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Istanbul "The City on Seven Hills" Best Things to Do and See...

Istanbul City:

Istanbul has also been nicknamed "The City on Seven Hills" because the historic peninsula (the oldest part of the city) was built on seven hills, also represented with seven mosques, one at the top of each hill. "The Historic Areas of Istanbul" were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1985. Istanbul is a great destination that has a lot to offer. From beautiful huge mosques, to large shopping areas, old historical buildings, to romantic rivers that divide the city into sections.

First of all, it is important to know that Istanbul has 2 airports, so pay attention to which airport you are flying from. In addition, Istanbul has an Asian and European part, fortunately connected by Metro systems and with ferry connections. It is wise to get an IstanbulKart upon arrival at the larger stations, this is a card that you can use for all public transport such as metros, boats and even public toilets.

Were to stay:

Prior to a visit to Istanbul, it is important to determine where you will stay. Actually, it is best to stay in the European part of Istanbul, here you are close to most hotspots and cozy lively neighborhoods. Most places are easily accessible on foot from here, otherwise you can always fall back on a good public transport system with trams, metros and buses. Nowadays, metro systems also run from both airports to the city for easy traffic flow.

Before we name all our favorite hotspots, we first walk through our favorite neighborhoods. Actually, the whole of Istanbul has beautiful nice streets, squares and a lively, pleasant atmosphere, but we still list our favorite neighborhoods in Istanbul below. Wherever you stay, it's definitely worth exploring these neighborhoods on foot when visiting Istanbul:

Sultan Ahmet:

Sultan Ahmet is the old center of Istanbul, this is where you can find the Sultan Ahmet Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Mosque. In addition, you have cozy streets, beautiful squares and many restaurants. Actually the cultural center of Istanbul.


Karaköy is one of our favorite neighborhoods. A lively young neighborhood with many restaurants and bars. The district also has a lot of atmosphere and charm due to the colors, plants and stylish details. Karaköy is located right next to the canal and the Galata Bridge, which means that this is also the perfect location for eating a freshly caught fish.


Balat (and Fener which is located in Balat) is a beautiful area on the west side of Istanbul. Nice coffee shops and restaurants, as well as the best souvenir shops, fill the streets next to the canal. On the hill you then have beautifully colored houses, and a bit down the atmospheric Umbrella street. You can enjoy yourself here, which is also reflected in the hustle and bustle on the street. People definitely know where to find this neighborhood.


Galata is a beautiful neighborhood with many nice shops and restaurants. Located on a hill centered on the historic Galata Tower, this is a very famous landmark in the city. A lovely atmospheric neighborhood to stroll around and enjoy the lively environment.


Kadıköy is a great fun neighborhood in the Asian part of Istanbul. Easily accessible by metro, but actually the boat is the best way to make the crossing. Kadıköy is a very artistic district with a lot of art, many local shops and a great food market. And this on the quiet Asian part without the big hordes of tourists.

Best Things to Do and See:

Istanbul has a lot to offer. We have been here for 8 days and have not been bored for a moment. Be prepared and make sure you leave some room in your luggage, because this is also the perfect opportunity to stock up on nice, high-quality souvenirs. Whether it concerns leather goods, carpets, bronze work or jewellery, there is something for everyone here. This city with so much history continues to amaze. Below are our favorite sights of Istanbul:

Hagia Sophia Mosque:

Hagia Sophia is a mosque and an important cultural and historical site in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally, the cathedral was a Greek Orthodox church from 360 AD until the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. After this, it served as a mosque until 1935, after which it became a museum. In 2020, the site became a mosque again. The Mosque is beautiful inside and out, well worth a visit. Free to enter, it can be quite busy but the lines move very quickly.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque):

Across the street from Hagia Sophia, you can find the equally beautiful Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles that surround its interior design walls. The mosque was built between 1609 and 1616, during the reign of Ahmed I. The mosque is free to visit. Currently in December 2022, the mosque is being thoroughly renovated. Especially the inside is therefore not very good to admire. But despite that, we can only admire that a beautiful building like this is being renovated so well.

Egyptian Spice Bazaar:

The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the largest bazaars in the city. It is the most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar. The bazaar is the center for spice trade in Istanbul, but in recent years there are also many other nice things for sale, such as ceramics, tea, and even candy. In addition to the nice lively stalls, the beautiful building is also worth a visit.

Boat trip on the Bosphorus channel:

Wherever you are in Istanbul, you can always see the Bosphorus channel in the distance. It is therefore certainly worth taking a wonderful boat trip on this huge and important canal. Complete boat tours are offered, but even a crossing from the European to the Asian part is already impressive. And this for only about 5 Turkish Lira.

Kadıköy Produce Market:

In Kadıköy on the Asian part of Istanbul, this Kadıköy Produce Market is going on every day. We as foodies loved this, this is a market purely focused on food and treats. From freshly caught fish, to freshly cracked fruit and vegetables, to the tastiest olives in all shapes and sizes. Enjoy your dinner!

Enjoy a coastal walk:

There's nowhere better to get a breath of fresh air and relax than during a walk along the coast. There is actually no better place to do this than around Moda on the Asian part of Istanbul. Here you have wonderful specially designed walking paths along the water, and a view of European Istanbul as well as a lot of peace and quiet, this is enjoyment.

Süleymaniye Mosque:

The Süleymaniye Mosque is an Ottoman imperial mosque located on the Third Hill of Istanbul, Turkey. The mosque was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and designed by the imperial architect Mimar Sinan. An inscription specifies the foundation date as 1550 and the inauguration date as 1557. This mosque is large, beautiful and is surrounded by a stylish garden with the most beautiful views of the city. The interior ceilings, like most mosques in Istanbul, are magnificent and huge. Take off your shoes for visitors and do not take photos during prayer.

Grand Bazaar:

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops this Grand Bazaar is attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. In 2014, it was listed No.1 among the world's most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. The Grand Bazaar at Istanbul is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world. Here are thousands of shops with the most diverse items, from carpets to (fake) brand clothing, jewellery, copperware to candles and water pipes. Don't forget to bring enough cash and your negotiation skills.

Topkapi Palace:

Topkapi Palace was the center of power in the Ottoman Empire and was built in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmed II. Literally translated as “Cannon Gate Palace”, it was initially called the New Palace until the 19th century. Upon the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the Palace is now a museum that houses the grandest knowledge bank and memoirs of Ottoman glory. This UNESCO World Heritage site draws more than 3 million people every year for its rich architectural and cultural beauty. Topkapi Palace entrance fee is 320 Turkish Liras as of 2022. This ticket includes the Main Parts of the palace and the Hagia Irene Church. If you want to see the Harem Section, the ticket price is an extra 150 Turkish Liras.

Relax at Gülhane Park:

This beautiful city garden is located right next to the Topkapi Palace. Free entrance and it is wonderful that you can experience so much peace in the middle of the center of Istanbul. Now in December 2022 this garden has just been restored, and it is really beautiful here. You can enjoy a lovely walk through the hilly park, and there are many benches and seating areas to enjoy the tranquility of this beautiful piece of nature.

Galata Tower:

Considered among the oldest towers in the world and one of the symbols of Istanbul, Galata Tower was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List in 2013. Galata Tower, one of the most important structures that make up the silhouette of Istanbul, was used as a long-term fire watchtower and was named Galata Fire Tower. Galata Tower was first built in 507-508 AD. The tower offers a 360 degree view of Istanbul, entrance is 175 Turkish Lira per person. It is important to choose a good time, because today (Sunday) there was a huge queue, so we skipped it.

New Mosque:

The New Mosque was originally named the Valide Sultan Mosque and the construction of the mosque began in 1597. This Mosque is located between the spice bazaar and the canal and it is beautiful. Take off your shoes for a visit and cover your shoulders and knees.

Taksim Square:

This city square is the heart of the modern part of Istanbul. Many hotels and restaurants can be found here and it is also the meeting place for the locals to celebrate New Year's Eve. Adjacent to this huge square is one of the most famous streets in Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi, a beautiful wide shopping street where beautiful vintage trams run through.

Church of Saint Anthony of Padua:

The Church of St. Anthony of Padua is the largest Catholic church in Istanbul, Turkey. The original Church of St. Anthony of Padua was built in 1725 by the Italian community of Istanbul, but was later demolished and replaced with the current building which was constructed on the same site. The current basilican church was built between 1906 and 1912 in Venetian Neo-Gothic style. It is still run by Italian priests.

Arasta Bazaar:

In the middle of the cultural center of Istanbul is the very nice Arasta Bazaar. Located on the east side of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. This is definitely worth a visit, many nice boutiques fill the street with the most diverse products such as carpets, soaps, Turkish tiles and souvenirs. So be sure to grab this nice hip bazaar during a visit to the cultural center.

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