Istanbul

Things to do in Istanbul

With such a rich cultural past, there's no shortage of things to do in Istanbul. If you have very limited time in the city, you should concentrate on the historic district and put Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia at the top of your list. If you have a little more time, visit the nearby museums. The Istanbul Archeology Museum is easily accessed through the Topkapi Palace or Gulhane Park. This museum, located in the Eminönü district, is actually a group of three museums, the Archaeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), the Museum of the Ancient Orient (EskiŞark Eserler Müzesi), and the Tiled Kiosk (ÇiniliKöşk). The Archaeology museum houses sarcophaguses and mummies from the ancient Turkish Empire. It also has a children's museum where the most popular attraction is a life-size rendition of the mythical Trojan horse. 

No travel to Istanbul would be complete without heading over to the city's world-renowned markets, filled with extraordinary tapestries, beautiful ceramic tiles, and unparalleled and colorful fabrics. Your top stop: The Grand Bazaar, which is among the oldest and largest covered markets in the world.

Responding to complaints from villagers throughout Turkey about large-scale textile production, Metin Tosun opened Abdulla in the center of the Grand Bazaar to both support a more traditional, handmade approach and sell 100% organic cotton, linen, and silk products like towels, blankets, robes, a

If Istanbul’s romantic rooftop views work their customary magic, you may suddenly find yourself needing one of costume designer Bilge Mestci’s opulent, Ottoman-inspired bridal gowns in silk and Indian lace.

You can cruise between the continents for $1— plus 30¢ for a glass of tea on board—by catching a local ferry at the Eminönü docks on the Golden Horn and taking a leisurely cruise on the Bosporos.

Designed to look like Istanbul’s huge, centuries-old, labyrinthine Grand Bazaar with its colorful carnival of domed buildings, arches, and pillars, the newer and smaller Old Bazaar sells high-quality Turkish specialty items—olive oil, dates, halvah (a Middle Eastern sweet made of ground sesame se

Just west of the Grand Bazaar’s central chamber (ic bedestan), this literal hole-in-the-wall shop specializes in silk, mohair, cotton, wool, and fur products like towels, bathrobes, caftans, kerchiefs, duvets, and rugs — all sourced from handcrafters in villages throughout the country.

Sample the goat’s-milk ice cream, which is thickened with the powdered root of wild orchids. Splurge on a triple scoop of pistachio, pomegranate, and black mulberry.

The massive, flashy complex right on the Bosporus is packed with open-air restaurants, but the real draw is the nightlife, which lures millionaires and models, not to mention the beautiful people of Istanbul. No jeans or T-shirts allowed. Closed during the winter season.

Designed by Mahmut Anlar, Istanbul’s hottest restaurateur, this low-lit, sexy, and (yes) long-tabled space is festooned with whimsical bric-a-brac—including a flock of stuffed sheep, vintage Playboy posters, and a glowing white faux-porcelain grand piano.

Istanbul's major state-run museums charge hefty admissions, but the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, just behind the Blue Mosque adjacent to the Arasta Bazaar, costs only $3.

This family-owned Turkish chain sells lovely and unusual pieces that reflect Turkey’s cultural heritage. The designers use precious and semiprecious metals and gems to create contemporary drop necklaces, rings, and bracelets inspired by Byzantine and Ottoman Empire designs.

Located in the Grand Bazaar, home to more than 4,400 shops, the Polisajci Brothers Antique Show is a small operation selling antique metalware once used in 16th-century kitchens and hammams.

The 19th-century mansion in Emirgan houses an impressive collection of Ottoman paintings.

For prestige, no schools top Galatasary Lise in central Taksim. Across from its vaunted black gates, Homer Kitabevi (bookstore) specializes in academic material for its students and other collegiate clientele throughout the city.

As one of the top souvenirs, hordes of salesmen troll the streets for customers to buy carpets. Top threads can be found just behind the Blue Mosque at Mehmet Çetinkaya Gallery.