Istanbul is a city with centuries of history dating back to BC. It has also been the capital of three of the world’s greatest empires: Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. The largest city of Turkey lies between 2 continents Europe and Asia, along the Bosphorus Strait. Top tourist attractions in Istanbul include mosques, palaces, historical buildings, Ottoman landmarks and Byzantine sites.
Most Popular Attractions in Istanbul
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)
Sultanahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, is the most important historical sight of Istanbul. The mosque was built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I, in 1609-1616. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. For the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior, it is called the Blue Mosque. The mosque is considered to be the last example of Ottoman classical architecture. The central dome is 43 m in height and 33.4 m in diameter; it also boasts 260 windows.
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
Hagia Sophia or ''Holy Wisdom" is considered as one of the eight wonders of the world. It is one of Turkey's most popular tourist attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art. Hagia Sophia was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD. It is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum. Well known in particular for its gigantic dome, that is considered a symbol of Byzantine architecture.
Save time and energy when you visit Hagia Sophia with this ticket: Istanbul Hagia Sophia Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket.
Hippodrome Square (At Meydani)
Hippodrome of Constantinople was built as a horse-racing track by the Romans in about 200 AD. It was originally used for chariot racing and other public events, and the stadium surrounding the track held over 100,000 people. Of the ornaments that once decorated it, only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine.
We would recommend you to take Istanbul Classics Tour or Byzantine and Ottoman Relics Full Day Tour to explore the most popular and iconic landmarks including Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Grand Covered Bazaar. It is really worth the price.
Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı)
Topkapı Palace constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Conqueror in 1478, was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years, from 1465 to 1856 and home to the Ottoman government. The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It was transformed into a museum in 1924 and declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
Save time and energy when you visit Topkapi Palace with this ticket: Istanbul Topkapi Palace Tour with Skip-the-Line.
Designed as Triumphal Arch during the Byzantine era, the structure was merged with a fortress with four towers afterwards. Three more towers were added to the Fortress following the conquest of Istanbul, and in time it was named as Yedikule Dungeons. As it is one of the oldest open-air museums of Turkey, you should definitely visit this impressive site.
One of the gates of historic Istanbul walls, Yenikapı is an important harbor on the coast of Marmara Sea. Located within the boundaries of Fatih province today, it was known that the district had hosted the Theodosius Harbor which was the oldest harbor of Byzantine Empire.
Walls of Constantine
These historic city walls known as Walls of Constantine began to be built in the 5th century. Constructed by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius the 2nd, they got damaged over the time. Wrecked even more during the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed the Conqueror repaired them afterwards.
Galata Bridge / Galata Tower
Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in the Galata, just to the north of the Golden Horn. It was built in 1348 as the Tower of Christ by Genoese colonists at the highest point of the citadel of Galata which was then a Genoese colony, independent from Constantinople.
Dolmabahçe Palace built in 19th century is one of the most glamorous palaces of the world. Located on the European side of the Bosphorus, the palace served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922.
You can skip the long ticket lines and enter the Dolmabahce Palace with a guide when booking your visit in advance here: Dolmabahce Palace Highlights Guided Tour w/ Fast Track Entry.
Otherwise, you can check out the side of Istanbul that most tourists don't get to see with this 4-hour sightseeing tour of the city: Bosphorus Bridge, Camlica Hill, and Dolmabahce Palace Tour.
The Golden Horn formed by the collapse of land and consequent filling with sea water, is the natural harbor believed to nurture Istanbul throughout history. Being one of the oldest settlements of the World, its name was based on Greek Mythology.
Bosphorus Cruise is a cruise between the two continents, Europe and Asia. The shores of the Bosphorus Strait is lined with old wooden villas and mansions up to the Rumeli Fortress, palaces of marble and small fishing villages. During the cruise you will pass the Dolmabahce Palace, the parks and imperial pavilions of Yildiz Palace, Ciragan Palace.
You can take the half-day cruise along the Bosphorus Strait with Bosphorus Strait Afternoon Cruise or enjoy panoramic views of the sea and Istanbul at the sunset with Bosphorus Strait Entertainment and Dinner Cruise in Istanbul.
Located on the shore of the Golden Horn and having an enchanting view, Balat attracts the travel lovers from around the world with its narrow streets and historical houses. While walking on the cobbled roads of the district, you can see colorful old buildings and take impressive photos in this unique atmosphere.
Aqueduct of Valens
Aqueduct of Valens, known in Turkish as Bozdogan Aqueduct, was built in the 4th century by the Roman Emperor, Valens. Repaired several times during Ottoman Empire era, it is one of the most important historical monuments of Istanbul today.
You can explore Istanbul and city’s top tourist attractions by yourself with a bus that will drop you off at more than 15 different stops in the main touristic areas: Istanbul Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.