Istanbul is a city unlike any other. Divided across two continents by the sparkling waters of the Bosphorus, Istanbul is a city of rich contrasts.

The skyline is dominated by minarets and skyscrapers, and relics of the past draw breath right alongside the city’s modernity. But the true glories of the city are a little more subtle – the friendly faces, the incredible food, the chaotic sidewalks and the flourishing market places are what truly make the magic of Istanbul.

Blue tiles in the Blue Mosque

I was lucky enough to visit Istanbul recently and I have to tell you – it was love at first sight! With so much to see and do in this bustling city, I’ve narrowed down the list to my top seven favourite things to do when visiting Istanbul!

1. Explore the exquisite Blue Mosque

Interior tile details of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

With its iconic six minarets and exquisite interior detailing, the Blue Mosque is undeniably one of the most incredible sites I’ve ever entered. Be advised that strict dress codes apply when visiting (particularly for women) and that head, wrists and ankles must be covered and shoes must be removed to enter.

If you aren’t covered correctly, there is the alternative option of hiring an abaya free of charge before entering.

2. Wander the Hagia Sophia

Exterior shot of the Haga Sophia in Istanbul Turkey

Originally a cathedral, then a mosque, now a museum, the Hagia Sophia dominates the Istanbul skyline with it’s giant domes and four minarets. It’s fascinating history and intricate mosiacs make it a must-visit on any Istanbul itinerary.

3. Get lost in the Grand Bazaar

Image showing a very crowded and vibrant Grand Bazaar lane in Istanbul Turkey

A visit to Istanbul would not be complete without spending a few hours getting lost in the Grand Bazaar. Prepare for complete sensory overload and very insistent sellers, as well as a myriad of trinkets, food, scarves, carpets, leather goods, tea pots, lanterns and everything inbetween.

4. Sip Turkish apple tea with a shop owner

Turkish hospitality in a cup - delicious apple tea in Istanbul

Tea drinking is an institution in Istanbul and a huge part of Turkish hospitality. You’ll like find shop owners offering you a steaming cup of delicious apple tea should you wander into their shop. Try it – it’s seriously delicious.

5. Sample some delicious Turkish street food

A street food cart in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

Street food is as plentiful as it is delicious in the city. Try the loaded baked potatoes, freshly baked Simit (a cross between a pretzel and a bagel, aka delicious) and if you can walk past a cart with sweet cobs of corn charring on the grill, you’re a stronger person than I am!

6. Eat all the Turkish Delight you can stomach

Shop in the Grand Bazaar selling many types of Turkish Delight

Go on, you know you want to!

7. Take a ferry ride along the Bosphorus Strait at sunset

Stunning View of Istanbul from the Bosphorus Strait at sunset

Istanbul is a city best viewed from the body of water that divides it and no time of day is more beautiful than at sunset. Watching the light fade over the city is a moment of pure magic and one not to be missed!

Is Istanbul on your bucket list? Have you ever been? What are your favourite things to do in Istanbul?