Authentic Things to do in Istanbul 🇹🇷

Are you in Istanbul or planning to visit there? You might be wondering what are some of the things to do Istanbul? This article will help you discover this amazing city with some authentic experiences in just a couple of days.

An introduction

Of course it takes more than just a couple of days to do all the things in Istanbul that are worth doing. But if you don’t have the luxury of more time, it doesn’t matter. By properly prioritizing the things you want to do in Istanbul you can easily enjoy the best of this city. The good news is that even one day is plenty of time to fall in love with city of Istanbul.

For a short stay in Istanbul, it’s best to book a hotel in either Sultanahmet district of the city (Old Town) or in the Galata (The Social and Cultural Hub of Istanbul).

Day 1: Breakfast and Bosphorus

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So then it makes sense to have a traditional Turkish breakfast! Bosphorus is a natural strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It’s also part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. You can enjoy stunning views of the Bosphorus with your breakfast. That’s one of the advantages of staying in Sultanahmet, because most hotels will have a terraced restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus.

If your hotel doesn’t have a terraced restaurant or doesn’t serve breakfast, then go and find the nearest cafe. Order some Turkish breakfast or ‘kahvalti’ (kah-VAHL’-tuh). Make sure you get ‘menemen’, a traditional Turkish dish which includes eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices such as ground black and red pepper cooked in olive oil or sunflower oil.

Visit Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is one of the largest museums in Turkey. In the 15th century, it used to serve as the headquarters of the Ottoman sultans and is definitely worth a visit! The palace has 4 main courtyards with beautiful gardens, an enormous kitchen, mosques, a hospital, many pavilions and the Harem. You should get there as early as possible, ideally by 9 o’clock when it opens in order to avoid crowds. Check out the Harem Apartments, where the sultans lived together with their families.

Before entering the palace, buy a simit – Turkish sesame seed bun. It will come in handy as an excellent snack for a spontaneous picnic somewhere on grass or on a bench in one of the palace’s gardens. You could easily spend half of the day at Topkapi Palace, so if you’re limited for time make sure you keep track of it.

Landmarks: Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and The Blue Mosque

The majestic Byzantine temple Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. It’s located opposite the Blue Mosque – a beautiful symbol of Ottoman Istanbul. To reach it you just have to walk through a blossoming avenue full of beautiful fountains. It’s one of those things to do in Istanbul that are definitely worth paying a visit to.

The Basilica Cistern is an underground reservoir of Constantinople. You will find it located just behind Hagia Sophia.

Grab a bite to eat

In fact, by this point you will be quite tired and hungry. Therefore, give yourself about an hour for some delicious Turkish food and time to relax with some refreshments. Lahmacun or Pide are two unique Turkish pizza options – a tasty, filling dish you can have when you’re short for time.

Get ready for some more active exploring with a nice cup of Turkish coffee. Find a place that makes them charcoal cooked, the traditional way.

Evening in the Galata District

On your way from Sultanahmet, cross the Galata Bridge at sunset. At this time, the historic Galata Tower is surrounded by shrieking seagulls, the mosques atop the seven hills of the city are silhouetted against a soft red-pink sky and the evocative scent of apple tobacco wafts out of the nargile cafes under the bridge.

Make a quick stop at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar – one of the largest markets in the country. If you still have energy left, climb the Galata Tower for some breathtaking views. Galata also has plenty of affordable restaurants, food courts, cafes, bars and street stalls – perfect for finishing your first day.Make a quick stop at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar – one of the largest markets in the country.

If you still have energy left, climb the Galata Tower for some breathtaking views. Galata also has plenty of affordable restaurants, food courts, cafes, bars and street stalls – perfect for finishing your first day.

Day 2: Cruise on the Bosphorus

If you have more than a day to spend in Istanbul you can slow down the pace. Feel free to postpone some of the things to do in Istanbul for your second day, for example climbing the Galata Tower. But, in any case day 2 should be devoted to the Bosphorus, shopping and hammam (Turkish Baths).

You could start your second day with a Bosphorus cruise. After that, take a walk on the little side streets under the Galata Bridge. You should try the famous Istanbul sandwich – Balik Ekmek. It is a sandwich of a filet of fried or grilled fish, served along with various vegetables, inside a bun of Turkish bread. You can usually grab one straight from a floating boat-kitchen on which it’s prepared on under the Galata Bridge. That’s one of the most authentic experiences of things to do in Istanbul.

Süleymaniye Mosque and The Grand Bazaar

On your way to the Grand Bazaar make a quick stop at the Süleymaniye Mosque, the burial sight of Hurrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, and her husband, the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. It’s an authentic experience with a unique atmosphere.

Spend an hour or two at the Grand Bazaar. It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops. In principle, there you can find basically anything. If you’re not looking to buy anything it’s still worth going for a little stroll there, examining various Turkish products and tasty treats. You can get a really tasty kebab meal in one of the many small family-owned restaurants in the area as well.

Turkish Baths and dinner in Kumkapi

One the list of things to do in Istanbul, you could devote the late afternoon to one of the most authentic and original Turkish experiences – the Turkish baths. Çemberlitaş Hamamı is a historical Turkish bath and steam room. You can sweat it out before washing yourself in copper baths with some of the nicest fragrant soaps Istanbul has to offer.

If you want to experience the pleasure of Çemberlitaş Bath for centuries and feel like a sultan, leave yourself to the master hands of the Turkish bath officers. This also includes a massage! Get ready to be immersed in the atmosphere of historic Istanbul.

Finish your day in the Kumkapi district of the city, located near the Sea of Marmara. It’s the ideal place to eat and drink in the traditional Turkish way. So find a terrace and enjoy a nice drink of Raki or tea along with some amazing views of the city.

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