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  • Writer's pictureAngelina Ly

Istanbul’s Most Iconic Landmarks You Can’t Miss

If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, there are certain landmarks you simply cannot miss. This vibrant and historic city is home to some of the most iconic spots in the world. From mosques and palaces to bazaars and bridges, Istanbul has something for everyone. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul.

There are countless reasons to explore Istanbul. Its rich history means there are many incredible historical sites, while its beautiful mosques and colorful tile work make it a visual treat. The city is also full of friendly locals, making it incredibly charming. If you want to get the most out of your experience in Istanbul, plan to spend at least 4 days here. We only had four days and thought it was the perfect amount of time to explore the city.

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Istanbul. This mosque is known for its beautiful blue tiles and six minarets. The Blue Mosque was built in the early 1600s and is still used as a place of worship today. Visitors can enter the mosque to explore the interior or simply admire its beauty from the outside. If you have never visited a mosque before, the Blue Mosque is a great one to start with - and it's free to enter! Just be mindful of Islamic customs when inside any mosque. You should dress modestly (covering your shoulders and knees) and remove your shoes before entering. Because the Blue Mosque sees such high volumes of tourists each day, they are very good at explaining entrance procedures.

Hagia Sophia

Another must-see landmark in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 AD, and served as the Cathedral of Constantinople for 900 years. It is widely considered to be the single greatest architectural achievement of the Byzantine Empire. In 1453, when Constantinople fell to Ottoman forces, it was turned into a mosque and continued to function as such until July 2020. Today, it serves as a museum and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia is known for its massive dome and intricate mosaics. Inside, the Hagia Sophia still retains the elements of Christian and Islamic religions. I recommend spending at least an hour inside the Hagia Sophia to fully appreciate its beauty.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is another iconic spot in Istanbul. This massive market is one of the oldest and largest in the world. The Grand Bazaar is home to thousands of shops selling everything from spices to carpets. Visitors can bargain with shopkeepers and find unique souvenirs to take home.

While I was there, I picked up some beautiful Turkish ceramics, some great souvenirs for friends, and window shopped for some gorgeous lamps (that were way too pricey for me!). I was also able to find some great spices to take home and use in cooking. The Grand Bazaar can be overwhelming with all the people and haggling, but it is worth a visit.

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is a must-see for any history lover. This underground cistern was built in the 6th century to store water for the city of Constantinople. The cistern is enormous, and its size is made even more impressive by its height - it is almost 50 feet tall! Today, the Basilica Cistern is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can walk through the cistern, admiring its columns and brickwork. The Basilica Cistern is a cool and refreshing respite from the heat of Istanbul.

The Bosphorus Bridge

The Bosphorus Bridge is one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks. This bridge crosses the Bosphorus strait and connects Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the world and offers stunning views of Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is a must-visit for anyone interested in Ottoman history. The Topkapi Palace was the seat of Ottoman power for 400 years, until the mid 1800s when Dolmabahce Palace was built. The Topkapi Palace is known for its beautiful gardens, harems, and treasure-filled rooms. One of the best places to visit in Topkapi is the Harem - where the sultan's mother and wives (and concubines) lived. Plus, the views of Istanbul from here are amazing.

Dolmabahce Palace

This lavish palace was built in the 1800s and served as the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans. Today, Dolmabahce Palace is open to the public as a museum. Visitors can explore the beautiful rooms and gardens or take a boat ride on the Bosphorus.

Istiklal Avenue

This pedestrian-only street is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Istiklal Avenue is also home to the iconic Taksim Square. Visitors can spend hours exploring this vibrant area of Istanbul.

Galata Tower

The Galata Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Istanbul. This tower offers stunning views of the city and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The Galata Tower is also home to a restaurant and nightclub, making it the perfect place to enjoy a night out in Istanbul.

Kamondo Stairs

The Kamondo Stairs are a set of stairs located in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul. These stairs were built in the late 1800s and are known for their intricate iron railing. The Kamondo Stairs are a popular spot for both locals and visitors.

Grand Mecidiye Mosque

This mosque is one of the most beautiful in Istanbul and was built in the 1800s. The Grand Mecidiye Mosque is known for its large size and stunning architecture. Visitors can explore the mosque or simply enjoy the views from the outside.

Chora Museum

The Chora Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in Byzantine art. This museum is home to some of the most beautiful mosaics and paintings in Istanbul. The Chora Museum is also known for its stunning architecture and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul.

Suleymaniye Mosque

The Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Istanbul. It was built in the 16th century by the great Ottoman architect Sinan. The mosque is located on a hilltop overlooking the Golden Horn. It is surrounded by four minarets and has two large courtyards. The Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul. It is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture. The mosque is open to visitors all year round.


The Sphendone is a large arch located in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. This arch was built in the 4th century and is one of the oldest landmarks in Istanbul. The Sphendone was used as a starting line for chariot races. Today, the arch is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul and a must-see for any visitor.


The Bezesteni is a covered market located in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. It was built in the 15th century and was used as a marketplace for textiles and other goods. The Bezesteni is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul and is definitely worth a visit. Here, you can find a wide variety of goods, from souvenirs to traditional Turkish textiles.

Yoros Kalesi

The Yoros Kalesi is a fortress located in the Asian side of Istanbul. This fortress was built in the Byzantine era and is now a ruin. Despite this, the fortress is still an imposing sight and offers stunning views of the city. The Yoros Kalesi is a must-visit spot for anyone interested in the history of Istanbul.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul. This mosque was built in the 1600s and is known for its blue tiles and massive size. The mosque is still in use today and is a must-see for anyone visiting Istanbul.

Tips for Traveling in Istanbul

  • Istanbul is a large city and can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. Be sure to plan your trip in advance and allow yourself plenty of time to explore.

  • Istanbul is home to a variety of cultures and religions. Be respectful of religious sites and cultural differences.

  • Istanbul is a very safe city. However, as with any large city, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions when traveling alone.

  • The best way to get around Istanbul is by using the public transportation system. This includes the metro, tram, bus, and ferry.

  • Taxis are also widely available and are a convenient way to get around the city. However, be sure to use a reputable taxi service and agree on a price before getting in the car.

  • Istanbul is a very walkable city. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take your time exploring all the different neighborhoods.

  • When visiting Istanbul, be sure to try the local food. This includes Turkish coffee, kebabs, and baklava. For more info on what foods to try in Turkey, check out my blog on Turkish Foods

  • Istanbul is a city of contrasts. Be sure to visit both the European and Asian sides during your trip.

Istanbul is a city full of history, culture, and beauty. These are just a few of the iconic landmarks, but there is plenty more to see in Istanbul. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply want to enjoy the views, Istanbul has something for everyone.

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