Planning a trip to Istanbul, Turkey? Consider using the Istanbul Tourist Pass, which grants you access to some of the city’s top attractions.
When my mom and I decided to embark on an unforgettable journey to Istanbul, we knew we wanted to make the most of our time in this vibrant city, rich with history and culture. That’s when we discovered the Istanbul Tourist Pass, which promised to grant us access to some of the city’s top must-see attractions – all within the span of our 4-day visit. We couldn’t resist, and let me tell you, this pass did not disappoint!
In this article, I’ll share our whirlwind adventure exploring Istanbul, from the stunning Bosphorus Boat Tour to the mesmerizing Traditional Turkish dance show and everything in between.
Whether you’re travelling with family or friends, the Istanbul Tourist Pass offers an incredible variety of experiences that cater to all interests and ages. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into our action-packed journey through this enchanting city, where my mom and I created memories that will last a lifetime!
Where to stay in Istanbul?
I recommend staying in the old centre of the city, to have easy access to all these tourist sites. Istanbul is a huge city, and staying further away from the centre means that you will spend a lot of time commuting in the city. If you’re here for a limited time, it would make more sense to book a hotel closer to the places you’d like to visit.
I can personally recommend the MENAR SUITES IN OLD CITY. The staff was exceptional, the breakfast was very good, and the hotel’s location is simply great if you want to visit all the most popular places in Istanbul.
Why buy Istanbul Tourist Pass?
The Istanbul Tourist Pass is a special kind of pass, and it was my first time dealing with it. At first, it seemed complicated and gave me a bit of a headache. But it does include all the must-see attractions in Istanbul and much more. To be honest, on my next visit to Istanbul, I will get it again, to visit the rest of the places that I had no time for this time.
Now let me tell you a bit about the Istanbul museum pass so that you know what to expect.
Note that some of the attractions are free to enter, while others are not. Most of the mentioned attractions, like the palaces and the mosque, are offered as a private tour, and the pass is only valid when entering the place with a tour. For instance, you can’t visit the Topkapi palace by yourself.
Also, these experiences are not offered every day, so I highly recommend checking the schedule beforehand and creating a specific schedule for your days in Istanbul.
Besides the tours to the mosque and palaces, other experiences, such as dinner cruises or day trips, must be booked in advance on the app, so make sure you make your schedule and then book the experience, as the seats are always limited.
I know that the Istanbul Tourist Pass is a hassle at first and doesn’t function like other passes you’ve used in Europe, but at the end of it, you get so much more.
I’m actually thrilled that I got to experience Istanbul with this pass, as the guides are extremely knowledgeable, and now everything makes a lot more sense.
Can you believe that I was in Istanbul at least five times before, but this was the first time I actually visited tourist places? Yes. That’s me. And all thanks to my mom, who wanted to visit Istanbul.
All-in-all, Istanbul is a great choice for a city break, a historical city destination. It’s big, crowded and loud, but it’s also extremely special and has a lot to offer.
Istanbul tourist pass must-see attractions
You may find the Istanbul Tourist Pass online here. While you can purchase it after you get to Istanbul, as I did, I do recommend keeping an eye on the website and subscribing to their newsletter if you know you’ll visit in the future.
They occasionally share special discounts with their subscribers, so that will help you save even more of your budget while still visiting the best places that Istanbul has to offer to first-time visitors.
You can also watch the video that includes all these attractions on my YouTube channel:
Bosphorus Boat Tour
Enjoy a scenic cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, which separates Europe and Asia, offering breathtaking views of Istanbul’s skyline and historic landmarks.
If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, you’ve gotta check out the Bosphorus Boat Tour. It’s this super cool, laid-back cruise that sails along the Bosphorus Strait, which, if you didn’t know, is the waterway that separates Europe and Asia. How awesome is that?
This tour is perfect for anyone who’s into beautiful views and snapping Instagram-worthy photos. You’ll get to see some of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks from a whole new perspective, so get ready to be wowed.
But, let me give you a heads-up – the boat can get pretty crowded. So, you’ll wanna make sure to grab a sweet spot as soon as you get on board. Trust me, you don’t wanna miss out on those killer views.
So, whether you’re a history buff, a sightseeing enthusiast, or just looking for a chill way to spend an afternoon, the Bosphorus Boat Tour is definitely one of the best choices to get an overview of what Istanbul has to offer.
During the Bosphorus Boat Tour, you’ll catch sight of some amazing landmarks, including:
- Dolmabahçe Palace (The European-style palace of the last Sultan)
- Ortaköy Mosque (one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul with a magnificent interior design)
- Rumeli Fortress (15th-century fortress with multiple towers)
- Maiden’s Tower (a tower in the middle of the strait)
- Bosphorus Bridges (You’ll get to see the 15th of July Martyrs Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge)
- Beylerbeyi Palace (summer residence of Ottoman sultans)
These are just a few highlights, but you’ll also get to see plenty of waterfront mansions, historic buildings, and stunning panoramas of Istanbul’s skyline. Enjoy!
The Blue Mosque
Also known as Sultanahmet Mosque, this architectural marvel is famous for its six minarets and beautiful blue Iznik tiles that adorn the interior.
If you’re roaming around Istanbul, you can’t miss visiting The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultanahmet Mosque. The Blue Mosque is one of Istanbul’s crown jewels, and it’s perfect for anyone looking for a mix of culture, history, and awe-inspiring beauty. Don’t forget to bring your camera – you’ll want to capture every moment!
Trust me, it’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with its six towering minarets and incredible blue Iznik tiles that give the mosque its nickname.
Whether you’re a history lover or just someone who appreciates stunning architecture, this place is a must-see. Once you step inside, you’ll be amazed by the grand, light-filled interior, intricate designs, and peaceful atmosphere. It’s like stepping into another world!
Just a heads up – when you visit, you’ll need to dress modestly and take off your shoes, as it’s an active place of worship. But don’t worry; they provide cover-ups and shoe bags, so you’re all set.
Also, in 2022, the mosque was still under massive renovation, so most of it was covered by scaffolding, but at least the blue-tiled dome is visible.
Hagia Sophia Mosque
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Hagia Sophia is a former church and mosque, now a mosque again, renowned for its magnificent dome, Byzantine mosaics, and rich history.
So, if you’re in Istanbul, you’ve absolutely gotta check out the Hagia Sophia Mosque. This place is not only stunning but also has a super fascinating history! Get this: it was originally built as a mosque, then it became a Christian church, then a mosque again, then a museum, and since 2020, it’s back to being a mosque. Talk about a rollercoaster, right?
Now, here’s the cool part: since it’s a mosque again, you can visit it for free. But let me tell you, I had an amazing time with the guided tour that’s included in the Istanbul tourist pass. The guide really brings the history to life, and you’ll get to learn so much more than just walking around on your own.
This opulent palace, once the residence of Ottoman sultans, houses incredible treasures and artefacts, including the famous Topkapi Dagger and the Spoonmaker’s Diamond.
Of course, if you’re exploring Istanbul, you’ve got to make time for Topkapi Palace. This place is dripping with history, and it’s seriously impressive. For over 400 years, it was the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans – can you imagine the stories these walls could tell?
One of the most interesting facts about Topkapi Palace is that it’s actually made up of a bunch of different buildings and courtyards. It was built in the 15th century, but over time, sultans added their own touches, making it a fascinating mix of architectural styles.
Now, when you visit, you’ll get to see some seriously cool treasures. For example, there’s the Topkapi Dagger, which has a whopping three emeralds on its hilt, and the mind-blowing 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
But here’s a little insider tip: don’t miss the Harem. It costs extra, but if you have the time, go for it. This was where the sultan’s wives, concubines, and children lived, and it’s full of stunning rooms, like the Imperial Hall, with its jaw-dropping tilework and golden decorations.
Bosphorus Dinner Cruise
Enjoy a leisurely dinner cruise along the Bosphorus, complete with traditional Turkish cuisine, live music, and stunning nighttime views of Istanbul’s illuminated landmarks.
Looking for a magical evening in Istanbul? You’ve gotta check out the Bosphorus Dinner Cruise. Imagine this: you’re cruising along the Bosphorus Strait, with the glittering lights of Istanbul’s skyline reflecting off the water, while you indulge in delicious Turkish cuisine. It’s a night you’ll never forget!
But it’s not just about the food and the views. This dinner cruise also features some fantastic live entertainment, like traditional Turkish music and dance performances. You’ll get to see local artists showcase their talents, and you might even feel the urge to join in and dance the night away.
The cruise takes you past some of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Bosphorus Bridges, and Maiden’s Tower, all beautifully illuminated against the night sky. It’s the perfect backdrop for a romantic evening or a fun night out with friends.
While the food wasn’t anything special, the experience was fun, and the views were pretty. One of the most memorable moments was the lively entertainment and breathtaking views.
And the best part is that they provide free pick-up and drop-off if your hotel is in the centre of the city.
However, do know that every service will cost extra.
If you want alcoholic drinks, you should specify that at the time of booking (you must book the experience 1 day in advance) and pay for it then. If you decide you want to drink after you arrive, it will be more expensive. Also, there’s a photographer running around and taking pictures of everyone. They will try to sell you the pictures at the end of the cruise for 25 euros per photo or more. But maybe you can negotiate.
Regardless, this will be an evening you’ll be talking about long after you’ve returned home!
One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, the Grand Bazaar is a shopping paradise with over 4,000 shops selling everything from jewellery and carpets to spices and ceramics.
If you’re a fan of shopping, you’ve got to make your way to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. This place is like a treasure trove, with over 4,000 shops packed into its winding lanes and colourful alleys. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, and trust me; you’ll find something amazing around every corner!
Of course, The Grand Bazaar is free to visit. But if you get the Istanbul pass for museums (Istanbul Tourist Pass), you’ll be able to join the Grand Bazaar tour with a local guide. This is a rather shorter tour, but it’s worth it to have a local guide you. I find that having a guide makes more sense if you want to ask questions and really dig deeper into the history of the place. After the tour, you can go and enjoy your shopping experience.
Here’s the deal: the Grand Bazaar is a shopper’s paradise, with loads of unique items you won’t find anywhere else. Looking for some gorgeous Turkish ceramics? They’ve got you covered. How about intricately woven carpets that’ll make your home feel like a sultan’s palace? They’ve got those too.
But it doesn’t stop there. You’ll find shops overflowing with vibrant textiles, shiny gold and silver jewellery, aromatic spices, and even handmade leather goods. And if you’re into antiques, you’ll be in heaven! There are tons of shops offering one-of-a-kind trinkets and vintage treasures.
Now, get ready to haggle because bargaining is all part of the fun at the Grand Bazaar. The shopkeepers are friendly, and they’ll be more than happy to chat and help you find the perfect souvenir or gift.
So, if you want to dive headfirst into the sights, sounds, and smells of Istanbul’s shopping scene, the Grand Bazaar is the place to be. Just make sure you’ve got some room in your luggage – you won’t leave empty-handed!
This lavish palace, which served as the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, is known for its grandeur, European-style architecture, and exquisite artwork.
If you’re in Istanbul and love history, architecture, and all things grand, you’ve gotta visit Dolmabahçe Palace. This place is seriously stunning – I mean, it was the lavish home and administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, so you know it’s gotta be something special!
Dolmabahçe Palace was built between 1843 and 1856, and it’s a beautiful mix of European and traditional Ottoman styles. The palace’s designer, Garabet Balyan, really went all out, creating a jaw-dropping waterfront masterpiece that’ll leave you in awe.
Now, when you step inside, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a world of opulence and elegance. The palace is filled with luxurious furnishings, glittering chandeliers (including one that’s the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier!), and breathtaking frescoes.
But heads up – you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, so you’ll have to store those stunning visuals in your memory. And honestly, it’s kinda nice to just take it all in without worrying about snapping the perfect shot.
So, if you’re ready to walk in the footsteps of sultans and experience the splendour of the Ottoman Empire, make sure Dolmabahçe Palace is on your Istanbul itinerary. It’s a place that’ll leave a lasting impression, and you’ll be talking about its beauty and history for years to come.
Traditional Turkish dance show
Experience the vibrant culture of Turkey through a mesmerizing performance of traditional dances, including the famous Whirling Dervishes.
If you’re in Istanbul and looking to experience the vibrant and rich culture of Turkey, you’ve got to catch a Traditional Turkish dance show. With the Istanbul Tourist Pass, you have two awesome options to choose from, depending on the day you want to book: the mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes or the lively traditional dances.
I went to the traditional dance show, and let me tell you, it was an unforgettable experience! The performance featured a bunch of different dances from various regions of Turkey, showcasing the country’s diverse cultural heritage. The dancers were incredibly gifted, and their energy and passion were totally contagious – I loved every moment of it!
The best part? You can take photos and even videos of the performance to share with your friends and family back home. Just remember not to use the flash, as it can be distracting for the performers.
So, if you want to immerse yourself in the captivating world of Turkish dance and music, be sure to book one of these fantastic shows with your Istanbul Tourist Pass. It’s an unforgettable experience that’ll leave you with a deeper appreciation for Turkey’s rich cultural tapestry.
Pierre Loti Hill (half-day trip)
This is a half-day trip which is included with your Istanbul Tourist Pass. You’ll need to book it one day in advance. The trip also includes a trip with the Pierre Loti cable car, a visit to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and one hour at the Miniaturk open-air museum.
Now, when you reach Pierre Loti Hill, you’ll see why it’s named after the famous French writer who fell in love with the place. The view of the Golden Horn and the city skyline is truly enchanting – it’s the perfect spot for a selfie or just to take in the beauty of Istanbul.
The trip also includes a visit to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, an important pilgrimage site with a rich history dating back to the 15th century. It’s a serene and spiritual place that’ll leave you feeling connected to Istanbul’s past.
Miniaturk Open Air Museum in Istanbul
And let’s not forget Miniaturk! This open-air museum is like a trip around Turkey in miniature, featuring scale models of the country’s most iconic landmarks. It’s like going through an entire itinerary of places to visit in Turkey in a matter of hours.
But if you don’t have time to visit all of Turkey, then the Miniaturk Museum is a good alternative. It’s a fun and educational experience that’ll give you a glimpse into Turkey’s rich history and culture.
Now, just a heads up – at the end of the trip, you might be offered some leather jackets for sale. But hey, if you’re in the market for some stylish Turkish leather, why not take a look?
So, if you’re ready for a half-day adventure that combines stunning views, historical sites, and unique experiences, be sure to add the Pierre Loti Hill trip to your Istanbul itinerary. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss!
This medieval stone tower provides stunning panoramic views of Istanbul from its observation deck, as well as a museum that details its history.
If you’re in Istanbul and looking for a place with breathtaking views and rich history, make sure you visit Galata Tower. This medieval stone tower has stood tall since the 14th century, and it’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Built by the Genoese in 1348, Galata Tower has served many purposes over the centuries, from a defensive watchtower to a fire lookout tower. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction, and for a good reason – once you climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of Istanbul that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here’s a tip: if you want to beat the crowds and enjoy the view in peace, try visiting early in the morning or just before sunset. Not only will you avoid long lines, but you’ll also get to see the city bathed in that magical golden light.
From the top of Galata Tower, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and all the must-see landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. Don’t forget your camera, because you’ll want to capture every moment!
So, if you’re ready to take in the best views of Istanbul and walk in the footsteps of history, be sure to add Galata Tower to your list of must-see attractions. It’s an experience that’ll leave you in awe of this incredible city.
Museum of Illusions
A fun, interactive museum that plays with your perception through mind-bending exhibits and optical illusions.
If you’re looking for a fun and unique experience in Istanbul, you’ve got to check out the Museum of Illusions. It’s included in the Istanbul Tourist Pass, and even though it’s more of a family and children’s attraction, trust me, it’s a blast for visitors of all ages!
I went with my mom, and we had such a great time exploring the museum together. It’s not huge, but it’s packed with cool illusions and interactive exhibits that’ll leave you scratching your head and laughing at the same time.
One of my absolute favourites was the Vortex – it’s a mind-bending, spinning tunnel that’ll make you feel like you’re walking on a different planet. But there’s so much more to discover, from optical illusions and holograms to rooms that mess with your perception of size and perspective.
So, if you’re in Istanbul and looking for a fun, lighthearted break from the historical sites and museums, be sure to visit the Museum of Illusions. It’s a memorable experience that’ll bring out your inner child and leave you with a whole new appreciation for the power of your own mind.
Madame Tussauds Istanbul
Pose for photos with lifelike wax figures of famous celebrities, politicians, and historical figures at this popular wax museum.
If you’re in Istanbul and want to rub shoulders with the stars (well, sort of), you’ve got to visit Madame Tussauds. This world-famous wax museum has a location right in the heart of Istanbul, and it’s the perfect place to have some fun and snap photos with your favourite celebrities – both Turkish and international!
What’s cool about Madame Tussauds Istanbul is that they’ve got a fantastic mix of figures, from Ottoman sultans and Turkish artists to Hollywood A-listers and legendary musicians. It’s like a who’s who of history and pop culture, all under one roof!
I went with my mom, and she absolutely loved it. She took photos with at least half of the wax statues, and we had so much fun striking poses and getting up close and personal with the lifelike figures.
So, if you’re looking for a lighthearted and entertaining experience in Istanbul, be sure to add Madame Tussauds to your itinerary. It’s a great opportunity to mingle with famous faces from history, the arts, and entertainment – all without leaving the city!
Is the Istanbul Tourist Pass worth it?
So, is the Istanbul Tourist Pass worth it? Based on my action-packed 4-day adventure, I’d say it’s definitely worth it! With so many incredible attractions included, like the Bosphorus Boat Tour, Topkapi Palace, the traditional Turkish dance show, and even Madame Tussauds, my mom and I were able to fully immerse yourselves in Istanbul’s rich history, culture, and entertainment.
Now, do note that the pace was intense, but the great thing about the pass is that it allows you to make the most of your time in Istanbul. Luckily, I’m not much of a foodie, so that helped. Not having to stop for lunch during our long days of sightseeing meant that we could squeeze in even more attractions and experiences.
In conclusion, the Istanbul Tourist Pass (or the Istanbul Pass museum) is a fantastic option for visitors who want to see and do as much as possible in this vibrant city. From iconic landmarks and historical sites to unique museums and unforgettable experiences, the pass offers something for everyone. And considering the convenience and the memories my mom and I created during those four days, it’s safe to say the Istanbul Tourist Pass was definitely worth it!