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.
Kusadasi has become a center for Turkish carpets, but quality is spotty.
Security regulations make it all but impossible to watch planes taking off from the airport, but these establishments in the Istanbul International Airport Hotel offer international cuisine, a fully stocked bar, and a fine vantage point for plane-spotting. The bar is open 24 hours.
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.
Compared to the Turkish Airlines Lounge, this airport-operated lounge is somewhat spartan, but it offers wireless Internet access, massage recliners, shower facilities, and a well-stocked buffet with coffee, snacks, pastries, sandwiches, and aperitifs. Admission is $45.
The rapidly gentrifying side streets between Cihangir and İstiklâl Caddesi are lined with shops selling antiques, furniture, and weird-but-wonderful junk.
Not only does Istanbul’s chicest set live in the Nisantisi neighborhood in Istanbul, they shop there too.
The sheer number of carpet stores in Istanbul, particularly in the Sultanahmet area, can be overwhelming, but Noah’s Ark has an excellent reputation for honesty, quality, and a willingness to educate customers without pressuring them (much) to buy.
The new outdoor-shopping complex carries lines from well-known Turkish womenswear and menswear labels, such as Desa leather, Silk & Cashmere, and Mavi Jeans, as well as sportswear from international designers.
This is the only gym at the airport. Unfortunately, it isn’t convenient for international layover passengers: you have to go through Passport Control and immigration—and purchase a visa, if you’re a U.S. citizen.
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).
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.