Things to do in Istanbul for a first-time visitor

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“If one had but a single glance to give the world,one should gaze on Istanbul.” Alphonse de Lamartine

Istanbul is the city where Europe and Asia meet. It straddles two continents and on another level it straddles the ancient and modern worlds too.  Every building has its own story and history whispers anecdotes and tales from every brick and every stone

This is a shortlist of things to do in Istanbul for a first-time visitor.

To read more go to Incredible Istanbul

Things to do in Istanbul

What to see

  1. Topkapi Palace and Museum –  a large palace that was one of the main residences of the Ottoman rulers for almost 400 years. It contains some of the rarest Islamic artefacts in the world.
  2. Blue Mosque aka Sultan Ahmed Mosque – This is one of the most famous and beautiful mosques in the world. It has 6 minarets and has a blue-tiled interior , giving it its popular title. See image above.
  3. Hagia Sofia – A beautiful monument and museum which was originally a church, then a mosque.
Things to do in Istanbul Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

4. Dolmabahce Palace –  A beautiful palace built in the mid-19th century along the Bosphorus which was used as final residence of the Ottoman sultans.

5. Basilica Cistern –  The largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul.

Medusa in the Basilica Cistern Things to do in Istanbul

Medusa in the Basilica Cistern

6. Grand Bazaar – one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

7. Bosphorus Cruise – This is one of the best ways to get a feel for Istanbul. You will see beautiful sights     along the way.

Things to do in Istanbul Dolmahbahce Palace from the Bosphorus, Istanbul

Dolmahbahce Palace from the Bosphorus Cruise

8. Istiklal Street and Taksim Square

Also highly recommended
1. Suleimaniye Mosque
2. Egyptian Bazaar
3. Turkish Islamic Arts Museum (near Blue Mosque)
4. Fish market
5. The Hippodrome

What to Eat

The best, and freshest Baklava

Things to do in Istanbul Baklava


Turkish delights – every conceivable flavour

Iskender kebab – a local specialty consisting of meat, vegetables and yoghurt served with bread

Things to do in Istanbul Iskender Kebab

Iskender Kebab

Where to stay – for first-time tourists:

Sultanahmet area – This is where most of the historical attractions are located.

To read more about Istanbul, go to Incredible Istanbul.

For a taste of Istanbul in South Africa, go to Nizamiye.

For cheap flights to Istanbul, click here.


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