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Things to do in Istanbul

In Istanbul's old quarter Sultanahmet, discover Ottoman history at Topkapi Palace and the huge domes of Haghia Sophia. Across Galata Bridge there are more contemporary sights, such as the Istanbul Modern in Tophane or go to busy Beyoglu for the Pera Museum. From the top of Galata Tower the Bosphorus stretches into the distance, and a Bosphorus boat trip passes Rumeli Hisari fortress. Most major attractions open 10am-5pm, and close on Mondays.

Çemberlitas Hamam, Istanbul. Courtesy of Artur Isal & Ruth Este

Museums and Galleries

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  1. 1. Istanbul Modern - Museums and Galleries

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    Istanbul Modern, Istanbul. Courtesy of Istanbul Modern

    Located on Karakoy's waterfront, Istanbul Modern opened in 2004 as Turkey's first modern art museum. The permanent gallery shows Turkish art from the 19th to early 20th century, and temporary photography exhibitions downstairs. There's also a shop on the ground floor and a café.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL7; Thu free

    Opening hours

    Tue-Sun 10am-6pm (until 8pm Thu)

    Address

    4, Sahasi Antrepo, Liman Işletmeleri, Meclis-i Mebusan Çaddesi, Karaköy, Istanbul 34433

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 334 73 00

    Transport

    Tophane tram

    Website

    Istanbul Modern website

  2. 2. Pera Museum - Museums and Galleries

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    The Pera Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Pera Museum

    The Pera Museum opened in 2005 in a restored 19th-century Ottoman building in Beyoglu and houses the private collections of Suna and Inan Kiraç. The five floors of exhibition space include Ottoman portraits and a grand piano that once belonged to opera diva Maria Callas.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL7; concessions TL3

    Opening hours

    Tue-Sat 10am-7pm; Sun 12pm-6pm

    Address

    65, Mesrutiyet Caddesi, Tepebasi, Beyoglu, Istanbul 34443

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 334 9900

    Transport

    Any bus to Mesrutiyet Caddesi

    Website

    Pera Museum website

  3. 3. Archaeology Museum - Museums and Galleries

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    Archaeology Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine

    The Archaeology Museum boasts a vast collection divided between three buildings in the grounds of Topkapi Palace in Sultanahmet. Exhibits date back to Ancient Egypt and Rome but save your energy for the Museum of Ancient Eastern Works, with carved marble sarcophagi and recently excavated pieces.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL10; children free

    Opening hours

    Tue-Sun 9am-7pm

    Address

    Osman Hamdi Bey Yokosu, Sultanahmet, Istanbul 34400

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 520 7740/41

    Transport

    Tram to Gulhane and walk through Gulhane Park

    Website

    Archaeology Museum Website

  4. 4. Caferaga Medresesi - Museums & Galleries

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    Built in 1559 by Sinan on the order of one of the eunuchs to the harem, this medrese hardly ever makes the guidebooks. It's actually one of those rare "living historical places", offering art and music exhibitions as well as workshops and courses on a variety of traditional Ottoman art forms. Rooms are also designed to be exhibition spaces for the works created by the students within. The courtyard oasis is a perfect place for a break from pounding the hard pavement of Sultanahmet.

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    Cost

    Free admission

    Opening hours

    Daily 9am-7pm

    Address

    Caferiye Sok, Sogukkuyu Çikmazi 1, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

    Telephone

    0212/528-0089

Attractions

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  1. 5. Haghia Sophia - Attractions

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    Haghia Sofia, Istanbul. Courtesy of www.gototurkey.co.uk

    Haghia Sophia is an Istanbul highlight and its minarets are visible through much of Sultanahmet. It was originally a Byzantine church, but was converted into a mosque by Muslim conquerors. Today its immense domed interior is a museum. Ascend to the viewing gallery to appreciate its size.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL10

    Opening hours

    Tue-Sun 9am-4.30pm (summer until 7pm)

    Address

    Sultanahmet Meydani, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 522 1754

    Transport

    Opposite the Blue Mosque in the heart of Sultanahmet.

  2. 6. Kariye Museum - Attractions

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    Kariye Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Go to Turkey

    Kariye Museum, also known as Chora Church, contains some of Istanbul's finest Byzantine frescos and mosaics. The 11th-century building in Edirnekapi has remarkable scenes depicting 14th-century Christian iconography, which was later covered over when the church became a mosque.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL15

    Opening hours

    Thu-Tue 9am-4.30pm

    Address

    26, Kariye Camii Sokak, Edirnekapi, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 631 9241

    Transport

    Bus 86 or 87 to Edirnekapi

    Website

    Kariye Museum Website

  3. 7. Topkapi Palace - Attractions

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    Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

    Istanbul's most famous attraction, the vast Topkapi Palace in Sultanahmet was the hub of Ottoman power for three centuries. Visit the gleaming Treasury, Mother of Sultan's apartment and the sultans' "family tree" of portraits. The Harem is well worth the extra ticket.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL10; Harem extra TL10

    Opening hours

    Wed-Mon 9am-5pm

    Address

    Topkapi Sarayi, Bab-i Humayun Caddesi, Sultanahmet, Istanbul 34400

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 512 0480

    Transport

    Tram to Sultanahmet

    Website

    Topkapi Palace Website

  4. 8. Galata Bridge - Attractions

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    Galata Bridge, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine

    The Galata Bridge stretches across the Golden Horn from Karakoy to Eminönü. The upper level buzzes with traffic and local fishermen casting lines enthusiastically into the water. Walk back towards Karakoy along the lower level past its row of fish restaurants and bars.Show this on map

    Cost

    Free

    Opening hours

    24 hours daily

    Address

    Galata Köprüsü, Istanbul

    Transport

    Any bus or tram to Eminönü or Karaköy

  5. 9. Blue Mosque - Attractions

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    Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

    Few of Istanbul's attractions can match the 17th-century Blue Mosque for its beauty and regal grandeur. Officially titled the Sultanahmet Mosque, it is known as the Blue Mosque for the 20,000 blue hand-carved Iznik tiles which adorn the interior ceiling.Show this on map

    Cost

    Free

    Opening hours

    Daily 9am-7pm; access is restricted during prayer times

    Address

    Sultanahmet Meydani, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 518 1319

    Transport

    Tram to Sultanahmet

  6. 10. Suleymaniye Mosque - Attractions

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    Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine

    Built by architect Mimar Sinan and completed in 1557, peaceful Suleymaniye Mosque is a masterpiece of Ottoman design. The complex includes schools, kitchen, hospital, cemetery and the marble tombs of Sultan Suleyman and Sinan. Subtle stained-glass windows and Iznik tiles enhance the vast interior.Show this on map

    Cost

    Free

    Opening hours

    Daily 8am-6.30pm; non-Muslims cannot enter during prayer time

    Address

    Prof Siddique Sami Onar Caddesi, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 513 3608

    Transport

    Tram to Beyazit or Eminönü

Special things to do

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  1. 11. Çemberlitas Hamam - Special things to do

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    Çemberlitas Hamam, Istanbul. Courtesy of Artur Isal & Ruth Este

    Çemberlitas Hamam near Sultanahmet is the most famous of Istanbul's Turkish hamams, designed by renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in 1584 with white marble interiors. A favourite with locals, the baths include hot stone slabs and masseurs (or masseuses for women) who pummel your body.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL55; extra for massage

    Opening hours

    Daily 6am-12am

    Address

    8, Vezirhan Caddesi, Cemberlitas, Istanbul 34440

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 511 7974

    Transport

    Tram to Cemberlitas.

    Website

    Cemberlitas Hamami website

  2. 12. Galata Tower - Special things to do

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    Galata Tower, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine

    The sturdy Galata Tower was built in 1384 as an observation point and today its distinctive conical roof still looks over the Golden Horn. Take the lift up 12 floors where the viewing gallery offers spectacular panoramic city views of Topkapi Palace and mosques. Sunset is one of the best times to go.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL10

    Opening hours

    Daily 9am-8pm

    Address

    Büyük Hendek Sokak, Galata, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 293 8180

    Transport

    Metro or tram to Tunel

    Website

    Galata Tower website

  3. 13. Rumeli Hisari - Special things to do

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    Rumeli Hisari, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

    The three sturdy towers of Rumeli Hisari are part of a striking fortress in the upper Bosphorus. Built in 1452 by Mehmet the Conqueror for the Ottoman's final siege of Constaninople, it is also used as an occasional summer concert venue.Show this on map

    Cost

    TL3

    Opening hours

    Thu-Tue 9.30am-4.30pm

    Address

    Yahya Kemal Caddesi, Rumeli Hisari, Istanbul

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 263 5305

    Transport

    Bus 25E from Besiktas

  4. 14. Bosphorus Boat Trip - Special things to do

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    The Bosphorus waterfront, Istanbul. Courtesy of Go To Turkey

    From Eminönü harbour, passenger boats travel up the Bosphorus and are a great way to experience Istanbul's famous waterway and the border between Europe and Asia. Swap the crowded streets for views of palaces, serene villages, wooden summer houses and fishing harbours.Show this on map

    Cost

    Single fare from TL1.50; Bosphorus tours TL20

    Opening hours

    Daily 6am-12pm; Bosphorus tours daily 10.35am-6.30pm

    Address

    Eminönü Limani, Eminönü, Istanbul 34480

    Telephone

    +90 (0) 212 444 4436

    Transport

    Any bus or tram to Eminönü

    Website

    Istanbul Sehir Hatlari Website

  5. 15. Horse-drawn carriage in Buyukada - Special things to do

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    Büyükada, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

    The Princes' Islands are a half-hour boat ride from Kabatas and the largest, Buyukada, is a peaceful retreat. Once used for exile or imprisonment (Trotsky spent four years here), traffic is banned so the only transport is horse and carriage.Show this on map

    Cost

    From TL20/hour

    Opening hours

    Daily all day

    Address

    Princes' Islands, Istanbul

    Transport

    Ferry from Kabatas Harbour

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