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Istanbul see + do

For visitors to Istanbul, the question is not what one should see in the city, but what one can afford to skip until the next visit. Those on a one- or two-day itinerary should plan for immediate immersion in the historical district, from the majestic palaces and mosques of Sultanahmet to the exotic Oriental alleys of the Grand Bazaar, squeezing in an hour-long hammam treatment to unwind.

Culture fiends who want to go slightly off the beaten path usually head to the quieter Süleymaniye Mosque, the farther-flung Kariye Museum, or the superb Dolmabahçe Palace on the banks of the Bosphorus near Beşiktaş.

For those with a little more time on their hands, İstiklal Caddesi—the main pedestrian drag through Beyoğlu—and its surrounding neighborhoods of Galata, Tünel, and Çukurcuma are ideal for day and night-time wanderings, while art buffs shouldn't miss the neo-industrial structures of the Istanbul Modern and Santral Istanbul, as well as the state-of-the art architecture at the Kanyon Shopping Center.

If Istanbul's bustle and the traffic become too much to bear, take to the water: The serene car-free Princes' Islands are only a short boat trip across the Sea of Marmara, and you really can't top chartering your own private yacht for a Champagne sunset sail up the Bosphorus.

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Topkapı Palace, Gülhane

You'd expect the centuries-long family home of one of the world's foremost ruling dynasties and command center of an entire empire to be pretty impressive, and...more

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Hotel Photo
Sultanahmet: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

Don't even dream of leaving Istanbul without visiting this holy trinity of sights. Packed with tourists, touts, and queues they may be, but the history and...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Süleymaniye Mosque, Süleymaniye

Escape the Sultanahmet crowds and head for this impressive and undervisited complex, just a short walk past the University from the back of the Grand Bazaar....more

Editors' Pick
Santral Istanbul, Eyüp

This art gallery and museum is set inside an impressive structure that was Turkey's first industrial power station, or santral. Located near the source of the...more

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Princes' Islands, Istanbul

Situated in the Sea of Marmara, just off Istanbul's Asian shore, the Princes' Islands were a former place of exile and home to a large number of the city's...more

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Museum of Islamic Art, Sultanahmet

This scarcely visited museum is housed inside the İbrahim Paşa Palace, a building on the edge of the At Meydanı (Horse Square) in Sultanahmet,...more

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Kariye Müzesi (Chora Church), Edirnekapı

Tucked away in a far corner of the Old City, just by the Edirnekapı gate, is the tiny Kariye Museum, also known as the Chora Church. This small building...more

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İstiklal Caddesi, Istanbul

The very heart of Istanbul, this mile-long pedestrian street that runs from Tünel to Taksim Square is regularly mobbed by residents who come for the shops,...more

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Hotel Photo
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Karaköy

Housed in a superb old dockside warehouse—very much in keeping with the industrial aesthetic of the Tate Modern in London—the Istanbul Modern opened...more

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Hammams, Istanbul

There's no better remedy for the jet-lagged traveler—or for the morning after a long night of Raki consumption—than a good long soak at the hammam....more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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