serving Istanbul.

Istanbul International Airport (Ataturk Airport) is a major hub for domestic and international flights, facilitating travel to and from the vibrant city.

Both airports are roughly 30 minutes apart, and convenient shuttle buses operate between them, providing seamless connectivity for travelers.

Istanbul International Airport, or Ataturk Airport, is a prominent global hub and transit point, servicing many airline providers. Major carriers, such as Turkish Airlines and Indigo, operate extensively from this bustling airport, connecting travelers to destinations worldwide.

By Bus or Train

Numerous frequent bus services offer connections between Istanbul and various other European cities.

For rail travel, the Istanbul-Sofia Express is the primary train service linking Istanbul (Turkey) with Sofia (Bulgaria), with a convenient connection at Dimitrovgrad for travelers bound for Bucharest (Romania).

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Where to Stay in Istanbul?

Crowne Plaza Istanbul

Situated close to the Old Istanbul and Grand Bazaar, Crowne Plaza Istanbul is convenient and has good amenities. The hotel has a spa, in-house restaurant, gym and an indoor pool.

Click here to check availability and prices on Booking.com

Crowne Plaza Istanbul
Crowne Plaza Istanbul

Ramada Plaza Sultanahmet

Another centrally located accommodation in Istanbul is the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Sultanahmet. It is around 500 metres from Grand Bazaar and offers a rooftop bar and restaurant, with a relaxing hammam and sauna.

Click here to check availability and prices on Booking.com

 

Is Istanbul Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Istanbul is exceptionally safe for solo female travelers. Having explored the city solo and with a companion, I can confidently attest to its welcoming atmosphere. The locals are amiable and helpful, ensuring a pleasant experience for all visitors. While Istanbul’s beauty is captivating, it’s essential to exercise caution and remain aware of your surroundings, particularly at night, as you would in any other city worldwide.

Closing Notes

Istanbul left an indelible impression on me; its vibrant atmosphere and enchanting sights made for an unforgettable experience. Every moment in Istanbul was a treasure, from the captivating attractions to the delectable cuisine. I wholeheartedly endorse adding Istanbul to your travel bucket list—you won’t regret it!

Have you had the chance to explore any of these incredible places in Istanbul? Share your experiences by writing to me at Solopassport@gmail.com.

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    PIN for later reference – Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

    PIN for later reference - Best Places to visit in Istanbul
    PIN for later reference – Best Places to Visit in Istanbul