free things to do in Istanbul - Istanbul, Turkey - photo by Pedro Szekely under CC BY-SA 2.0
Istanbul, Turkey - photo by Pedro Szekely under CC BY-SA 2.0


One can say that the city of Istanbul in Turkey sits at the crossroads between the east and west, making it a melting pot for arts, culture and history. If you’re visiting this transcontinental city on a budget, here are some of the free things to do in Istanbul to help you stay on track:

Free Things to Do in Istanbul – Admire the Mosques

There are several mosques all over Istanbul that you can visit and admire for free. The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) is renowned the world over for its hue and minarets. There’s also the Suleymaniye Mosque (Süleymaniye Camii), a fine example of the 16th century Ottoman Islamic architecture. To have a glimpse of the Byzantine architecture during the Middle Ages, visit the Zeyrek Mosque (Molla Zeyrek Camii).

Free Things to Do in Istanbul – Explore the Neighborhood of Fener

Walking around the streets of Fener will allow you to see old yet colorful houses and shops. It’s also a chance to appreciate the period architecture of ancient structures found within the neighborhood.

Free Things to Do in Istanbul – Feel the Local Vibe at Taksim Square

If you want to get a pulse on the local vibe of urban Istanbul, Taksim Square is your destination. Several shops, restaurants and hotels can be found around this public square. Here, you will also find the Republic Monument. The Istanbul Metro central station is likewise nearby.


Find Your Way through the Grand Bazaar

Kapalı Çarşı or the Grand Bazaar is a historic market in Istanbul, brimming with leather goods, jewelry, gifts and other items. It’s a large network of indoor souks, where even the alleys are dominated by different stalls peddling interesting finds.

Get Cultural at Istanbul’s Museums

Istanbul has its share of museums and galleries where you can appreciate fine art pieces without spending a fortune. It is free to visit The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews – you just need to have your passport with you as proof of your identification. If you want to see the works of popular Turkish artists, head to Dogançay Museum. For contemporary art, make a trip to the Elgiz Museum.


Marvel at the Architecture of the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church

Belonging to the Bulgarian community of Istanbul, Sveti Stefan Kilisesi or the Bulgarian Saint Stephen Church follows a neo-Gothic Style. It is also called Bulgarian Iron Church because of its prefabricated cast iron frame.

Relax at the Parks

Yıldız Park is a large public park in Istanbul set between the Yıldız and Çırağan palaces. It is a lovely garden complex with some greenery dating back to the Ottoman times. Emirgan Park is smaller compared to Yıldız Park but does not trail far behind in terms of scenic views.

See the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople

Built during the time of Emperor Theodosius II, portions of the defensive stone walls can still be seen up to these days around the city of Istanbul. Some of these are the Golden Gate, Belgrade Gate and the Gate of Charisius along the Edirnekapı Walls.

Step into a World of Spices at Mısır Çarşısı

Also called the Egyptian Bazaar, this 17th century covered market is a popular destination for spices, textile and food.

Take in the Scenery at Ortaköy Square

A popular gathering place among the locals, it’s also a great spot for tourists to sight-see. Waterfront cafes, an ornate mosque and people hanging out in the square can keep your eyes busy for hours.