Top 10 Things to Do in Istanbul

Top 10 Things to do in Istanbul

Turkey stretches along the southern shore of the Black Sea connecting Asia and Europe.  Istanbul is the capitol city, a cultural crossroads that has been the metropolis for the Eastern Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. 

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Today, it’s a magnificent destination that we have visited a few times, and will be back to see again.

Here’s our list of recommendations – where to stay, dine, how to get around, and the Top 10 Things to Do in Istanbul!


  1. Hodjapasha Cultural Center: 

    See a performance of the whirling dervishes or traditional Turkish dancing at Hodjapasha, in a 15th century hamam bath house converted into a performance hall.  Learn about Rumi and Sufism. things to do in istanbul

  2. Bosphorus Boat Ride:

    Take a boat ride along the Bosphorus, the channel that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

  3. Private Tour with Context Travel:

    The “intellectually curious” will want to sign up for a private tour with Context Travel.  Our guide Nur shared her personal insights to this fascinating city, rich with culture and history, and delicious food, and kind-hearted people.  She guided us through Old Istanbul where we saw the top highlights from the Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia.

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  4. Blue Mosque: 

    The “Blue Mosque” is located in the ancient heart of Istanbul.  Noted as a UNESCO site, the Sultanahmet,  Sultan Ahmet Mosque, is a highlight to visit in Istanbul.  Built in 1609, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the most well-known of 3,000 mosques in this city. Worshippers kneel in prayer throughout the day. Elaborate and beautiful! 13 domes, 6 minarets, 200 stained glass windows & 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles adorn the interior walls.

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  5. Hagia Sophia:

    Originally built in 537 AD as a Greek Orthodox Christian Basilica, then in 1453, it was converted to an imperial mosque until 1931.  Today, this architectural wonder is a museum.  Recognized by its massive dome, 4 minarets, visitors look like tiny ants when walking into the enormous interior.

  6. Basilica Cistern:

    One of Turkey’s largest surviving Byzantine cisterns is located underneath Istanbul.  There are 336 marble columns that support its roof, and excavation and restoration reveals how this underground cistern provided water to this capital city.

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  7. Topkapi Palace:

    This palace is huge with four courtyards and tree-shaded gardens, fountains, and 400 rooms to accommodate the sultan’s wives and concubines.  Built in 1459, Mehmet the Conqueror held the seat of the Ottoman power for four centuries and occupied this beautiful imperial town.

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    Don’t Miss!  The Holy Rilics Room that houses a collection of sacred pieces collected by the Ottoman Sultans during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim in the 16th century to the 20th century.

  8. Hippodrome: 

    Although the emperor’s box and grandstands are no longer there, you can visit the ancient Roman Hippodrome and see its shape and paved square.  This ancient arena sat 100,000 spectators for ceremonies, sport and political events.

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  9. Grand Bazaar:

    The world’s oldest shopping center is here with a maze of alleyways and 66 dome-covered streets filled with cafes, shops, restaurants, mosques, and if you don’t have a local or guide with you, you could easily get lost.  Each street is named after the guild that once inhabited it from jewelers to mirror and carpet makers. There are 4,000 shops with carpets, ceramics, leather ware, fabrics, jewelry – smile & bargain!

  10. Hamam Turkish Bath: 

    Lastly on our list of things to do in Istanbul, visit a Turkish bath and enjoy a traditional massage, Turkish steam room, and a “shock” bath after your session!   We’ve heard the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami (Bath of Roxelana, wife of the Sultan Suleyman I), has been restored and reopened as a great eample of the Ottoman-Turkish bath tradition.

  11. Museums – Archaeological & Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts: 

    We ran out of time, but look forward to visiting these museums on our return visit to Istanbul.


Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

Overlooking the Bosphorus, The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul warmly welcomes guests to its award winning luxury hotel.  Our rooms were very comfortable, spacious, beautifully decorated and impeccably clean.

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Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Istanbul

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Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Istanbul

Located only 15 minutes from iconic attractions in Old Istanbul, guests enjoy the modern five-star amenities including:

  • 243 well-appointed guest rooms, including 23 suites and 57 Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms
  • Exceptional dining experiences including Bleu Lounge and Atelier Real Food
  • More than 25,866 square feet of conference rooms and event spaces
  • The Ritz Carlton Spa, features eight treatment rooms, a unique 17-meter indoor pool, a traditional authentic Turkish Hammam, a unique Couples-Hammam Suite, the city’ s first open-air spa and a fitness centre
  • Conveniently located near the Istanbul cruise port


Atelier Real Food

Dine at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul’s Atelier Real Food Restaurant for a “farm to table” concept experience.  Here, all dishes use fresh local seasonal ingredients and culinary excellence is celebrated by delicious ‘farm-to-table’ flavors created uniquely in the chefs’ open kitchen ‘atelier’.

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Highly recommend the grilled sea bass and the traditional mezze platter!  Our view looked out to the Bosphorus…every bite was divine, and the service was excellent.

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Laledan Restaurant

We dined on the terrace as the sun set and were dazzled by the views of the Bosphorus.

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Located on the ground floor of the Kempinski Çırağan Palace, Laledan Restaurant serves an international a la carte lunch and dinner menu.  We savored the grilled fish and local salads.  Lovely evening!


Byzas Chauffeur Service Istanbul

Byzas Chauffeur Service provided us with excellent transport from being in time for our arrival at the airport, and professional drivers to get us to our destinations.  We were comfortable in the luxury vehicles, and felt very safe with a good driver.

Reservations can be made at:

Phone:  90-543-480-8877


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Global Adventuress would like to thank the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul for hosting our stay, and Atelier Real Food and Laledan Restaurants for hosting our meals.  We also want to thank Context Travel for providing us with a hosted tour of Istanbul. 

In addition, we thank Hodjapasha for hosting our tickets to see the whirling dervishes performance.  Finally we want to thank Byzas Chauffeur Service for the complimentary transfers between the airport and our hotel.

U.S. Department of State Travel Updates

To learn more about travel safety in Turkey, we recommend referring to the U.S. Dept. of State International Travel updates and travel warnings.

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