Things to Know Before You Go to Istanbul, Turkey: Bazaars and Byzantine Architecture

Welcome to Istanbul, where every alleyway and archway tells a tale of bustling bazaars and Byzantine brilliance. Let’s explore the markets and ancient architecture that make this city a timeless treasure trove!

A colorful Turkish mosaic lantern in a market in Istanbul, Turkey
A colorful Turkish mosaic lantern in a market in Istanbul, Turkey

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. In fact, it boasts a history that spans over half a millennium. So, for culture buffs and adventure seekers who dare explore this dreamy destination, we’ve put together this quick guide on top things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey! 

Know your way around bustling markets and Byzantine structures as ThisCityKnows leads you through the enchanting spirit of Istanbul, the Queen of Cities.

Perfect Timing and Getting Around

Timing is everything when in Istanbul, and that applies to whether you’re shopping or sightseeing. To many, the best seasons to visit are definitely spring and fall, when the weather is just right for long walks through historic streets and market alleys. 

With that, note that comfy footwear should be a non-negotiable when fully exploring this layered city. That’s because one of the basic things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey is that its uneven terrain is a workout in itself. 

Of course, you can also take advantage of the trams, metros, and ferries that connect the neighborhoods while offering dazzling views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

Pro-tip: Pick up an Istanbulkart right away for easy access to all public transportation.

Exploring Istanbul’s Iconic Bazaars

No guide on the essential things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey would be complete without a nod to its legendary bazaars. The Grand Bazaar, with over 4,000 shops, is a colorful labyrinth of textiles, jewelry, lanterns, and more. Should you get a chance to visit, don’t forget to haggle as it’s all part of the fun!

Another gem is the Spice Bazaar. Here, you’ll find a sensory feast of fragrant spices, teas, dried fruits, and Turkish delight. Why not try a few samples to discover your favorites before purchasing?

The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are essential stops for any visitor exploring Istanbul. From here, the city’s rich history continues, leading to its breathtaking Byzantine architecture.

Marveling at Byzantine Architecture

Istanbul’s Byzantine roots have left an architectural legacy that still stands tall. The Hagia Sophia is considered the crown jewel of Byzantine architecture. Its stunning dome and delicate mosaics uniquely blend Christian and Islamic devotion and artistry. This awe-inspiring structure will surely have you contemplating your spirituality based on empires of old.

Tucked away from the crowds, the Chora Church is another Byzantine masterpiece, its frescoes offering a glimpse into centuries past with their intricate storytelling.

These architectural marvels are just a glimpse of the grandeur and spiritual depth of Byzantine structures in Istanbul. As we transition from the divine to the domestic, the city has more in store for all kinds of travelers: history buffs, culture vultures, and hearty eaters included.

Must-See Istanbul Highlights

Here are a few more things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey to get a feel for its iconic marvels and experiences. Be sure to not miss these on your next visit:


  • Basilica Cistern: An underground wonder that feels straight out of a fantasy novel.
  • Blue Mosque: An architectural masterpiece renowned for its six minarets and striking blue Iznik tiles inside.
  • Topkapi Palace: Once the heart of the Ottoman Empire, this grand palace complex showcases opulent pavilions, sprawling courtyards, and a treasury filled with jewels and historical artifacts.
One of the things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey is where to eat, like these friends at a Turkish restaurant
One of the things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey is where to eat, like these friends at a Turkish restaurant


  • The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts: An incredible collection of Ottoman and Islamic relics.
  • Istanbul Modern: Dive into contemporary Turkish art at this eclectic museum.


After a full day of exploration, wouldn’t it be nice to return to an accommodation that provides not only comfort but also a touch of local charm? 

In the next section, we’ll tackle three of the best places to stay that will make your trip to Istanbul unforgettable.

Relax and Recharge—Where to Stay

Where you rest your head is certainly another essential thing to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey.

Check out these recommendations:

  • Four Seasons Sultanahmet: This hotel is steps from major landmarks and exuding Ottoman charm.
  • Sumahan on the Water: A quiet retreat with stunning Bosphorus views.
  • Hotel Empress Zoe: An enchanting option near the Hagia Sophia, offering unique rooms with garden or sea views and a touch of historical charm.

Start Your Istanbul Adventure with ThisCityKnows

From its lively bazaars to its magnificent Byzantine structures, Istanbul blends history and energy like nowhere else. Let this guide on the essential things to know before you go to Istanbul, Turkey help you make the most of your journey while uncovering the magic of this timeless city.

Ready to explore? 

ThisCityKnows will help you navigate the wonders of Istanbul like a pro! And if you have tips, experiences, or insights about Istanbul, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Author: Lei

Armed with curiosity and a knack for planning, Lei loves finding cool stuff to do and places to see that aren't packed with tourists. This City Knows becomes her platform to guide you through the world's wonders, sharing easy tips for making your trip awesome and packed with memories.

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