Despite Istanbul’s sprawling size, many of its best sights are within walking distance. Pack a map and a good pair of shoes, and you'll be all set for this self-guided tour of the city's finest attractions.
Neve Shalom Synagogue and Galata Tower
Step by the Neve Shalom Synagogue, the largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul. If you want to step inside in this beautiful synagogue, don't forget to bring your ID since the security is highly guarded for safety purposes. Otherwise, simply enjoy the architecture before walking on to Galata Tower, one of Istanbul’s most iconic buildings. The tower was built in 1348, and was the city’s tallest building for centuries. The tower’s balcony offers excellent views across to the Golden Horn.
Visit Pera Museum, a cultural center where you can experience diversity of the culture and arts. Key collections include Coffee Break, ancient tiles and ceramics celebrating coffee culture, and an elaborate collection of Orientalist works from the 17th-19th centuries. Pera Museum collaborates with national and international artists and organizes multiple exhibitions, audio-visual events and other educational events. This is a must see if you are an art lover!
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As you walk towards Sultanahmet (Istanbul’s old quarter), take a detour into the Grand Bazaar. This cavernous building is full of vendors selling everything from antiques and jewelry to spices and scarves. Here you can pick up some souvenirs or just get some local experience while strolling through the Bazaar.
Just a short walk away from Grand Bazaar you will find Basilica Cistern. This magnificent ancient building is an underground water reservoir. Basilica Cistern and its subterranean pools were built in the 6th Century, back when Istanbul was still Constantinople. Look out for the Medusa head along the column bases. Medusa heads have been used to support two columns and this work has been considered as a great work of art dating from the Roman period.
From the cistern it’s a short stroll to Istanbul’s most famous building: the Hagia Sophia. This impressive place of worship has been standing since the first century and was originally a church, then a mosque. Today it’s simply a museum. The masterful architecture and ancient mosaics take at least an hour to admire properly, so keep some time allotted in your itinerary for this impressive structure.
Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace
The Blue Mosque is across the square, or you can move straight on to Topkapi Palace: home to Ottoman sultans for nearly half a century. Spend a few hours here wandering through ancient harems and chambers, then pay a visit to the religious relics in the Privy Room.
Begin your walking tour bright and early, setting off from our Radisson Blu Hotel Istanbul, Pera where you'll find not just comfortable accommodation, but stunning views as well. But after a whole day of exploring the city, try some traditional Turkish street food so you're recharged for the remainder of your holiday. Or, stop at Hamdi Restaurant on your way back to the hotel, where the roof terrace provides more fantastic views across the city. The restaurant specializes in traditional Turkish cuisine. Start with a mezze, move on to a kebap, and finish with kunefe. After all that walking, you’ve certainly earned it!