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Top 7 places to Visit in Istanbul

Updated on October 13, 2014

Must See Attractions in Istanbul, Turkey

The following attractions are a must see, luckily a lot of them are located in the historic district, which makes seeing them a lot easier. You can either take the subway to the Blue Mosque stop, or walk there if you are lucky enough to have a hotel in this historic district.

Aya Sophia

Some of the amazing stain glass from the original Greek Orthodox church in 360.
Some of the amazing stain glass from the original Greek Orthodox church in 360. | Source
A couple poses under an ornate lighting located on the second floor of Aya Sophia.
A couple poses under an ornate lighting located on the second floor of Aya Sophia. | Source
An external view that has been seen sine 360 A.D., the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire to Modern Day. It became a museum in 1935
An external view that has been seen sine 360 A.D., the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire to Modern Day. It became a museum in 1935 | Source

1. Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)

This is a massive building that has changed throughout the years. It was first an Orthodox basilica, then a mosque, and finally it is a museum. It is difficult to walk to the second story to see everything. There are no stairs, but you will climb steep, uneven ramps. Get ready for some mild exercise. It costs 30 TL to enter, with children under 12 free. Opens at 9 a.m. Best stop from the subway would be Eminonu or Sultanahmet. Hours for most places change if it is during Ramadan, pay attention to local holidays.

2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque):

This mosque will take your breath away. It is known for its interior decoration of blue ornamental tiles. Be sure to remember this is an active mosque, take your shoes off (please be wearing socks), women cover-up (no tank tops, or questionable clothing, and scarves on the head). Scarves are provided if you do not have one. It is open 9am- 6 pm except during prayer and in the middle of the day on Friday. Best stop on the subway is Sultanahmet.

Grand Bazaar Shopping

The author enjoying the many shops the Grand Bazaar has to offer.
The author enjoying the many shops the Grand Bazaar has to offer. | Source
When you come off of Beyazit up a hill and to your right this entrance, is an entrance so many people have seen.
When you come off of Beyazit up a hill and to your right this entrance, is an entrance so many people have seen. | Source

3. Grand Bazaar

This is a famous area of Istanbul. Most recently, James Bond: Skyfall was shot here. Get ready to speak some money and barter with the shop keepers. In Istanbul, it is not believed you will have to pay the original price given to you by a shopkeeper. Make sure to learn some Turkish phrases to assist you in your bargaining, but many in the Grand Bazaar speak English enough to barter with the patrons. Women, the men will be very charming. It’s in their nature, but don’t feel bad to say no. This shopping center consists of a maze of over 4000 shops. These shops include souvenirs, gold jewelry galore, and clothes, clothes, clothes. All around the Grand Bazaar are small vendors, but make sure to keep a close eye out, because there will be a large amount of counterfeit merchandise (Remember, this is illegal to bring back into the United States). The Grand Bazaar is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s located Beyazit Mh., Zenneclier Sk, 34126 Istanbul, Turkey.

A Day of Play at Topkapi Palace

Entrance to Topkapi
Entrance to Topkapi | Source
Ornate tiles and Gold in the Sultan's Quarters
Ornate tiles and Gold in the Sultan's Quarters | Source
At the Gate of the Palace
At the Gate of the Palace | Source

4. Topkapi Palace

This palace oozes luxury. It was built in the 15th century for the sultans’ residence, but not it has jewels and other important relics and artifacts. Do not be alarmed when you see quite a few guards with machine guns guarding the entrances, after all the jewels housed here could be considered as irreplaceable as the crown jewels of England. It costs 30TL to get in. One great option is for 85TL you can get a museum pass good for three days that will allow you to go into a host of these museums that cost money. This is a frugal choice for someone planning on visiting many of these places. FYI: Tour guides will offer to give you an English tour of the grounds. They can get expensive, and the signs are in English as well. This is a place you can spend many hours wandering around, and can even add on the Haram area to see the Sultans' quarters. This is right on the sea, so there are some breathtaking views.

In the Basilica Cistern

One of the two Medusa heads found in the cistern.  The other head is upside down.  This one lies on her side.
One of the two Medusa heads found in the cistern. The other head is upside down. This one lies on her side. | Source
Some of the 336 columns that support the cistern with a pool of water at the bottom
Some of the 336 columns that support the cistern with a pool of water at the bottom | Source

5. Basilica Cistern

It becomes a bit eerie walking down the slippery stairs into a dungeon almost that is lit up like a church and has a shallow grave of water where huge fish are swimming around. This is an underground chamber that stored water for the entire city. This cistern consists of 336 columns; an interesting fact is that two of them are with the head of Medusa. One head is laying on her side. You can find Medusa by coming down the stairs and face the cistern, go straight back, and turn left. She is back in the corner. Admission is 20TL for Foreign Visitors. It opens 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

A View of the Galata Bridge from the European Side

The White Flags are actually where the bridge is. The tower in the middle in the background is the Galata Tower.
The White Flags are actually where the bridge is. The tower in the middle in the background is the Galata Tower. | Source

6. Galata Bridge

This is quite an interesting bridge. Under the bridge you can walk and find great seafood restaurants where boats will serve food right out of the boat, or you can take a stroll over the bridge to go from one part of Istanbul to the other part of Istanbul. You can go from Europe to Asia in just a brisk walk. There is a nice view of the Galata Tower here as well. You will find many locals fishing off of the bridge and a lively mix of locals and tourists. This bridge spans the Golden Horn. It was originally build in 1453 and has been reconstructed many times with the most recent opening as of 2003.

Taksim Square is Always Busy

A tourist enjoying the statue, Monument of the Republic.
A tourist enjoying the statue, Monument of the Republic. | Source
The trolly that will take you up and down Istiklal Caddesi.
The trolly that will take you up and down Istiklal Caddesi. | Source

7. Taksim Square

Taksim square is a transportation hub, where many types of transportation converge. It is easy to get a taxi here and the entrance to the Istanbul Metro is here. Buying a metro card will save you a lot of money, when taxis get expensive. This area is full of wonderful restaurants, but common ones such as Burger King are here too. This is such a large and prominent square that even the Ritz Carlton is located here. Many demonstrations happen here, and even in 2010 a suicide bomb went off, so if you see a demonstration, keep your distance, its not worth it for the sake of a photo. The monument in the middle of the square is the Monument of the Republic which marks the 5th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey 1923.

Where to Go in Istanbul

show route and directions
A markerHagia Sophia -
Hagia Sophia, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34200 Sultanahmet Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

B markerGrand Bazaar -
Grand Bazaar, 34200 Beyazit/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

C markerBasilica cistern -
Basilica Cistern, Alemdar Mh., Şeftali Sokak No:6, 34149 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

D markertopkapi palace -
Cankurtaran Mh., Topkapı Palace, 34200 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

E markerblue mosque -
Blue Mosque Apart, 34410 อิสตันบูล/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

F markerGalata Bridge -
Galata Bridge, Hobyar Eminönü Mh., Hoca Kasım Köprüsü Sk, 34200 Fatih, Turkey
get directions

G markerTaksim Square -
Gümüşsuyu Mh., Taksim Square, 34400 Beyoğlu/Istanbul, Turkey
get directions

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    • stereomike83 profile image

      stereomike83 2 years ago from UK

      Enjoyed reading this as would love to visit Istanbul one day but actually knew very little about it