Travelling to Istanbul is a journey of discovery. This exotic city straddles two continents, Europe and Asia, and is a melting pot of cultures and religions. A drawcard for visitors is the exciting mix of activities and experiences, from shopping in souks and dining on Turkish delicacies to marvelling at famous landmarks like the Blue Mosque.
Another highlight to add to an Istanbul holiday package is exploring the old part of the city. Here you can take in more attractions, including Topkapi Palace, St Sophia and the Underground Cistern. Historic sights abound, as do cafes, bars, shops and restaurants, all waiting to be discovered.
Why tour Istanbul in Turkey
- As one of the world’s major trade centres, its history is fascinating and unique.
- To see impressive views from rooftop bars.
- To explore one of the oldest and largest markets on earth, the Grand Bazaar.
- To discover magical Turkish destinations not far from the city, including Black Sea beaches.
- To experience the traditional Turkish baths and hammams.
- Asia meets Europe in Istanbul, is a blaze of cultures and traditions.
Once home to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, it’s now a dynamic modern city that is home to over 14 million people. The fact that it spans two continents – Europe and Asia – makes it totally unique. It’s a dichotomy – a rare blend of two very different lifestyles just waiting to be explored. Experience this enigmatic city on a 2024 travel package to Istanbul with Thompsons Holidays.
Things to do in Istanbul Turkey
An enigmatic mixture of European and Asian traditions awaits in Istanbul on holiday. The combination of these two very different lifestyles makes the city a unique destination, with attractions to suit every type of traveller. The old part of the town reflects the influences of the various empires that have ruled Istanbul. Here you’ll find Egyptian obelisks, ruins of a Romanesque Hippodrome, Byzantine buildings like famous Hagia Sofia and Ottoman palaces, including Topkapi.
Things to do in Istanbul
- Visit a Turkish bath or hammam and enjoy a massage.
- See the Spoonmaker’s Diamond in Topkapi Palace, the fourth-largest diamond of its kind in the world.
- Sample traditional Turkish coffee.
- Cruise on the Bosphorus River to see this magnificent city from a different perspective.
- Shop for spices in the Egyptian Bazaar, before heading for the massive nearby Grand Bazaar.
- Climb to the top of the Galata Tower for breathtaking views of the city.
- Discover Haga Sofia, an Ottoman mosque with an ornate interior.
- Watch a dance performance of Whirling Dervishes.
- Go underground to see the Basilica Cistern that once brought water from Bulgaria to Istanbul.
- See classical antiquities at the three Archaeology Museums, home to some of the world’s richest collections.
- Be mesmerised by the mosaics inside the Blue Mosque.
There is no definitive guide to all the things to do in Istanbul. The city is so diverse and offers so many activities and thrills that it’s hard to know which you should see or do. We can help you plan an Istanbul holiday that reveals the city’s treasure trove of experiences and delights. Book your Istanbul holiday package with Thompsons Holidays.
Know before you go...
- The best time to visit Istanbul is in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November).
- High season – July, August and September – has very high temperatures.
- Low season is winter, from December to February, when it is very cold.
- The flight duration from Johannesburg to Istanbul: 9 hours, 50 minutes.
- Istanbul has an excellent transport system, especially its city bus network. You can also travel to certain areas by historical tram and underground funicular.
- To use all public transport in Istanbul (boats, subways, buses, trams, and funiculars), you can purchase the Istanbul Kart (transport card).
- Taxis are also available.
- Lightweight clothing is best for summer. Pack items that can be layered, as well as scarves to cover your hair when you visit mosques.
- Winter can see very low temperatures, so pack appropriately.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat, swimsuits and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and attractions.
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; instead, take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other’s cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- When exploring the city on foot, stay on the pavements. As a pedestrian, you are not protected by law if you’re not walking on a pavement.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Out of season
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