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Istanbul

Best Things to Do in Istanbul

Touring Istanbul's ornate houses of worship and palaces could keep history buffs and culture hounds busy for weeks. Most attractions are clustered in the Sultanahmet area, though areas like Beyoglu and Taksim are no less exciting. The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are essential, but simply exploring the street traffic and observing daily life here are equally fascinating. Food is a central part of the culture, so menus should be studied just as seriously as a map (which is also a must). You should certainly pick up some souvenirs at the many bazaars around town. And if you have time, stop by a Turkish hamam (bath) for a soak and a massage -- recent travelers recommend the Süleymaniye Hamam.

Tips on What To Do in Istanbul»

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How We Rank Things to Do
#1
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 5.0

Why go: Tourists flock en masse to the Hagia Sophia for its stunning architecture, glorious interior views ... read more»

#2
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) Free attraction
Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Sultan Ahmed was determined to build a mosque that rivaled the nearby Hagia Sophia and ... read more»

#3
Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi)
Museums | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: The Istanbul Archaeology Museum is a massive and fascinating place, home to more than one ... read more»

#4
Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi)
Castles/Palaces, Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: The Topkapi Palace served as home of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1856 and ... read more»

#5
Grand Bazaar Free attraction
Shopping | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.5

Why go: Located a little more than a mile west of Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar is one ... read more»

#6
Taksim Square Free attraction
Cafes, Neighborhood/Area | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Taksim is a vibrant, modern neighborhood located in the European part of Istanbul. Scores of ... read more»

#7
Ortakoy Free attraction
Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Neighborhood/Area | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: While the Taksim area draws the vast majority of partygoers, the small neighborhood of Ortakoy ... read more»

#8
Süleymaniye Hamam
Spas | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: The Süleymaniye Hamam is a historic Turkish bath located near the Suleymaniye mosque. It caters ... read more»

#9
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art
Museums | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: A private museum aimed at collecting and exhibiting artwork of contemporary significance, the Istanbul Modern ... read more»

#10
Church of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Müzesi)
Churches/Religious Sites, Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 4.0

Why go: Originally built as a Byzantine church, later converted to a mosque and now serving as ... read more»

#11
Dolmanbahce Palace
Castles/Palaces, Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 3.5

Why go: Sitting along the Bosphorus near the Kabatas tram stop, the Dolmabahçe Palace's jaw-dropping beauty ... read more»

#12
Galata Tower
Castles/Palaces, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing | Map It

Overall Rating: Rating: 3.5

Why go: For perhaps the best view of Istanbul from the Beyoglu side, head up the Galata ... read more»

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