10 Beautiful Places in Istanbul You Don’t Want to Miss

There is nothing like Istanbul. This city straddles two continents, with the Bosphorus River cutting through it. Istanbul has been through several civilizations, and it has historic monuments and bazaars to show for it. This sprawling city is magnetic and beautiful but also noisy and chaotic. This post covers some of the beautiful places in Istanbul, although there are many more.

These beautiful places in Istanbul can be covered over two days, although I would recommend that you spend four days in Istanbul. Sultanahmet is the old part of Istanbul and has many famous attractions, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Topkapi Palace.

You can easily spend a couple of days exploring Istanbul. There is more to do besides sightseeing, such as taking a food tour to experience the bursting food flavours.

Bosphorus

The Bosphorus connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, forming one of the continental boundaries between Asia and Europe. It separates the Asian part of Turkey (Anatolia) from the European part of Turkey.

Taking a cruise down the Bosphorus and seeing the skyline and minarets looming in the sky is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. If you take a sunset cruise, that time is lovely for sure.

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Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. It is located in the Sultanahmet area southwest of Hagia Sophia.

Also known as the ‘Sunken Palace,’ you will be astonished by the gigantic scale of this underground chamber. This vast chamber was designed to filter water for the Great Palace of Constantinople. 

Tour Option: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is an Ottoman-era historical imperial mosque in Istanbul. It was designed as an imperial show of strength to complement the imposing Hagia Sophia. It is dubbed the Blue Mosque because of over 20,000 handmade ceramic Iznik tiles that are part of the interior decoration and the 250 + windows that filter in light beautifully.

This is a working mosque, so it is closed to tourists at prayer times. Please be mindful to dress appropriately while visiting the mosque (arms, shoulders, legs, and head must be properly covered). 

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Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets. With over 4000 shops selling everything from Turkish rugs to jewelry to lamps and trinkets, you will not find a better place for some of the best souvenirs from Turkey. Put your haggling skills to the test!

Even if you are not into souvenir shopping, this place is worth a visit for its sheer scale and beauty. 

Tour option: Guided Shopping Trip with Turkish Coffee Tasting

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a mosque, a former church, and a major cultural and historical site in Istanbul. This is one of the most famous landmarks in Turkey. It was built as a Christian church in the 6th century under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. In subsequent centuries, it became a mosque, a museum, and a mosque again.

With its breathtaking domes that look like hanging in the air, marble columns, and unparalleled mosaics, this monument is one of the wonders of architecture. Hagia Sophia is located on the first hill of İstanbul, surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn on three sides. Visiting area of the mosque is closed to visitors in the afternoon due to prayers. 

Tour option: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Guided Tour w/ Tickets

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace harks back to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. This Imperial Palace served as the primary residence and administrative headquarters. The Treasury section and the Harem are fascinating. 

This massive complex is located in the Sultanahmet area. You will come upon the Imperial Gate (Bab-ı Hümayun), the first exterior gate. Topkapı Palace Museum has extensive collections of porcelain, robes, weapons, Ottoman miniatures, Islamic calligraphic manuscripts, and other fascinating items. The Palace Treasury holds an incredible collection of the world’s most famous and spectacular jewels.

Tour option: Topkapi Palace and Harem Guided Tour with Ticket

Photo by Antonio Sessa on Unsplash

Balat Colorful Buildings

Balat is a neighborhood in Istanbul that has become famous among tourists for its colorful wooden houses. This beautiful place is worth visiting. Here, you can explore Istanbul’s rich history and cultural heritage. Historically, it was the center of the Jewish community in Istanbul.

Its colorful streets and vibrant local culture make it a unique and fascinating neighborhood to wander around. You can browse quaint antique shops, cozy tea rooms, and brand-new cafes and walk down to the waterfront to take in the views of the Golden Horn.

Dolmabahace Palace

Dolmabahce Palace, located in the Besiktas area of Istanbul, is the largest palace in Turkey. It was built between 1843 and 1856 by the 31st Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan family found the medieval Topkapi Palace lacking in comfort and modern style and wanted a newer palace built in a newer area. 

It is very opulent and built in the baroque style favored at that time. You need to set aside a significant amount of time to see the vast palace interiors. There are beautiful palace grounds with the Bosphorus flowing nearby that you can enjoy after your tour.

Tour option: Dolmabahce Palace Guided Tour, Skip-the-line Entry

Istiklal Kadessi

Istiklal Avenue, historically known as the Grand Avenue of Pera, is a 1.4-kilometre pedestrian street in the historic Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. It is one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul. Istiklal is located on the European side of Istanbul. It ends at Taksim Square at one end and (almost at) Galata Tower at the other end.

Istiklal Street is a must for architecture buffs and shopaholics. This famous street has many high-end shops, bars, cafes, and art galleries and gets quite lively in the evenings. 

Istanbul has many more beautiful places than what I detailed out above. You can easily spend a week in this metropolis peeling layers of its history, architecture, and way of life. 

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Goztepe Park

Göztepe is a neighborhood in the municipality of Kadıköy. Goztepe Park makes for a fun activity for families to have a picnic. The extensive green spaces and the great variety of trees here make it a nice escape from the urban chaos of sprawling Istanbul. 

One of the lovely moments inside the park is wandering around the artificial lake and sitting on one of its edges. There are extensive walking paths for jogging and walking, as well as shops where you can rent bicycles.

Author Bio: Shweta has always been passionate about travel and immersing in new experiences. Having been to over 45 countries, she blogs at Zest In A Tote to bring family-friendly itineraries and tips, destinations, and luxury stays to her readers. Her belief in family travel needn’t be boring, and one can do a mix of local culture & food, adventure activities, and relaxation, all with family. 

Meghan

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