Top things to do in Istanbul
Lookout Points in Istanbul: The Galata Tower, Pierre Loti Hill, and its Café
Galata Tower is the perfect place to have a panoramic view of Istanbul’s historic peninsula, as well as the surroundings. It is located in the main junction of Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. There is a restaurant and café on its upper floors which have stunning views of Istanbul.
Pierre Loti Hill and its Café is an awesome leisure area with an open-air café overlooking Golden Horn with beautiful views and is accessible by a nice cable car trip. You can relax and admire views of city sights while sipping your Turkish tea or coffee.
Shopping in Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar
The best starting point to visit these two spectacular attractions is near New Mosque in Eminonu neighborhood. A short walk from Spice Bazaar to Grand Bazaar is a smooth pass from a gastronomic paradise to eye candy jewels, leather goods, and carpets.
The inviting fragrance of herbs, spices in magnificent colors fills the air even before entering the Spice Bazaar. It is primarily a spice/food market but also sells souvenirs as well as soaps, oils, and all sorts of aromatherapy items.
Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world, it has over 60 streets and alleys and 4,000 shops. Chatting and bargaining with sellers is fun and a unique experience. You can find from finest silky scarves, antiques, leather goods, ceramics, carpets, authentic local souvenirs and beautiful handicrafts to gold and jewelry. Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays!
Explore the Modern/Trendy Life on the Asian Side
You can hop on the city’s famous ferries to get to The Asian Side which is much less chaotic and more peaceful compared with old town Istanbul around Sultanahmet. Although there aren’t many historic sights or monuments here, it is worth spending one day on this side of the city.
You can start your day by having famous Turkish breakfast in one of the trendy spots in Moda, which is a tranquil residential area overlooking the Marmara Sea and drink a cup of Turkish coffee in new generation coffee shops with their laid-back atmosphere. If you are a shopping lover, Bagdat Avenue between Kadikoy and Bostanci must be your next stop. It is one of the major shopping districts and the longest streets in Istanbul.
It attracts both locals and foreign tourists who enjoy both window shopping and take a peaceful walk in the avenue. You can relax in a wide range of cafes, pubs, bars and do shopping from luxury brands and boutique shops. At the end of the day, you can enjoy the sunset at either Kadikoy or Moda seaside.
If you want to experience the nightlife, you can spend the night by bar hopping in Kadikoy Bar Street.
Explore Jewish History
Istanbul has had a vibrant Jewish community for more than 500 years. If you are interested in local Jewish Heritage in Istanbul, you should visit the Jewish Museum of Turkey, which was opened in 2001 and reveals Turkish Jewish culture, lifestyle, and history.
Balat housed the first Jewish community settled in Istanbul after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. Today, only a few Jews still live in the area, particularly, close to Ahrida Synagogue. However, there are still words inscribed on the stone facades of the old houses and several synagogues still standing in this neighborhood to evoke memories of the former life. You won’t regret to dedicate a full-day visit to Balat.
There are two notable synagogues in Istanbul. One of them is Neve Shalom Synagogue located in the Galata neighborhood and it is the most elegant and the largest synagogue in Istanbul. Most of the religious ceremonies like bar-mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals are held there. The other one is Ahrida Synagogue which is located in Balat is the oldest synagogue in Turkey which was built in 1490. It is famous for its boat-shaped bimah.
See the Stunning Mosaics in Chora Church
The church of the Holy Saviour (Kariye Muzesi) is known as Chora Church. It is absolutely worth exploring this fascinating fourteenth-century Byzantine church, which is one of the world’s earliest religious sites of Christianity. The interior of the building holds some of the oldest and finest surviving Byzantine mosaics and frescoes in Istanbul. The beauty of its interior is a feast for the eyes. It is located in Edirnekapi which is a more residential neighborhood of Istanbul.
Cruise the Bosphorus
A Bosphorus cruise could be the experience of a lifetime even if you are short of time to spend in Istanbul. Bosphorus is the symbol of the city which fascinates every visitor with its amazing views.
The Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul
Watching the whirling dervishes whose roots lie with Sufism and Mevlevi Order is a genuine experience. In Istanbul, there are many choices to see the Dervishes’ whirl. Galata Mevlihanesi is the most famous Whirling Dervish hall. The ceremony takes place every Sunday at 5:00 p.m. The performance is quite popular and tickets are sold out quickly.
If you are not available on Sunday, there is another well-known venue called Hodjapasha Dance Theater. They have performances every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Noting that these performances are quite popular among tourists, it is always a good idea to buy your tickets well in advance.