A mosaic of modern and traditional, new and ancient, conservative and avant-garde, Istanbul is as unique as a city can be. Lose yourself in the narrow streets of this sprawling metropolis, where ancient treasures sit alongside modern shops, or take a sip on your cocktail, listening to the Bosphorus – or even better, do both, because here you can! Enjoy a wealth of attractions and fun and interesting things to do in Istanbul.
|32||km (19.88 mi) length of the Bosphorus Strait|
|48,000||vessels per year pass through its waters|
|620||historic homes line its shores|
|5||minute walk from the Hotel to boat cruise launchpoint|
|1||Only city that stands between two continents|
Things to Do in Istanbul
Concierge Recommends: Istanbul at the Bosphorus
Where should you go to see innovative art? Which traditional Turkish foods are best to try? The Head Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus shares these tips and more to make your stay memorable.
Experience “A Taste of Istanbul”
Get an insider’s view of Istanbul’s rich architectural heritage and delicious local flavours with our “A Taste of Istanbul” package, which includes a private, full-day tour and lunch for two at our sister property in Istanbul.
Considered as the epitome of Byzantine time, Hagia Sophia is one of the most important architectural achievements of all times, and the fact that is was built in AD 537 makes it even more impressive. Easily recognized by its majestic and flat dome, Hagia Sophia is certainly number one on the must-see list of any visitor.
Welcome to what has been the heart of the Ottoman Empire. It has served as the residence of the sultans and their women for over centuries. With its mystical harem, countless chambers, spacious grounds and courtyards, the exquisite jewel collection and much more, this glorious palace is undoubtedly one of Istanbul’s top offerings.
With its six minarets and dominating position in the skyline of old Istanbul, it is one of the most famous and visited monuments in the city.
Properly known as Sultanahmet Camii, this impressive mosque is widely called “the Blue Mosque” due to the blue Iznik tiles that adorn the interior.
Covering a vast area of 60 laneways, 5,000 shops and caravanserais, the Grand Bazaar is one the biggest and the most hospitable bazaars of the world; after all, it welcomes around 250,000 to 400,000 guests daily! Mixing all the different tones, tunes and colors of the city into a unique blend of scenes, your day in the Grand Bazaar will remain with you forever.
Mint, thyme, saffron, cumin – but also nuts, jams, lokum with the widest range of flavors. Whatever there is edible in this city, Spice Market has it. Covered like the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market is smaller in size but certainly just as interesting and stunning as his bigger brother.
Recognised as the masterpiece of the famous 16th-century architect Mimar Sinan, this magnificent mosque certainly lives up to his commissioning emperor, Suleyman I, The Magnificent. Having survived numerous earthquakes and other disasters, Suleymaniye Mosque is one the most inspiring places in the city for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Once the highest building in the city, this cylindrical building has witnessed times of wealth and peace since 1348, but also social rebellions, natural disasters, fires, wars and more. Take a deep breath, climb the stairs and let it whisper its memories to you.
Whether approached from the land or the sea, this 19th-century palace welcomes the visitor with a magnificent presence. Since the palace has survived intact with its original decorations, furniture, silk carpets and curtains, a stroll through its impressive halls is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Basilica Cistern / Yerebatan Cistern
With its 336 columns and a capacity to store up to 80,000 cubic metres of water, Basilica Cistern is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern. Since its renovation in the 1980s, it is one of most impressive and mesmerizing historical landmarks Istanbul has to offer.
Highly concentrated with Istanbul’s top high-end shops, Nişantaşı is certainly one of the most affluent districts of Istanbul. With many cafes, restaurants and small galleries hidden in the narrow streets of Nişantaşı, this lively district is certainly the correct choice for lovers of shopping outside of malls.
One of the latest additions to the social life of Istanbul is Zorlu Center, which consists not only of international brands but also exquisite cafes, worldwide known restaurants, and one of the – if not the – leading performance centers of the city. The playground with thrilling attractions for children of all ages makes Zorlu Center certainly the best choice also for families visiting Istanbul on a sunny day.
Feeling lucky today? Then there is no better day to go to the Grand Bazaar. The exquisite kilim or the antique piece for your living room, the hand-dyed cloth to decorate your sofa or the golden necklace you have long been searching for – they might all be waiting for you there.
Galata is not only one of the oldest but nowadays also one of the most vibrant and distinct districts of Istanbul, with frequent shop openings offering unique pieces by prominent Turkish designers and artists. And even better, they are complemented by boutique coffee shops, cozy restaurants and stylish cafes.
Our shortlist of favorite shops in Galata:
- Doors by Ümit Ünal
Ensiz Sokak No. 1B; +90 (212) 245 78 86
Ümit Ünal has a way with drapery. He uses only natural fabrics and designs his pieces in such a sophisticated way that anyone wearing his clothes experiences comfort and style at the same time. The shop/atelier is housed in a heritage building with rough-cut wooden floors and Ünal’s sketches on the walls. http://www.umitunal.com/
- Simay Bülbül
Bereketzade Sokak Kuledibi, Kuleçıkmazı No. 17; +90 (212) 292 78 99
Shopping leatherwork is certainly one of the top items in the must-do list of any shopping guru visiting Istanbul. So why not stop by at Simay Bülbül’s shop and take a look at the designer’s edgy collection of leather dresses, jackets and accessories? The shop also stocks a range of jersey knit and silk pieces.
- 290 SQM
Serdar-ı Ekrem Sok. Şahin Apt. No. 27/A; +90 (212) 249 0121
Originally Dutch, this store’s concept is certainly new to the residents of Istanbul. With a collection of hardly distributed brands, a small garden upstairs, a rooftop terrace and a program of arthouse film screenings, 290 SQM offers a 360-degree shopping experience. https://290sqm.com/
- Atelier 55
Serdar-ı Ekrem Sok. Eraskerci Çıkmazı No. 55; +90 (212) 245 3255
Atelier 55 is one of the first fashion boutiques that opened in the neighborhood and carries a balanced selection of Turkish and international designers. This glamorous boutique offers variety of items such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories and cushion in a stylish location. Everything in store including the furniture and the paintings are for sale.
Consisting of three parts – Archaeological Museum, Museum of Ancient Orient and Museum of Islamic Art – Istanbul Archaeological Museums own a vast collection of items covering almost all eras and civilizations in world history. With the management’s focus on becoming an ‘inviting-welcoming-entertaining museum,’ a stroll along ancient pieces has never been such a joy.
Salt Galata – Salt Beyoglu
Both set in Istanbul’s most lively and bohemian district, Salt Galata and Salt Beyoğlu house avant-garde works of art, curated by well-known Turkish and international curators. The central location of Salt Beyoğlu and the beautiful old bank building that hosts Salt Galata and the impressive rooftop restaurant make both of them a must-see stop if you are in Beyoğlu area.
Istanbul Modern is one of the biggest privately funded art galleries in the city. The extensive collection of Turkish contemporary art and a very successfully managed program of mixed-media exhibitions by local and international artists make this museum a magnet for all art lovers. The stunning views of the Bosphorus accompanying the visitor and the delicious cuisine of the stylish cafe also help!
With a superb permanent collection of works of book-making and calligraphy and an impressive temporary exhibition program, Sabancı Museum is one of the main meeting points of art lovers in sIstanbul. The fact that it hosts one of the best restaurants in the city, with a terrace overlooking the mansion’s beautiful garden and the Bosphorus, is certainly another reason why you shouldn’t miss it.
Zuma blends the sophisticated beauty of the Bosphorus and the authentic flavors of the Japanese cuisine in such a way that the dinner turns into a unique experience of pure joy and satisfaction.
Sunset Grill & Bar
Another magical spot with a breath-taking view of the Bosphorus, a wide range of select dishes from Turkish, Japanese and international cuisine and an exquisite atmosphere, Sunset Grill Bar is the right choice for a lunch or dinner of perfection.
A family-run fish restaurant located in a beautiful Ottoman mansion, Balıkçı Sabahattin is where you will have delicious mezes and fish dishes served either inside the mansion, decorated in a cozy and traditional way with kilims or on the wooden terrace, depending on the weather and your preference.
Çiya’s modest ambiance is the setting for a rewarding gastronomical experience. Located almost side-by-side on the same street, all three Çiya restaurants focus on a different but equally exciting dimension of the east and southeast cuisine emerging from the Anatolian region. An unforgettable food experience is guaranteed for all enthusiasts of new and old local flavors.
Ulus 29 is one of the most sought-after social experiences in Istanbul, since its opening in 1993. Located on the hilltops of Ulus, the venue has a magnificent view overlooking the Bosphorus. With its fine dining restaurant and Club 29, Ulus 29 sets the trend of indulgence and entertainment of Turkey. Impeccable attention to detail and classical service are also one of the trademarks of Ulus 29 culture. The elegant and vibrant Terrace Bar and the Club section adjoin the spectacular view of the restaurant. The Terrace Bar is a great spot to have cocktails after work or if you're looking for a fine dining experience.
Comfortably chilling on the main street of Bebek, Lucca looks like a mid-size neighborhood bar, but its popularity goes much beyond. Both Lucca and his new sister Cantinery in Zorlu are magnets for lovers of good music, good cocktails and good food.
Princes’ Islands – Büyükada
Once a place of exile, these small islands located on the Marmara Sea south of the city are certainly worth a visit if you would like to enjoy a day away from the busy city. Both the time spent getting there and the time spent strolling along the narrow streets with the beautiful mansions will fill you with energy.
Boat Tour on the Bosphorus
There is no better way than a taking a tour on the Bosphorus in order to appreciate the beautiful villas adorning it. Depending on the length and the route of the tour, you might also have the opportunity to jump off of the boat for a few hours and walk around in some of the districts on the Bosphorus.