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Things to Do in Istanbul - page 4

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Koza Han
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9 Tours and Activities

Commissioned in the 15th century by Sultan Bayezid II in Bursa, Turkey, the Koza Han served as a caravanserai that provided income for the sultan’s mosque in Istanbul. Due to its strategic location at the end of the Silk Road, Koza Han—aka the Cocoon Inn—became a popular place for merchants to unload the last of their silk.

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Arasta Bazaar
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Built in conjunction with Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, the Arasta Bazaar’s market stalls were originally created so their rent could fund the imperial mosque. Today, the long row of shops sell all kinds of Turkish goods—including carpets, kilims, ceramics, and textiles—plus prepared foods and tea in the heart of the Sultanahmet neighborhood.

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Great Palace Mosaic Museum
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Built to preserve a series of stunning floor mosaics once belonging to the Great Palace of Constantinople, the Great Palace Mosaics Museum is part of the Blue Mosque complex. Inside, the carefully preserved mosaics date back to AD 450 and depict scenes of daily life, traditions, and mythology.

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Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Kücük Ayasofya Camii)
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Built in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian I as the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Kücük Ayasofya Camii), it later took its name Little Hagia Sophia from its resemblance to the larger Hagia Sophia, which was built nearby a few years earlier. After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the church was converted into a mosque.

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Haydarpasa Railway Station (Haydarpasa Gari)
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The Haydarpasa Railway Station (Haydarpasa Gari) is a major transportation hub in the Kadikoy area of Istanbul and a symbolic gate into the city. In addition to being the busiest rail terminal in Turkey, it also has connections to bus and ferry services.

Built in a neo-Renaissance German style between 1906 and 1908, it was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II to Sultan Abdulhamid II. The terminal was originally designed to be the terminus for the Istanbul-Baghdad and Istanbul-Damascus-Medina railways during the last years of the Ottoman Empire and served as a major rail link between Berlin and Baghdad. Today, it is the departure point for trains to Ankara, Kayseri, Konya, and international, regional, and domestic destinations to the east and south.

Please note Haydarpasa Terminal is currently closed for renovation.

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Eyüp
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Istanbul’s Eyüp district was the city’s first Ottoman Turkish settlement after the conquest of Constantinople. Located just beyond the city walls on the banks of the Golden Horn, the neighborhood shares its name with one of its most popular attractions, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. It is here where Eyüp Ensari, the standard-bearer of the Prophet Muhammad, was interred in a tile-covered tomb. A mosque was later built around the tomb, and today, it’s Turkey’s holiest pilgrimage site.

The largely industrial area to the east of the Golden Horn is also part of Eyüp, and it’s also home to the Rahmi Koç Museum (a museum covering transport, industry and communications) as well as the SantralIstanbul art complex.

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Bursa
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The city of Bursa is an excellent place to learn about Ottoman history. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed municipality was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and contains numerous historic sites. Located in the foothills of Mount Uludag, Bursa is also known for its lush scenery and thermal hot springs.

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Green Tomb (Yesil Türbe)
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Built in 1421 to serve as a mausoleum for Sultan Mehmed I Celebi, the Green Tomb (Yesil Türbe) sits above the larger Green Mosque complex in Bursa, Turkey. The striking exterior of the tomb is decorated with blue-green tiles, most of which replaced the original tiles after an earthquake damaged the tomb in 1855.

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Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (Istanbul Modern Sanat Müzesi)
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Opened in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art, the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (Istanbul Modern Sanat Müzesi) relocated in 2018 to a temporary space in the Asmalimescit neighborhood while a new building is constructed. The city’s preeminent modern-art museum features contemporary works by Turkish artists and rotating temporary exhibitions.

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Istinye Park
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Absolutely the go-to shopping destination in Istanbul, Istinye Park is the most prestigious mall of the city’s retail scene. This sleekly designed one-stop shopping center is home to more than 300 high-end stores, including famous designer names such as Prada, Armani, Chanel and Dior and stylish high-street brands such as Max Mara and Zara. With 917,623 ft2 (85,250 m2) of retail space over four floors, the mall has glossy undercover shopping arcades, an entertainment center topped with a glass dome, a traditional Turkish food market and an outdoor eating area centered around a garden with fountains that are illuminated at night.

It’s easy to spend a happy family day out at the mall, as it offers the city’s first IMAX movie theater plus a multitude of cuisines in its 40 cafés and restaurants. Istinye Park has four floors of free underground parking and there are daily activities to entertain youngsters while their parents scour the shops.

Istinye Park can be visited on a full-day private tour of Istanbul’s premier retail outlets — including Istanbul Cevahir — with lunch as part of the package.

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More Things to Do in Istanbul

Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu)

Emirgan Park (Emirgan Korusu)

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Located on the European shores of Istanbul, Emirgan Park (Emirgân Korusu) is one of the largest in Istanbul and serves as an oasis of nature in the urban sprawl. The park a popular weekend destination thanks to its jogging trails and picnic areas, and it is also the main venue for the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival, which blooms every April.

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Belgrad Forest (Belgrad Ormani)

Belgrad Forest (Belgrad Ormani)

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Located at the easternmost point of the Thracian Peninsula, the Belgrad Forest (Belgrad Ormani) is about 15 kilometers outside of Istanbul. Covering about 5,000 hectares of land, the forest is home to a variety of plant, bird and animal species. Shaded by birch, elm, oak, pine and spruce trees, it is also a popular recreational area for residents of Istanbul.

The historical importance of the forest cannot be understated. In the 16th century, Suleyman the Magnificent resettled the area with Serbian prisoners-of-war so they could manage the many reservoirs that supplied water to Istanbul. Several reservoirs remain today, some dating as far back as the 15th century. On the fringes of the forest, sparse remains of the village of Belgrad can also be found.

The forest is also home to the Ataturk Arboretum, an expansion of the first nursery ever founded in Turkey, in 1916. Containing almost 300 hectares of land, the arboretum boasts over 2,000 foreign and native plant species. The most exotic plants can be found along a lake trail that takes about ninety minutes to walk.

A visit to the forest can be a great way to escape the tourist crowds of Istanbul and enjoy a bit of fresh air, although it can get crowded with picnickers on the weekends.

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Panorama 1453 History Museum

Panorama 1453 History Museum

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Step back in time and immerse yourself in the fall of Constantinople at the Panorama 1453 History Museum in Istanbul. Using 360-degree panorama paintings, 3D objects, and sound effects, the museum simulates significant historical events that occurred during the Ottoman empire. There’s even a helicopter simulation that transports you through ancient Turkey.

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Istanbul Cruise Port

Istanbul Cruise Port

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Please note: This port is currently undergoing renovation and ships are temporarily docking elsewhere.

The legendary city of Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia, washed by the Bosphorus on the Sea of Marmara. Sail past the minarets and domes to dock near the medieval Galata Tower, then make a date to bargain hunt in the markets, soak up Ottoman history in the palaces and mosques, or visit the Turkish islands for the day; it's all accessible from the Istanbul Cruise Port.

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Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii)

Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii)

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Designed by renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in the 16th century, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Camii)—close to the historical Sultanahmet neighborhood—was constructed on a steep slope and features a unique two-story courtyard. The interior is notable for its vibrant and extensive use of colorful Iznik tiles and marble details.

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Kadikoy Market (Kallavi Kadiköy)

Kadikoy Market (Kallavi Kadiköy)

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Experience the bustle and energy of Istanbul market life in the Kadikoy Market (Kallavi Kadikoy). Stretched down a long pedestrian street in the eponymous Asian-side neighborhood and encompassing shops selling fresh fish, olives, cheese, meze, and more, Kadikoy Market attracts locals and visitors who want the freshest, high-quality food.

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Sadberk Hanim Museum (Sadberk Hanım Müzesi)

Sadberk Hanim Museum (Sadberk Hanım Müzesi)

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Located in two 19th-century mansions on the northern European shore of Istanbul, the Sadberk Hanim Museum houses a wide collection of ceramics, coins, tiles, and art from different time periods. The museum also hosts rotating temporary exhibitions on subjects as diverse as early photography and archaeological digs.

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Isfanbul (Vialand)

Isfanbul (Vialand)

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Out in Istanbul’s Eyup neighborhood is Isfanbul (formerly named Vialand), a massive theme park complex replete with roller coasters, adventure rides, interactive activities, and more. Vialand also contains a luxury hotel, shopping malls with more than 250 stores, myriad restaurants, a cinema, a games center, and an open-air performance venue.

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Aynalikavak Palace (Aynalikavak Kasri)

Aynalikavak Palace (Aynalikavak Kasri)

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Built in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmet I, the ornate Aynalikavak Palace (Aynalıkavak Kasrı) served as royal hunting grounds. Today, the regal pavilion is an oasis of calm in the middle of bustling Istanbul and functions as a preserved museum. It’s decorated with mirrors and luxurious furniture showcasing the Ottoman-era palace style.

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Venezia Mega Outlet

Venezia Mega Outlet

Although just 15km from downtown Istanbul, the slick architecture and elegant shopping boutiques of Venezia Mega Outlet are a world away from the eclectic stalls and overzealous sellers of the Grand Bazaar. Opened in 2014, the modern outlet shopping mall offers an entirely different experience for shoppers in Istanbul, with over 200 stores and top brands including Moschino, Prada, Dolce & Gabanna and Mavi.

The shopping mall is part of a state-of-the-art 80,000-meter-square complex, designed to bring the feel of ‘Venice’ to Istanbul and featuring man-made canals, wooden footbridges and gondola rides, as well as Venetian-inspired architecture. Along with the shopping mall, there are over 2,200 apartments on the site, plus a cinema, food court, Turkish Hammam and spa, children’s playground and swimming pools.

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Church of St. Mary of the Spring (Balikli Kilise)

Church of St. Mary of the Spring (Balikli Kilise)

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Istanbul’s Church of St. Mary of the Spring (Balikli Kilise), aka the Zoodochos Pege, is an Eastern Orthodox shrine originally built in the sixth century near a holy well. The current structure dates to 1835, after the Ottomans destroyed the original. The shrine is an important pilgrimage site that thousands visit annually.

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Borusan Contemporary

Borusan Contemporary

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The aim of Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul is to introduce the Borusan Contemporary Art Collection to a wider audience, and to generate interest in modern art within Turkey overall. Another purpose of the museum is to establish and support educational programs and academic discussions for a variety of age groups.

Situated in a castle-esque red brick mansion (Perili Köşk) built in 1911 and overlooking the suspension bridge that links Europe and Asia, Borusan Contemporary rather fittingly places Turkish art in a wider international context, drawing inspiration from across the globe. The building also houses the headquarters of Borusan Holding, a café, the Borusan Art Store, plus outdoor terraces with views of the Bosphorus.

The works of art at Borusan Contemporary include a varied selection from the Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, as well as individual artist and group exhibitions curated by nationally and internationally acclaimed curators.

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Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum

Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum

Located in the coastal neighborhood of Tarabya, Istanbul’s Ural Ataman Classic Car Museum is a mecca for vintage-car enthusiasts. Housed in a 21,528-square-foot (2,000-square-meter) space, the private museum features over 60 classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles from 1920 to 1970, complete with retro music, decoration, and ambience.

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Pelit Chocolate Museum

Pelit Chocolate Museum

Learn more about Turkey's chocolate production at Istanbul’s Pelit Chocolate Museum, a must for chocolate lovers visiting the city. With a history dating back to 1957, the Pelit Chocolate Factory is home to Turkey’s first chocolate museum, filled with spectacular chocolate sculptures.

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