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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Julia

Top 10 Istanbul, Turkey Things to Do

Istanbul, Turkey boasts over 2,500 years of history as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Istanbul, Turkey is known for its incredible landmarks like the Hagia Sophia, Bosphorus Strait, and Grand Bazaar.


With my travel to 7 continents now 35+ countries, my spirit and soul called me to explore Istanbul, Turkey. It became a reality in May 2022 with five day travels.


During my travel experience in Istanbul, Turkey, my parents and I stayed within five minutes of the Galata Tower in Beyoğlu district. The once in a lifetime trip to Istanbul was extra special because I traveled with my parents after adventures in Portugal and years of full-time travel before returning to Atlanta, GA.


It is time to put Istanbul, Turkey on your bucket list.

Beyond its rich history, Istanbul is known for being the city where Asia and Europe meet, Turkish Baths, and market experiences with the Grand and Spice Bazaar. Fun Fact: My mom spent three months working at the Grand Bazaar and living with a Turkish family in her 20s!


Beyond the land mass of Istanbul, Turkey, the bodies of water surrounding the city include Marmara Sea in the south, Black Sea in the north, and the connection of the Bosphorus Strait.



Istanbul, Turkey Things to Do
Istanbul, Turkey Things to Do

Turkey History

Turkey is a historical, cultural, and bucket list phenomenon for travelers from all walks of life for good reason. Its history takes us beyond 23,000 BC, earliest known human communities, stone and copper ages, St Pauls travels, Crusader armies, conquest of Constantinople, and Ottoman Empire.

According to most sources, Istanbul, Turkey is over 90% Muslim.


Geographically, Turkey is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, on the east by Azerbaijan and Iran, on the southeast by Iraq and Syria, on the southwest and west by the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, and on the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria.



Whether you will spend one day in Istanbul, Turkey, or 5 days like I did, you will love it.

It's not easy to narrow down Istanbul, Turkey to a Top 10 Things to Do, but here goes!




Istanbul, Turkey Top 10 Things to Do

  • Visit Galata Tower

  • Cruise Bosphorus River

  • Spend a Half to a Full Day at a Turkish Bath

  • Unplug at Gulhane Park

  • Visit Grand and Spice Bazaar for clothes, rugs, spices, lamps, luggage and more!

  • Marvel at Hagia Sophia

  • Walk through Blue Mosque

  • Visit Topkapi Palace

  • Catch sunrises and sunsets in the city

  • Enjoy foodie favorites like breakfast, Turkish Tea + Coffee + Delights






Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey is a must on any global travelers list for its history of four empires, architecture marvels, and cultural experiences.

Language

Turkish. English is spoken in tourist areas.


Climate

It has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The hottest and coldest months are typically July and February, respectively.


Currency

Lira. Euro and Dollars may be used in some tourist areas.


Banks

Debit and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Mostly souvenir and street food stands take only cash. You may find ATMs virtually everywhere. Be careful which ATMs you use as some are bank specific (It is easy to get confused as many will still have all the card logos). I did this by accident and got my card confiscated.


Highlights

  • 23,000+ years of history and culture

  • Two continents meet in Istanbul, Turkey

  • Turkish is the official language

  • Over 90% Muslim recognized city

  • More than 1.2 million foreigners live in Istanbul

  • May live comfortably on about $1,000 monthly



Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey
Turkey Things to Do


All shots are my own on Canon EOSM100, Sony A330, and/or my iPhone 13 or via Airbnb.


Travel to Istanbul

Travel to Istanbul is easy with all major airlines flying in and through Istanbul. I have flown to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines and from Istanbul with United Airlines.






Where I Stayed in Istanbul, Turkey

VRBO in Istanbul near Galata Tower

I stayed at an adorable apartment via Airbnb in Istanbul, Turkey with Origine Rentals. To see my Airbnb in Istanbul, Turkey for your own eyes, check out my Instagram Reel in Turkey.






Top 10 Istanbul, Turkey Things to Do

Undoubtedly, Istanbul and the country of Turkey offers countless experiences in the city and country. Although I experienced a lot during my five days of travel, I barely scratched the surface. It is a travel destination I would return to again. It is my second time in Turkey, and definitely. not my last.


The last time I visited Turkey it was in 2008 when I stopped in Kusadasi during a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise.


No matter how much time you have to visit Istanbul, Turkey make the most of it. Whether you spend a day, a week, or months in the Turkey, always make any travels your own!


In putting together the Top 10 Istanbul Things to Do, I considered how I would experience travels knowing what I know now to make it easier and more enjoyable for you.



My Istanbul, Turkey Top 10 Things to Do includes:

  • Visit Galata Tower

  • Cruise Bosphorus River

  • Spend a Half to a Full Day at a Turkish Bath

  • Immerse in Nature at Gulhane Park

  • Go Shopping at Grand and Spice Bazaar for clothes, rugs, spices, lamps, luggage and more!

  • Marvel at Hagia Sophia

  • Walk through Blue Mosque

  • Visit Topkapi Palace

  • Catch sunrises and sunsets in the city

  • Enjoy foodie favorites like breakfast, Turkish Tea + Coffee + Delights









 

1 Visit Galata Tower

There are many places to start off your experiences in Istanbul, Turkey. I loved staying near Galata Tower and walking the streets and shopping for souvenirs. Visiting Galata Tower during your first day in Istanbul is a great way to see the city from an aerial view.


Interesting facts about Galata Tower include:

  • Estimated to be built around 527 A.D. during reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian

  • Tower has gone by many times including the Tower of Christ, Great Tower, and Galata

  • In 1509, the tower suffered earthquake damage later restored by architect, Hayreddin

  • In 16th century, astrologer Efendi added the observatory to the top of the tower

  • In 1794, tower destroyed by fire and restored during reign of Sultan Selim III

The tickets to enter Galata Tower are about $10 USD in 2022. I recommend visiting early in the morning both for crowd and weather purposes. Before you visit, I recommend going during off peak times. I usually check but didn't realize we arrived on the last few days of Ramadan so the city was extra crowded our first few days.





 


2 Cruise Bosphorus River

The second best way to see Istanbul, Turkey is by cruising align the Bosphorus River at sunset. On the one to two hour cruise experience you will see Hagia Sophia, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Anatolian Fortress and more.


From Hagia Sophia, it is about a 10 minute walk to the ferry. You may easily find ferry vendors in the morning, afternoon and sunset for about $10USD.







 

3 Spend the Day at a Turkish Bath

Where are my self-love lovers at? I don't know about you friend, but I love wellness and spa experiences all around the world. My mom told me about the Turkish Baths years ago. I knew spending at least a. half a day would be a must during my travel to Istanbul, Turkey to unplug from the business of the city.


While there are over 200 Turkish Baths or Hamam's in Istanbul, about 60 are in use. When researching Turkish Hamam's. I discovered the Hagia Sophia Hurrem Sultan Bathhouse footsteps from Hagia Sophia. It is a sixteenth-century Turkish bath in Istanbul, Turkey. It was commissioned by Hurrem Sultan, consort and wife of the Ottoman sultan Süleyman the Magnificent.


I recommend making a reservation several days before your visit to ensure your space.


After a personalized tour at Hagia Sophia early in the morning, I walked over to the Bath for rest, relaxation and refreshing for the next several hours. My experience included a full body scrub, steaming in the bath, and enjoying Turkish tea and delights in the Hamam.


My only regret? Not spending MORE time in the Hamam.






If you are looking for more ways to get healthy like a boss, look no further.





 

4 Unplug at Gulhane Park

Gülhane Park meaning Houses of Roses Park in Turkish is the oldest and largest urban parks in Istanbul. It is historically known for serving as the outdoor garden of the Ottoman Imperial - Topkapi Palace.


It is a beautiful way to unplug and immerse yourself in nature in the middle of bustling Istanbul experiencing a different part of the city.



Istanbul, Turkey Gülhane Park
Istanbul, Turkey Gülhane Park





 

5 Visit Grand and Spice Bazaar

No visit to Istanbul, Turkey is complete without visiting the Grand and Spice Bazaar.


The Grand Bazaar meaning 'Covered Market' in Istanbul is one of the oldest and largest markets in the world with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. You may find everything from crafts to lamps to luggage and everything in between.

The Grand Bazaar was constructed in 1455 as a center for local trade in the city.


It is easy to visit both markets in the same day. They are about 10 minutes walking distance from one another. The Spice Bazaar was built in 1664 boasting the beautiful colors of spices, delights, teas, and nuts.


 

6 Enjoy Foodie Experiences in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey has some of the best Mediterranean food in the world. I love dishes like Baba Ghanoush, Hummus, and Tabouli.







 

7 Marvel at Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, officially the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is a major historical and cultural site in the center of Istanbul, Turkey. Originally a Greek Orthodox church 1,500+ years ago, the site has changed between being a mosque and museum since the Byzantine Empire fall.


Similar to the global sites around the world like the Roman Coliseum or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Hagia Sophia is an enduring landmark and legacy of Istanbul recognize around the world. It has stood as a symbol of impact and influence in global matters related to religion, politics, art, and architecture.


It is a must on your visit to Istanbul, Turkey. We visited early in the morning on a Saturday and opted for a private guided tour for about $5 USD per person.





 

8 Walk Through the Blue Mosque

Within 5 minutes walking distance from Hagia Sophia, you will find the world famous Blue Mosque.


You will find it an incredible architectural marvel with quite a history with five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The architect, Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, combined Byzantine Christian and traditional Islamic architectural elements for a massive and marvelous work.


 

9 Visit Topkapi Palace

Within 5 minutes walking from both Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque, you will find Topkapi Palace. Walking through the grounds itself is breathtaking. Even though we visited on a weekday in May, the lines were over 2 hours wait. As a result, we strolled the breathtaking grounds of the palace.


The best breathtaking views of the palace may be captured with the Bosphorus Cruise. The Topkapi palace is known for its architecture, collections, and history of the Ottoman Empire. It opened as a museum in 1924.

 

10 Sunrises and Sunsets in Istanbul, Turkey

With the incredible views in the city from the Galata Tower to the Bhosporus Cruise to the Rooftops all around the city, you will find some of the most mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets on the planet.


Catch as many as you can during your travels to Istanbul, Turkey.



Istanbul, Turkey Sunsets


 

Top 10 Things to Do: Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey will delight you at every twist and turn in Istanbul.


Whether you want to experience the breathtaking views from the Galata Tower, cruise along the Bosphorus, shop until you drop at the Grand Bazaar, or any of my other Top 10 Things to Do in Istanbul, Turkey you will love it.


What activities interests you to do for Top 10 Istanbul, Turkey Things to Do?


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