Although the list of the best places to visit in Türkiye is quite long, this blog post will be concerned only with Istanbul’s 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.
There are more and more things to do in Istanbul now with the creative solutions of the locals. From religious masterpieces to market hubs, from ancient technologies to very popular chilling spots, here we’ll share with you some of the most iconic and popular attractions in the city in 2022. I will also give you more tips about the current situation of those tourist attractions in 2022, so you know what to do in Istanbul once you arrive here.
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a work of excellent architecture. It was originally built in the 6th century. It witnessed a lot of historical events.
In 2020 with the presidential decree, its status of ‘museum’ changed to the ‘mosque’, which was also its function of it during the Ottoman period. On the 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again in Hagia Sophia after 86 years. Visitors can enter the Hagia Sophia without an entrance fee. They have to take off their shoes to wander the inner sight of it.
Along with this change, the upper galleries of the building are closed to visitors. Now one can only visit the ground floor areas. Travellers should keep it in mind to cover their bodies according to Islamic rules. As for female travellers, they should cover their heads with a scarf.
Hagia Sophia is one of the best places to visit in Türkiye. It will continue to be the ultimate symbol of diversity and plurality. Due to the fact that it is now a mosque, it is open to visitors during all this time in 2022 to tourists in Istanbul.
Check our blog post ‘Istanbul Bucket List: 100 Must-Have Experiences in Istanbul here.
Related post: Hagia Sophia: Cathedral or Mosque?
2. Grand Bazaar
Welcome to one of the best places to visit in Istanbul: Grand Bazaar– the jungle of markets! 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 3600 shops in it. The streets are named after the crafts made in 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, I assure you that you will meet a lot of surprises in it!
Related post: A Guide for Istanbul Grand Bazaar’s Best Stores
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 175 Turkish Lira. Climbing and having an Istanbul sight from the top of the Galata Tower are among the things to do in Istanbul.
Open Hours: Summer (Apr 1st – Nov 1st) 08:30 – 23:00. Box office closes at 22:00. Winter (Nov 1st – Apr 1st) 08:30 – 24:00. Box office closes at 23:00
4. 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.
In 2022 the mosque is going through a restoration process which started in July 2017. Due to the huge scale of the mosque complex, the duration of restoration is taking quite a long time.
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.
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5. Basilica Cistern
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 recommend you come and visit this beautiful Istanbul sight in its post-restoration state.
Click here to see the Basilica Cistern guided tour, thanks to which you will also be able to skip the long line.
6. Emirgan Korusu
As all of you understood by now, thanks to this list, Istanbul is a fascinating city for tourists. One of the most attractive places in Istanbul is Emirgan Korusu. It’s a popular destination for locals and travelers alike.
Emirgan Korusu is situated in Sarıyer district on the European side of Istanbul. You will not feel as if you are in a city instead, it feels like you are in a forest. It is a place where you can spend your free time, a park full of nature, greenery and also beautiful buildings.
There are three pavilions called Yellow, Pink and White pavilions in this grove. Moreover, The Tulip Festival has been organized in Emirgan Korusu every year in April since 2006.
With an area of approximately 47 hectares and a Bosphorus view, it will leave you speechless. In short, Emirgan Korusu is one of the best places in Istanbul that you should definitely visit. You should pay a small fee for entering this grove.
7. Topkapı Palace
Topkapı Palace is located within the center of the historical peninsula. Topkapı Palace was built in the 15th century was built in 18 years. It consists of many sections and houses.
Its magnificent architecture and historical significance made it one of the most popular destinations in Istanbul. In 1924, its status was changed to a museum. Now it is one of the richest museums in the world with its holy relics, treasures, jewelry, and many more. Don’t miss the chance to visit Topkapı Palace, which is one of the best attractions for tourists in İstanbul!
Here you can find our trip designer Ayşenur Ergin’s trip plan named Historical Peninsula Tour, purchase it to get the full itinerary.
8. The Church of St. Stephen
The Church of St. Stephen is located by the seaside of the Golden Horn. This church is one of the most popular churches and tourist attractions in Istanbul, and it is a must-see for all tourists in Istanbul.
It is also known as the Iron Church because it was built out of cast iron. The construction took 37 years between 1859-1896. Since the completion of its great restoration in 2018, it became one of the most visited tourist attractions in Istanbul. It is frequently visited by travelers especially thanks to its inner decorations which draw great attention
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9. Taksim Square
Taksim is the never-ending fashion center of the metropolitan city, Istanbul, in the Beyoğlu district. This is where the heart of the city beats! Here, you can see the most fashionable goods and shops. It also became the center of entertainment.
The cosmopolitan nature of urban life is at its peak in Taksim. 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. 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.
Taksim Mosque is one of them, the construction of which just finished last year. The other good news is that the symbol of the Taksim Square, Ataturk Cultural Center’s long-lasting reconstruction, is completed. There it is possible to see theater, ballet, opera events, exhibitions, and even workshops (including the ones for kids). In short, if you are a tourist in Türkiye wanting to do Istanbul sightseeing, Taksim is definitely one of the places to visit in Istanbul.
Check this amazing Beyoğlu area trip plan by the trip designer Eda Sökmen, purchase the plan to get all detailed information through your route.
10. Pierre Loti Hill
Now it is time to climb to the high hills and enjoy the clean air and amazing panoramic view of the Golden Horn all together in the Eyup district.
Pierre Loti became the center of meetings and encounters for lovers. Its historical tea garden and the top hill have an amazing aura that one can desire to stay for hours long. Having Turkish tea at the cafe on Pierre Loti Hill and having the best Istanbul sight are two of the things to do in Istanbul.
It is highly recommended that you visit the place early in the morning so that you don’t meet the crowd, which is the result of the inevitable popularity of the spot. There are two options to get to the hill: It is a great adventure to get on the air funicular and feel the awe while seeing the great Eyup graveyard on the land. However, if you prefer the open air, you can also climb down the hill.
Related Post: Best Viewpoints in Istanbul
11. Rumeli Fortress
Located in the Sarıyer district, by the seaside, this Istanbul sight is one of the best places in Istanbul to feel the history. This historic area is located at a relatively far distance from the historical peninsula, almost 17 kilometers away from Sultanahmet Square. Therefore, it is far more preserved, and even the soil there feels ancient.
This fortress was built in 1452, only months before the conquest of Istanbul. Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror was a very intelligent leader. He ordered this fortress to be built to prevent attacks and to block aid coming from the north side of the Bosphorus. It is amazing to imagine the past through the great gates and towers.
Here if you climb high enough, you can also have one of the best sights of Istanbul. Rumeli Fortress goes under a restoration phase. It is expected to finish in 2023, making the fortress a cultural attraction in Istanbul. Don’t miss this chance to experience the real feeling of the past and witness the struggle to capture the amazing Istanbul.
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 Türkiye, Gülhane Park is one of the Istanbul sights you must see!
If you are interested in making a trip through the historical peninsula, this self-guided plan designed by the trip designer Ayşenur Ergin is just for you. Purchase it to unlock the names of the locations and spots.
13. Kadıköy Moda Coast
Here is one of the most popular sights on the Asian side of Istanbul. It is worth it to take a ferry and arrive in Kadıköy district to get to the Moda Coast. It is where the beauty of Istanbul, the Marmara Sea, and the green meets.
Here locals come to chill and relax, have conversations, do sports, and enjoy the view. Especially after the pandemic, this spot became even more visited than before because this coast became an essential spot for people to meet and enjoy their time securely in the open air.
One of the best things to do is to sit down on the rocks by the sea and watch the horizon. This spot is still very rich in terms of social gatherings. This destination should be on every list of must-see places and tourist attractions in İstanbul.
If you are interested in a full-day itinerary through the Kadıköy district, check this plan from the trip designer Alt Watmough: Exploring Chalcedon and purchase it to get the full information about the locations.
Open Hours: 07:30 – 03:00 on Saturday. 07:30 – 03:30 Sunday. 07:30 – 00:00 on Monday. Other days 24/7 open.
14. Istanbul Toy Museum
What could be more fun than exploring the Toy Museum in Istanbul? The museum was founded by a poet, Suna Akın. Therefore, it is no wonder the museum has a poetic side! A generous opening of the heart and mind to the world of toys, Toy Museum is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.
Toy lovers of all ages can discover the history and evolution of toys throughout the ages in the museum. The toys displayed in the museum are collected over 20 years from different countries by Suna Akın. Thanks to this museum, Istanbul earned the title of ‘the capital of toy museums. Because in 2012, for the first time in the world, this museum arranged a meeting called TOYCO-2012. This way, Istanbul Toy Museum has been a pioneer in the establishment of an association of children’s and toy museums in the world.
There are various toys and other things inside; from different years and decades. In addition, there are some workshops for kids, as well! This museum is something worth visiting for both adults and kids. There are many different types of exhibitions you can browse throughout the day. It does not get boring at all. Once you go inside and see what we mean, do not forget to take some pictures as well!
15. Ihlamur Kasırları
Ihlamur Kasrı is one of the most beautiful and fashionable places to visit in Istanbul. It was built in the 17th century by Abdülmecit. But it still feels as if it were just recently built. It is a magnificent example of Ottoman architecture.
Located in the valley between Beşiktaş and Nişantaşı, Ihlamur Kasrı served as a resting place and a garden for the sultans. They often came here to enjoy their meals and spend time with their guests. Some guests include the French poet Lamartine, Serbian and Bulgarian kings. There is a restaurant inside.
We recommend you to have traditional Turkish breakfast there among the songs of the birds. The pavilion inside of the Ihlamur Kasrı serves as a museum-palace and has an impressive interior design. The garden of Ihlamur Kasrı is also mesmerizing!
You can see animals such as peacocks and ducks around the pool as well as many other lovely plants surrounding the area. With its refreshing nature and historical texture, Ihlamur Kasrı is definitely one of the best Istanbul sights.
You can also view our Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Istanbul
I’m a detail hunter born and raised in the cosmopolitan nature of Istanbul, I love traveling and discovering the plurality of languages and cultures. For me, traveling is one of the best ways to awaken one’s third eye.