Sightseeing

The 12 Best Istanbul Tourist Attractions

Istanbul is a rich city in history and culture. Great empires took place here, leaving behind many historical treasures in Istanbul, each representing a different culture. UNESCO recognized most of these landmarks as World Heritage Sites.

Although the list of the best places to visit in Türkiye is quite long, this blog post will be concerned only with Istanbul’s top tourist attractions. This magnificent city which faced high demand for mass tourism offers a lot to travellers with its diverse cultures and lifestyles through its manifold heritage.

Here are the 12 best places to visit in Istanbul:

1. Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia was built between 532 – 537. Its large dome structure gives it an attractive and imposing appearance from the outside. The interior architecture provides a unique and exciting visual feast at certain hours of the day due to the sunlight’s angles. Ayasofya is built as a patriarchal cathedral with a basilica plan, it’s been used as a mosque since 1453. It is one of the most visited Istanbul monuments in 2024.

Hagia Sophia became a mosque again in 2020 with the Presidential decree. On 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again after 86 years. Tourists wish to see the Hagia Sophia can enter with an entrance fee of €25.

Side Note: Please keep in mind that there are five prayer times for a day, you might want to visit the Hagia Sophia besides these times. Don’t forget that now it’s a mosque again women and men have to wear according to Islamic rules. For men and women, legs and arms need to be covered, no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight fitting. And women have to cover their heads.

More Information

Open Hours: 24/7
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 522 17 50
Website: muze.gen.tr
Foursquare: View


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2. Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)

The Ottoman masterpiece of the 17th-century mosque borrows its name from the color of the tiles used in its interior design. The number of blue tiles is more than 20 thousand. It took 8 years to complete the mosque between 1609-1617.

It was built by the head-architect Sedefkar Mehmed Ağa during the reign of Sultan Ahmed the first. It is the first mosque to have 6 minarets in Türkiye. It is not a coincidence that it is neighbouring to Hagia Sophia, which represents a cultural dialogue, especially during the call to prayer.

This mosque is especially significant for its huge space, which can accommodate approximately 10,000 people at a time. Once you visit it, you will see a lot of information related to Islam hung on the walls of the mosque complex.

Before paying your visit to the mosque, don’t forget to check the praying times because during the praying time, you are not allowed to get inside unless you are going to pray.

Blue Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul and excellent for anyone interested in the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire and Islam. Plus, there is no entrance fee.

More Information

Open Hours: 08:30 – 18:00
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 458 44 68
Website: sultanahmetcamii.org
Foursquare: View

3. Galata Tower

One of the top-rated tourist attractions in Istanbul is Galata Tower. It was built in the 6th century, however, it was rebuilt in the 14th century. This is the current version that you can still see.

Located in the middle of the city, on special days like Mother’s Day or the championship of a football team, a light projection can be seen over the walls of the tower. It used to function as a fire watch tower during the Ottoman period.

As for travellers, this tower can function as a compass as well. You can see its roof, which is visible from many sides of the city and find your way back to the city center.

What can you see in Galata Tower apart from the speechless 360-degree landscape? The pieces back from the time of the three great emperorships (Roman, East Roman, and Ottoman) are exhibited here. It is open to visitors every day and the entrance fee is 650 Turkish Lira.

Since it is a very popular sight, don’t forget to go there early to not wait in the long lines. This tower was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List in 2013.

More Information

Open Hours: 08:30 – 22:00
Location:  View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 245 41 41
Website: muze.gov.tr
Foursquare: View

4. Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

To get to know a city, you must experience its streets and squares. The cosmopolitan nature of urban life is at its peak in Taksim. Taksim Square is the most famous place that you can witness both the exotic and the modern styles of Istanbul at the same time.

Even just walking through the 1 kilometer 400 meters long Istiklal street and looking at the faces of the people is a great joy for many people. When you look at photos of Istanbul online, you’ll often be looking at Istiklal Street, starting from Taksim Square. There’s even a ‘nostalgic tram’ on Istiklal Street still in 2024, which has a gorgeous romantic atmosphere – especially in winter. If you are feeling a bit tired, take the nostalgic tram and check it off in your Istanbul activity list.

What is also very characteristic about İstiklal Street is the buskers. Here you can find crowded streets, popular restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping centers.

During summer, make sure you don’t miss cultural events such as concerts in the streets of Beyoğlu. These cultural events take place within the scope of Beyoğlu Kültür Yolu (Beyoğlu Culture Road). There are a lot of new spots, and Istanbul sights around Taksim Square keep popping up.

Check out most loved Istanbul attractions by HeyTripster readers:

5. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

After the conquest of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet requested the construction of the Topkapı Palace in 1460. It was enlarged with additions until the 19th century. It is the first museum of the Turkish Republic and one of the most important parts of the history. The most attractive highlights of the palace are the Harem, where the sultan’s concubines and children would spend their time, the Second Court, where you can see the Palace

Kitchens and the glamorous interior of the Imperial Council Chamber, and lastly the Third Court which has the sultan’s private rooms. It is one of the most important Istanbul sightseeing activities, you’ll spend half of your day in it.

Topkapi Palace’s Entrance Fee: Museum & Harem; 1500 TL

More Information

Open Hours: 10:00 – 16:00 Closed on Tuesdays
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 512 04 80
Website: millisaraylar.gov.tr
Foursquare: View

6. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı)

It was built in the same period as Hagia Sophia in the 6th century. Basilica Cistern is another miracle of architecture. This historical cistern which is one of the most fascinating destinations in Istanbul, is still standing after a lot of earthquakes. There are 336 columns standing in the water storage.

The upside-down head of the Medusa is a must-see for tourists in Istanbul. This cistern was very vital because it was preserving and storing water. During the wars especially, its function became very essential. The cistern kept serving this function for a while following the conquest of Istanbul by Ottomans in 1453 until the construction of water systems.

It is also in the center of the old town, very close to Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. The restoration of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul just finished, and it’s now more beautiful than ever! We strongly recommend you visit this beautiful landmark in its post-restoration state.

Basilica Cistern’s Entrance Fee: 600 TL

More Information

Open Hours: 09:00 – 19:00
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 512 15 70
Website: yerebatansarnici.com
Foursquare: View

7. Beylerbeyi Palace

This highly aesthetic work of art, built by Sultan Abdulaziz during the Ottoman period, is one of Istanbul’s treasures. Beylerbeyi means “Lord of the lords”, it was built to be a summer house for Ottoman sultans.

Built between 1861-1865, it’s one of the most important examples of Western-style Gothic architecture in Istanbul. Its location by the sea fascinates many people, and if you join the Bosphorus Tour as a part of your Istanbul city tour, you’ll have the chance to view it from the sea.

Entrance Fee: 350 TL

More Information

Open Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 Closed on Mondays
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0216) 321 93 20
Website: millisaraylar.gov.tr
Foursquare: View

8. Miniatürk

Miniatürk is one of the most interesting places to visit in Istanbul in 2024. Surrounded by miniature versions of Turkiye’s top monuments and buildings, you’ll feel as if you are in a fairy tale. Built on a total area of 60,000 square meters, it’s the largest miniature park in the world. It is a must-do Istanbul activity to have a quick look at every monuments in Turkiye.

Entrance Fee: 350 TL

More Information

Open Hours: 09:00 – 19:00
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 222 28 82
Website: miniaturk.com.tr
Foursquare: View

9. Büyükada (Prince Islands)

The Adalar region is a great place to find some peace and catch your breath. The Prince Islands area is perfect for swimming and chilling, and there are some exquisite places to dine out too. The Prince Islands, also known as Prinkipos, spread over a total area of 5.4 square kilometers. Although tourists frequently visit the island there are also residents living there permanently. Going to the Prince Islands is a good escape to make a day trip from Istanbul.

10. Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace is one of the largest and most visited palace in Istanbul. The palace was built after 1453 (after Fatih Sultan conquered Istanbul). Spread over an area of 250,000 square meters, Dolmabahçe was built for important meetings during the Ottoman period. Besides, some points are very close to the seashore. Dolmabahçe Palace witnessed important moments in the history of the republic.

It hasn’t changed much since the old times, so you can still see its original decorations, carpets, and furniture in 2024. The world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier sparkles with 750 lamps, is placed in this glamorous palace which was a gift from Queen Victoria.

Entrance Fee for Dolmabahce Palace: 1050 TL

More Information

Open Hours: 09:00 – 16:00 Closed on Mondays
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: (0212) 236 90 00
Website: millisaraylar.gov.tr
Foursquare: View

11. The Grand Bazaar

Welcome to one of the best places to visit in Istanbul; The jungle of markets – Grand Bazaar! Its first construction started in 1460 by the order of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Second, the conqueror of Istanbul. However, it took a bigger shape during Suleiman the Magnificent. It was built wooden back then, which made it easily subject to fire and earthquake.

It has 65 streets and 4000 shops in it. The streets are named after the crafts made on that street. Apart from shopping, bargaining, and searching for the best quality of things, you can also have a coffee or tea in Şark Kahvesi–a historical cafe there, or you can make reservations and have traditional food in Pandeli Restaurant there.

There is a great variety of goods here that you can find and buy as souvenirs, such as spices, food, dried nuts and fruits, copper crafts, carpets, golden and silver jewelry, leather products, fabric and textile products, and so on. Don’t hesitate to get lost in the streets of this Istanbul attraction, we assure you that you will meet a lot of surprises in it!

More Information

Open Hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Location: View on Google Maps
Website: kapalicarsi.com.tr
Foursquare: View

12. Gülhane Park

Near the Topkapı Palace, Gülhane Park is a rare green area in the middle of urban life. It is difficult to find the right spot to chill in the very crowded European side of Istanbul. Here comes the Gulhane Garden into the plan. It is not just a random garden, it was historically a leisure place during the Ottoman period as well.

This garden became a symbol of equality, human rights, and modernization back in time. Now locals are mostly here to relax after their historical peninsula sightseeing in Istanbul. They enjoy Gülhane Park with their kids or meet their lovers and have some quiet moments to digest the beauty and the history in general.

Last but not least, it is free to enjoy this awesome Istanbul attraction. So, if you are a tourist in Turkiye, Gülhane Park is one of the Istanbul sights you must see!

More Information

Open Hours: 24/7
Location: View on Google Maps

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Ekin Ceren Akarçay

I am a travel and nature lover. I love to write down the things I lived, experience and the things that interest me. I am hungry for knowledge and open to change!
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