Istanbul is a popular destination for tourists looking for history, culture and beautiful landscapes. The combination of natural beauty and historic significance means it has something for everyone and is suitable for groups who want different things from a holiday. Here we’ll share with you some of the most iconic and popular attractions in the city:
1. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia Museum is a work of excellent architecture which was originally built as a church. This museum is a masterpiece which has witnessed many historical moments during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Restoration work is carried out periodically. On special occasions, the museum can be used as a place of worship. Today, the museum is a patriarchal cathedral with a basilica plan.
Open Hours: Mondays 09:00 – 19:00, Other Days 09:00 – 17:00
Location: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
Phone Number: (0212) 522 17 50
2. Grand Bazaar
One of the most enjoyable destinations for those who want to get to know the mystical culture of the East is the Grand Bazaar. Here you’ll find various spices, souvenirs and jewellery – which has been sold here for centuries and adds a fantastic ambience. There are also shops where you can buy fresh Turkish coffee. If you’re visiting Istanbul this an absolute must see.
Open Hours: 08:00 – 19:00
Location: Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul
3. Galata Tower
One of the best places to visit in Istanbul, Galata Tower has been the subject of many myths and fairy tales. Located in the middle of the city and still one of the most famous buildings in Istanbul, today it boasts a fantastic restaurant on the top floor which is ideal for a romantic dinner. Galata Tower is in one of the central districts of Istanbul and close to the narrow, old streets of Cihangir.
Open Hours: 09:00 – 20:30
Location: Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi Sk., 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
4. Blue Mosque
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. Built by the Ottoman sultan between 1609-1617 and designed by architect Sedefkâr Mehmed Ağa, the building has a huge interior. The building, which can accommodate approximately 10,000 people at a time, is more extensive and spectacular than many modern mosques.
Open Hours: 24/7
Location: Sultan Ahmet, Atmeydanı Cd. No:7, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul
Phone Number: (0212) 458 44 68
5. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is one of the most popular and fascinating destinations in İstanbul. Located in Fatih, the cistern is a fantastic sight when at its illuminated best. The reflection of the orange lights and the subtle sound of the waters create a mystical ambiance in this dark underground space.
6. Maiden Tower
The Maiden’s Tower features in one of Istanbul’s most popular love stories. Legend says a beautiful, long-haired maiden was imprisoned in the top of the tower for years and separated from her lover. The Maiden’s Tower has an isolated atmosphere due to its stand-alone structure in the middle of the sea, making it ideal for a romantic night. It’s been the scene of many marriage proposals and is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.
Istanbul Archeology Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world. It contains many historical structures and allows visitors to enter a different world. More than a million works are exhibited at the same time. Located in the Fatih district, it was founded by well-known historian, Osman Hamdi Bey and is the oldest building in use as a museum.
Open Hours: 09:15 – 18:45, Saturdays 10:00 – 18:45 / 20:15 – 00:30
Location: Salacak, Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, 34668 Üsküdar/İstanbul
Phone Number: (0216) 342 47 47
7. Topkapı Palace
Topkapi Palace is one of the most popular destinations in Istanbul. Once one of the most used houses of the Sultans, Topkapi Palace was a key building in the Ottoman Empire. Located within the Fatih district and very close to the sea, if you’re visiting the seaside, make sure to stop by Topkapı Palace and check out its magnificent architecture.
8. The Church of St. Stephen
One of the most popular churches in Istanbul and a must-see for all visitors. Frequently visited by Christian tourists, the building, which was closed to visitors due to restoration works, was reopened in 2018. It’s still used as a place of worship, so while you may visit on days when services are taking place, photographs or videos is forbidden. On other days you’re welcome to take photos.
All of these destinations are popular and should be on every list of must-see places in İstanbul.
You can also view our Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Istanbul