Top 10 Things To Do In Turkey - Updated 2024

| 5 min read

Spreading over two continents, Europe and Asia, Turkey is a country with a rich history and even richer culture. Its position has enabled the country to absorb cultural influences from ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Persian empires. Today, the country is a blend of cosmopolitan cities like Istanbul or Ankara, as well as ancient architecture, more traditional towns, and geological wonders, like the thermal spa terraces at Pamukkale. Some of the must-see landmarks on a Turkish adventure include the iconic Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace Museum, but also Bosphorus Strait and the impressive bridges crossing it. Read on as we explore some of the best things to do in Turkey, whether it’s your first or fourth.

Tip from tour guide

Visit Turkey during Eid to enjoy the warm sun and gentle breeze. It’s the best time for visiting the country as almost all activities are running smoothly, and the streets are vivid with tourists roaming, shopping, taking photos, and listening to the stories of the fascinating life in Turkey.

To make the most of your experience, take time to admire the sunsets in Istanbul.

Tip from tour guide

Video of some popular attractions in Turkey shared by Turkey tour guide, Rose.

1. Discover a piece of Greek history at Temple of Artemis in Izmir

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey
Source: Photo by user Carole Raddato used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Turkey is a fantastic blend of so many cultures, and the ancient Greek empire is one of them. The Temple of Artemis in Izmir is proof of that. Initially located in Ephesus, the temple is also known as the Temple of Diana, and was built in the 6th century B.C. An architectural marvel and considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple was unfortunately destroyed in a deliberate fire and had to be rebuilt. Throughout time it was destroyed and rebuilt several times, but today visitors can only see its foundation and a solitary column.

Temple of Artemis

Address: Atatürk, Park İçi Yolu No:12, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 24 hours; Sun: 6am - 8pm; Mon: 7am - 6pm

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2. Marvel at the impressive architecture of Hagia Sophia Museum (from USD 27.11)

things to do in turkey | marvel at the impressive architecture of hagia sophia museum

Eye-catching from afar, Hagia Sophia Museum is a former Greek Orthodox cathedral that has also been an Ottoman mosque, and eventually became the museum it is today. Located in Istanbul, the impressive architectural marvel features a massive dome ceiling, several towers, smaller domes, and fantastic attention to detail. While its exterior may impress, its interior will have an even greater effect. The building has been built 1,400 years ago and has unbelievable dimensions for a structure not made of steel.

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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia Exterior Tour with Optional Tickets

1662 reviews

3. Visit the former social scene of Constantinople in Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome), Istanbul
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Maurice Flesier used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Sultanahmet Square is one of Istanbul’s most notable landmarks, as it was originally the Hippodrome of Constantinople and a place for different social events and gatherings. Even today, you can still see some fragments from the old structure as you walk through the square. With the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia as backdrops, right at two opposite ends of the park, Sultanahmet Square is not to be missed. Make sure you take a peek at Obelisk of Theodosius, Serpentine Column, and Column of Constantine.

Sultanahmet Square

Address: Binbirdirek, Sultan Ahmet Parkı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Website: Sultanahmet Square

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Tip from tour guide


Located in Istanbul's old city, the Obelisk of Theodosius, an Egyptian obelisk, depicts Istanbul's beauty. Take time out to view this remarkable ancient monument. covered in hieroglyphic inscriptions on its side.

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4. Go on a shopping frenzy at Istiklal Caddesi

Istiklal Caddesi (6376451065)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user William Neuheisel used under CC BY 2.0

Istiklal Caddesi is one of Istanbul’s most famous avenues, frequently getting crowded, as it is visited by up to three million people daily on weekends. The street is sprinkled with a variety of dining places, coffee shops, pastry shops, pubs, but also bookstores, art galleries, theaters, and shops, making it the ideal destination for a quick shopping session or a full-day break from landmark visiting. The avenue is 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long and links the modern part of the city with the historic one. While on Istiklal Caddesi, you’ll also pass by the neighborhood of Tunel, home to the second-oldest underground station in the world.

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Turkey Tour Guide

Rose TheGuide

Rose The Guide

Professional Tour / Travel Guide and Photographer Certified by Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I am a knowledgeable and motivated individual with years of experience in organizing group tours in several areas; have the ability to motivate different sets of audience; have the ability to communicate effectively and possess high degree of energy and enthusiasm.

5. Check out Topkapi Palace Museum to see where Ottoman sultans once lived

Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rraj89 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Topkapi Palace Museum that was built starting with 1459 has played an important role in Turkey’s history, as it served as the administrative center and residence of the imperial Ottoman court, and about 30 sultans ruled from the palace during the Ottoman Empire. In 1924, after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the palace opened as a museum, and now hosts a variety of imperial collections of the Ottoman Empire, as well as a vast collection of books and manuscripts.

Topkapi Palace Museum

Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Opening hours: Wed - Mon: 9am - 6pm (closed on Tue)

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6. Learn the story of the ancient House of Virgin Mary

House of the Virgin Mary
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mfryc used under CC BY-SA 2.5

Located in the vicinity of Ephesus and Kusadasi, the House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic shrine and a lesser-known tourist attraction, but with great religious, historical, and cultural significance. Considered the house where Mother Mary lived and died, it becomes a pilgrimage place around Christmas time. There’s still a lot of debate on whether this is indeed Mother Mary’s house or not, but it remains a must-see when in Turkey, a house that many have confessed to being a place of intense holy presence.

House of Virgin Mary

Address: Sultaniye, 35920 Selçuk/İzmir, Turkey

Website: House of Virgin Mary

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7. Visit the largest ancient cistern, Basilica Cistern

Turkey, istanbul, basilica cistern
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Edson Hwang used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Only a short walk from Hagia Sophia Museum, Basilica Cistern is one of the greatest ancient cisterns in Turkey, and the biggest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul, a subterranean structure located beneath the city. Its grandeur is emphasized by the 336 columns, many of which can still be seen today. Basilica Cistern has a fascinating story too, as it was forgotten by authorities before the Conquest, and rediscovered in 1545. It was in 1985, however, that the cistern was cleaned, renovated, and in 1987 opened its doors to the public.

Basilica Cistern

Address: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Website: Basilica Cistern

Opening hours: 9am - 5:30pm (daily)

Tip from tour guide

Basilica Cistern Basilica Cistern Basilica Cistern

Did you know that Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Cistern) has an 80,000-ton water storage capacity? It's the largest covered cistern in Istanbul and, compared to other covered cisterns, has more reclaimed supporting elements. It's also a colossal structure, covering 10,000 square meters. This is a must-visit for anyone heading to Istanbul for the first time.

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8. Climb Mount Nemrut to see the summit statues

Mount Nemrut (3)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zhengan used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Turkey is not all about mosques and palaces, but outdoor wonders too. One of them is Mount Nemrut, one of Turkey’s most famous peaks, known for its very detailed ancient sculptures weighing several tons each, and depicting the ancient gods. One of the highest peaks of the Mesopotamia, Mount Nemrut is also home to the tomb of King Antiochus I of Commagene. The site has been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage.

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9. Explore the glamorous Dolmabahçe Palace (from USD 66.15)

things to do in turkey | explore the glamorous dolmabahçe palace

Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahçe Palace is located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, on the European side of the city. The palace initially served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire in the mid to late 1800s and the early 1900s. The palace remains one of the most glamorous palaces in the world, it has been renovated, and it is open to the public today. The building boasts stone external walls, brick internal walls, and timber floors is surrounded by beautiful gardens and overlooks the Bosphorus waters.

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Dolmabahce Palace Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket and Audio

Duration: 1.0 day

334 reviews

10. Swing by Istanbul’s iconic landmark, Blue Mosque (from USD 15.0)

The second you say Istanbul, you immediately think of Blue Mosque, that’s how iconic this landmark is. Built back in the early 1600s, it gets its name from the blue tiles surrounding the interior walls. The mosque is not just a tourist attraction, but still functions as a mosque, so it’s closed for worshippers for around half an hour for each of the five daily prayers. Approach the mosque from Sultanahmet Square to get the best glimpse of its marvelous architecture. Before visiting, make sure you inform yourself on the dress code and rules for visiting. Some include keeping quiet while inside, taking the shoes off before entering, and not wearing short pants or skirts.

Tip from tour guide

Blue Mosque

I am sure that you must have heard about the city's iconic Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. A little trivia for the history buffs out there: constructed in the early 17th century during the reign of Sultan Ahmed I, this architectural landmark is a holy place of worship today and remains popular among many Islamic followers and devotees worldwide. It is certainly one of the must-see places when you are in Istanbul. You can also take a leaf out of my book and marvel at its beauty and intricate artwork when you visit. The mosque is also well-known for promoting interfaith dialogue, where people of various backgrounds, cultures, and social classes, come together and celebrate special ceremonies and traditions in diversified unity.

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Blue Mosque - Guided site visit

Duration: 30 minutes

20 reviews

Turkey - a blend of ancient cultures

As you can see, Turkey is not your average destination. Its rich history has combined so many ancient cultures and magnificent and grandiose architecture with religion and natural wonders, turning the country into an endless marvel. Make sure you cross off the list at least a few of these amazing things to do in Turkey on your next trip.

Drive out to Lake Tuz

Contributed by Tour Guide, Rose TheGuide

Lake Tuz
Source: Rose TheGuide

Take a drive to Lake Tuz and click some gorgeous pictures! Lake Tuz was once the second-largest lake in Turkey, with a surface area of 1,665 sq km (643 sq mi). It was also one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world. In recent years, it has become a hotspot for tourists looking for something unique. Although the lake dried up completely in October 2021, I think it’s still an unexpected gem in Turkiye that’s definitely worth a visit.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!

In light of the February 2023 earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria, Trip101 urges you to be apprised of the latest news if you have any plans to travel to Eastern Turkey. Other parts of the country remain open to travelers.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Karina, a content creator rooted in Bucharest, Romania, embodies the spirit of a globetrotter. Her fascination with the beloved series F.R.I.E.N.D.S and a fervent love for coffee add vibrant layers...Read more

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