What are the Must-See Sights in Istanbul?

Nihal Razı
05 May, 2015

Hagia Sophia Museum 

The Hagia Sophia, the biggest church constructed by the East Roman Empire in Istanbul, has been constructed three times in the same location. The current church was constructed by Emperor Justinian’s orders. It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years thereafter, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. It was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire and has been used as a museum since 1935. Read more about Hagia Sophia here.


Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace was home to all the Ottoman sultans until the reign of Abdulmecid I (1839-1860), a period of nearly four centuries. Mehmed the 2nd, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ordered the construction of the palace after he conquered Istanbul.

In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Topkapı Palace was turned into a museum in 1924 and functions as a major tourist attraction today. Read more about Topkapı Palace here.


Grand Bazaar 

With 250,000 to 400,000 visitors daily, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest covered markets in the world. A Byzantine building, Old Bedesten, is the nucleus of The Grand Bazaar. The construction of the future Grand Bazaar's core, on the other hand, started during in 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and ended in 1460/61. It has 60 streets, 5,000 shops, two mosques, four fountains, two hamams, several cafés, restaurants, and four main gates. It is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, pottery, spices, leather and antique shops. The Grand Bazaar was chosen to be the most visited monument in the world in 2011. It is opened each day except Sundays and bank holidays from 9:00 until 19:00.

P.S. Bartering is appropriate.


Basilica Cistern 

Built to provide water for the city of Istanbul during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE, the Basilica Cistern is the largest cistern in Istanbul. It provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and continued to provide water to the Topkapı Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

At the back of the Cistern, there appears an upside down Medusa head supporting one of the columns, which attracts much attention of the guests, as do the many well fed goldfish swimming in the remaining water.

The Basilica Cistern is open every day from 09:00 hours to 18:30 and the entrance fee is 10 TL (~7 USD) for foreign visitors.

Read more about the Basilica Cistern here.


Spice Bazaar 

The Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar, built in the 17th-century, is the second largest covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar. In Turkey, it is called the “Egyptian Bazaar”, as it was built with the revenues from Egypt. Dried fruits and nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, oils, caviar and essences of the finest order are all everywhere inside the Bazaar. It is not only a place to shop, but also a good spot to take flamboyant pictures. The special aroma of the fruits and spices cluster around the Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar is open to guests and customers all week. P.S: It is better if you bring Turkish Lira with you for shopping. Exchange rates may not be the same in the shops inside the Bazaar.


Galata Tower 

The exact construction date of Galata Tower is not known; however, it is claimed to have been built during the reign of the Byzantian Emperor, Justinian in 507 CE. The present shape of the Tower was given by the Genoese. Today this nine-story historical tower operates solely as a touristic attraction by a private company. There is an elevator for the visitors that only goes to the 7th floor, and the last two floors of the tower must be climbed by stairs. A restaurant and a night club which hosts a Turkish show are also in service at the top-floor. After passing though the restaurant, there is a balcony that encircles the tower, where you can watch over the city. The entrance fee is 13 TL (~7 USD) for foreigners. 


Dolmabahçe Palace 

Ordered by Abdulmecid I and built between 1843-1856, the Dolmabahçe Palace served as the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the administration was transferred to Ankara, the new capital of the Republic, and Mustafa Kemal used the Dolmabahçe Palace only when he came to Istanbul. After his death - in his room at Dolmabahçe, the Palace was converted into a museum and his room was kept as in the original. Note that the Palace is visited through the agency of a guide. If you don't have your own, you will be grouped into a tour with others who arrive around the same time. Read more about Dolmabahçe Palace here.



Istanbul Museum of Modern Art 

Located in Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art was founded in 2004. It is Turkey’s first private museum to organize modern and contemporary art exhibitions. You can see a decent collection of both Turkish and international artists in the museum, which has two floors including a cinema, a library, and a restaurant as well. For those who want to be well informed about the works, audio guides are available in Turkish and English. The museum has a nice view of the city, so you can unwind in its cafe while drinking your Turkish coffee. The tram system in the city is a good option to go to the museum. There are also lots of nargile (Turkish water pipe) houses around the museum in Karaköy. It is open to visitors all week except for Mondays. 



Kadiköy Neighborhood 

As the cultural centre of the Anatolian side of Istanbul, Kadiköy is a populous and cosmopolitan district of Istanbul, dating back to prehistoric times. Kadiköy became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1353, a full century before Constantinople. For this reason, Kadıköy has the oldest mosque in İstanbul, which was constructed almost a century before the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Bahariye Street, having a nostalgic tram as in Taksim, is the most famous pedestrianised street of the district where people can enjoy shopping, dining or drinking in cafés. In Kadiköy, you can find traditional Turkish restaurants and patisseries, as well as wine houses, bars with jazz, folk and rock music.  Many kebab restaurants and fast food restaurants serving toasted sandwiches, hamburgers and döner are also available in each corner of the district. If you want to taste traditional Turkish delight, then the most famous addresses are Baylan and Hacı Bekir in Kadiköy.  The huge stadium of Fenerbahçe Football Club, Sukru Saracoğlu Stadium, is also located in this district. As there are believers of the three monotheistic religions in Kadiköy,  there are mosques, Greek or Armenian churches, and synagogues around the district.



Bağdat Avenue 

It is a 6km-long, tree-lined street in the heart of Kadiköy. One of the most popular shopping points of Istanbul, Bağdat Avenue hosts many shops, small boutiques, bookstores, restaurants, side-walk cafés and luxury car dealers along the street. It is Asia's a counterpart to Istiklal Avenue. It was named after the capture of Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in 1638 by Sultan Murad IV. Through the street, you can see a variety of exclusive high street brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Naked, Louis Vuitton, Zara, Lacoste etc. If you want to explore the modern face of Turkey, then this street should be in your to-do list.


Sightseeing Essentials Landmarks Grand Bazaar Hagia Sofia Topkapi Istanbul101
Nihal Razı

Whatever you do, do it perfect way!Thanks to my internship at Atdaa, I work as a marketing specialist in a multinational company today.

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