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Top 5 things to do in Istanbul

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Basilica Cistern
1. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is a chamber built in the 6th century to hold 80,000 cubic meters of water. It is located under the streets of Istanbul, supported by arches and 336 marble columns.
Hagia Sophia
2. Hagia Sophia
1,500 years after being built, Istanbul's architecture still hasn't produced a building to rival the beauty of the Hagia Sophia. Dating all the way back to the Roman Empire, the building has served the city as an Orthodox Church, a secular museum, and once again as a mosque. Alongside the huge dome, the highly decorative interior will leave any visitor awestruck that hands are capable of creating something so impressive. Keep an eye out for early Christian motifs inside the epitome of Byzantine Architecture that is still just as powerful today.
Topkapı Palace Museum
3. Topkapı Palace Museum
The Topkapı Palace, or the Seraglio, is a big museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It is located in the former residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans, in the heart of Istanbul.
VIALAND Theme Park
4. VIALAND Theme Park
Formerly known as Vialand, Isfanbul is a theme park and entertainment complex located in the district of Eyüp in Istanbul, Turkey. The park features a wide range of thrilling rides and fairground classics, and is partly designed with an architectural style that reflects Turkey's Ottoman heritage.
Hagia Irene
5. Hagia Irene
Hagia Irene is a Greek Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. Dating back to the 4th century A.D., the Hagia is thought to be the first church built in Constantinople. It is one of the few church buildings in Istanbul that was not converted into a mosque. Today, it serves as a historical museum and as a classical music concert hall, due to the building's outstanding acoustics.

Reasons to visit Istanbul

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All things to do in Istanbul

Dolmabahce Palace is the last palace built by the Ottoman Sultanate in Istanbul, Turkey. It is located on the coast, close to the ferries that depart from Beşiktaş.
4.7 / 5 (22)
From $35.29
The Istanbul Aquarium, located in the Florya neighborhood of Istanbul, is home to a plentitude of aquatic and amphibious animals, as well as capybaras… but they're great swimmers, so they fit right in! If you're looking for wonders of the ocean, then you're in luck. Istanbul Aquarium is home to the guitar shark, the Cuvier's dwarf caiman (a small crocodile species found in the Americas), gentoo penguins, and an impressive array of fish from across the globe. You'll find around 17,000 land and sea creatures inside, spread out across 17 custom habitats and a miniature Amazon rainforest.
5.0 / 5 (1)
From $28.23
SEA LIFE Istanbul is an aquarium and marine wildlife conservation center. Home to Europe's largest collection of sharks, the aquarium features an 83-meter walk-in tunnel where a large variety of sharks can be seen gliding around visitors! It's also home to an ocean of other amazing sea creatures like stingrays, crazy-looking jellyfish, and more.
4.5 / 5 (20)
From $16.13
Only got a few hours in Istanbul? If there's one location to head for, it's Sultanahmet Square. As the historic heart of Old Istanbul, it has some of the most significant monuments in the city. From here you can easily get to most architectural landmarks, like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia Museum and the Basilica Cistern. Sultanahmet Square contains many benches, fountains, and grassy areas. Trams run right through the area for easy access to local attractions.
4.0 / 5 (3)
From $23.19
Located conveniently in the international departures level at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, the Plaza Premium Lounge is the perfect way to recharge between flights. Enjoy a panoramic runway view, and a variety of lounge comforts designed to elevate your travel experience, including comfortable seating, a spacious dining area and more. While you’re in this lounge, reward yourself with a taste of locally inspired and international cuisines from a menu curated especially for travelers.
From $30.00
LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre is the ultimate indoor playground for LEGO® fans, with three awesome rides, ten LEGO® build and play zones, a 4D cinema and much, much more. It is located in the Forum İstanbul shopping mall and is easy to reach with public transport.
4.4 / 5 (13)
From $16.13
Madame Tussauds is a world-famous museum featuring wax reproductions of popular celebrities and historical figures. The Istanbul location holds a collection of famous Turkish and international personalities, providing a unique experience for visitors.
4.8 / 5 (23)
From $16.13
Take amazing photos
The Museum of Illusions Istanbul - Anatolia is an interactive, immersive, and entertaining space that takes visitors down the rabbit hole of weird and wonderful optical illusions, suitable for all ages. With more than 60 illusions and mind-boggling exhibits to see and experience, the museum offers the perfect activity for families, friends, or solo travelers alike.
From $13.00
Take amazing photos
The Museum of Illusions in Istanbul brings you into a world of optical illusions where your brain can't fathom what it's seeing! The space has 19 mind-bending exhibits and is suitable for all generations. It's the perfect day out for friends and family.
From $13.00
Çanakkale

Trojan Ruins

The Trojan Ruins mark the site of the ancient Bronze Age city of Troy, a popular story in Greek mythology and an archaeological site in the north-west of Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. Visitors on tours from Istanbul can learn the story of the Trojan War, as well as explore ruined houses, walls, and towers. There are also excellent views over the Trojan plain and the sea from here.
From $90.75
A view of the outdoor market outside of the venue
Kızlarağası Medresesi was constructed by architect Mehmet Ağa in 1582 during the reign of Sultan Murad III. It is now the venue of the traditional whirling dervish, an 800-year-old Turkish ceremony, and a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage performance as of 2005.
4.0 / 5 (2)
From $18.15
Jungle Istanbul is an animal-themed park with a focus on wildlife conservation. It is located on the ground level of Isfanbul Shopping Mall, right next to the Migros Store. Visitors can get there via a free shuttle that departs from the street across the old Sirkeci Train Station.
4.5 / 5 (2)
From $6.55

More ways to experience Istanbul

Planning your Istanbul visit

Language

Turkish

Currency

Turkish Lira (₺)

Dialing code

+90

Time zone

Eastern European Time

Where west meets east

Step into a culture unlike any you’ve ever experienced; where bustling medinas and ancient churches exist side-by-side with glimmering, glass skyscrapers. It’s hard to grasp just how long the ancient city of Istanbul has existed, its critical relevance throughout history, and the multitude of opportunities it offers to learn, see, taste, explore and adventure. Istanbul is a magnificent place that offers a wealth of opportunities to any visitor. Explore its busy streets and markets, drink the aromatic (and powerful) Turkish coffee, visit one of the great Wonders of the World and see the best of the city from land or sea.

Getting around

Public transport in Istanbul isn’t impossible to navigate, but it does require some effort. The metro system is clean and modern, though the distances between stops can be quite large. Tourists tend to favor the tram network, which is clean, reliable and hits several major tourist attractions. However, they can be very crowded and slow in peak hour. Ferry rides between the European and Asian sides of the city are a fun experience, but the boats tend to hit the docks hard on either side, knocking people over. If grabbing a cab, make sure to confirm that they'll use the meter before you get in – drivers tend to inflate their preset prices for tourists.

Climate

Istanbul is a city with a number of microclimates, which is a scientific way of warning you to check the forecast before going out for the day! The city experiences all four seasons, including snow in the wintertime. Make sure to review the seasonal temperatures before booking your trip, as it can be very hot and humid in the summer months and quite rainy year-round. The Turkish capital is especially inviting, weather-wise, in late spring and early autumn. Get an umbrella when you arrive anyway, either to shield yourself from the hot sun or from Istanbul’s frequent (and sudden) downpours.

What to do in Istanbul for 3 days

Visit one of the seven wonders of the ancient world

It’s not everyday that you have the chance to see one of these. Hagia Sophia, a 6th-century cathedral that has changed hands (and religions!) several times throughout history, was a recent addition to the list – and with good reason. This sprawling, ornate venue details the history of the church and the city in which it stands, while showcasing stunning Christian, Islamic and Greek Orthodox details on every side. With tours available in several languages, the Hagia Sofia is a must-see for absolutely everybody.

Live like a sultan

Immerse yourself in a (biiig) slice of history at the Topkapi Palace, the former seat of the Ottoman Empire. Walk the same mosaic-patterned marble halls as sultans Mehmed II and Selim III, and drink in the opulence from every angle. From domed halls to artificed bedrooms to the resplendent treasury, intricate bathhouses, spectacular harems and shiny armories, Topkapi Palace is a study in art, history and indulgence. Visit it on your own or enhance your experience with a guided tour.

See the real Istanbul

To really understand a place, it helps to get the inside scoop. And, in a city with as much history as Istanbul, we can’t recommend local-led walking tours highly enough! Whether learning the myths and legends of the historic Beyoğlu district, seeing what the Hagia Sofia might have been (if it hadn’t changed religions so many times!) at the Hagia Irene, sampling local nightlife on Istiklal Street or delving into the subterranean depths of the Basilica Cistern, make the most of your time with a knowledgeable guide.

Make a splash under the Turkish sun

No visit to Turkey is complete without a day out on the water. After all, Istanbul enjoys access to not one but two seas – the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The sparkling Bosphorus waters are truly stunning and provide an unparalleled view of some of Istanbul’s greatest sights. Treat yourself to a sightseeing trip, work on your tan on a luxury yacht, enjoy fine Turkish food on a sunset cruise, or double your adventure with a cruise to the Black Sea through charming waterside villages.

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