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.
Built by Justinian in the 6th century A.D., the Basilica of St. John the Apostle and his reputed final resting place is a ruined yet spectacular edifice perched near the citadel in Selçuk. It's mostly a shell, but St. John's grave is marked with a marble slab.
Make the 30 minute journey from Bodrum for oversize Turkish wool carpets.
Convivial, boho bar/café beloved for its sunset views and cocktails.
Jewelry has a distinctive Turkish sensibility at this duty-free shop. The designers employ historical Anatolian jewelry-making techniques and motifs.
Set in a historic hammam that almost steals the show, the store sells affordable rugs based on antique designs.
Colonized for centuries by non-muslim minorities and foreign traders, the district of Beyoglu (pronounced be-yoh-LU and formerly known as Pera), across the Golden Horn Strait from the historic center, has always been the cosmopolitan heart of Istanbul.
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 Cagaloglu Hamami in the center of Sultanahmet.
Inaugurated in 2004, this converted warehouse, directly on the Golden Horn, is Turkey’s first museum of contemporary and modern art—although in a city that can trace its roots to the late Mycenaean era, “modern” is a relative term, and the collection includes painters from the late 1800s.
The museum houses a small but impressive collection of statues and other objects uncovered in the ruins of Ephesus. The most famous exhibits are the multi-breasted statues of the Ephesian Artemis.
Cult favorite Ümit Ünal, a longtime neighborhood resident, sells his avant-garde women’s designs here.
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.
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 your expectations exceeded.