Posted 07 July 2023 in Travel wanderlust

10 things you should do on your trip to Istanbul

Istanbul is the largest metropolis in Turkey and the only one in the world that straddles two continents: Europe and Asia. In the city, where old and new coexist, each neighbourhood has its own identity and vibe. Although many of the most popular and attractive spots to visit are in or around Sultanahmet's old city centre, the city's outskirts offer a dazzling assortment of alternative activities.

Read more - Top reasons that make Istanbul your next stop

So, plan your trip with our guide to Istanbul's best sites and activities.

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, also known as the Church of Wisdom, is one of the most beautiful buildings. Justinian I, the Byzantine Emperor, ordered the construction of a Christian church in 532. During the Ottoman Empire's reign in Istanbul, the majestic structure was converted into a mosque. Hagia Sophia was a religious, political and aesthetic centre for the Byzantine world, and it is considered one of the world's most important landmarks. Hagia Sophia was a museum from 1935 until 2020. However, it was again converted back into a mosque.

2. Istanbul Archaeological Museums

Istanbul Archaeological Museums are situated in three buildings: the Archaeological Museum, Tiled Kiosk Museum and Ancient Orient Museum which hold over a million artefacts, including three sarcophagi, a 1st-century burial monument and Islamic money. If you have a few minutes, then see the spectacular Alexander sarcophagus, which displays events from Alexander the Great's life in 3D.

3. Explore the Topkapi Palace's Magnificent Chambers

The Topkapi Palace was built in the 15th century to house the Sultans, their families and the imperial officials who oversaw a huge empire spanning three continents. It is a city inside a city that grew over 400 years, from the heyday to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Visitors may look into the lives of the individuals who lived there throughout the years by visiting the richly furnished chambers, pavilions and the Harem.

4. Enjoy family time with a picnic at Gulhane Park 

Gulhane Park, commonly known as Rose Garden, is one of Istanbul's most beautiful parks. Tourists and locals come here to enjoy pleasant activities like picnicking, wandering around the lovely gardens, resting amid the trees and dining in outdoor cafés with views of the Bosphorus River. It is situated between the Fatih district's Sirkeci and Sultanahmet neighbourhoods. Gulhane Park offers a tulip festival every year in the final three weeks of April, with over 120 different tulips blooming in the spring.

5. Marvel at the beauty of the Blue Mosque 

The Blue Mosque, constructed between 1609 and 1616, is a stunning historic structure and one of Istanbul's great attractions. The blue tiles that encircle the main structure gave it its name. Visitors are not permitted to enter the building during the five daily prayers since it is still used as a mosque. Women must, however, wear the head coverings available at the Blue Mosque's entry. 

6. Take in the sights of the Bosphorus River

The Bosphorus strait was highly significant in ancient times because it was the only route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. It is now a highly active canal, with several ships and oil tankers passing through. All-day long, local fishing boats and passenger ferries travel from the Asian to the European sides, producing stunning vistas. Sunset yacht excursions, afternoon Bosphorus cruise tours and cruises with night performances are just a few of the activities available on the Bosphorus.

7. Visit the beautiful Basilica Cistern

The fascinating Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th century, is the city's largest cistern. It got its name from the fact that it was built beneath a Basilica in a public area on Constantinople's First Hill. Since its completion in 1453 and until current times, the Byzantine Cistern has given water to the city. Visitors can now view the Basilica Cistern. 

8. Relax in a Hammam

The Hammam is a Turkish bath that every visitor to the city should experience at least once. If you want to get the whole experience, make a reservation for a traditional Hammam. Your hair will be cleaned and massaged for 15 minutes by a professional. Indian head massages, aromatherapy oil massages, reflexology and facial clay masks are among the other techniques and treatments available.

9. Attend a performance by the Whirling Dervishes

Attending a Whirling Dervish concert is one of Istanbul's top things to do. The centuries-old rite includes beautiful ballet, Persian chanting and traditional Turkish music, generally performed by an on-site orchestra. Long robes and black cloaks are common attire for dancers. One of Istanbul's most popular places to attend this traditional ritual is the Hodjapasha Dance Theater (sema).

10. Taste authentic Turkish food

The cuisine of Turkey needs no introduction. It is well-known throughout the world, and rightly so. There are too many foods to sample, from delectable sweets like kadayif and baklava to Turkish meatballs (köfte) and lahmacun. Balik ekmek, a sandwich with grilled fish, onions and salad, is one of Istanbul's most famous appetisers. Pide, baked boat-shaped dough filled with various ingredients such as eggs and sucuk (spicy Turkish sausages) and kusbasi, is another fantastic snack when exploring Turkish delights.

Markets for shopping

Bazaars define Istanbul's character, and the Grand Bazaar, which spans more than 30,000 square metres, is one of the world's largest (323,000 sq ft). Hours might be spent haggling over decorative tiles, handmade rugs, antiques and other objects. The Spice Bazaar across the street is nearly as large and has a lovely range of spices, herbs and tea. A weekly food market is held in every neighbourhood, providing fresh fruits from the countryside, cheeses and seafood from adjacent seas.

Things to know

  • Istanbul's primary language is Turkish, but with the city's large international population, don't be surprised if you encounter conversations in English, Arabic or Farsi while exploring.
  • Tourists may only enter mosques such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque through the North West entrance during non-prayer hours. Both men and women must wear modest clothing with their shoulders and knees covered.
  • The best hotel locations are near Sultanahmet or Taksim Square. Both of these businesses offer outstanding service at reasonable prices. Sultanahmet might be a little noisy if you are looking for a peaceful stay.
  • Do not photograph worshipers without their permission, just as you would in any other house of worship. Everyone must remove their shoes at the elevated platform beside the entryway before entering any mosque.
  • Turkish folks are typically accommodating, even if you don't speak the language. Store owners would often invite you to sit down and drink a çay, a little tulip-shaped cup of strong black tea.
  • Personal space is sometimes a luxury in this crowded city, so don't be startled if you feel someone is standing too close to you while waiting for a bus.
  • Istanbul's yellow taxis aren't always reliable, and overcharging is common. Make sure the metre is turned on if you take a yellow cab. Another feasible alternative is Uber taxis.
  • When you arrive in Turkey, you should have your lodging information, as the border police may or may not ask for it. Because you may not have access to the internet when you first arrive, have it printed or downloaded to your phone.
  • Bring swimwear so you may enjoy Turkey's Hammams and beaches without having to change into dry clothes.

How to get there?

Indians require a visa to enter Turkey, even for short stays. Indian people must have a valid passport and visa to obtain entry. It takes a few minutes to apply for an online Turkey tourist visa for Indians. In most cases, the approved visa is emailed to the traveller within 24 hours.

The IndiGo flights now connect Istanbul and Delhi directly and provide seamless connections to other destinations. You will arrive at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport if travelling from Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru. 

Best time to visit

  • Due to the mild weather, March to May and September to November are considered the best months to visit Istanbul. The crowds are thin at this time, so you won't have to struggle with them when riding your bike or enjoying a cruise.
  • The city enters a peak season known for its excessive prices from June through August. The scorching weather is another drawback, but chilling ayran and famous sticky ice cream know how to deal with it.
  • The months of December to February are the coldest and wettest; so dress warmly and carry an umbrella. This is also the best time to visit traditional Hammams if you are on vacation during these months.


Istanbul is a Turkish city known for its magnificent mosques, vast marketplaces and delectable cuisine. It will take more than one trip to see everything. The city provides visitors with an unforgettable experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Even after seeing the sights listed above, there is much more to see and do in this city. This city offers everything a vacationing traveller might want. "If Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital," remarked Napoleon Bonaparte.

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