As the only city in the world that spans two different continents, Istanbul represents many different things to many different people. Split down the middle by the mighty Bosphorus, Istanbul offers cruise ship passengers plenty of keen sights and delightful options. Considering that the conquest of this city in 1453 by the Ottoman Empire is considered to mark the end of the Middle Ages, there is no question that Istanbul is imbued with a rich sense of history and culture. From the Hagia Sophia to ancient, winding streets, Istanbul is a once in a lifetime experience.

Sightseeing & Things To Do

The simple fact of being able to say that you’ve walked from Asia to Europe should be reason enough for you to get off the ship when in Istanbul. When you add phenomenal attractions like the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar to the mix, it is apparent that this is one city that can’t be ignored. Whether you choose to pick up a classic Turkish rug – or if you decide to simply explore the city at your leisure – you will find it a remarkable journey indeed.

Istanbul is a massive – and very jam packed – city to explore. The best way to manage a visit here is planning beforehand which sights and attractions you absolutely must see. Consider including some of the following:

Hagia Sophia

Built between the years 532 and 537, the Hagia Sophia is considered by many people to be one of the most stunning basilicas in the world. Indeed, in began as a basilica, later became a mosque and is a museum today. It offers a fascinating and unusual mix of Islamic and Byzantine architecture. When visiting Istanbul, it is absolutely impossible to enjoy a complete tour of the city without including the Hagia Sophia.

The Blue Mosque

In another nod to Istanbul’s storied Islamic history, the Blue Mosque – which was built back during the 17th century – offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about the complex and intriguing history of the city. In fact, many people consider the Blue Mosque to be the purely Islamic version of the Hagia Sophia, so including both buildings on a tour of the city makes for a great juxtaposition of sorts.

The Turkish & Islamic Art Museum

The fact that this museum is houses in an impressive, sixteenth century palace is reason enough to drop by. When you add the amazing collection of art that is housed here, it is easy to see why this is such a popular tourist draw in Istanbul.

Experience A Hamam

If you’re going to be in Turkey, you absolutely must experience an authentic Turkish bath. Known locally as hamams, these baths – which are similar to saunas – can be found all over Istanbul. If possible, ask a member of the crew on the ship for a recommendation; several hamams aren’t very clean. Otherwise, ask a local hotel staff member for a recommendation. Either way, be sure you check one out.


With more than 4,400 shops lining extensive covered walkways, the Grand Bazaar is the place to do some serious shopping when in Istanbul. Shops at the Grand Bazaar are grouped according to what they sell – jewelry shops are all together, as are rug shops. The sheer size and scope of this unforgettable marketplace make it a great place to visit and spend time. Even if you don’t buy a thing, the experience of being here amid so many locals and visitors will leave an indelible mark on your memory.

Best Souvenir To Bring Back To the Cruise Ship

Turkish rugs are the most obvious choice when it comes to choosing a souvenir to bring home from Istanbul. Although some varieties can be astronomically expensive, there are plenty of more affordable options available as well. Shop around a bit and look for something truly special and unique.

Eating – Sample the Local Cuisine

There are many savory things to enjoy while spending time in Istanbul. Make it a point to sample Balik-Ekmek, which means “fish and bread” and is a basic fish sandwich. They are cheap and easy to find all over the city, and will keep you well fueled for the duration of your visit. As you stroll along, keep your eyes peeled for street vendors selling roasted chestnuts; they are especially great on a cold day.

When, Where, and How

When To Go

There are two prime times to be in Istanbul. The first falls between April and June; the second falls between September and November. Generally, these are the times of year when it is pleasantly warm in the city without being excessively hot. At the same time, precipitation is usually low.

Where You’re Docked

The cruise ship terminal – which is known locally as the Yolcu Salonu – is located in a very central location, making it easy for passengers to get off their ships and have a look around this eclectic city. No major commute is necessary to get over and enjoy some of the best sights of Istanbul.

Which Cruise Ships Go Here?

Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries that include stops at Istanbul. A few of the large cruise lines that stop in Istanbul are Cunard, Princess Cruises and Ocean Village. However, there are many other options available in terms of ships, dates, days at sea and in port when it comes to Istanbul.