Sometimes the best travel moments are free, so here are the best free things to do in Istanbul but before that, let’s get to know this amazing city and some of the best places to visit in Istanbul.
Facts about Istanbul.
Istanbul may not be the capital city of Turkey but it is the most famous and tourist city. It being the only city in the world lying on 2 continent; Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is one the most fascinating cities in the world.
While Ankara is Turkey’s capital, Istanbul is the biggest commercial and historical city. With a population of approximately 15 million people, Istanbul is the biggest city in Europe and the 4th largest in the world. Read more about Istanbul here.
Istanbul became the world’s 5th most popular tourist destination having been named European capital of culture in 2010 and now partially a UNESCO world heritage centre.
Not sure about what Istanbul offers? This post about what to expect in Istanbul will guide you.
There are so many places to visit in Istanbul but that doesn’t mean that if you are traveling on a budget, you will lack what to do. So let’s look at the 9 free things to do in Istanbul without touching your bank account.
Related post: Fun facts about Turkey that you didn’t know
Free things to do in Istanbul
1. Visit the Sultan Ahmed Mosque(Blue Mosque)
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is commonly known as the Blue Mosque because of its hand-painted blue tiles that embellish in the interior of the Mosque. The Blue Mosque which was constructed between 1609 and 1616 still function as a Mosque as well as a tourist attraction. The architecture of the Blue Mosque is a wonder that offers a visual thrill like no other.
The mosque is always open to tourists expect during prayers time.
Although it is free to enter the Blue Mosque, there is always a man standing outside collecting donations if you feel generous.
The only thing you must do before you enter the Mosque is to cover your head, shoulders, and legs if you are a woman. If you don’t have any, the Mosque provides scarfs.
The Blue Mosque is definitely one of the places to visit in Istanbul.
2.Stroll around Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox Christian cathedral which was made an Ottoman Mosque in the fourteen hundreds and now a museum since 1935.
Its great architectural beauty is definitely something to admire. It is one of the most impressive sights in Istanbul as it was named a UNESCO world heritage site. Hagia Sophia is just located 5 minutes away from the Blue Mosque.
3. View the Bosphorus bridge.
The Bosphorus bridge is the famous bridge that connects the European side of Turkey to the Asian side. It is one of the free things to do In Turkey. Enjoy the impressive structure as it hangs on only 3 poles.
You can admire the bridge from below by taking a ship cruise from Europe side to Asia side or you can just take a public bus using the bridge as you enjoy the views.
And if you are visiting turkey in November, you might get an opportunity of crossing the bridge on foot, so you can tell your friends how you walked from Asia to Europe. Visit the Istanbul marathon website to see how you can participate in this marathon.
4. Visit the Grand Bazaar.
One of the best places to visit in Istanbul is the grand bazaar. It is the biggest and oldest covered market in the world with over 4000 shops and attracting over 300,000 people daily. The bazaar was named the number one most visited tourist attraction in 2014 with over 91 million visitors annually. The shops deal in different items from clothes, cosmetics, bags, Turkish delight, optics – you name it. You will find everything you need from the grand bazaar and it is absolutely free to enter and do some window shopping. You can as well buy souvenirs from there.
The grand bazaar not only has shops but also restaurants, saloons, atm machines. It is like another city of its own.
5. Visit Taskim square.
The Taskim Square which is located on the European side of Istanbul is definitely one of the free places to visit in Istanbul. The square is a major touristic and leisure center which is regarded as the heart of the modern side of Istanbul with a number of restaurants, hotels, travel agencies and pubs.
It is also the location of the Independence monument which commemorates the formation of the Republic of Turkey.
However, some locals say that there is nothing special here, but if you are a tourist this is definitely one of the free things to do in Istanbul.
6. Get a glimpse of the Maiden’s tower.
The maiden’s tower is a spectacular historical site on a small island on the southern side of Bosphorus in Istanbul. The myths that surround the construction and location of the tower are intriguing and interesting to listen too.
Some legends say that it was constructed on a directive of an emperor who received a prophecy from an oracle that his beloved daughter would be bitten by a poisonous snake on her 18th birthday. The princess was taken to the tower and was only visited by her father.
But unfortunately on her 18th birthday when her father visited with a basket of fruits, a snake which had been hiding in the basket bit her and she died.
There are other stories surrounding the maiden’s tower which you can read here.
If you feel compelled to enter this tower, it costs 20 TL. The tower has a restaurant on the first floor and a cafe at the top which gives amazing views of Istanbul.
The maiden tower has also featured in many famous movies like the Hitman, James Bond’s The world is not Enough and many others.
7. Take a self-guided tour through the city of Istanbul.
Istanbul is an amazing city to walk around but I guarantee you won’t be able to see the entire city in one day. You will need more days to explore this big historical and cultural city. This is one of the free things to do in Istanbul and the best way to see all the hidden gems of this amazing city.
8. Visit Yildiz Park.
Located in the heart of Istanbul in the district of Besiskas is this beautiful park, one of the largest in Istanbul.
Break away from the busy and ever on the go city to relax, enjoy the greenery, watch couples hold hands and newlyweds take pictures. You can take a mat to enjoy a picnic or watch the kids play in the park.
The locals love it especially over the weekends, so you can choose to go in the mid-morning hours to get the best spot.
A visit to the Yildiz park will give you a view of the Bosphorus bridge. There are also great restaurants in the park if you want to eat something.
So, if you are looking for free things to do or places to visit in Istanbul, the Yildiz park should be on your list.
9. Enjoy the street music.
Street music is very common in Istanbul, especially on Istklal street. Many artists showcase their talent free of charge on a daily basis.
The music ranges from traditional Turkish folk song to instrumental. You just need to stop and enjoy the music or even dance to it. You can always tip the musicians but it’s not a must
With all these free things to do in Istanbul, you can definitely enjoy your stay in Turkey without breaking the bank.
Travelling to Newyork? read this great post about the free things to do in Newyork by Non stop family travel blog.
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- The ultimate guide to visiting Turkey
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