The vast range of outdoor activities in Istanbul makes this city break destination globally famous. Of course, Istanbul delivers many indoor activities like museums, Ottoman palaces and shopping malls, yet the location enables excellent outdoor adventures. Before we list our favourite recommended activities, look at the weather before planning them. Many people think Istanbul is full of sunshine and ideal temperatures all year round. Yet, expect snow and rain when December and the winter months descend. Additionally, summer gets quite hot, so do the outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid high temperatures between 12 noon and 3 pm. So, let's look at what there is to do outdoors in Istanbul, from the less energetic activities to those that get the adrenaline running.
Outdoor Activities in Istanbul
1: Bosphorus Cruise Activity
To understand why this outdoor activity is popular, you need to understand the importance of the Bosphorus Strait. This stretch of water separates Istanbul's Asian and European continents, and for centuries, empires fought to control the strait for global power. Just reading about the history of the Bosphorus strait gives excellent insight into how historical events in Istanbul came to be. Thankfully, life is calmer these days, and exploring the Bosphorus shores throws up old villages, millionaire mansions, mosques, castles, and churches. The alternative activity to exploring on foot is via private Bosphorus cruises or ferry rides, of which the latter is ideal for budget travellers. Another option is spectacular private sunset cruises—more about the Bosphorus Villages of Istanbul and the yali mansions on the shoreline.
2: Walking Tours
Tour guides or companies sell matching walking tours, whatever your outdoor passion or interests. For example, photography tours around Istiklal avenue visit historical buildings, highlight local life and introduce quirky aspects of street life in Istanbul, from buskers to street food sellers. We even know of walking tours of street art that others call graffiti. In addition, tourists taste their way around Istanbul on food walking tours that visit places where locals enjoy sumptuous Turkish food. Another example is Jewish history tours or Balat and Fener district tours to see precisely how Istanbul locals live.
3: Water Sports, Beaches, and Swimming
So, tourists assume typical city landscapes, urban vibes, hustle, and bustle when thinking of outdoor Istanbul. Yet, the Marmara Sea, Golden horn and Bosphorus strait surrounded the city, so head to seaside water sports schools for splashing fun and activities. Try scuba diving, or learn how to row a boat, or even sail a yacht. The other alternative, especially on hot days, are gorgeous beaches and days of sunning yourself and swimming. The best beaches are near the black sea area, on the entrance of the Bosphorus strait, roughly 1 hour away. About the best beaches in Istanbul.
4: Outdoor Istanbul on Bicycle
Around the world, local city councils encourage the use of bicycle routes to elevate traffic. Although Istanbul is not the most bike-friendly city, specific courses promote the freedom of cycling, like the Bosphorus shorelines with wide pavements for biking. Other locals recommend Belgrad forest and Camlica hill. First-time visitors who are not confident in biking on their own, or set routes, should look for Istanbul biking groups that rent bikes. Alternatively, Istanbul Tour Studio run bicycle activity tours through picturesque neighbourhoods and places like Kadikoy, Moda Pier, Kalamis Marina, Fenerbahce Park, and the Caddebostan coastline.
5: Helicopter Tours
Ok, this is costly, but it is worth the cash for outdoor activities. Tourists can book one of three tickets: the VIP seat next to the pilot, window seats for photo opportunities, or economy view seats. First, drive to a small airfield, just 30 minutes from Istanbul entre, then enjoy set routes over the Ayazaga district, Bosphorus Strait, Besiktas, Uskudar, Sultanahmet and Taksim, with bird's eye views of Asian and European Istanbul.
6: Day Trips to Nature Spots
There isn't enough time on quick visits, but if you own property in Istanbul, or visit for an extended stay, investigate the outdoor day trips locals take to escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul city. They are easily accessed via public transport, private tours via travel companies or within short drives. These destinations present the glory of flora and fauna near Istanbul, Turkey's most prominent and busiest city. Discover how people who live in urban landscapes strive to be at one with Mother Nature. These destinations also make for great family days with the kids—more about nature spots near Istanbul and the famous Princes Islands.
7: Colourful Istanbul
So, you might think of Istanbul as drab urban landscapes devoid of colour and tall, ugly grey buildings. Indeed some parts depress everyone, yet Istanbul's horizon is far from drab if you look in the right places. Alongside old historical buildings and mosques like the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi palace, some outdoor areas delight your day with vibrant blue, red, green, and yellow colours. From the top Instagram spots to local businesses that residents have spruced up for colour on your trip to Istanbul, these are the best Instagram spots and places to head.
8: Green Parks of Istanbul
During Ottoman times, sultans escaped to their private parks and outdoor nature spots at weekends and in summer. While the Ottomans are now Turkish history, their parks are not. Local councils took significant steps to preserve these parks and other green spaces that tourists and residents enjoy. Locals often head there at weekends because they are family-friendly and ideal places to unwind. Some feature jogging and cycle paths and local tea houses to grab refreshments. Visit these delightful parks, especially during April when Istanbul holds its annual tulip festival. Find out which green parks to visit in Istanbul.
9: Galata Tower and Bridge
Connecting the two European districts of Eminonu and Karakoy, the Galata bridge thrives with outdoor activity during the day. Anglers line either side to catch the fish from the golden horn, but watch out for the birds who swoop down to catch the small fish they throw in the air. Eat traditional simits and sit and watch the world go by, or head to Galata floating boats for classic fish sandwiches. On the lower level of Galata bridge, seafood and fish restaurants serve various pricy dishes. Also, head to the other side of the bridge, and walk 5 minutes to arrive at Galata Tower. Get in the lift, travel to the top and step onto the viewing platform for fantastic views over Istanbul. More about Galata tower and the Karakoy district.
10: Explore Uskudar
So, most outdoor activities above mention the European side of Istanbul, yet the Asian side offers an alternative look away from mainstream tourism. Uskudar is famous alongside neighbouring Kadikoy simply because the neighbourhood serves major ferry routes between Istanbul's two continents. To know Istanbul, away from historical sites and the beaten track, explore the streets of Uskudar and find out where locals hang out. Admire the old, wooden Ottoman mansions and fantastic views of Maidens Tower, which is also a restaurant at night. What to do in Uskudar, Istanbul.
11: Explore Istiklal Caddesi and Beyoglu
Last on our outdoor list is the famous street of Istiklal avenue. You may have seen pictures of Istiklal in tourist brochures that often feature the iconic red tram that travels up and down. This is the area known as new Istanbul, and in the past, Istiklal was cosmopolitan famous because foreign consulates were based there. These days, the long street serves as Istanbul's shopping and nightlife centre, and tourists wander in and out of buildings and famous places like Flower Passage and French Street. Also, explore the back street to discover neighbourhoods like Cukurcuma with antique shops and vintage clothing boutiques. About Istiklal Avenue in Beyoglu.
More About Outdoors in Istanbul
So, we hope we have given plenty of ideas about outdoor activities in Istanbul. We are Property Turkey, a real estate investment specialist with offices in Istanbul. We took our team's knowledge and experiences and combined them all to write an informative blog about Istanbul city. Talking about places, neighbourhoods, local secrets, traditions and culture, the articles will be helpful for anyone looking to find out more about the great city of Istanbul.
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