Top 12 Places to Visit and See in Istanbul

The remarkable sites to visit in Istanbul, no matter if you reside in the city or if you’re visiting from afar, will leave you speechless. With a mix of well-known tourist attractions and hidden gems, these are some most extraordinary must-see places in Istanbul!

  • Belgrad Forest

Belgard Forest is one of Istanbul’s most peculiar attractions. Belgrad Forest is an excellent spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with nature. It is a serene and scenic place that provides ultimate tranquility.

Located in the Sariyer district, Belgrad Forest is a large forest area that is frequently utilized for recreational activities. Hiking and jogging are only two of the many recreational activities available in the area. There are historic town ruins strewn throughout this forest, which got its name as a result of a significant number of Serbs fleeing to the area when Belgrade was taken by the Ottomans.

The forest’s core is a lake, and there are nine natural preserves to explore. The forest is home to a wide variety of animals and plants. You could check out the Atatürk Arboretum, which is home to more than 2,000 different kinds of plants in well-maintained grounds. Kartaltepe, at 230 meters, is the highest peak in the area, which covers 5,300 hectares. Most of the trees in the woodland region are varieties of oak, hornbeam, beech, and chestnut.

You could see the enormous Valens Aqueduct and Ottoman-era in the area. You could spend some time in Bahçeköy, a little local town near the forest’s center. Alternatively, you can dine al fresco at the picnic grounds and make a feast using BBQ equipment.

  • Büyükada in the Princes’ Islands

Büyükada is the largest island in the Princes’ Islands, a group of islands in the Marmara Sea. The island can easily be explored on foot or by bicycle, given it is just five square kilometers (two square miles) in size.  Among the island’s many attractions are historic religious structures, opulent houses, and two hills from which you may enjoy spectacular views.

The island of Büyükada has several interesting landmarks that you may see by taking a ferry over there. The massive hilltop Prinkipo Greek Orthodox Orphanage, which is one of the largest wooden structures on the planet, is worth a visit. You could climb the opposite hill to reach the tiny Aya Yorgi Church, where you may take in the breathtaking scenery. Or visit the Agios Nikolaos Church and Monastery in the valley between the two hills.

Even more interestingly, a convent on the island served as an exile center for several Byzantine princesses. Hamidiye Mosque, Leon Trotsky’s former residence, Panagia Greek Orthodox Church, and the medieval houses of Mizzi are just a few of the area’s other notable attractions.

  • Anadolu Kavağı

Anadolu Kavağı, a district in Istanbul’s Beykoz area, is well known for its historical significance as a tourism fishing village. It’s one of Istanbul’s best-known and most-visited attractions. Anadolu Kavağı is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike, particularly during the summer months.

For tourists, the Eastern Roman-era Yoros Castle has significant importance. People who have fallen in love with Istanbul will fall in love with it all over again seeing the landscape of the neighborhood, which is an excellent location for people who want to enjoy breakfast with a view of the Bosphorus or eat freshly caught fish from the Bosphorus.

On the way to Yoros Castle, you may also stop at the Yoros Cafe on the street, which is full of cafes and restaurants, where you can sip your tea while admiring a breathtaking view of Istanbul’s Bosphorus.

  • Galata Tower

Visitors who want to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Istanbul may now do so from a vantage point that was formerly used to spot fires. The Genoese built the historic Galata Tower in the late 1340s. The Romanesque-style tower rises over 67 meters (220 ft) above the surrounding landscape. The nine-story building is a prominent component of Istanbul’s skyline and can be seen from miles away. A conical roof adorns the summit of the spherical tower.

Ascending the tower using the elevator, many of Istanbul’s most notable structures may be clearly seen from this vantage point, which encompasses the peninsula, the historic Old Town, and the Bosporus.

You could relax and enjoy a tasty meal with a loved one in the restaurant’s charming setting. You can watch a mesmerizing traditional Turkish show and also return in the evening for more entertainment.

  • Laleli Taşhan

Many different names have been given to Lalehi Tashan. “Historical Old Bazaar” is written on the sign at the inn’s entrance at the current moment. For centuries, Laleli Taşhan has been referred to as “Katırcıoğlu” and “Çukurçeşme.” It was founded in 1763. In order to make sure that the cavalryman’s refuge is safe, the building was built It was founded by Mustafa III. So, it’s also known as “Sipahiler Hani” in some publications.

The inn’s architecture, which consists of two stories and three courtyards, gives it a unique personality. The use of cut stones in the construction of the Laleli Taşhan is one of its most notable aspects. As a reminder of the time period in which Laleli Taşhan was created, it is one of the few structures of its type to be constructed entirely out of cut stones.

In addition to being located directly across from the Laleli Mosque, this historic inn also functions as an open-air bazaar and continues to welcome tourists and visitors as one of the top sites to visit in Istanbul.

You can visit Lalehi Taşhan free of charge, and you can also take advantage of the many stores in the area for wonderful shopping. There are also numerous cafes operating within the Lalehi Taşhan. While sipping tea or coffee, you can immerse yourself in the rich history of the area.

  • Basilica Cistern 

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı in Turkish) is one of the more unique places to visit in Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern is Istanbul’s largest ancient subterranean cistern, hidden underneath the city’s congested streets. In the 6th century, it was built to supply the city’s palace and other major buildings with water. It has a total surface area of approximately 9,800 square meters (105,000 square feet). In spite of its enormous storage capacity, only a modest amount of water covers the floor today. The arches and cross-shaped vaults that support the ceiling and the arches that support the roof are adorned with old carvings. You can’t help but be taken in by the moody atmosphere and striking scenery.

The sheer scale of the cistern, concealed beneath the city’s streets, will astound you, as will the paths that lead you around the massive underground complex, where you will see small lights reflecting in the water and the many columns that stretch out in front of you. The two columns with carved Medusa heads on their bases are not to be missed. One of the pillars is upside down, which makes the snake-haired lady even more intriguing.

  • Miniatürk 

Miniatürk, Turkey’s most popular piece of architecture, is available to visitors in a variety of settings, including a swimming pool, a small shopping mall, an amphitheater, and a variety of activity spaces, such as parking and children’s play areas.

Istanbul’s Miniatürk is one of Turkey’s most prominent architectural landmarks and tourist attractions. Visitor audio guides are available in nine different languages to accompany these structures’ audio tours.

Discover a plethora of fascinating locations as you go around Istanbul. The models are made at a 1:15 scale and are extremely accurate. The park’s models include the Topkapı Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Maiden’s Tower, the Anatolian Fortress, the Ataturk Airport, the Hagia Sophia, the July 15th Martyrs Bridge, the Dolmabahçe Clock Tower, and the Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

Actually, Miniaturk allows you to take a mini-tour of the whole country. A short tour of the park is also available via Miniaturk express, which visits more than 100 monuments. Miniaturk is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.365 days a year, including holidays and weekends.

  • Taksim Square

Istanbul’s Taksim Square is one of the city’s busiest and liveliest intersections. Locals and visitors alike consider it to be the beating heart of metropolitan Istanbul. The area is full of fantastic stores, restaurants, and bars. A major transit hub, as well as the site of an important cultural center, make it a must-see. Many parades and festivals take place in the enormous area, including a massive gathering on New Year’s Eve.

The pedestrian-only Istiklal Caddesi shopping street offers a diverse selection of international and local goods. You will always find street vendors and stands in Taksim Square. You could ride on the vintage tram and see the Republic Monument which makes for a great backdrop for a tourist photo. The Republic Monument, which stands in the center of the square, was erected in 1925.

Taksim Square is one of Istanbul’s most popular tourist attractions for foreign visitors. Despite numerous alterations to the square’s appearance, the energy that permeates the area will not fade away. The square will be reorganized and greened over the next few years as part of a series of rehabilitation projects.

  • Çamlıca Hill

Locals flock to Çamlıca Hill in Istanbul’s most prominent hill to enjoy its beautiful park and stunning views of the city. The hill is visited by a small number of tourists. The hill is located on the Asian side of the city and provides stunning views over the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and both the European and Asian areas of Istanbul.

The panoramic cityscape of Istanbul and the Bosphorus can be seen from Çamlıca Hill, which is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

There is a viewing terrace atop Çamlıca Hill that has been spared the concrete, noise pollution, and bustle of city life.

Restaurants and cafes overlooking the Bosphorus are available for those who want to eat and drink while taking in the view. It’s also a great location for wedding photos because of its uniqueness. Küçük Çamlıca Hill and Büyük Çamlıca Hill are located 229 meters above sea level in the smaller portion of Camlica Hill.

Locals and tourists alike go to places like Küçük Çamlıca Grove, Sofa, Cihannuma, and Topkapı Mansions when in the neighborhood. Restaurants provide a venue where diners can sample the flavors of Ottoman and Turkish cuisine. Additionally, Küçük Çamlıca Hill is home to a TV tower that can be viewed from a wide range of locations throughout Istanbul.

Nurbaba Tekke, restaurants, cafes, and other social amenities abound on Buyuk Camlica Hill, making it a more popular tourist destination than Küçük Çamlıca Hill. The hill is 262 meters above sea level. It allows you to admire the breathtaking views from a vast height. Both sides of the Bosphorus Straits are visible, as are the two bridges that connect Europe and Asia. If you can, arrive just before sunset to catch one of nature’s most spectacular views.

  • Maiden’s Tower

Floating on the Bosphorus, is one of Istanbul’s most recognizable landmarks, the Maiden’s Tower. It was once a Byzantine tollbooth and later an Ottoman lighthouse, but it’s best known for a tale about a princess and a snakebite prophecy that could lead to her death. She was exiled to the tower by her father, who hoped to protect her, but the prophecy could not be avoided as a snake made its way to the island in a basket of grapes or flowers.

You could enjoy the view of the tower from the shore. There are many waterside cafes along the shore from Uskudar where you may relax with a cup of tea in front of the tower and enjoy the view. It’s also the ideal place to catch the sunset over the Golden Horn, and a must-see for any traveler.

Another option is to visit Maiden’s Tower interior and also admire the vista from there. To go to the tower, you’ll need to take a boat that connects to the mainland. You may learn a lot about the tower’s history by visiting the museum located inside.

The Maiden’s Tower is another option for a romantic evening out. A fantastic restaurant with both traditional and international cuisine may be found inside the tower, with a view you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

  • Gulhane Park

Istanbul’s Gulhane Park, which translates to “home of the rose,” is one of Istanbul’s largest and most beautiful parks. It is located immediately next to the city’s most famous landmark, Topkapi Palace. The park’s beautiful grounds and gardens, which were once exclusively accessible to members of the royal family, are now open to the public and are a sight to behold.

Locals and visitors alike enjoy strolling through the park’s lush trails, which lead through picturesque flowerbeds and fountains, as well as lush green meadows and tree groves. You can relax at one of the park’s outdoor cafes and enjoy the tranquil setting in the company of gorgeous gardens, pools, and adjacent Bosphorus scenery.

The Gulhane Park has a Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam, located in the former Imperial Stables Building, that is worth visiting and seeing.

  • Emirgan Park

Emirgan Park, widely known as ‘Emirgan Korusu’ in Turkish, is one of Istanbul’s largest public parks is 47 hectares in size and completely encircled by a high wall. For many years the area was covered by cypress trees and passed through a series of owners until it was made public in the 1940s. The park is home to a wide variety of plants and flowers, as well as two ponds and three magnificent mansions. Jogging and walking pathways, as well as a number of places to eat and drink, make this a popular leisure area.

You could take a leisurely stroll in the park, admiring the variety of beautiful flowers. Pine, cedar, beech, ash, spruce, and willow are some of the park’s trees. If you go in the spring, be sure to see the tulips in full bloom.

It’s a good idea to visit all three of the park’s mansions: the Yellow Pavilion, the Pink Pavilion, and the White Pavilion. Each pavilion has its own unique character. The Yellow Pavilion is decorated in the style of a traditional Ottoman home with a cafe. The Pink Pavilion is filled with historical artifacts and operates as a cafe on the weekends. Last but not least, the neoclassical White Pavilion also includes a cafe.