10 Things to Do in Istanbul, Turkey

Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Justin Carmack, a Colorado kid who has a serious addiction to travel. Once he got started, there was no stopping him. 3 years, 6 continents and 52 countries later, and he’s still on the road. You can check out his adventures on his blog called True Nomads, and also on Twitter and Facebook! He is always keen to hear from new people!

Istanbul Turkey is a wonderful contrast between ancient and modern ages. From its rich history of being the capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires comes many mosques and other religious buildings with such beautiful architecture that you will be enchanted for days. Next to one of these may stand a very modern skyscraper. The atmosphere runs from very conservative, religious people to bustling, chaotic bazaars, to a nightlife like none other. Being next to the sea also brings all of the fun any water-loving person could want. It is definitely a city you will want to spend a little extra time in and is of course featured as one of the entries in one of my post titled 100 Places To See Before You Die:

1. The Hagia Sophia is definitely at the top of the list of things to do. Its stunning architecture is symbolic of the Byzantine empire during which it was constructed. The historical significance of what was once a church adds to the mystique and charm. Its mosaic walls, vaulted chambers and interior views help make this one of the most visited sites.

10 Things to Do in Istanbul

2. The Blue Mosque is an active religious site that was built to rival the Hagia Sophia. Its myriad of domes, semi-domes and minarets make this a magnificent place to see.

3. The Grand Bazaar, with its thousands of shops, is one of the biggest and oldest indoor markets in the world. The noisy, chaotic atmosphere with vendors and customers haggling over the price of everything will mesmerize you into spending hours there.

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

4. The Istanbul Archeology Museum is another fascinating place you must see. It has more than one million antique objects in the three buildings. You will not want to miss the Alexander Sarcophagus or the Sarcophagus of the Crying Women while there.

Istanbul Archeology Museum

5. The Topkapi Palace is next to the Archeology Museum. Built for the Ottoman empire Sultans, it too has amazing architecture. The courtyards are simply amazing, and all of the exhibits in it are a thrill to see. It does cost a pretty high admission fee, but if you spend half a day seeing it, it is worth the price.

Gate at Topkapi Palace

6. Church of St Saviour in Chora is one more historical place you need to visit. Its famous mosaics, frescoes and Christian art from the Byzantine empire make this second only to Hagia Sophia.

Great Onofrio Fountain and Church of St. Savior

7. After so much culture, it is time to relax and enjoy! The Ortakoy neighborhood is just the place to do that in. During the day it has many market stalls along the street. At night the restaurants and bars get hopping. It can get a little pricey, but it is a perfect place to see how the “real people” live and party.


8. Rooftop bars and restaurants are everywhere in Istanbul, and are the best way to see the city. These have been becoming more popular over the last few years and the competition is high, so they each have their “gimmick”, which makes them all fun to explore and find the one that suits your taste.

Sunset from the roof bar at Daphne Hotel, Istanbul

9. Hamams are Turkish massages meant to purify body and soul. Given while lying on a steamy slab, they are a perfect way to relax – or recover from trying out the last two suggestions!

10 Things to Do in Istanbul, Turkey

10. Narghile, or hookah smoking is another Turkish cultural thing to try. It is flavored tobaccos, even fruity ones like cherry, which are smoked through the hookah, or water pipe. Also known as “hubbly-bubbly” it is one of those fun things that even non-smokers should try.


Have you been to Istanbul? Feel free to share your tips and recommendations.

Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Justin Carmack.

Photo Credits (Flickr CC): Hagia Sophia by Paul Keller/ Blue Mosque by Sev!/ Grand Bazaar by Alaskan Dude/ Istanbul Archeology Museum by azken_tximinoa/ Topkapi Palace by y entonces/ Church of St Saviour by Anosmia/ Ortakoy by amitd/ Rooftop Bar by Dave Proffer/ Hamam by Alazaat/ Hookah by dyakov peter/


  1. I’ve been meaning to get to Istanbul and over the past few months it seems to be haunting me – maybe this is a sign? Great tips! Will definitely be booking marking this for the visit I am hoping will happen this year. 🙂

  2. I really liike Istanbul, the atmosphere, the food, the turks. One of the magical moment was when we where around the blue mosque at night and different calls of prayer where echoing in all the Sultanahmet.

  3. I should be visiting Istanbul later this summer but wanted to ask if the restaurants treat you as well there as they do in other parts of Turkey. Do you get plates and plates of free salads, breads and maybe desserts and çay? I’m living in Antalya and loving all the complimentary food and hope it continues when I get to Istanbul…

    Great post by the way!

  4. Great post! I disagree with the Grand Bazaar, though. I found prices were far more expensive in this market than in other places…might want to look for more authentic places to buy souvenirs. My friend and I also went to a traditional hamam right before we flew home. It was the perfect way to refresh ourselves after a month on the road!

  5. I was in Istanbul 6 weeks ago, on my way to Georgia and Armenia and I did appreciate the city a lot. It takes probably a lifetime to visit completely this metropolis, but it’s completely worth it

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