Things to Do in Istanbul

Adrien Glover

The rapidly gentrifying side streets between Cihangir and İstiklâl Caddesi are lined with shops selling antiques, furniture, and weird-but... Read More

Responding to complaints from villagers throughout Turkey about large-scale textile production, Metin Tosun opened Abdulla in the center of the Grand... Read More

A sultry waterside club set against the glowing Baroque Ortaköy Mosque. Read More

Lining the narrow, labyrinthine streets behind the Çiçek passage off İstiklâl Caddesi are hundreds of bars, taverns (called meyhane)... Read More

Jewelry has a distinctive Turkish sensibility at this duty-free shop. The designers employ historical Anatolian jewelry-making techniques and motifs.... Read More

If you have a few hours to kill and feel adventurous, take a five-minute taxi ride to military-aviation paradise: the Istanbul Aviation Museum in the... Read More

The live-music venue that sparked the area’s renaissance. The live acts range from Cuban rap to Turkish folk music—but the club will... Read More

This family-owned Turkish chain sells lovely and unusual pieces that reflect Turkey’s cultural heritage. The designers use precious and... Read More

What Lies Beneath: Eighty-two feet below Istanbul is a 450-foot-long, 213-foot-wide former royal reservoir. This Byzantine engineering feat has 336... Read More

Not only does Istanbul’s chicest set live in the Nisantisi neighborhood in Istanbul, they shop there too. Located one block from the entrance of... Read More

Colonized for centuries by non-muslim minorities and foreign traders, the district of Beyoglu (pronounced be-yoh-LU and formerly known as Pera), across... Read More

An essential part of any visit to Istanbul is a scrub-down at a hamam (Turkish bath). The top destination for tourists is the 300-year-old... Read More

The labyrinthian Grand Bazaar in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood can be disorienting for shoppers, especially tourists hunting authentic goods... Read More

Quartz comes in many colors and some of the world’s bluest is mined in the Eskisehir region of Anatolia. Deriving its name from Chalcedon, a... Read More

Hard to find—Edirnekapı is not used to tourists, and the signage is terrible—but worth the effort, this pumpkin-domed church-turned-museum... Read More

This outfit, founded by two long-term American expats, takes you off Istanbul's beaten track while keeping you extremely well-fed. Culinary Backstreets'... Read More

If you want to bring baklava back home, don’t buy it in the city—you’ll get syrup all over your luggage. Buy it here. Delights is... Read More

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... Read More

Beyond the ancient city walls on the south bank of the Golden Horn, this stately mosque—one of Istanbul’s most sacred Muslim sites—is... Read More

This is the only gym at the airport. Unfortunately, it isn’t convenient for international layover passengers: you have to go through Passport... Read More

At her combination museum-shop, owner Gönül Paksoy turns everyday objects into pieces of art and creates hand-dyed silk coats with vintage beads. Read More

This massive, dazzling, and cacophonous covered market is the ur-bazaar of the Orient; if you’ve envisioned what it will be like, prepare to have... Read More

Istanbul's major state-run museums charge hefty admissions, but the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, just behind the Blue Mosque adjacent to the Arasta... Read More

Try the Turkish Delight in flavors like mint and pistachio at this exotic candy shop. Read More

The greatest surviving example of Byzantine architecture and one of the eight wonders of the world, Hagia Sophia reigned as the greatest church in... Read More

A day trip to Heybeliada, the second-largest and arguably the prettiest of the Princes Islands, feels remarkably refreshing after a few days of Istanbul... Read More

For prestige, no schools top Galatasary Lise in central Taksim. Across from its vaunted black gates, Homer Kitabevi (bookstore) specializes in academic... Read More

One of the top choices for duty-free cigars in Europe is this fragrant, humid antechamber tucked away behind the tobacco section of the duty-free shop.... Read More

All major flights to Istanbul touch down at Ataturk Airport, located approximately 14 miles west of the city center. On average, 82,000 passengers pass... Read More

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... Read More

The art museum in a former customs building was one of the most significant openings in the city's recent history. The collection pales in comparison to... Read More

Opened in 2004, Istanbul Modern occupies an 86,000-square-foot former factory building at the edge of Istanbul's buzzy Karakoy neighborhood. Permanent... Read More

American Catherine Salter Bayar marries years of experience in textile and interior design with insider knowledge gained through 20 years’ residence in... Read More

Every visitor to Istanbul should experience a Turkish bath, even more so if it can be experienced in a venue as atmospheric as this 16th-century... Read More

Time your visit with the sunset—and the evening call to prayer. That’s when young locals file in for cocktails, like fresh-ginger–and... Read More

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,... Read More

At this, one of Europe’s biggest duty-free shops, prices are lower than comparable shops in the airport’s Euro Zone. You’ll find all... Read More

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... Read More

The sheer number of carpet stores in Istanbul, particularly in the Sultanahmet area, can be overwhelming, but Noah’s Ark has an excellent... Read More

Designed to look like Istanbul’s huge, centuries-old, labyrinthine Grand Bazaar with its colorful carnival of domed buildings, arches, and pillars... Read More

This is not a luxury spa—don’t expect aromatherapy or an oxygen facial—but it’s a perfectly serviceable salon for basic... Read More

Set in a lavish 19th-century mansion overlooking the Golden Horn, the privately funded museum stages exhibitions such as a show of Kutahya pottery and... Read More

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... Read More

For a peaceful place to get right with God—or to get away from the PA system—prayer rooms, called masjids, are available throughout the... Read More

Compared to the Turkish Airlines Lounge, this airport-operated lounge is somewhat spartan, but it offers wireless Internet access, massage recliners,... Read More

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... Read More

Towards the south end of the city’s main commercial drag, Istiklal Caddesi, Robinson Crusoe bookshop often teems with intellectuals, expatriates,... Read More

In the stranglehold that eventually throttled Constantinople in 1453, the Rumeli Hisar (castle) served as the lynch pin. Constructed on the narrowest... Read More

Visitors often overlook this spectacular but small mosque next to the Spice Market. Don't be among them. The inside walls are dramatically sheathed in... Read More

Ottoman manuscripts and calligraphic compositions form the core collection at this Ottoman-era mansion, donated by the Sabanci family and opened as a... Read More

Located in the Beyoğlu district, this artisan shop sells handmade candles in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Translating to “pearl... Read More

Atop a drab tourist hotel across from the Four Seasons is an insider's secret: a rooftop terrace with an unobstructed panorama of the Blue Mosque, the... Read More

Security regulations make it all but impossible to watch planes taking off from the airport, but these establishments in the Istanbul International... Read More

This well-regarded antiques shop carries Islamic calligraphy, religious icons, weapons, and reproductions of ancient Anatolian designs.... Read More

Also known as the Egyptian or Gypsy Bazaar, this covered market’s main attraction isn’t, sadly, the eponymous spices (no, that’s not... Read More

A much more manageable affair than the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market (a.k.a. the Egyptian Bazaar) is the place to find caviar and saffron, honeycombs... Read More

One of the great achievements of Ottoman imperial architecture (it was built by the legendary Ottoman architect Sinan), this stunning 16th-century... Read More

Plan to devote an entire morning to the historical structures within the walled confines of Sultanahmet, Istanbul's Old City. Start by descending the 52... Read More

Better known as the Blue Mosque—for the 20,000 blue tiles that line its domed ceiling—this 17th-century architectural masterpiece is Turkey... Read More

Where: Istanbul, Turkey, spanning the Bosphorus Strait.... Read More

Built by Byzantine emperor Theodosius II in the first half of the fifth century, Istanbul's fortifications have withstood battles and earthquakes.... Read More

Mehmet the Conqueror moved into Topkapi Palace—a complex of pavilions, kiosks, kitchens, barracks, and sleeping quarters arranged around a vast... Read More

Though it served as the royal residence and seat of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries, this palace isn’t the mighty pleasure dome that... Read More

Two treatments—neither of them traditional Tui Na—are available at this outlet operated by a friendly Turkish couple. The more private... Read More

Ottoman-style décor, elaborate antique portraiture, deep leather sofas, gilded chairs, crystal chandeliers, palatial marble washrooms, and... Read More

Set in a historic hammam that almost steals the show, the store sells affordable rugs based on antique designs.... Read More

Cult favorite Ümit Ünal, a longtime neighborhood resident, sells his avant-garde women’s designs here. Read More

A pious, conservative district populated mostly by migrants from Anatolia (like Wasilla, but warmer), Üsküdar is positively hopping in the... Read More

There are all sorts of ways to see the Bosporus, but the most enjoyable has to be from the deck of your own private motorboat. If you’re looking to... Read More

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