Skip to content

What to do in Istanbul – 10 of the best experiences

Deciding what to do in Istanbul is not an easy task. The city is huge and very rich in activities. In addition, culture, architecture, and cuisine are very different from other European cities. These are 10 of the experiences you can’t miss when planning what to do in Istanbul.

Check here our posts about our 5 days in Istanbul (with the itinerary and some tips to visit the city) and about Inqlusif, the hotel we chose to stay when visiting the city.

Marvel at Hagia Sophia (Sultanahmet)

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sofia

The grandeur of this monument amazes anyone. It was originally a Byzantine basilica but was later transformed into a Catholic church and after that a mosque. Nowadays it is a museum.

Visit the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet)

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Blue Mosque

It is a place of Muslim worship but is also much visited by tourists. The building and the domes are impressive.

Bargain for something traditional at the Grand Bazaar while having tea with the merchant (Eminönü)

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey
Grand Bazaar

This covered bazaar is one of the oldest in the world. Here you can find textiles, crafts, rugs, gold and various places to eat or drink coffee. Trade is a part of Turkish cultural aspects and they love to haggle and have art in doing it. They like to welcome the customer and offer tea while discussing the prices. No itinerary for what to do in Istanbul is complete without a trip to the Grand Bazaar.

Eat one of the best Kebabs in town in Dürümzade (Beyoğlu)

Dürüm, Istanbul, Turkey

It is one of the best-known places in town to eat a traditional Tavuk Kebab (chicken) or Adana Kebab (spicy minced beef). It’s a very simple place with only two or three tables, but believe us, the ingredients are fresh and made in charcoal in a traditional way. If you have the opportunity be sure to try the traditional lentil soup (Mercimek Çorbası) too.

Check out our post on 10 of the best food experiences in Istanbul

Climb from Karaköy to Şişhane on one of Europe’s oldest lifts, the Tünel (Karaköy – Beyoğlu)

Tünel, Istanbul, Turkey

It is a short underground ride between Karaköy and Şişhane. Although it is one of the oldest, the machinery was recently renovated. This path helps a lot to avoid walking up the hill.

Walk and Shop in İstiklal (Beyoğlu)

İstiklâl Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey
İstiklâl Caddesi

This avenue shows what Istanbul is today, a place full of shops, culture, restaurants, and cafes. Here, traditional and modern commerce come together on a large boulevard where thousands of people pass daily and it won’t be hard to find what to do in Istanbul while strolling this boulevard.

Visit one of the city’s specialty coffee places

Breakfast, Another Coffeeshop, Istanbul, Turkey

In recent years, nice themed cafes have sprung up in town. If you have the opportunity be sure to visit one and try a Turkish coffee.

Visit a Hammam and experience the real Turkish bath

Hammam, Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish baths are part of the country’s culture. There are several types and for all tastes and prices. From the most traditional and self-service to some more modern and more cared for with treatments and massages.

Cross from Europe to Asia by ferry, visiting both parts of this city on two continents

Europe to Asia Ferry, Istanbul, Turkey
Europe to Asia Ferry

Istanbul is one of the only cities in the world to be found on two continents, separated by the Marmara Sea. Every day thousands of people make this crossing to go to work. If you have the opportunity, try it too. The views of the city are unique when you are on the ferry. This crossing is very cheap (3 TL) and for us, it is a must-do activity in Istanbul.

Visit one of the city’s many rooftops

Rooftop, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a city with fabulous views. With increasing tourism and demand, trendy rooftops are becoming a reality. Enjoy a drink or a meal, but especially enjoy one of the fabulous views of the city