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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. Go to busy Beyoglu for the Pera Museum and Galata Mevlevihanesi. 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.

The Bosphorus waterfront,             Istanbul. Courtesy of Go To Turkey
Istanbul Modern, Istanbul. Courtesy of Istanbul Modern
1

Istanbul Modern

Contemporary Turkish art

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.



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

The Pera Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Pera Museum
2

Pera Museum

Renovated Ottoman house

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.



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

Archaeology Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine
3

Archaeology Museum

Ancient archaeological site

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.



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

Galata Mevlevihanesi, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
4

Galata Mevlevihanesi

Dervish centre

Galata Mevlevihanesi in the district of Tunel is Turkey's only Whirling Dervishes centre open to the public. The magnificent building and peaceful courtyard includes displays of the Sufi sect's musical instruments and the tomb of poet Galip Dede.



Cost

TL5; Whirling Dervish ceremony TL25

Opening Hours

Tue-Sun 9.30am-5pm

Address

15, Galip Dede Caddesi, Tunel, Istanbul

Telephone

+90 (0) 212 245 4141

Transport

Tram to Tünel

Website

Galata Mevlevihanesi Website

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
5

Topkapi Palace

Royal Ottoman palace

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.



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

Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine
6

Suleymaniye Mosque

Sinan's masterpiece mosque

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.



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

Kariye Museum, Istanbul. Courtesy of Go to Turkey
7

Kariye Museum

Byzantine mosaics

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.



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

Haghia Sofia, Istanbul. Courtesy of www.gototurkey.co.uk
8

Haghia Sophia

Sixth-century Ottoman design

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.



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.

Galata Bridge, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine
9

Galata Bridge

Crossing the Golden Horn

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.



Cost

Free

Opening Hours

24 hours daily

Address

Galata Köprüsü, Istanbul

Transport

Any bus or tram to Eminönü or Karaköy

Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism
10

Blue Mosque

Ottoman architectural masterpiece

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.



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

Büyükada, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
11

Horse-drawn carriage in Buyukada

Islands of calm

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.



Cost

From TL20/hour

Opening Hours

Daily all day

Address

Princes' Islands, Istanbul

Transport

Ferry from Kabatas Harbour

Çemberlitaş Hamam, Istanbul. Courtesy of Artur Isal & Ruth Este
12

Çemberlitas Hamam

Sauna and scrub

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.



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

Çemberlitas Hamam Website

The Bosphorus waterfront, Istanbul. Courtesy of Go To Turkey
13

Bosphorus Boat Trip

Escape the urban hubbub

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.



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 Deniz Otobusleri (Seabuses) Website

Galata Tower, Istanbul. Courtesy of Emma Levine
14

Galata Tower

Spectacular city views

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.



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

Rumeli Hisari, Istanbul. Courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
15

Rumeli Hisari

Coastal fortress

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.



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

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