Istanbul, much like Turkey is a dream. With its extravagant architecture, beautiful mosques and grand monuments, it amazes everyone. One of the best things about visiting Istanbul is that it is perfect for budget travellers. You can enjoy a vacation there without spending a lot of money. Have a look at some of free and affordable things to do in Istanbul for the thrifty traveller
Visit the lengendary mosques for free
A trip to Istanbul is incomplete without visiting the mosque. Turkey is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the world. One example is Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) which is one of the grandest buildings in the ancient world. Let’s not forget Istanbul’s the Blue Mosque or Süleymaniye Mosque, which has a restaurant and a hospital. Being places of worship, these are free to visit outside prayer times, on the condition that you are appropriately dressed.
“Free” Istanbul walking tours
If it is your first time visiting Istanbul, one of these walking tours will help you get acquainted with your surroundings and get the lay of the land so that you can decide on what to do during your visit. Lasting a couple of hours, they are led by young locals who will teach you about the city. To be part of the tour, you have to book a reservation in advance. The tours are tip-based, which means that there are no fees but a contribution per person is needed.
Visit the museums on free days
Istanbul’s museums are legendary and attract a number of travellers. While there is usually an entrance free, a lot of the museums offer free admissions on certain days, allowing budget travellers to be mesmerised by its collection of paintings, arts and sculptures. Just check for the free days and time online when planning your visit.
Cruise the Bosphorus River
The Bosphorus River will allow you to cross borders, from Europe to Asia, without a passport! This is because Istanbul is split between two continents. A cruise is one of the must-try activities in Istanbul. It is a ferry ride from Eminönü or Karaköy harbour on the European borders of the Bosphorus to Kadıköy, on the Asian side. There are several tour companies offering these ferry rides. However, a cheaper alternative is to take the standard government ferry.
For a glimpse into the life of the locals and for an amazing view, head to Galata Bridge, where you can watch the fishermen and absorb in both the Asian and European side of the city. We recommend going there nearing sunset time. The fishermen will be packing up and you will be mesmerised by the sun setting and the scenic view of the mosques within an orangey skyline.
Extra tip: Beneath the bridge is an assortment of restaurants selling fish sandwiches, which is a must-have in the area. Try to look for one that makes them the traditional way: over coals!
For a relaxing day, visit Gulhane Park which is right next to Topkapi Palace. The literal translation of Gulhane being ‘rose house’, you will be able to stroll among beautiful rose displays and flower gardens. Pack a picnic, take a break from walking and relax in a green spot.