Top Things to do in Istanbul

If Elizabeth Gilbert has rediscovered her appetite in Italy, I have definitely got mine tastefully restored in Istanbul.

Istanbul is a city of colors, cordial smiles, succulent döner kebab, and a delightful blend of cultures. With sufficient time on hand, Istanbul makes the perfect, most comprehensive travel destination. From inexpensive street food to upscale restaurants, buzzing city to sleepy villages, Asian to European (or Eurasian) - it has something to fit everyone's budget and preference. Below is a brief guide to the top things to do in Istanbul:

Top Things to do in Istanbul

 

Turkish Bath

Turkish bath is a relaxing and cleansing treatment with each standard session lasting for about an hour. You'd be clad in sweat most of the time while sitting in a room filled with hot steam. Cleansing is performed on a big slab of marble where you will be thoroughly scrubbed, rubbed, and washed from head to toe by a masseur.

Note: I was asked to strip completely naked during the cleansing session by my naked female masseur. I did not find it to be a problem. However, I've later learned from the experience of others that you're supposed to have a towel on at all times.

things to do in istanbul
Facilities at a Turkish bath


Try the Turkish Coffee

It goes without saying that Turkish coffee is a must-try when in Turkey. These roasted and very finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a cezve and are then served in a small, colorful porcelain cup on a saucer where the grounds gradually settle. Sugar is optional.

It is said then once you are done drinking and all that's left are the grounds, you can flip the cup over and read your future from what forms on the saucer. Of course, I've attempted this several times but I could not make anything out of it, unless it is repeatedly indicating that my life is a black hole (very likely)

good food in istanbul
Turkish coffee


Try the Turkish Tea

While you're at the coffee, why not go for the tea as well? Turkish tea is usually served for free (otherwise it doesn't cost more than 2 TL). It is usually served piping hot in a very delicate glass.

turkish tea istanbul
Turkish tea


Try the Local Turkish Dishes

It is a challenge trying to look for restaurants that serve local dishes. You'd need to look hard beyond the sea of kebab stalls and fast food chains. Local food is obviously the most authentic, delicious and tasty, so don't miss out on the chance to savor them while you're there!

good food in turkey
Delicious Turkish Pilav with some dishes which names I have a hard time recalling


Go on a Bosphorus Cruise

12 TL, 90 minutes, magnificent views of both the European and Asian sides - the Bosphorus Cruise is very worth it.

Tips #1: Go in the evening and you'll get an amazing view of the sunset as the backdrop thrown in for free.
Tips #2: Sit on the left side of the ferry. The ferry goes in a way that all the amazing attractions are on the left and that gives you plenty of opportunities for clear shots.

istanbul river cruise
Bosphorus Cruise
Views from the Bosphorus Cruise


Visit a Mosque

The Ottoman Empire had made Islam an important influence here and mosques are a common sight. Take some time off to visit the impressive Blue Mosque or any other mosque (most of them allow visitors) which usually do not take an entrance fee. Females should dress decently and have their hair covered with a scarf.

popular mosques in istanbul
Inside one of the Turkish mosques


Take the Tram

One must get on the 19th-century Nostalgic Istiklal Caddesi tram not only for its historical values but also because it gives its passengers a slow but exciting ride through İstiklal Caddesi. Another notable tram is the T1 Bağcılar- Kabataş tram, which stops at nearly every major attraction such as the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet and many more.

trams in istanbul turkey
The pretty Nostalgic Istiklal Caddesi tram honking its way through the Istiklal Street


Visit an Island

There are a few islands close to Istanbul known as the Princes Islands (Adalar) which are reachable by ferries which make the perfect day trip on a sunny day. There are not a single car on these islands, and taxis are replaced by horse-drawn carriages instead. Note that the shores here are rocky and void of sand, and tourists were suntanning on the grass instead. Anything goes!

popular islands near istanbul
The island of Büyükada, or Big Island

 

Get a Bird's-Eye View of Istanbul

The city is spectacular, more so when seen from above. Climb the Galata Tower (25 TL) and reward yourself with a stunning view of the buildings as well as the Golden Horn.

top attractions in istanbul
Istanbul from above

interesting things to do in istanbul
View from Galata Tower
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Comments

  1. Hi..I intend to travel to Turkey .Any suggestion of places in Instanbul for culture show.Any good hotel to recommend?

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