Istanbul is such an amazing city with a wealth of historical sights and rich cultural diversity. It offers endless possibilities for entertainment day and night. The city’s many attractions include towering minarets, luxurious palaces, Haya Sophia, underground Byzantine cisterns, clubs, markets and steamy bathhouses to name a few. Are you looking for some useful travel tips? If you plan to stay for 3, 4 days I have selected my top 11 places to visit in Istanbul. The pictures are from my latest trip with my kids Niki and Niko. Stretching from the Black Sea, straddling the Bosphorus, touching the Sea of Marmara, and with an estimated population of between 10-13 million, Istanbul has become a must visit place and one of my favorite destinations.
1. Haya Sofya
We first visited Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century Byzantine masterpiece, Haya Sofya. The thrill of being able to experience the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church turned mosque and then turned museum was a extraordinary experience. Haya Sofya is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires.
Sultanahmet Square, +90 212 522 0989 hagiasophia.com
2. Topkapi Palace
The absolute must-see in Istanbul is the Topkapi Palace because it was home to generations of sultans and their wives, who were closeted in the famous harem. Breathtaking views over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn, lush green courtyards and delicate kiosks. The Topkapi Palace Museum has the 3rd biggest diamond in the world.
Niki and Nikos Svolos with our guide Anastasia Galici
Sultanahmet, +90 212 512 0480 topkapisarayi.gov.tr
3. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam
If you want to try the original Turkish bath the Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam was an experience I would recommend. Ottoman bathhouses are a must.
4. Basilica Cistern
One of my favorite and most romantic attraction is the Basilica Cistern. It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It offers an insight into the complicated system that once brought drinking water into Istanbul from Thrace. The cistern that once stored the water has been fitted with lights and music. Fish flitter around the bases of the 336 columns that support the ceiling.
Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet, +90 212 522 1259 yerebatan.com
5. Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Palace is located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul next to our hotel Swissotel The Bospohus. Dolmabahce Palace built in 19 th century is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. It served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1922, apart from a 22-year interval (1887–1909) in which Yıldız Palace was used.
6. Egyptian Spice Bazaar
The Egyptian Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar which is near if you want to visit too. Here you can shop among other things the most amazing Turkish delights and spices.
7. Princes’ Islands
If you visit Istanbul during summer, I would definitely recommend you take the catamaran to Prince Islands. You can have lunch at Milto and admire the beautiful architecture. During the summer months the Princes’ Islands are popular destinations for day trips from Istanbul. As there is no traffic on the Islands, the only transport being horse and cart, they are incredibly peaceful compared with the noisy city. A lovely experience.
Delicous food at Milto Restaurant
8. Bosphorus Cruise
A cruise on the Bosphorus is a must tourist attraction. You will see some of the most impressive historical sightseeing spots in Istanbul.
9. Shopping in Nicandasi- Beymen- Istinye Park
Nicandasi is a chic shopping area, safe to walk around at all times and walking distance from Swissotel The Bosphorus. There are the most expensive and classy streets with prominent Turkish brands as well as world-known luxury retail stores such as Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier, Dior, Gucci, DKNY and many more. City’s is a shopping center which blends in with the historical texture of the area. However for committed shoppers in search of sophistication Beymen is the coolest department store in Istanbul and lunch at Beymen Brasserie is a must.
Regarding the shopping malls, Istinye Park is the new mall that has all the brands, Akmerkez in 2010, was awarded with the prize for best interior design by the European Commercial Property Awards and Kanyon was awarded with the 2006 Cityscape Architectural Review Award in the “Commercial Built” category. Personally, I still prefer Akmerkez and lunch at Papermoon.
Important- Shopping Malls are open between 10 am and 10 pm every day. This is shopping paradise 🙂
9. Ulus 29
Ulus 29, is a perfect fine dining restaurant and one of the most sought after social experiences in Istanbul, since its opening in 1993. Located on the hilltops of Ulus, the venue has a magnificent view overlooking the Bosphorus. Ulus 29 offers European, Turkish and Fusion cuisine. I had an incredible tuna tartar with avocado and the best crispy peking duck I have ever tasted.
When I am in London I usually go to Zuma because I love contemporary Japanese cuisine. I always order the tasting menu. It has all my favorite dishes from tasty shrimps to the special sirloin stake. Those of you who follow me on instagram @trendsurvivor have seen it 🙂
By far Reina is my favorite club! Breathtaking views, great music and stylish fun people. What else do you wish for? We went to Reina almost every night.
Photos © me, reina, ulus 29
Have a lovely Day!!!