If you visit Istanbul alone and don’t have an idea about where to start, this guide can give you some solid idea. Istanbul is actually pretty fun to stroll alone. There are many different things to do that will satisfy many different expectations. It doesn’t matter if you are a history nerd, a shopaholic, a gastronomy enthusiast or just a good time lover… The city will embrace you anyways, once you know the things to do in Istanbul alone. Let’s start!
Archeological Museums and Around
One of the top things to do in Istanbul alone is visiting Istanbul Archaeological Museums, thank to their tranquil and beautiful ambient with interesting collections. This is complex of three museums, Archaeology Museum, Ancient Orient Museum and Islamic Art Museum. You should not miss The Treaty of Kadesh, the oldest peace treaty in the world between Hittites and Egyptians, carved in stone and signed in 1259 BC.
This route can start in the front yard of Topkapı Palace with some tea and Turkish pudding at the cafe next to Hagia Irene, one of the oldest Byzantium buildings in Istanbul - now a museum and a concert hall. You can follow the signs to the museum, and after the visit you can enjoy a nice walk through beautiful Gülhane Park.
The Hippodrome and Around
The square which is known as Sultanahmet Meydanı today used to be the Byzantium hippodrome before Turks conquered Constantinople. If you look at the place with this info on mind, you can see the few fragments from the original structure. The most significant ones of these fragments are of course the three columns, Serpent Column, Obelisk of Thutmose III and Walled Obelisk.
Too see the actual ancient walls of hippodrome, you need to get down to the side streets. How to get there? You will see Marmara University Rectorate Building at the end of the square. Get behind of that building, follow down the road and you will see the ancient walls called Sphendone. If you want to continue this route, just follow the streets and reach to Little Hagia Sofia Mosque, formerly a Greek orthodox church. There you can visit the building and finish your route with one the best things to do in Istanbul alone: Sitting in the garden and have a tea.
If you are in Istanbul, you must have already heard or seen Galata Tower. In the middle of one of the most original neighborhoods of Istanbul, it attracts travellers from all around the world since centuries. The building, the view and generally the whole Galata Tower experience is truly magical but there is more to see in its surroundings. You can also visit Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum, established in 1491, and represents the most important Ottoman works in Beyoğlu. There you can see the historic tombs, traditional instruments of dervishes and the whirling dervishes’ ceremony. If you are interested in music and city culture, the street where the lodge is located, Galip Dede Street would be a wonderland to go around, too, since it is a center for musical instruments shops.
Visiting a Hamam
Turkish bath is a marvelous experience and you can totally rock it on your own. Getting into the amazing architectural structures, lying on the warm marble, enjoying yourself with warm water from original copper bowls, massage from experts and a total refreshment at the end… It is one of the greatest treats you can give to yourself. Some popular hamams in the historical peninsula are Cağaloğlu, Çemberlitaş and Hürrem Sultan Hamams. If you are in the Beyoğlu area, you can also try recently restorated Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. Most of the hamams give towels, slippers and soaps to the visitors included in the price but you should take your own spare underpants or bathers with you.
Open Air Markets - Pazars
Despite countless modern shopping malls, Istanbulites just cannot give up their pazars, because there are simply cheap, diverse and fun to visit, and an essential part of the city culture. You can consider visiting one of them as a thing to do in Istanbul alone. These markets are opened daily in the residential areas on specific days of the week. You can find nearly any kind of clothing, very fresh veggies and fruits, household utensils, textiles, spices and many more, depending on which one you are visiting. Şişli Pazarı in Bomonti on Monday, Salı Pazarı in Kadıköy on Tuesday, Fatih Çarşamba Pazarı on Wednesday, Ulus Perşembe Pazarı on Tuesday and Dolapdere Pazarı on Saturday (night) are some of the prominent ones.
Especially, Fatih Çarşamba Pazarı is the city’s oldest, largest and the most vibrant pazar with thousands of stalls. Even though it attracts visitors from the entire city, Fatih is a conservative place so, don’t forget to get dressed modestly. And while you are there, you may also want to visit the imperial Fatih Mosque and the tomb of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet the Conqueror).
Second Hand Shops
What is better than spending hours while digging into original vintage clothes? Second hand shops around Beyoğlu is an enjoyable choice for the ones who look for things to do in Istanbul alone. By Retro in Suriye Pasajı, Mozk in Cihangir, Atölye Dö Bora in Galata and Grandma in Kumbaracı Yokuşu are some of the most popular second hand shops in the area. You can find some dazzling pieces, and add a vintage flavor to your visit in these shops.
Spice Bazaar and Tahtakale
If you want to experience original Ottoman-era market shopping, and don’t want to get lost in the endless corridors of Grand Bazaar alone, Spice Bazaar is your spot. Today, it does not only offer the best spices of the world to its visitors, but also delicious teas, Turkish delights, local delis and cheeses, any kind of aromatic ingredient, perfume oils, and dried nuts and fruits… Colorful textiles, jewelry and souvenirs are other wonders you can pack in your luggage to make everyone who did not join you in your Istanbul visit jealous J Well, when you are in Spice Bazaar, don’t forget to visit our shop Hayfene at No51 to enjoy the fresh products from specially chosen vendors with an experience of more than a century.
After your tour in Spice Bazaar, you can walk through the streets of Tahtakale to see thousands of different items to buy for simple every need! But if you want a quiet, sacred stop, you can get into Rüstem Paşa Mosque on Hasırcılar Caddesi. Sitting alone in a mosque, watching the tiles and the sun inside, watching the people come to pray is one of the most peaceful activities in an always busy city like Istanbul. Just don’t forget to skip the praying hours and always keep a low profile.