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Tourist posing in front of Maiden's Tower at sunset in Istanbul

Top Things To Do In Istanbul

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Wondering what to do in Istanbul?

Perched in its prime position straddling two continents, Turkey’s capital is the personification of “the best of both worlds”. Over several centuries, traveling merchants from all over the world liked the city enough to stay, contributing to the colorful cultural diversity that Istanbul retains today. Uncovering the physical reminders of these cultures, both in the heart of the city and in its outskirts, are among the most incredible things to do in Istanbul – but the city is more than an open-air museum. Modern Turkey is a festive world of friendly locals, tea gardens, coffeehouses, Turkish taverns, and a host of unexpected things to do in Istanbul.

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Tourists posing in front of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul
East meets west

As the final stop on the ancient Silk Road, Istanbul has seen its fair share of visitors – Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans – over the centuries. Relics of these civilizations lay peppered through the city, and the things to do in Istanbul span hundreds of years. The city’s storied past, and its European and Asian influences, are visible in each of its amazing attractions. From trawling the centuries-old Grand Bazaar to marveling at the historic center’s mosaic-adorned mosques, frescoed churches, and cascading domes, the things to do in Istanbul are like interactive history lessons.

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A typical scene of a store in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
A myriad of markets

Shopping is one of the best things to do in Istanbul thanks to its colorful, chaotic markets. The city may be home to the world-famous Grand Bazaar, the sprawling covered market dating back to 1461, but this iconic attraction is just the tip of the iceberg. Over 200 traditional markets set up shop in the city each week selling virtually everything. Whether you’re looking for fresh produce, fine textiles, traditional hats, or a Turkish tea set, you’ll find it in the crisscrossing lanes of a local marketplace. Of all the things to do in Istanbul, browsing a market is top of the list.

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Tourist enjoying a meal with a local guide at a typical restaurant in Istanbul
Fantastic food

Turkish food is some of the most famous in the world, and it isn’t difficult to figure out why: the flavors are out of this world. In fact, the foodie things to do in Istanbul could very well be the things that will have you planning your second trip. You might try Şiş Kebap, a juicy skewered kebab straight from the glowing coals, or grab a Turkish coffee and lahmacun (a flatbread topped with minced meat, veggies, herbs, and spices) at a local café. Perhaps you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth with jewel-toned Turkish delight or baklava dripping in honey. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

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