How to Explore Istanbul for Free

Istanbul is a melting pot of a city. It’s a city of both European and Asian influences. It’s also a city of contradiction, holding steady to its rich history, yet always with an eye on the future. From the religious architecture to its art museums, there are countless sites to see in this city, even for the budget conscious traveler. LeafCanoer, girlxdeparture, shared her experiences traveling in Istanbul in her leaf titled, “10 Free Things To Do In Istanbul.” As she shows in her leaf, it’s easy to experience the local culture in Istanbul without spending an arm and a leg. Here is a short list of ideas to explore Istanbul for free. Before you know it, you’ll be getting around the city like a local.

istanbul bazaar

Relax at one of the many city parks
There are many city parks in Istanbul to choose from. Some of the best parks include Ghulhane Park, Yildiz Park, Bebek Park, Emigran Park, and Belgrad Forest. Many of these parks were former gardens and palace grounds for the Ottoman Empire. Now they have been converted to public areas, still carefully maintained, but available for anyone to visit and enjoy.

Practice haggling at the bazaar
Haggling is a way of life in Istanbul. One of the best places to do it is at the Grand Bazaar, which holds over 3,000 shops. Here, you can find a wide variety of odds and ends, from high end and high quality products to cheap knick knacks. Located in the district and neighborhood of Fatih, the Grand Bazaar is one of the most visited tourists attractions in the world, with 90 million visitors annually. If shopping for spices is more your preference, you can visit the Egyptian Spice Market in the district of Eminonu. Haggling there is also encouraged.


Take a stroll through a neighborhood
Istanbul boasts many beautiful neighborhoods, with historic homes and buildings. One of the most popular neighborhoods to visit is the Old City, which houses the Hippodrome, an ancient race track and political arena, and today serves as a public commons area. The Old City is also home to Sultanahmet Park, as well as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Other neighborhoods worth exploring are Cihangir, with its artsy vibe, and Ortakoy, known for its beautiful views of the Bosphorus straits.


Admire the religious architecture
Arguably one of the things that Istanbul is known for are its religious buildings. The most famous are Hagia Sophia (now known as Ayasofya), Suleymaniye Mosque, and the Blue Mosque. Although Hagia Sophia is now a museum, and is no longer free to visit, Suleymaniye Mosque and the Blue Mosque are still free and open to the public to visit during non-prayer times. These two mosques are the most well-known, but other mosques worth visiting include the Yeni Valide Mosque near the Egyptian Spice Market, the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, and the Sultan Beyazit Mosque near the Grand Bazaar.

Take advantage of free nights at museums
The Istanbul Modern museum is one of the most revered art museums in the city. It houses a collection of photography, cinema, and new media art. The best part about Istanbul Modern is that admission is free every Thursday, making it an excellent choice for soaking up the local arts culture. Another great art museum to visit is the Museum of Painting and Sculpture, which was the first fine arts museum in Istanbul. The museum opens its doors to the public for free from 12-4:30 pm every day, except on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Istanbul Modern

Istanbul is full of beautiful places to see and explore. The best part about it is that it’s easy to explore Istanbul for free. To read more about girlxdeparture’s adventures in Istanbul, check out her leaf by downloading the LeafCanoe app.

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