Istanbul has always been very intriguing to me as this beautiful city straddles over two continents, one part in Europe and the other part in Asia, which is divided by the Bosphorus Strait.
The Old City reflects influences of ancient empires and many historic sites can be discovered in the Sultanahmet district such as the Roman-era Hippodrome, Egyptian obelisks, and the iconic Hagia Sophia 6th-century dome.
There are countless things to do in Istanbul so I have narrowed it down to 5 absolute must-see locations to add to your Istanbul itinerary.
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WHERE IS ISTANBUL & HOW TO GET THERE
Istanbul is a major city in Turkey which is located in South-Eastern Europe. The population of Istanbul is 15 million.
There are many ways of reaching Istanbul, though the most common means is by plane or train.
Istanbul International Airport is very well connected with daily flights from inside of Europe and also international arrivals from Asia and the Middle East. I always use CheapOair to search and book all of my flights as they generally have the cheapest rates.
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Arriving in Istanbul by train is the next best option for reaching this beautiful city in Turkey. Daily trains operate in and out of Halkali Station, connecting Istanbul from other major cities in Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary to name a few.
Traveling around Europe by train is one of the best ways to get around at an affordable cost. I highly recommend purchasing a Eurail Pass to make the most out of your Europe trip. There are many different passes available that give you access to the majority of trains, buses, and boats within 31 countries in Europe!
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5 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL
#1 GALATA TOWER
Galata Tower is a standout landmark located in Galata Quarter and it is one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.
Galata Tower stands an impressive 9 stories tall and offers the best views of the city. This cylindrical tower with a pointed roof reminds me of Rapunzel’s castle out of the popular fairy tale story.
The top of Galata Tower plays home to a restaurant and nightclub with a 360-degree walk-around balcony.
As Galata Tower is one of the most popular Istanbul tourist places, you’ll want to get there early on in the day to avoid the crowds. Galata Tower is the busiest in the afternoon around sunset, so you can expect long queues to enter the tower at this time.
Galata Tower Entrance Fee: 25 Lira ($4.50)
Galata Tower – Istanbul what to do
#2 HAGIA SOPHIA
Next up on this list of awesome things to do in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia, a 6th-century dome that was built in 537 AD. Once a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, later an Ottoman Imperial Mosque, and now a popular museum in Istanbul that draws in visitors from around the globe.
On the inside of Hagia Sophia, you can expect to see impressive mosaics, ancient calligraphy, and Sultan’s lodge.
The Hagia Sophia Museum is open every day of the week from 9 am to 5 pm.
Hagia Sofia Entrance Fee: 60 Lira ($10.50) or 80 Lira to get a guide and skip the queue.
Hagia Sophia Istanbul
#3 GRAND BAZAAR
The Grand Bazaar is an absolute must on your list of what to do in Istanbul! Grand Bazaar is the largest covered marketplace in the world, with more than 60 streets and over 4000 shops, you are guaranteed to walk away with a few trinkets and souvenirs!
Spend an hour or two getting lost in the labyrinth of alleyways and put your bartering skills to the test with store merchants to get the best bang for your buck.
The Grand Bazaar is open from Monday to Saturday, between the hours of 9 am and 7 pm.
#4 BLUE MOSQUE ISTANBUL
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a historic landmark in the old town and it’s one of the best places to visit in Istanbul.
Many tourists frequent the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on a daily basis to marvel at its sheer beauty on the inside and out.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque stills functions to this day as men come to kneel inside the mosque at the time of prayer. Five times during the day, loud sounds of prayer echo through the air, bellowing from the speakers mounted on the tall minarets. When this happens, tourists and non-worshippers are asked to leave the mosque until the prayer is over.
You must dress appropriately to enter inside the Blue Mosque Istanbul. The required dress code is long pants, covered shoulders, headscarves for women and shoes must be removed.
Blue Mosque Istanbul Entrance Fee: FREE
Blue Mosque Istanbul
Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Blue Mosque Istanbul
#5 TURKISH BATH
A Turkish bath, also known as a Hammam, is one of the weirdest but also one of the best things to do in Istanbul! A Hammam is a place of public bathing, so be prepared to be butt naked around others. You may or may not like it, but I assure you that it’s an experience you’ll never forget!
A visit to a Turkish bath will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and cleaner than ever as you will have your body scrubbed and massaged by a man or woman, depending on your sex.
My recommendation is to find a reputable and good quality Hammam to ensure that you are treated with the best of service and the overall hygiene is up to scratch.
I personally visited the Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami which is located in the Karakoy district, close to Galata Tower.
Turkish Bath Entrance Fee: 250 Lira ($44)
Turkish Bath – Istanbul what to do
WHERE TO STAY IN ISTANBUL
Istanbul has thousands of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of my personal favorite places to stay in Istanbul to fit the needs of budget backpackers and luxury travelers.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul
Mid Range: The Galata Port Hotel
Budget: Suite Dreams Istanbul Hostel
For all other accommodations in Istanbul, Click Here to search on Booking.com
Another option for accommodation is to stay in an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals!
WANT TO SAVE $$$ ON AIRBNB? GET MY AIRBNB MONEY SAVING GUIDE
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I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions about Istanbul, please leave me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.