So, I have to let you in on a little secret… I didn’t know a great deal about Istanbul before we decided to go there.
Plus, it wasn’t high on my list of places to visit on our travels. Yet, thanks to some cheap airfares with Turkish Airlines, it fit well with our plans. So, then Istanbul instantly topped my list of places to go!
Yet, with only about a week, we wanted to see and do as much as we could while there.
Thus, we knew our days would be jam-packed with sight seeing activities… as well as eating and drinking!
In fact, we ate out every day for every meal… and had several bevvies on a few bar crawls around Istanbul, which was awesome. Plus, we spent some money on tourist attractions and transport to get around Istanbul.
Yet, we felt it was definitely worthwhile… as we weren’t sure if we’d come back to Istanbul. So, better to live it up than to have regrets!
Yet, if you’re wondering what free things there are to do in Istanbul… then that’s what we’re here to help with!
So, in this blog post, we’ll run through 5 free things to do in Istanbul Turkey.
Now, let’s get started!
So, Max and I had heard lots about the infamous Blue Mosque… including some not so favorable reviews. Yet, we wouldn’t know unless we went ourselves. Thus, we did go to the Blue Mosque in the end. And yes, it is one of the free places to visit in Istanbul.
But, if there’s one mosque we recommend you visit in Istanbul, it’s the Suleymaynie Mosque in Faith.
And, while it’s a little further away from the main tourist attractions in the Sultanamet area… there are many bonuses in visiting this mosque, as I’ll go through soon.
So, the architect who designed this mosque was, Sinan. And, construction of this magnificent architectural delight began in 1550, with its completion in 1558.
Yet, the Suleymaniye Mosque underwent significant fire damage in 1660… and it’s restoration was organized by Sultan Mehmed IV.
Then, more damage occurred in 1766… this time as a result of an earthquake, in which part of the dome collapsed. And, just when you think nothing else could happen to the Suleymaniye Mosque…
Well, in World War I the courtyard area was also for weapons storage. Yet, some of the ammunition ignited! And so, the mosque suffered further damage. Then, it underwent restoration again, and in 1956 it was completed.
So, we were walking towards the Suleymaniye Mosque via Mimar Sinan Street. And, once we were walking in, on our far right was the Golden Horn River.
Then, before we even got inside the mosque, on our left we saw an entrance to somewhere…
Behind The Suleymaniye Mosque
So, in the entrance behind the Suleymaniye Mosque, were some buildings. And, we learnt that here were several tombs. So, the tombs included those Prince Mehmed, and Kanuni Sultan Suleyman Khan… who was the longest Sultan ruler of the Ottomon Empire.
Then, as we scaled the outside wall of the Suleymaniye Mosque, we were realizing how big it was. And, there were beautiful gardens around it.
Then, we walked around the corner and saw the massive courtyard.
And, here was the main entrance for tourists. So, from here we could see the amazing architecture of the mosque.
And when we went got to the mosque mid afternoon… it was far less busy than the Blue Mosque, so we didn’t have to wait to get in.
Make sure you wear appropriate clothing when going inside the mosque. And, females must cover their heads and shoulders with a scarf.
So, once inside the Suleymaniye Mosque, the lush carpets are a deep red color. The width of the mosque is almost 60 meters, as is the height.
Plus, hanging from the ceiling were rows of circular pendant lights… which would’ve looked even more pretty if all the lights were on. And, the natural light shone into the mosque through the many small windows.
And from our perspective… we though the Suleymaniye Mosque was a better site to visit than the Blue Mosque.
Plus, the views from the top of hill overlooking Golden Horn were incredible…
So, one of the other free places to visit in Istanbul is here…
Istiklal Street (İstiklal Caddesi)
If you’re looking for a bustling street with lots of things to see and do, then Istiklal Street is the place to be.
This would have to be one of the most popular and famous streets in Istanbul. And, it starts from Taksim Square going almost all the way to Galata Tower.
This area of Beyoğlu Istanbul is vibrant, bustling and gets lots of crowds for most of the day… and even more busy in the evening.
And here, you could spend a lot of money… as it’s full of retail outlets, restaurants, galleries, and boutique shops. Plus, there are lots of convenient currency exchange places, so you can easily spend more.
Yet, if you’re watching your pennies… then there’s plenty of window-shopping that can be done. Plus, you’ll see lots of cats…
So, there are plenty of places to eat here too. And, here’s a pic of some sweet treats that will make your mouth water…
Plus, make sure you look down the side streets coming off Istiklal Road too. And, that’s because you’ll see places like St. Anthony of Padua Church…
As well as cute alleyways like here…
What’s With The Commotion On Istiklal Street?
Now, when we were on Istiklal Street… we saw a bunch of people hanging around a store with a male yelling his head off! So, we were wondering what all the commotion was about.
And, as we got closer… we saw that it was a vendor doing tricks with Turkish ice cream!
Now, they’re super fast when they’re doing their skillful ice cream “show.” So, we were watching the antics as a tourist was buying his ice cream.
In Turkey, this ice cream is called, dondurma… and it has like a stretchy, gluey texture. So, this allows them to do their tricks, like turning the ice cream in the cone upside down. Entertaining!
While you’re on Istiklal Street… you’ll most likely see the fire engine red tram slowly making its way up and down. And, it does get packed with locals and tourists alike… with some people hanging off the back of the tram!
So, if you hear the sounds of a loud “Ding! Ding!” Then, look out and move out of the way for the tram.
Be aware of your belongings and surroundings in this area, especially around Taksim Square. It felt like to us that there were some shady characters hovering around.
Now, here’s another of the free things to do in Istanbul…
Now, if you want somewhere to chill out and get away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul city… then take a wander through Yıldız Park in Beşiktaş.
So, we didn’t do any research about Yıldız Parkbefore we got there. We saw a sign for it on our travels via the Çırağan Road entrance. Thus, we made an impromptu stop there.
And, as we were wandering through it was very green… with plenty of trees, shrubs, flowers, statues and more.
And, the waterfalls we saw were pretty and tranquil.
There are lots of areas to sit back and relax. And, it would be a great place to pack a picnic, to enjoy the serenity and fresh surroundings.
There’s also a big lake there to sit around and enjoy too.
So, it’s actually quite steep to go through Yıldız Park, and it’s huge. In fact, it’s one of the biggest public parks in Istanbul. Plus, there are some great distant views of Istanbul too when we were walking around…
So, Yildiz Park dates back to the 1600’s, where back then it was known as Kazancıoğlu Gardens. Then, later the Ottomans bought the land and it was given to the daughter, Kaya Sultan. Now, how’s that for a present?!
So, it was originally the back garden of the Çırağan Palace. Then, it became part of the Yıldız Palace in the late 1800’s to be Yıldız Park.
If you want to avoid the steep hill climb that we did, don’t take the Çırağan Road entrance that we took! Yet, it is good exercise to help walk off the calories from the baklava and boreks… LOL.
Now, if you did want to spend some money here, there are some restaurants and cafes.
So, while we went on a weekday, apparently it gets super busy on the weekends. Plus, many couples come to Yıldız Park for their wedding. Thus, if you want to avoid the crowds, come on a weekday if you can.
Now, here’s one of the exciting free places to visit in Istanbul…
Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı)
So, if you want to feast your senses without paying a dime… then head on over to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar.
This would have to be one of the must see attractions in Instanbul. So, the Spice Bazaar is in the Eminönü district of Faith. And, as we were coming from the back streets, it was difficult to find!
Yet, luckily for us we overheard a gentleman speaking English to another tourist. Then, we got directions which sounded simple. Although, it’s like a rabbit warren and trying to find it was challenging.
Yet, before we got to the entrance of the Spice Bazaar, there were plenty of things to look at along the way. There were lots of other stalls selling amazing produce, clothes, kitchenware and more.
Plus, there would be vendors giving away free samples of coffee… which was absolutely amazing.
So, before we got to the Spice Bazaar, we had to stop along the way and take some photos.
Check out the slabs of cheeses…
And, how about the abundance of deli items…
Now, who would’ve thought that there’d be such a huge variety of olives…
Plus, we even found a few stalls that were selling the black seed oil, which has plenty of health benefits. In fact, we bought a few bottles :)
And of course, there were truck loads of baklava…
Then, meters away from the entrance there was a bottleneck. And, we literally had to push our way through as I held onto Max so I wouldn’t lose him!
In The Egyptian Spice Bazaar
So, the Spice Bazaar was built back in 1664. Yet, there were major renovations done to it, and the major re-opening was in May 2018. And, we thought that the building itself was spectacular.
So, in addition to the hundreds of spices there… we also saw lots of dried fruits, jams, cheeses, meats, jams, nuts, seeds, sweets and Turkish Delight.
Plus, stalls were selling other goods including jewelry, tea cups and soaps.
So, the smells inside the market were amazing, and it was a colorful treat for our eyes.
But, if you hate crowds and the claustrophobic feeling, best to come as early as possible.
If you’re thinking of buying something within the Spice Bazaar, check the stalls outside. And, that’s because they may offer a better deal.
So, here’s the last in our blog of 5 free things to do in Istanbul Turkey…
Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
The Galata Tower is in the Galata / Karaköy areas of Istanbul. And, this medieval stone tower can be seen from many parts of Istanbul… as it stands about 67 meters tall.
So, there are many ways to get to the tower.
Yet, we came from the Bosporus side along Kemeraltı Road. And, we recommend you have good shoes on, as it’s an uphill climb like many places in Istanbul. Plus, there are many cute cobble stoned streets to walk on.
So, Galata Tower is made entirely out of stone and was built way back in 1348. And, at that time it was the tallest building in Istanbul. Yet, it was then trumped by the Beyazıt Tower in 1749.
So, the tower was originally built by the Genoese, and was known back then as the Christea Turris. Its construction was built in mind, as a defensive structure for Constantinople.
While it did serve its purpose for many years… it was in 1453 where Sultan Mehmet II was successful in conquering Galata. So then, the use of Galata Tower was primarily as a watch tower as well as a jail.
But since then, due to disasters such as earthquakes… the tower underwent several re-constructions.
And now, you can pay to go up to Galata Tower to get 360-degree views of Istanbul. Unfortunately when we were there, the queue was miles long and we had other plans.
So, plan your time wisely if you have your heart set on going up Galata Tower. And so you know, there is a fee for going to the viewing platform.
Yet, we could still see the beauty of Galata Tower itself from the outside… for free.
That’s A Wrap…
So, there you have it, 5 free things to do in Istanbul Turkey. While there are many other things to do and places to see… we trust this gives you some ideas for your trip to Istanbul.
Have you been to Istanbul? What are some of the free places to visit in Istanbul that you would recommend?
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