Istanbul in May 2024: Top-15 Things to Do
May is a great time to visit Istanbul. Spring is in full bloom during the month, and the weather is warm, allowing you to explore the city that straddles the European and Asian continents.
May is still considered part of Istanbul’s shoulder season, so you can avoid many of the tourists that descend on the city in the summer months. You will also get more affordable deals on hotels, travel, and food.
If May sounds like the perfect time to visit Istanbul, then be sure to experience some of the things to do and see on our list below from IstanbulPoints.com
Cruise the Bosphorus
The weather in May is really great for walking and sea tours — it’s not hot yet, the sun is warm but not burning, but trees are already green. So let’s take a Bosphorus tour by ferry so you can enjoy the smell of sea, warm sun, discover all palaces and fortresses during your ferry trip.
There are two types of Bosphorus tours — short and long. Just decide what is better to you to take, Short one is about 2-2,5 hours and long takes about 4-5 hours.
The Bosphorus runs through the heart of Istanbul, making it a great way to see the city. You can book a Bosphorus cruise tour to see Istanbul from a different vantage point. With the weather getting warmer in May, it is an ideal time to get out on the water. There is a myriad of cruises you can take, including day cruises, night cruises, and tours that include a meal. You will see Istanbul’s famous landmarks, such as Dolmabahce Palace, Rumeli Fortress, the Bosphorus Bridge, and more.
Watch a Whirling Dervish Show
The Whirling Dervish is a cultural aspect of Turkey that you won’t find anywhere else. It is a must-see event and a chance to learn more about Turkish culture. The Whirling Dervish shows are major attractions for tourists. You can watch a one-hour show and witness the incredible sights and sounds of the Whirling Dervish. Tickets do sell out fast, so book them online as soon as possible.
Try some turkish coffee in Üsküdar district
Üsküdar is a conservative neighborhood with a lot of beautiful mosques. Here you can walk along the quay from Uskudar pier to the small Salacak pier where the boats are starting to Maiden’s tower.
Enter the Mihrimah Sultan mosque which is right in front of Uskudar pier. Mihrimah Sultan mosque was built by famous Mimar Sinan for the daughter of Suleyman the Magnificient.
After a visit to the mosque walk behind it, here you can find two nice coffeeshops with great Bosphorus view — Aşiyan and Payedar. Just choose the one you like and enjoy your tukish coffee with both Bosphorus and mosque view.
Visit Kucuksu palace and walk over Anadoluhisari fortress
If you want to spend your day in Istanbul near water and combine it with a sightseeing — there is a nice solution! Küçüksu palace is located on the Asian side of Istanbul just near the waters of Bosphorus strait. Küçüksu is like smaller and elegant version of Dolmabahçe palace. You can take an audioguide and take a walk through the rooms of the palace with the sea view.
There is a nice picnic and park area not far from palace, so you can take a walk or enter Big Chefs restaurant to make a breake.
After you pass the bridge of Göksu river right in front will be the oldest fortress in Istanbul — Anadolu Hisari. Near the fortress you can find nice patisserie which stands on the historical place of old turkish telegraph — Telgrafhane 1855. So take a cup of coffee and enjoy the view!
There are also some fish restaurants near Goksu river where you can have a dinner.
Enjoy beautiful views from Çamlıca hill
On the Asian side of Istanbul there is a huge Çamlıca mosque which includes big library and Museum of Islamic Civilizations. But also, you can take a walk through the park near the mosque where you can find a cafe to take a rest in, but if you walk further there is a hill named Çamlıca Tepesi with great panoramic view of the city. It’s mind-blowing in the night-time!
Enjoy hamam after long walking tour over Sultanahmet
If this is your first visit to Istanbul so be ready to a very rich program: let’s start from Hippodrome square, then enter Topkapi Palace or Haghia Sophia, walk through the darkness of Basilica cistern, find out the secrets of Mosaic or Archaeological museum. An finally, when you visited all the highlights of Old City, let’s relax in hamam with soap massage and apple tea after — it’s exactly what you need after interesting and difficult day!
Walk down Istiklal Street
Istanbul’s warm May weather allows you to walk around the city and explore the famous landmarks. It can save you money, as you avoid taking taxis in the colder or hotter months. Istiklal Street is one street you simply must walk down. It is Istanbul’s most famous area for entertainment. You can find cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and street performers up and down Istiklal Street. There are also some great attractions, including the Pera Museum and St Anthony of Padua Church located on the street. Istiklal Street is the go-to place for lunch, dinner, or fun after dark.
Climb up Galata Tower
The days should be sunny during May, so you need to get outside and treat yourself to the city’s landmarks. The bright sunny days also provide you with the chance to see across the city from the top of the Galata Tower — Galata Kulesi. The was built in 508 AD. It is an iconic part of Istanbul’s skyline. You can climb to the top of the tower to see panoramic views of the city.
Head over to Princes’ Islands
Princes’ Islands or Adalar was once the vacation spot of Byzantine Princes. Their stunning landscape provided royalty with an escape from the busy city. The islands have some of the best-preserved natural landscapes in and around Istanbul. It is a place you can escape to for some peace. Princes’ Islands is popular during the weekends when Istanbul residents want to get out of the city. There is a one-hour cruise to the islands. There are cafes and restaurants on the islands, along with a hotel. The biggest one — Büyükada is the most popular among the tourists so be aware that it can be overcrowded in weekdays.
Watch one of the Istanbul Giants play football
Istanbul is home to four of the biggest clubs in Turkish football: Beşiktas, Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, and Istanbul Baçaksehir. Although the Turkish football season will be coming to an end in late May, you still have the chance to see one, or more, of the big four play a home match. Turkish football provides a completely different experience to leagues in other parts of the world.
Walk through the streets with colorful houses in Balat and visit «Iron Church»
Balat not so long ago was not touristic attraction at all — some streets were looking like rough neighborhood which scared some people. But nowadays everything changed and it became one of the most popular tourist attraction.
Here in Balat you can find famous colorful houses and stares, cobbled streets and clotheslines hanging from the windows. The highlights od Balat are: The Iron Church (Saint Stephen’s Orthodox Church), Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate basilica, unique Chora mosque (ex. museum) with it’s mosaics and frescoes).
Also you can visit Rezan Has Museum which located not far frtom Cibali tramvay station. Here you can learn the history of the building and how it was used before it became a University and also you can see the old Cistern which is under the museum area.
Smell the flowers at Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park is situated next to Topkapi Palace on Istanbul’s historic peninsula. The park is one of Istanbul’s largest and most beautiful green spaces. In May, the park comes to life with flowers. Gulhane is ideal for travellers needing a breath of fresh air and the chance to escape the busyness of Istanbul. You will find Gulhane Park in the Old City, making it a great stop-off as you explore the culture and history of the area.
See the Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is another one of Istanbul’s must-see mosques. It is gorgeous to look at, and you will marvel at its architecture. The Blue Mosque is Istanbul’s most iconic religious building thanks to its blue Iznik tiles on its interior. You must see the mosque first-hand to truly understand its brilliance. Visiting the Blue Mosque in the morning allows you to miss the large crowds that explore it later in the day.
Explore the Hagia Sophia
You cannot visit Istanbul without seeing the famous Hagia Sophia. The mosque is an architectural phenomenon and is one of Turkey’s most important religious buildings. The Hagia Sophia was initially designed as a Greek Orthodox Church but later became a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople.
This amazing place has it’s own unique atmosphere and meets you with giant doors and great frescoes (today the part of them are closed because of Hagia Sophia’s mosque status).
Get on your bike
Why not hop on a rental bicycle to see the city? You can cycle Istanbul during your May holiday to explore the city’s iconic landmarks. You shouldn’t miss the chance to be outdoors in Istanbul’s warm May weather. The sun will be shining, making it a great time to see Sultanahmet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also cycle around the Golden Horn or through the Beyoglu District, which is a culture and entertainment hub. You can see all the top landmarks as you cycle the city.