Things to do in Istanbul

East meets West, Byzantine meets Ottoman, bustling meets leafy — Istanbul is full of eclectic surprises.

Our most recommended things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

1. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

Enjoy magical views of Istanbul from the Bosphorus on this dinner cruise. Sail on a yacht and watch a show with traditional Turkish folk dancing. Enjoy dinner and drinks while seeing sights like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata Tower, and the Bosphorus Bridge.  Choose from a cruise with hotel pickup and drop-off from Istanbul via an air-conditioned van or meet directly at the port. Enjoy options including unlimited soft drinks, unlimited alcoholic drinks, or both. Pick between a standard meal or a VIP option. Savor an appetizer plate with options like a seasonal salad or hot starters. Choose a main course like mixed grilled meat, seasonal fish, or a vegetarian menu. Finish your meal with a sweet dessert.  Dine on your tasty food while watching live entertainment like Turkish folk dancing, Latin flamenco dancing, and a DJ. Gaze out the window at the imposing Galata Tower and Maiden's Tower, which has stood since the medieval Byzantine period. Capture pictures of the Baroque Revival architecture of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Ortaköy Mosque. Admire the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges which span the Bosphorus strait. Take in the waterside Ottoman architecture of the Beylerbeyi Palace. Vip Menu Starters: • 10 types of mixed Turkish appetizers or mixed seafood appetizers • Vegetable pastrami pie • Fish pastry • Shrimp stew • Fish meatballs • Grilled squid Main Dishes: • Mushroom beef stragozate • Beef medallion • Mixed grill plate (meatballs, lamb skewers, steak, chops) • Vegetarian vegetable casserole • Seasonal seafood grill • Italian pasta types • Salad • Mediterranean Turkish salad Desert and Fruit: • Mixed Special Turkish desert or fruity chocolate cake • Unlimited local and non-alcoholic beverages

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

2. Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

Witness the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and see the whirling dances and dervishes. Enjoy complimentary drinks during the show. Step inside a 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci and take your place. Learn more about the Mevlevi Sema from the provided booklet. Marvel at this cultural dance that dates back 800 years. The program begins with a classical Turkish music concert. See the dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, hear the drum voice as the dervishes perform the seven-part Sema ceremony which represents the birth of humanity. The Sema ends with a Fâtiha for the souls of all prophets, martyrs, and believers, and a prayer for the salvation of the country.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide & App

3. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide & App

After you meet your local guide, you will skip the ticket lines and get inside the fastest way. Once inside the Topkapi Palace, you can discover the three courtyards, terraces with astonishing views, as well as precious collections at your own pace and enjoy the highlights of this stunning. Starting from the square and fountain in front of the Topkapi Palace, you can see explore each of the famous gates while listening to interesting stories and surprising details about legendary figures from history.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

4. Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

Join a sightseeing dinner cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and dine with live entertainment. Pass some of Istanbul's most famous monuments, including Dolmabahçe Palace. Cruise between Europe and Asia and pass under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, including Dolmabahçe Palace and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle, and marvel at the mansions that line both coastlines. Watch live folk dances from the regions of Turkey, be seduced by a belly dancer, and relax to international music played by the on-board DJ.

İstanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide

5. İstanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide

Learn all about Istanbul’s Ottoman heritage, and visit one of the city’s top landmarks, on this small-group tour of the Topkapi Palace and the Harem chambers. Avoid the queues with fast track entry and explore the sprawling 15th Century palace and its expansive museum with an expert guide. Explore the extensive complex that winds down towards the Bosphorus. The palace itself is a balance of huge courtyards, cavernous council chambers and winding secret passageways, which were built to ensure the Ottoman sultans and their families could enjoy maximum privacy and discretion. A highlight of the tour is the Imperial Harem, comprising over 400 chambers in one of the sultan’s private apartments. The rooms are characterized by colorful mosaic floors and stained glass windows, and provide incredible insight into the private world of the Ottoman court.

Vialand Theme Park Tickets w/ Transfer and Package Options

6. Vialand Theme Park Tickets w/ Transfer and Package Options

Enter the most exciting theme park in Turkey home to the first shopping center that combines shopping and exhibition centers, entertainment, and lifestyle complex. Vialand (formerly known as Isfanbul) offers its guests world-class fun with its park filled with rides. Feel the adrenaline on Nefeskesen, fastest rollercoaster which exceeds speeds of 110 kph in 3 seconds. Then, experience the 15 m sudden drop on the Viking water ride before heading to the 360-degree entertainment station which is suitable for all ages.  See all of Istanbul under your feet at the Tower of Justice viewing platform which is 50 m high. Finally, swing on the Saray Salincagi ride, with a 40-person capacity and 20 m diameter cycle. End your day at the outdoor concert and event stage which features the biggest outdoor screen in Turkey and seats a capacity of 10,000 people. Watch a range of special shows and concerts by famous artists at this never-ending festival environment. Choose between the All-Inclusive VIP, Diamond, or Gold Packages that offer food menus, drink options, and bonus attractions depending on your choice. Take a thrilling ride down the Zipline and Up-Side House and try ice cream, hookah, and coffee at Bloom Hookah Cafe.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour

7. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour

See two of Istanbul's most famous sites with this combo guided tour of the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sofia. Enjoy a guided tour inside both sites and save valuable time to see more of the city. Experience the freedom to visit both sites in one day or over two days. Skip-the-line at the Basilica Cistern and meet your guide at the entrance and avoid waiting in two lines to gain entry. Descend into the mysterious sixth-century water reservoir, and see a new side of Istanbul that you haven't seen before. Enjoy a 30-minute orientation tour of the museum, and then enjoy free time to stay as long as you like to explore the museum and learn more about the Cistern's history in Istanbul. Meet your guide for the Hagia Sofia at specific times in front of the world-famous structure. Enter with your knowledgeable guide and listen as they give a 30-minute tour of the museum before taking your time exploring the rest of the museum. Discover the Unesco heritage site at your own pace and enjoy an included audio app with more information about the site.

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi & Basilica Combo Ticket

8. Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi & Basilica Combo Ticket

Be free to visit the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sophia at any time for three consecutive days. Skip the ticket lines and browse through the fascinating museums at your own pace. Uncover the secrets of each location with the help of an informative audioguide. You can choose to visit all 3 museums in 1 day, or the three of them separately on different days. Once inside the museums, get tips on how to discover the museums in the best way. Afterward, you can stroll through the museums at your own pace as you listen to your audio guide app and explore for as long as you like. If you have any questions about the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Cisterna Basilica, or Istanbul in general, please do not hesitate to ask your English-speaking tour guide.

Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

9. Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

Get tickets to the Turkish Dance Show at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center for an entertainment-filled evening in Istanbul. Watch a lively performance with traditional dances, folk music, colorful costumes, and video projections in a former hammam built in the 15th century. Be enticed by Turkish folklore dances from different regions of Anatolia performed by professional dancers, blended with modern choreography, stunning costumes, and live music. Enjoy the intimate and authentic atmosphere of this evening show inside the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre, situated within the ancient construction of the Hodjapasha Hamam, a restored 550-year-old Ottoman bath. Admire the original architecture of the building and discover the Dervish exhibition, presented in the foyer area.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Ticket, Tour & Audio Guide

10. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Ticket, Tour & Audio Guide

Get skip-the-line entry to the glorious Topkapi Palace of Istanbul. Explore the museum with a guide, then take the time to discover the treasures at your own pace with an audio guide. Learn all about the palace's opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury, and sprawling Harem. Meet your guide in front of the museum and go directly to the entrance. Save 2 to 3 hours by skipping the line. Following security checks, discover the council hall, arms and armory section, and holy relics with your guide. Learn about the palace's colorful history. Then, enjoy the palace at your own pace with an audio guide. Take a long coffee break while enjoying a spectacular view of the Bosphorus. You can see all of the palace in an hour, or you can choose to stay inside for several hours to explore fully at your leisure.

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

What top attractions are a must-see in Istanbul?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Istanbul?

The best day trips and excursions from Istanbul are:

Bursa

Other Sightseeing Options in Istanbul

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 14,472 reviews

Had the most amazing time with the Pub Crawl!! Special thanks to Tugce and the team Such love people and hospitality Loved the places, the vibe and the experience.. visited 4 different bars in one night as a group with people from different parts of the world and had great time drinking and dancing. Anyone visiting turkey and want to experience the nightlife, definitely suggest to try this!!

An amazing tour with Muhammed, who is an amazing guide. We feel that he really loves his job, he did +2 hours extra on the tour. he offered us as well some pastries and tea. we were a small group of 4 which was really nice !! thank you for creating nice memories to us. best regards

It sure was highlight of our trip. The food, ambiance, performance and most importantly the staff was out of this world. These three hours of our life were the most memorable ones. I highly recommend this cruise dinner

Our guide was really proactive and told us a lot. Not only about the palace, also about the culture, history, religion and politics. It was informative and a great experience! The palace itself anyway is worth seeing!

Friendly guide Great information Lot of things to do