Bucket List: Things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, and offers a rich cultural and historical heritage. Istanbul is also a modern metropolis with vibrant nightlife, shopping, and cuisine. Whether you are looking for ancient monuments, religious sites, or contemporary attractions, Istanbul has something for everyone. Allow us to guide you in checking off Istanbul from your bucket list with our curated list of unforgettable things to do in this enchanting city.

Visit Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace was the residence of the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years and is now a museum that showcases the lavish lifestyle and art of the empire. You can admire the exquisite architecture, gardens, courtyards, and treasures of the palace, such as the holy relics, jewels, weapons, and costumes. You can also visit the harem, where the sultan’s wives and concubines lived, for an extra fee. The entrance fee for the palace is 100 Turkish Lira (TRY), which is about 3.7 USD, and the entrance fee for the harem is 70 TRY, which is about 2.6 USD. 

Explore Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the most magnificent mosques in Istanbul and was built by the famous architect Sinan in the 16th century. It is named after Suleiman the Magnificent, who was one of the most powerful and influential sultans of the Ottoman Empire. The mosque has a stunning dome, four minarets, and a spacious courtyard. The interior is decorated with calligraphy, tiles, carpets, and stained glass windows. The mosque also houses the tombs of Suleiman and his wife Hürrem Sultan, as well as a library, a hospital, a school, and a soup kitchen. The mosque is free to enter, but you need to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering.

Enjoy a Bosphorus Cruise

The Bosphorus is a strait that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and separates Europe and Asia. A cruise along the Bosphorus is a great way to see the scenic views of Istanbul’s skyline, bridges, palaces, fortresses, and mosques. You can also spot dolphins, seagulls, and fishermen along the way. There are different types of cruises available, such as short tours, full-day tours, dinner cruises, or private yachts. The prices vary depending on the duration, route, and service of the cruise. A typical short tour lasts about two hours and costs around 25 TRY (about 0.9 USD), while a full-day tour lasts about six hours and costs around 75 TRY (about 2.8 USD). A dinner cruise with entertainment and unlimited drinks costs around 250 TRY (about 9.3 USD).

Shop at the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world and has over 4,000 shops selling everything from carpets, jewelry, spices, antiques, souvenirs, and more. The bazaar is also a maze of alleys, courtyards, domes, and fountains that create a unique atmosphere. You can bargain with the vendors to get the best deals or just browse through the colorful displays of goods. The bazaar is open every day except Sundays and public holidays from 9 am to 7 pm. 

Taste Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is one of the most diverse and delicious cuisines in the world and reflects the influences of various cultures and regions. Some of the dishes you should try in Istanbul are kebabs (grilled meat on skewers), meze (assorted appetizers), kofte (meatballs), borek (pastries filled with cheese or meat), dolma (stuffed grape leaves or peppers), lahmacun (thin crust pizza with minced meat), pide (boat-shaped bread with various toppings), baklava (flaky pastry with nuts and syrup), kunefe (shredded pastry with cheese and syrup), Turkish delight (soft candy with nuts or fruits), and Turkish coffee (strong coffee served with foam). You can find these dishes in restaurants, cafes, street stalls, or markets all over Istanbul. The prices vary depending on the quality and location of the place you eat at.

These are just some of the things you can do in Istanbul, but there are many more to discover. Istanbul is a city that never ceases to amaze and enchant its visitors with its history, culture, and charm.

For more budget friendly travel ideas, please read our 10 Affordable Holiday Destinations article.