This list consists of my absolute favorite things to do in Istanbul! It was my first time in Istanbul and I greatly enjoyed my stay in Turkey’s capital. I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait to be back – it’s a truly magical place. There is so much to explore, see and so much food to be tasted!
1. Cross Galata bridge
Take a stroll across the Galata bridge for great views of Istanbul. The Galata Bridge spans the Golden hour and is usually filled with fishermen, small vendors and people enjoying the scenery.
2. Smell all the spices at Spice Bazaar
The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the biggest Bazaars in Istanbul. It’s located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district and the most famous bazaar right after the Grand Bazaar. The stalls at the Bazaar offer everything from spices, Turkish delight, nuts to local crafts.
3. Wander around Gülhane Park
Gülhane Park (meaning “House of Roses Park” in Turkish) is one of the largest and Istanbul’s oldest park. The park was once a rosery shelter (a women’s shelter) and garden for the Ottoman Palace.
4. Sample your way through Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and biggest covered markets in the world. I absolutely love visiting markets and couldn’t wait to explore it. The Bazaar houses over 4,000 shops and offers everything you could possibly need: carpets, handbags, spices, soaps, sweets, teas – the list goes on and on.
5. Take the ferry
This was one of my favorite things to do in Istanbul! The ferryboats take you across the Bosphorus and we took a ferry from Karaköy to Kadıköy (Asian side). The regular ferries you can take by simply using your Istanbul card, which I highly recommend getting if you are in the city for a couple of days. Most ferries depart on a regular basis and I had so much fun taking it!
6. Buy fresh produce at Tarlabaşi market
Tarlabaşi Sunday market at Sakiz Ağaci Sokak is only 15-20 minutes of walking from Taksim’s İstiklal Street. The Tarlabaşi Sunday food market is open every Sunday and buzzing with locals. Stall-holders are selling everything from fruit and vegetables to underwear. Tarlabaşi Sunday market is one of my favorite markets ever. There were so many fruits and vegetables! Pro tip: Come right before the market closes, at 6/7 PM for the best deals!
7. Eat some really good vegan food
If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I tremendously enjoy sharing my favorite places to grab vegan food. Although I’ve got this part covered in A guide to vegan food in Istanbul, Turkey I still wanted to give my favorite spots a shout in this post.
For insanely good Falafel hit up Rulo Lezzetler at
8. Stock up on Turkish delight
Turkish delight or lokum is a sweet made with cornstarch and sugar. While real lokum is completely vegan, there is a great variety of Turkish delight and I would definitely double check with the shopkeeper to make sure that what you are thinking is vegan, is indeed so.
9. Drink Turkish tea
Served in a slim-
10. Hang out at one of Istanbul’s cafes
There’s an abundance of cafes in Istanbul and while I am not huge on coffee, I always enjoy drinking tea, especially when it’s cold. We popped into quite a few cafes because my babe is really into coffee and Cafe Zoo has a very special place in my heart. It’s an adorable cafe with a subtle, yet really charming, jungle theme (not the kitschy kind!). The cafe spans several floors and has a very basic menu, which I love! We ended up ordered Turkish tea and coffee. I really loved the music and atmosphere. It’s a lovely place for a break and it’s located at Caferağa Mahallesi, Sarraf Ali Sk. No:3, 34710.
11. Explore Istanbul’s Asian side
There is, of course, so much more to Istanbul than Taksim Square! Istanbul’s Asian side (Asya Yakası or Anadolu Yakası in Turkish i.e. “Anatolian Side”) is the eastern part of the city located east of the Bosphorus and geographically on the continent of Asia. The larger part of Istanbul’s population is living there and if you are in Istanbul and not staying on its Asian side, definitely make it a point o explore it.
12. Visit Kadıköy market
Kadıköy Market is located on Istanbul’s Asian side and so worth exploring. The market is located right off Söğütlü Çeşme Caddesi, a rather busy road and has everything you could wish for. There is heaps of produce, spices, teas, household goods and so much more. If you are a lover of markets, make sure to check it out.
13. Marvel at the Blue Mosque
Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) is an incredible mosque in the old city center. The mosque continues to function as a mosque and is a popular site to visit among tourists. Visitors must use the south door and is closed for non-worshippers during the six daily prayer times. The Blue İznik tiles adorning the interior of the mosque have given it its name and while visiting the mosque was on my list, unfortunately, due to renovation works, the blue mosque was closed during our stay in Istanbul.
14. Visit Kalamis Ataturk Park
Kalamis Ataturk Park is a small park on Istanbul’s Asian side. It’s located right by the sea and a really serene place. There are huge rocks at the water where cats are jumping around and I greatly enjoyed walking along the water and taking it all in. If you are on Istanbul’s Asian side, grab a bite and hang out at the park – it’s beautiful!
Have you been to Istanbul, Turkey? Share your favorite spots in the comments! 🙂