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The most exciting things to do in Istanbul

So you’ve seen all the big sights of Istanbul – the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Grand Bazaar. You might have ventured over Galata Bridge for a fish sandwich and savoured the views from Galata Tower, or taken a cruise up the Bosphorus. Maybe you’ve even been to a hammam (Turkish baths) and had the slightly harrowing experience of being scrubbed down on a sacrificial marble slab by an elderly, topless, roly-poly woman in lacy underpants. 

1. Take a cruise on Bosphorus

Your trip to Istanbul won’t be complete if you don’t take a cruise on Bosphorus. In order to make your tour maximum enjoyable you can hire a private boat (ferries are also available), this way you will have it to yourself and you’ll be the one to choose the next destination. Once you reach the village Anadolu Kavagi, you will see some incredibly beautiful beaches and the Yoros Castle at the hilltop. 

Cruise on Bosphorus

2. Explore the frozen-in-time old city

Istanbul is extremely beautiful from the point of view of its architecture. Take note of the following most popular tourist attractions: Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Byzantine Hippodrome, Istanbul Archaeological Museum, and the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. The tea garden of Topkapi palace is the best place to savour the moment and enjoy yourself!

Blue Mosque

3. Buy a souvenir at a local market

Traditional markets of Istanbul have a world-wide fame so it would be a great loss not to visit one of them. These markets abound in thousand various things like jewelry, carpets, pottery, handmade items, spices, Turkish sweets and so on. It is a perfect place to buy souvenirs for your friends and relatives, and something for you to remember the lovely days you spent in Istanbul. Join the crown of tourists at the grand markets like Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar and buy whatever you like, but don’t forget to negotiate the prices – the Turks adore negotiating!

Grand Bazaar

4. Visit hamam

Anybody would say that vising hamam is a must in Istanbul. This royal bathing place appears to be something very uncommon for a European. In fact it is a symbol of traditional Turkish culture, which came from the Arabs and Romans. This special bathing system reflects the central Asian concepts of cleansing, steam bathing, and rituals. 

Turkish hamam

5. Enjoy smoking Nargile

There’s no such person who wouldn’t like to smoke Nargile. This water pipe is even considered to be the symbol of status in Istanbul. The tobacco for nargile comes in a wide variety of different flavours like fruits and molasses. Apple flavor is one of the favourites in Istanbul, so you should definitely try it! The coals are placed above in order to supply the pipe with the heat. Pipes are available in different sizes all over the city. 

Smoking Nargile

6. Witness a Sufi dance performance

Whirling dervish is one of the symbols of Turkey, like Eifel Tower is the symbol of France. That’s why you simply can’t miss a Sufi dance performance! The dance is spiritual in its nature and symbolic in its meaning: the dancer’s right hand is raised upwards, which symbolizes a player to God, while the left hand stays downwards meaning the link with the world. There are twelve dancers and twelve musicians in the performance. Dervishes wear white gowns with full skirts, long brown caps and black cloaks. 

Sufi dance


Article author: Dana Ellis

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