Attractions in Istanbul

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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.