Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do In Istanbul

IstanbulThinking of booking a city trip to Istanbul? Do it! It’s a great city to spend three/four days. And I have some things you should do, some things I do not recommend and some things I missed out on or weren’t for me, but that sounded interesting.


Do as much as possible on foot. As you walk around the narrow streets and along the Bosporus you will breathe in the amazing history of the city and experience the magic.

Visiting the top attractions is kind of a must. You can’t leave city without shopping at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. Over 5000 sellers sell everything from spices to carpets.

The Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are a must if you’re into architecture and history.

Before traveling into Turkey, you will will need to go for a visa. You’ll be able to avoid the hassle of needing to buy a visa upon arrival by making an application for one online – via E-visum-service for example.

Be careful with traffic … it’s crazy to say the least. There is no way to describe it but once you set foot you will notice. Also try to avoid taking a taxi in the touristy area as much as possible they are known to be scammers. If you need a taxi make sure it’s one called from your hotel.


Budget food trip: eat at Locanta Helvetica in a side street of İstiklal Avenue. It’s a buffet style restaurant that will feed you for a cheap price.

Princess Islands are a great destination for a day trip and to escape the busy and crowded city, you can rent a bike and discover the place.

I already mentioned it here. But the food in Istanbul is amazing.

Free view of the city via the Walls of Constantinople, it a great place to see how incredible Istanbul is from above.

A few years ago the first modern arts museum to opened in the city and the Istanbul Modern is probably worth it for the warehouse location alone. And good to know that admission is free every Thursday. So you can enjoy what it has to offer for free.



Don’t be afraid of haggling. There are no prices for a reason and it can turn into a fun game. My favourite is to pretend to walk away when it gets close to what I want and the seller will usually give in.

Watch out for scams. I wasn’t victim to any, but that’s mainly because I read about some tricks they use. This is a great overview.

I personally don’t think the Dolmabahce Palace was worth the visit. It’s gorgeous, but just wasn’t for me. I know you can get combined tickets to the harem, so maybe if I had a combined it? Any thoughts? Did I miss out much?


Maybe a visit to a hammam (or Turkish bathhouse) is something for you? From what I heard Cağaloğlu Hamamı is pretty amazing and everything you want from a bathhouse. But they are all over the city and there should be one which meets your requirements.

If you like colour and nice architecture then go to the Cihangir district. It’s an upcoming hip place with narrow streets, a park to rest for a bit and street cafes to quench your thirst.

Have you been to Istanbul? Anything to add?

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  1. Aaah this is so helpful! I’m going to Istanbul over Easter. I’m really excited, but I don’t know much about the city. Thanks for the tips!

  2. wow this was amazing! how come you didn’t like the palace?!?! What do you mean it wasn’t for you it’s GORGEOUS! :O <3

  3. These are v useful tips, I shall bear this in mind should Istanbul come up in any of my travel plans. It’s now very tempting!

  4. Hi, There are many palaces in Istanbul, for example Topkapı place, Yıldız place, Çırağan place, Dolmabahçe place, Beylerbeyi place… The most important of these is the Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace was the main palace of the Ottoman dynasty lived. Its structure, walls, Istanbul landscape is gorgeous. In his harem just not at the same time there is also a legacy of the Ottoman dynasty treasures such as Kaşıkçı diamond. The Dolmabahçe Palace is a palace of the late Ottoman period. History and architecture lovers will like to see the two palaces, but if you do not visit the Topkapi Palace, this will lack for you.
    With love Selin

  5. I’ve never been to Istanbul before, but I’ll be sure to come back to this post if I ever do. 😉
    Gorgeous photos! Hope you have a great rest of the week!


  6. Yes, I add the Basilica Cistern. It’s near the Hagia Sofia and it’s an underground water reservoir from the 6th century AD. We found the tip in a travel guide actually and funnily enough our tour (because I was there with an organized tour and all) didn’t include it!
    I also enjoyed Nişantaşı neighborhood (and I wish I had walked more) and eating at Ulus 29 up in one of the hills. It is not budget friendly but it has amazing views!!
    I agree on the taxi tip…that’s what the tour guide told us as well. She also said to ask beforehand how much it costs to take you in place XYZ.

  7. I found this post so super helpful, so thank you!! We are hoping to travel to Istanbul later on in the year and I’m so glad this popped up in my Bloglovin feed – just what I needed!! X

  8. I love hammams so that’s definitely a must-do when I ever visit Istanbul, something I really hope to do once!

  9. I was there last year and had a blast! it was so much fun.

    I’d skip Hagia Sophia. Yes, it’s iconic but the entry fee is way to high for what you see, and the Blue Mosque is just across the park, it’s free and it’s breath-takingly beautiful. You can actually see the ceilings and the mosaics, the Sophia had huge construction being done so you could only see half of it, the ceilings are all damaged and again, 16 Euros is a lot.

    Take a boat ride down the Bosporus! You get to see both sides of Istambul, it’s actually a nice rest from walking so much, you can take loads of pictures, it’s not pricey and it’s fun.

  10. I’ve been to Istanbul once when I was about six (can’t remember what I did there) and most indirect flights I go on stop at Istanbul, but I never go out of the airport. Lol


  11. Lived there for 2 years… Beatiful city, but I had lots of bad experience with the locals.
    I recommend always having a bottle of water on you, especially when visiting major tourist attractions, the street sellers tend to boost the price of a simple bottle of water. Also, it’s not a bad idea to learn a bit of Turkish when shopping in the Bazaar or somewhere similar. You will immediately be offered a lower price.

  12. This is really useful! I’ve been wanting to go to Istanbul for ages now and I have a few family members that live there so there’s no excuse! Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

  13. You forgot to mention that you should eat a lot of baklava, because it was quite nice there 🙂

  14. I fitted in a trip to the Cağaloğlu hammam and though it was touristy at times, I really enjoyed the experience! Would totally recommend having a hammam wherever you end up Turkey. And I know there’s a comment up there saying the reverse, but I preferred Hagia Sofia to the Blue Mosque (but I’m an art historian so I’m probably a bit biased!) Wonderful blog – I’m just going through catching up with your last posts after discovering you through Lisa (Not Quite Enough)! x

  15. I went to Istanbul last month – We brought a tourist pass for £115.00 which included WiFi and entrance so most of the attractions, we took a few boat trips (one included a meal and entertainment), went to all of the historical points, took part in ‘Istrapped’ (so much fun). We also went on a hi top tree adventure, meal art Hard Rock etc…all included.
    I would recommend Uber for taxi’s as they were cheap and safe, plus like you say the way of driving is absolutely bonkers out there…
    Also for food/entertainment 360 Roof Top Restaurant was excellent and Reina was a awesome club!