5 Things To Do in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey - 5 Things Not to MissKnown throughout much of history as a sort of “middle ground” between the eastern and western culture, Istanbul has always been a fascinating city. And today, despite some political turmoil in Turkey, the city has become a popular stop for tourists from all over the world.

If Istanbul is on your travel list, I recommend reading on for a few words on its can’t-miss charms and attractions.

1 – Visit Istanbul’s Many Historic Attractions

Although Istanbul is quickly becoming a trendy, modern city with plenty of of cute cafés and shops to visit, visiting its historical neighborhoods will always be priorities for tourists, and rightly so. This is an absolute must-do while visiting Istanbul.

One thing you cannot miss seeing in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia Museum, which some refer to as the eighth wonder of the world. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia boasts thousands of years of complex history to (and an adorable cat that likes to hang around and greet visitors!).

Hagia Sophia - Istanbul, Turkey
Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey

Another historical masterpiece you must pay a visit to during a trip to Istanbul is the Sultanahmet Camii, or Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. It includes a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice.

Blue Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey
Blue Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey

Besides being used as a tourist attraction (a very busy one at that!), it’s also an active mosque. This means it is closed to non-worshippers for a half hour during the five daily prayers. It’s also completely stunning, and an amazing place to take photos – or simply marvel at its opulence.

2 – Do some shopping (and haggling!) at the Grand Bazaar

Another cultural highlight in Istanbul is visiting the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the entire world. In addition to being a great place to find unique souvenirs (there are literally thousands of shops to choose from), you will also stumble upon an impressive selection of local artwork, spices, teas, and much more.

Grand Bazaar - Istanbul, Turkey
Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey

The market is busy, chaotic, and colorful, with a variety of sights and sounds and smells. It is a shock to the senses and really, a ton of fun – do not miss this on your Istanbul visit!

Grand Bazaar - Istanbul, Turkey
Grand Bazaar – Istanbul, Turkey

3 – Experience Istanbul’s Local Nightlife

Being an international city filled with seasoned world travelers and young backpackers alike, it’s no wonder Istanbul has developed a strong nightlife scene. As with many other popular European destinations, there are plenty of posh night clubs and bars to choose from.

Many of the most beloved spots can be found in the Karakoy neighborhood, which lays right on the edge of the Bosphorus, providing stunning river views for its visitors. A particularly popular favorite is Fosil Lounge Bar, where the cocktails are unique and the sunset views are unrivaled.

Istanbul Nightlife

There are also plenty of clubs to visit that are open nearly all night long; Jungle 8, a highly-rated spot, is open until 4:30am in the morning! Naturally, you’ll typically find plenty of enthusiastic clubbers taking full advantage of these hours and dancing the night (and early morning) away.

One element missing from the Istanbul nightlife scene, popular at a lot of other European destinations, is casino entertainment. Much of the world has eschewed this sort of attraction altogether, thanks to the growing prevalence of internet-based gaming options. Sites abroad are implementing popular payment methods and producing massive game selections to make live casinos all but obsolete. However, though several major European cities popular with tourists still have these facilities – and attract major crowds to them – it’s good to be aware that you won’t find a casino culture in Istanbul.

With this one exception, you should find just about anything you’re looking for out and about at night in this city!

4 – Visit a Turkish Hamam Bath

You’ll be soaking up culture in one way or another through all of the attractions mentioned above. But a final recommendation that beautifully combines Turkish culture and your typical vacation relaxation is a trip to a hamam, or Turkish bath. You have the option of visiting an historic hamam, most of which are centuries old, or you can visit a modernized version at hotels like the Four Seasons Istanbul.

No matter which hamam you choose, you will leave feeling like a whole new person. The hamam experience usually involves a bath, a sauna, and sometimes a massage. Some of the modernized versions also offer other services like you’d see at your typical, contemporary spa. And if you’re up for diving straight into Turkish tradition, you can even opt to be bathed by a professional, the way it was done many years ago.

5 – Enjoy a Traditional Ottoman Nights Show on a Bosphorous River Cruise

There’s no better way to experience traditional Turkish song & dance and food than hopping on an Ottoman Nights River Cruise. Sight-see the beautiful Bosphorus River with romantic Istanbul night views and enjoy delicious Turkish food and drinks as you are entertained with traditional Turkish dance shows.

Or, take a daytime river cruise and/or city tour around Istanbul for a truly immersive experience. You can explore the two continents of Istanbul (Asian and European sides), rent a private boat, take a lunch cruise, experience an immersive city tour of Istanbul and more!

Istanbul Night Cruise

Disclaimer: There’s a chance that this blog post includes affiliate product links. At absolutely no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission for any purchase made through these links. Any commissions received are very much appreciated, as they help me to be able to continue posting travel blog content free of charge to my lovely readers. Of course, all recommendations are unbiased, and I will always only recommend products and services that I truly believe in. Thank you for your support!


Istanbul, Turkey - 5 Things Not to Miss


5 Things To Do in Istanbul

I’m Jenn, a photographer, travel writer, and content creator based out of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I’m glad you’re here – now let’s explore!

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