IstanbulTurkey

Image for Galata Tower which includes a city and heritage architecture

Visit Istanbul

This transcontinental megopolis brings together the best of Europe and Asia. As one of the largest cities in the world, you’ll need more than a day in Istanbul.

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey is home to over 13 million inhabitants, and one of the largest cities in the world.

Visitors flock to Istanbul’s modern and ancient sides, which often coincide. Find your bearings in this extraordinary capital by way of a city tour, before hand-picking landmarks to further explore.

Experience Istanbul’s vibrant history at the unmissable 15th-century Topkapi Palace. This former Ottoman residence has a colourful past, in the main, due to its former hedonistic occupants, the sultans and their famous harem. Explore the palace’s ornate décor, mysterious harem and Turkish bath, the green courtyard and spectacular sea views. Beat the rush of tourist crowds by going early morning or late afternoon.

See the stunning architecture of Istanbul’s spiritual spectacle, the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii). Dating back to the early 17th-century, this fascinating mosque is one of the city’s most visited sights and is still in use today. Check visiting times as tours are normally organised outwith hours of worship. Visitors are advised to enter via the mosque’s west entrance for the optimum view of the mosque.

The Byzantine Chora Church, in the old city walls, is another of Istanbul’s grand religious effigies. The church is one of the finest surviving examples of its kind, with some parts dating back to the 11th-century. Marvel at the church’s beautiful mosaic design and painted frescoes.

Slightly off the traditional tourist track, the Byzantine Basilica Cistern is a surprising, but must-see, attraction. This ancient underground system was designed in the 6th-century to channel water into the city, known then as Constantinople. The cistern ceiling is supported by a network of staggering ornate marble columns, at around 9 metres tall (30 ft). Although presently empty, the cistern has capacity for more than 100,000 tonnes of water.

Above ground, this extraordinary ‘mega-polis’ invites visitors to indulge. The city’s infamous Turkish baths (hamans) are ideal for relaxing after a day’s touring. Here you can self-serve or enjoy a wash, scrub and massage from a willing attendant. Check out the etiquette before a visit to avoid embarrassment.

For retail therapy on a grand scale, shop at Istanbul’s world famous Grand Bazaar. This is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world dating back to the 15th-century with thousands of shops and many more visitors. It closes on Sundays and some bank holidays. After the bustle of the Bazaar, try a reviving Turkish Coffee and some authentic food in a local cafe.

Foodies will appreciate Istanbul’s many cosmopolitan restaurants and bars. After dark, watch the city come alive at one of the city’s numerous nightclubs. Nightlife is a huge part of Istanbul’s modern culture.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Blue Mosque which includes heritage architecture, a mosque and religious elements

Sultanahmet

Gourmet restaurants interesting history and top sights from Sultanahmet Square to Hippodrome of Constantinople – discover Sultanahmet, a destination also famous for its shopping.

Sultanahmet
Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

Taksim

4/5Very Good!(315 reviews)

Enjoy the popular shops in Taksim. Taksim Square is a worthwhile stop, and you can jump on the metro at Taksim Station or Findikli Station to see more of Istanbul.

Taksim
Galata Tower which includes a city and heritage architecture

Istanbul City Center

4/5Very Good!(110 reviews)

Known for its charming cafes and popular shops, there's plenty to explore in Istanbul City Center. Check out top attractions like Suleymaniye Mosque and Spice Bazaar, and jump on the metro at Laleli-University Station or Aksaray Station to see more of the city.

Istanbul City Center
Istanbul showing markets and food

Fatih

4.5/5Wonderful!(1,374 reviews)

Enjoy the popular shops in Fatih. Suleymaniye Mosque is a worthwhile stop, and you can jump on the metro at Aksaray Station or Yusufpasa Station to see more of Istanbul.

Fatih
Bosphorus Bridge showing a bridge, a coastal town and a river or creek

Besiktas

4/5Very Good!(74 reviews)

If you're spending time in Besiktas, you might enjoy attractions like Dolmabahce Palace and Zorlu Performing Arts Center. You might also enjoy the neighbourhood's ample dining options before hopping on the metro at 4.Levent Station to see more of the city.

Besiktas
Kadikoy, Istanbul, Turkey

Kadikoy

4/5Very Good!(59 reviews)

You might take some time to check out the abundant dining options in Kadikoy. Spend some time visiting top spots like Bagdat Avenue, and catch the metro at Bahariye Station or Kilise Station to see more of the area.

Kadikoy

Top hotels in Istanbul

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
YOTEL Istanbul Airport LANDSIDE
YOTEL Istanbul Airport LANDSIDE
Tayakadin Mah. Terminal Cad. No.: 1, Arnavutkoy, Istanbul
£98
per night
24 Dec-25 Dec

Situated in Arnavutkoy, this hotel is 11.1 mi (17.8 km) from Belgrad Forest and within 20 miles (32 km) of Mall of Istanbul and Kilyos Beach. Ataturk Olympic ...

4.4/5Wonderful! (50 reviews)

"Very unique and creative. Everything was clean and neat."…"

Reviewed on 24 Nov 2019

YOTEL Istanbul Airport LANDSIDE
Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center
Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center
5 out of 5
Silahsor Cad. No: 42 Bomonti Sisli, Istanbul, Istanbul
£78
per night
20 Dec-21 Dec

Located in Sisli, this luxury hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Bomontiada, City's Nişantaşı Shopping Center and Istanbul Cevahir Shopping and Entertainment Centre. ...

4.6/5Wonderful! (1,967 reviews)

"Overall experience was very good, food was nice, staff was brilliant."…"

Reviewed on 9 Dec 2019

Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center
YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport AIRSIDE
YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport AIRSIDE
Tayakadin Mah. Terminal Cad. No.1, Arnavutkoy, Arnavutkoy, Istanbul
£113
per night
27 Dec-28 Dec

Situated in Arnavutkoy, this hotel is 11.1 mi (17.8 km) from Belgrad Forest and within 20 miles (32 km) of Mall of Istanbul and Kilyos Beach. Ataturk Olympic ...

3.8/5Good! (33 reviews)

"Great for the guests with kids in case of long transit time. But it is too expensive. And it should provide with more flexibility with hours."…"

Reviewed on 3 Dec 2019

YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport AIRSIDE

Popular things to do in Istanbul

Blue Mosque
Image for Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

4.5/5(646 reviews)

The nickname of this 17th-century structure refers to the brilliant color of its tiled interior.

Grand Bazaar
Image for Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

4.5/5(647 reviews)

Enter the maze of shop-lined streets in one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world to browse hundreds of thousands of hand-crafted objects.

Hagia Sophia
Image for Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

4.5/5(588 reviews)

Once a church, then a Byzantine cathedral, later a mosque and now a monument, this iconic building is a national treasure.

Topkapi Palace
Image for Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

4.5/5(515 reviews)

The official residence of the Ottoman sultans for about four centuries is now accessible to the public and home to sacred relics.

Basilica Cistern
Image for Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

4.5/5(334 reviews)

The “Sunken Palace” is one of the most striking remnants of Byzantine Constantinople and is the largest of hundreds of ancient underground reservoirs in Istanbul.

Suleymaniye Mosque
Image for Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

4.5/5(272 reviews)

This 16th-century mosque is not only the largest active mosque in Istanbul, but also one of the city’s most symbolic.

Top activities in Istanbul

Istanbul in One Day Small-Group Tour
Image for Istanbul in One Day Small-Group Tour

Istanbul in One Day Small-Group Tour

£52

Explore the best of Istanbul in a single day. Visit Topkapi Palace, discover the Blue Mosque, wander through the Cistern Basilica, stop at Hagia Sophia, indulge in a traditional Turkish meal, and end at the Grand Bazaar.

Istanbul Tourist Pass: Top 30+ Attractions & Services
Image for Istanbul Tourist Pass: Top 30+ Attractions & Services

Istanbul Tourist Pass: Top 30+ Attractions & Services

£98

Istanbul Tourist Pass is a digital city Pass that provides free access to many of the city’s top attractions (including activities for children), during the days you choose, while helping you save money, skip the ticketing lines, and explore Istanbul at your own pace.

A Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorous
Image for A Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorous

A Sunset Cruise on the Bosphorous

£9

Witness breathtaking views over the shimmering waters of Istanbul’s magnificent Bosphorous. See bridges, palaces, fortresses, seaside residences and many other historical places while you cruise along this strait.

Sightseeing Cruise on the Bosphorus
Image for Sightseeing Cruise on the Bosphorus

Sightseeing Cruise on the Bosphorus

£30

Your Istanbul trip isn’t complete without sailing the Bosphorus. Jaw-dropping views of iconic landmarks glide by as you relax in the comfort of a private boat. Options include either a taste of the morning bustle at the Spice Bazaar or a panoramic view of the Golden Horn in the afternoon.

Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar & Topkapi Palace Full-Day Tour
Image for Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar & Topkapi Palace Full-Day Tour

Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar & Topkapi Palace Full-Day Tour

£46

Witness the classic sites of heritage and history that abound in Istanbul on your full-day tour. Visit architectural masterpieces, marvel at awe-inspiring, Byzantine-era tileworks, and see the imperial treasures of Ottoman sultans.

Afternoon Ottaman Relics Tour
Image for Afternoon Ottaman Relics Tour

Afternoon Ottaman Relics Tour

£52

Sultans Tombs-Tucked around the back of Hagia Sophia. There are five tombs of sultans: Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmed III, Sultan Mustafa I, Sultan Ibrahim I. Topkapi Palace-It was residence of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years.

Reviews of Istanbul

4.6

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
1102
5 - Excellent 68.1508967223253%
4 - Good
412
4 - Good 25.479282622139763%
3 - Okay
77
3 - Okay 4.761904761904762%
2 - Disappointing
11
2 - Disappointing 0.6802721088435374%
1 - Terrible
15
1 - Terrible 0.9276437847866419%

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

12 Dec 2019

İf intending to visit all the sites and museums I would recommend buying the museum pass ,as it provides a huge saving over desperate individual tickets.

5/5 - Excellent

Shahid

12 Dec 2019

Istanbul is very nice and historical city. People are very nice and helpful. Overall good experience

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

11 Dec 2019

Incredible scenery

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

10 Dec 2019

I have travelled to many cities in the world, but in my opinion Istanbul is the most exciting and exotic. A wonderful fusion of old and new, east and west! Friendly people and easy to get around, make this a must visit city for everyone.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

10 Dec 2019

Istanbul has a great vibe, it’s a melting point of cultures and history. However we always have issues with dishonest taxi drivers !!

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

10 Dec 2019

Safe and nice people

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