Places to see in Istanbul

Top 10 Places to See in Istanbul – Istanbul Travel Advice

1 Historical Old Town Area

Top 10 places to see in Istanbul : The #1 place to visit in Istanbul as a tourist would be, hands-down, the historical old town area. This is the part that consists of Sultanahmet, Eminönü, Sirkeci, Beyazıt, Vefa, Yenikapı, etc. All the top visited historical sites and tourist attractions are here, such as the world-famous Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Arasta Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque, Yeni Mosque, Rustem Pasha Mosque, Sirkeci Train Station, Cemberlitas, the list goes on.

Old city is also home to some incredible museums such as Turkey’s oldest and richest museum, Istanbul Archeological Museum, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Great Palace Mosaics Museum, Science and Technology in Islam Museum, and many more. The old town is without a doubt, a must-visit. 

Top 10 Guided Tours in Istanbul 

Top 10 Istanbul Old Town Tips 

Top 5 Hagia Sophia Tips 

Top 5 Topkapi Palace Tips 

Top 5 Basilica Cistern Tips 

2 Galata & Taksim Area

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On the other side of the Golden Horn, one of the most iconic landmarks of Istanbul, the Galata Tower reveals itself. On top of the Galata Hill, Galata Tower offers one of the best aerial views of Istanbul. There isn’t only the Galata Tower but the trendy and artsy Galata neighborhood. The area is known for its boutique cafes, bars, rooftop restaurants, music shops, and art galleries. The streets are steep and narrow, paved with cobblestone, and have colorful apartments. A little bit further top, you will find the longest pedestrian avenue in Turkey, the famous Istiklal Avenue. Istiklal Avenue is a long pedestrian avenue that connects the Galata neighborhood to Taksim Square. 

Taksim, the largest city square in Istanbul, is generally considered the unofficial city center by locals. On Istiklal Avenue, you will find dozens of great restaurants, cafes, and shops. They have local and international brand stores, cinemas, shopping malls, and art galleries… Its inner streets have museums, hotels, bars, and clubs. It is a vast, crowded, lively place — lots to do. 

Walking tour on Istiklal Avenue with Galata Tower entry ticket 

Why You Should Visit Istiklal Avenue 

3 Karaköy & Galataport

Karaköy, which is located right below Galata, facing directly to Eminönü on the other side of the Golden Horn, is another trendy neighborhood famous for its colorful bar streets, street food, hanging umbrellas, and spectacular seaside view. Walking from Karaköy will bring you to Tophane, where you will find Galataport. It is Istanbul’s main seaside port for cruise ships. An excellent location to watch the sunset, go on a seaside stroll, shop, and have a nice dinner by the sea. 

Read more:

Bars and Clubs in Istanbul 

Nightlife in Istanbul 

Where Do Locals Go to Hang Out in Istanbul? 

4 Dolmabahçe Palace

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Turkey’s largest palace, the Dolmabahçe Palace is located directly on the Bosphorus. The complex was indeed built ON the Bosphorus by reclaiming the sea. Its excellent location provides an incredible view of the Bosphorus. This gigantic palace is a jaw-dropping historical site where the Ottoman Sultans lived and ruled in the 19th century. With 14 tons of gold, 40 tons of silver, 285 rooms, 46 halls, and mindblowing detail in decoration and ornaments, Dolmabahçe Palace truly impresses its visitors with so much glamor. This large complex also has its own Harem, clocks museum, and Sultan portraits museum inside. The whole experience might last half a day or more.

Also, next to Dolmabahçe Palace there is the Kabataş pier, from which most Bosphorus tours start. 

Click here to book a Dolmabahçe Palace tour

Read our article on How to Pick the Best Bosphorus Tour

5 Beşiktaş & Ortaköy

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Places to see in Istanbul

Beşiktaş is one of the liveliest districts of Istanbul. Bustling marketplace, crowded bars, restaurants and cafes, and nightlife, Beşiktaş is many locals’ go-to place. There is also a great Naval Museum (Istanbul Naval Museum) in Beşiktaş. If you take a cab or bus, you can also access Yıldız Park and Yıldız Palace. Yıldız Park offers an alternative, secluded experience in the middle of the city. Being there makes you feel disconnected from the city in its lush park. All the while being geographically in the center of the city. 

A short 20 mins walk towards the Bosphorus bridge will bring you to Ortaköy which is a cute little neighborhood. Ortaköy is famous for its baked potato sandwich, “kumpir“. Here you can try kumpir, feed pigeons by the seaside and take fantastic pictures of the Bosphorus. Ortaköy is one of the best spots to photograph the Bosphorus. This little seaside neighborhood is also full of boutique cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars. 

6 Bebek, Rumeli Hisarı, Emirgan

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Places to see in Istanbul

Located in the heart of Bosphorus, “Bebek” means “baby” in Turkish. And Bebek is truly the baby of the Bosphorus with its natural bay and central location. Bebek is an excellent place for a nice little seaside stroll and has plenty of restaurants, cafes, clubs, and bars. This is one of the upper-class neighborhoods of Istanbul where many Turkish celebrities reside.

A nice walk by the Bosphorus will bring you to Rumeli Hisarı. One of my personal favorites in Istanbul a 15th-century Ottoman fortress. Rumeli Fortress was built to control the Bosphorus traffic before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. This historical fortress is now in the prettiest part of the Bosphorus, right next to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. You can take breathtaking photos from above the Bosphorus.

A little further, you will find Emirgan Park. A gorgeous city park near the Bosphorus is famous for its colorful tulips that blossom in April.

7 Üsküdar

Üsküdar, which is one of the most underrated districts of Istanbul in my opinion, has so much to offer. This huge district has plenty of different neighborhoods and regions to visit. Üsküdar’s neighborhoods are scattered around the district almost perfectly evenly. A few places that stand out are the Maiden Tower, Çamlıca Hill, Çamlıca Tower, Çamlıca Mosque, Nakkaştepe park, Beylerbeyi Palace & Beylerbeyi neighborhood, Kuzguncuk, the list goes on…

Best Places To Visit in Uskudar

8 Kadıköy & Moda

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Places to see in Istanbul

Kadıköy is where locals meet to hang out on the Asian side. Once populated mostly by Christian minorities, it is now famous for its bar streets, boutique cafes, clubs, nightlife, food market, restaurants, seaside, shops, stores, and galleries. Moda neighborhood, at the end of Kadıköy, is a residential neighborhood and a geographical peninsula. At the end of Moda, there is a beautiful bay known for its small cafes, street cats, and beautiful seaside. 

9 Princes’ Islands

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Places to see in Istanbul

Princes’ Islands, which are simply called “Islands” in Turkish, are a set of small islands that are part of Istanbul. There are a total of 9 islands. However, only 4 of them are accessible via ferry. Islands are famous for their wooden mansions and car-free environment. Only in Büyükada are there cars allowed. The other islands have small electric vehicles or bicycles. Büyükada means “Big Island” in Turkish. 

Going to the Princes’ Islands helps you escape the hustle and traffic of the big city while providing you with an excellent aerial view of Istanbul from just the right distance, have fantastic seafood restaurants, great beaches for swimming in summer, and is a great place to walk or cycle. Princes’ Islands also have interesting places like the Aya Yorgi Church, the Halki Seminary, or Büyükada Nature Park. 

Book a trip to Princes’ Islands

10 Fener & Balat & Pierre Loti

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Fener & Balat is a historical neighborhood in Istanbul famous for its adjacent, colorful apartments, narrow cobblestone streets and boutique cafes. This colorful neighborhood has rich history and plenty of historical landmarks. Historical sites such as the Fener Greek Patriarchate, Gül Mosque, Church of Saint Nicholas, tobacco museum at Kadis Has University, the Red School (Greek Boys Highschool), the Iron Church (Church of Saint Stephen), and many other interesting places can be found in Fener & Balat. With a short 15 mins trip by bus or tram, you can also reach Pierre Loti and Eyüp Sultan Mosque. In Pierre Loti, drink a nice cup of Turkish coffee while taking spectacular photos of old Istanbul. 

Book a Fener & Balat walking tour

Why You Should Visit Fener & Balat

Top 10 Aerial Views of Istanbul – Best Places to See Istanbul from Above