Things to see in Istanbul

Tourist offices

Turist Danışma Ofisi

Address: Resadiye Cad. 7, Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: +90 212 522 55 55
Opening Hours:

Daily 0900-1700

www.howtoistanbul.com

Istanbul’s main tourist office, in central Sultanahmet, has helpful, English-speaking staff and bundles of brochures, maps and information on city sights, events and Istanbul transport. There are several other offices in the city at Atatürk Airport in the arrivals terminal (+90 212 465 3151; daily 0800-2300), Sirkeci Train Station (+90 212 511 5888; daily 0900-1700), and in Beyazıt Meydanı (+90 212 522 4902; daily 0830-1800).


Passes

The Museum Pass Istanbul (www.muzekart.com/en/museum-pass) offers visitors no-queue entry to several of the city’s top sights and museums, including the Aya Sofya and Topkapı Palace, over a five day period. The pass can be purchased at all of the participating attractions.

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia)

Inaugurated by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in AD 537, the Hagia Sophia (Church of Divine Wisdom) is the crowning architectural masterpiece of the Byzantine Empire. Today, with its mammoth 56m (184ft) high dome, gold-daubed mosaics and Ottoman medallions, it remains one of the most inspiringly beautiful buildings in the world.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0900-1800 (Apr-Oct); Tues-Sun 0900-1600 (Nov-Mar)
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Aya Sofya Meydanı, Divan Yolu Caddesi, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 522 1750
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıçı)

This vast underground structure was built in AD 532 by Emperor Justinian, to be used as the reservoir for the Great Palace. With schools of carp flitting through the pools under the cathedral-like ceiling, supported by 336 columns – many recycled from pre-Christian temples – this is Istanbul’s most atmospheric sight.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-1830 (Apr-Oct); 0900-1730 (Nov-Mar)
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Yerebatan Cad. Alemdar Mah. 1/3, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 522 1259
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)

With its cascade of opulent domes and slender, balconied minarets soaring towards the sky, this is Istanbul's most striking mosque. Built during the reign of Sultan Ahmet I, the mosque’s blue İznik tiles (from which it gained its nickname), dominate the interior highlighted by shafts of light from 250 windows.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours, except during prayer times
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: At Meydanı Caddesi 7, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi)

The Aya Sofya may get all the glory but the Chora Church (Church of the Holy Saviour Outside the Walls) is home to the most fabulous collection of Byzantine art. The interior here is covered foot to dome with vibrant, gold-tinged frescoes; testament to the Byzantine Empire’s artistic glory.

Opening Times: Thurs-Tues 0900-1800 (Apr-Oct); 0900-1630 (Nov-Mar)
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Kariye Cami Sokak 8, Edirnekapı, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 631 9241
Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşısı)

This bazaar is a city within the city and has been in business since 1461. Under the domed ceilings, the labyrinthine confines contain over 4000 shops rimming 60 alleys and packed into old hans (caravanserais; inns for traders), two mosques, a multitude of cafes, and even its own police station.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0900-1900
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Takkeciler Sk., Beyazıt, Istanbul, Turkey
Süleymaniye Mosque

Commissioned by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1550, and designed by famed Ottoman architect Mimar Sultan, this mosque is the grandest in Istanbul. The interior, under the huge dome, is a lesson in symmetry and austere elegance while in the garden are the tombs of Sultan Süleyman and his wife Roxelana.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours, except during prayer times
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Caddesi 1, Beyazıt, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 514 0139
Topkapı Palace (Topkapi Sarayı)

Brought to life soon after Mehmet the Conqueror’s capture of Constantinople in 1453, the lavish salons, courts and pavilions here were the engine room of the Ottoman Empire right up to the 19th century. Don’t miss touring the labyrinthine haram and visiting the Treasury – home to the emerald-encrusted Topkapı dagger.

Opening Times: Wed-Mon 0900-1845 (Apr-Oct); Wed-Mon 0900-1645 (Nov-Mar)
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes
Address: Topkapı Sarayı, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 512 0480
Istanbul Archaeology Museum

The artefacts here come from the Topkapı collections and include the stunning sarcophagi finds made in Sidon’s Royal Necropolis (in Lebanon) by Ottoman archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey. There’s also a wealth of ancient sarcophagi, statuary and monuments from important pre-Islamic sites throughout Turkey, Syria and Iraq on display.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-1900
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No
Address: Gülhane Park, Alemdar Caddesi, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 520 7740.
Istanbul Modern

Located in a restored waterfront warehouse, the Istanbul Modern is home to an extensive collection of contemporary arts from Turkey and across the world. The gallery hosts a revolving program of world-class temporary exhibitions and there’s an art-house cinema and fine restaurant, overlooking the Bosphorus, also on site.

Opening Times: Wed, Fri-Sun 1000-1800; Tues & Thurs 1000-2000
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No
Address: Meclis-i Mebusan Caddesi Liman İşletmeleri Sahası Antrepo 4, Tophane, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 334 7300.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Türk ve Eserleri Müzesi)

Originally the 16th century palace of Süleyman the Magnificent's Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, this museum contains more than 40,000 artefacts from the 8th to the 19th century. Its carpet collection – including some of the finest rare textile pieces in the world – and its illuminated manuscript exhibits are the standout highlights.

Opening Times: Daily 0900-1900 (Apr-Oct); 0900-1700 (Nov-Mar)
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No
Address: Atmeydanı Sok 46, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Telephone: +90 212 518 1805