Istanbul is a city of many fascinating and fun things to see and do. With its captivating ancient culture, delicious cuisine, and distinct neighborhoods, you can never experience a dull day in Istanbul. Here are the top things to do in Istanbul.
Perhaps the most famous mosque in Istanbul (and the world, for that matter), it was built in 537 BCE during the Byzantine Empire as a Greek Orthodox church (and the world's largest building). When Turkey became Islamicized it was turned into a mosque, and since 1935 it's been a museum.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Also known as the Blue Mosque for its blue-tiled interior, what many consider Istanbul's most beautiful mosque (top) dates back to 1609, it sits alongside Hagia Sophia.
The fourth of the city's greatest historic mosques, constructed on the third of Istanbul's seven hills in 1557, is smaller and less famous than the three cited above, but still known for its fine craftsmanship and architecture, modeled after Haghia Sophia. Another good thing about visiting it is that it's less crowded with tourists.
Located right on the water in the district of the same name, it's a graceful little neo-Baroque structure from the mid-19th century, often photographed with the Bosphorus Bridge due to their proximity, a perfect example of how Istanbul blends past and present.
Dating back to the mid-15th century, shortly after the Islamic conquest of Byzantine Constantinople, this complex of four courtyards and various palatial buildings was the seat of the Ottoman Empire's ruling sultans through the mid-19th century, and is famous for its ornate architecture, sweeping views of Bosphorus Strait, beautiful gardens, and historical artifacts.
Just across the Bosporous Bridge from the Ortaköy Mosque, this relatively compact complex was built in the French Second Empire style in the mid-19th century. It served as the summer palace for the Ottoman sultan as well as to entertain visiting heads of state through the very early 20th century.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Occupying the outer gardens of Topkapi Palace, this complex consisting of the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art is a treasure trove assembled over decades, from 1908 to 1953, and houses a remarkable collection of art and artifacts not just from ancient Anatolia but also classical Greece and Rome, with its greatest single treasure being the sarcophagus of one history's most legendary rulers, Alexander the Great.