Things to do in Turkey
Whether you're interested in learning about Turkey's history and culture, viewing contemporary art and design, or just relaxing on the beach, there are plenty of places to go in Turkey. In Istanbul, first-timers can't miss Hagia Sophia, a thousand-plus-year-old church-turned-mosque and museum, or the 17th-century Rüstem Pasha Mosque (or Blue Mosque), famous for is azure-hued tiles and six minarets. At the Topkapi complex, you'll wander though 6 million square feet of Ottoman-era palace grounds, then find your own precious goods among the stalls of the Grand Bazaar.
More shopping can be enjoyed in sophisticated Nisantasi, with its international luxury brand boutiques, upscale malls and departments stores. A short flight away in Cappadocia, explore the region's towering rock formations, known as "fairy chimneys," as well as the vast network of caves, tunnels, and ancient dwellings forming the UNESCO World Heritage underground "cities."
The 13th-century Caravansary of Sultanhani, the Byzantine frescoes at the Rock Chapels of Goreme, and the troglodyte village of Avcilar are also among the key spots to visit in Turkey. History buffs shouldn't miss a stroll around the ancient ruins at Ephesus—one of the top places to go in Turkey—while those interested in the natural beauty of Turkey will love the national parks, as well as the beaches and warm blue-green waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
Wines from this tiny Aegean island are gaining prominence.
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.
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.
Two treatments—neither of them traditional Tui Na—are available at this outlet operated by a friendly Turkish couple. The more private option is a Swedish-style back rub in a massage chair behind the curtain, with a human massage therapist (prices begin at $20 for 10 minutes).
Also known as the Egyptian or Gypsy Bazaar, this covered market’s main attraction isn’t, sadly, the eponymous spices (no, that’s not real saffron at an unbelievably low price—it’s safflower, which isn’t the same thing at all).
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.
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
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 colorful 16th-century tiles.
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 airport (5 a.m.–11 p.m.). Men and women pray separately (and in modest clothing—no shorts or bare arms).
Towards the south end of the city’s main commercial drag, Istiklal Caddesi, Robinson Crusoe bookshop often teems with intellectuals, expatriates, and tourists, who come for the high-end English language books.
Located in the Beyoğlu district, this artisan shop sells handmade candles in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Translating to “pearl candle,” Sedef Mum uses patented production methods and European candle-making traditions to ensure quality, one-of-a-kind products.
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 through it daily, and 700 planes arrive and depart, making it the 17th busiest airport in the world.
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.
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.