Modern-day Turkey covers an area which has stood at the crossroads of history for thousands of years, leaving it with a wealth of fantastic sights for visitors to explore. With so many options, selecting a comprehensive list of the Top 10 tourist attractions in Turkey is tough. However, we’ve put together a selection of some of Turkey’s most famous attractions, along with a couple of gems that we feel deserve to rub shoulders with the best of them.
No-matter what you’re after from your trip to Turkey, be it a relaxing beach holiday, a city-break or a journey into the country’s ancient past, our tourist attractions of Turkey list will provide that spark of inspiration to get you on your way while our expanded list of sites in Turkey will give you loads more attractions to discover.
What are the best tourism sites in Turkey?
Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Turkey, the Hagia Sophia is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world. Built in the sixth century AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the building was converted to a mosque with the Turkish conquest and today operates as a museum. With its remarkable architecture and beautiful mix of Byzantine and Muslim adornment, the Hagia Sophia remains among the most popular sights in Turkey. Visitors can view remnants of the first two Hagias Sophias as well as touring the current building with its stunning mosaics and ornate Muslim altars and chapels. Outside, cannonballs used by Mehmet the Conqueror during his invasion of the city line the paths and there is an eighteenth century fountain for ritual ablutions.
Turkey is awash with ancient cities, making it tough to select just one for this list. However, the most popular of these attractions is Ephesus near modern Selcuk. It contains some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the world and remains a well-trodden part of the tourist trail from nearby resorts such as Kusadasi and Izmir. Some of the most impressive attractions at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Hadrian and the ancient theatre. Many visitors will explore this city in combination tours with Miletus, Didyma and Priene.
The fifteenth century former residence of the Ottoman Sultans, the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul is a huge, ornate palatial compound which was a focal point of Istanbul’s social and political life for hundreds of years. A UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors flock through its gates to see its Ottoman architecture, courtyards and famous Muslim and Christian relics. A must see sight, it consistently ranks among the top attractions in Turkey. The Harem is also quite popular, but costs extra. Audio tours are available.
The Gallipoli Campaign in World War One saw months of bitter fighting between Allied troops – particularly those of Australia and New Zealand – and the forces of the Ottoman Empire. It was an attempt by the Allies to knock the Ottomans out of the war and its failure marked a high-point for Ottoman forces during the conflict. In modern times, the battlefields of this campaign are marked with a series of memorials, museums and cemeteries where visitors can pay their respects and learn about the sombre history of these costly events. Today, it is at Anzac Cove where the annual commemorative Anzac Day ceremonies are held.
A hidden gem which is often overlooked, in our minds, the Basilica Cistern rightly ranks among Turkey’s top tourist attractions. An ancient an underground wonder and one of Istanbul’s best Byzantine sites, this former water storage chamber is composed of imposing columns, vaulted ceilings and even ornate carvings of the ancient gods. Today, visitors can mount its raised platforms to view its eerie waters – this is truly one of the most astonishing ancient places on the planet and has to be seen to be believed.
One of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions, the story of Troy has had everything from Homer’s ancient yarns to the full Hollywood stylings. Yet to truly get a feel for this legendary city you need to explore its walls and take a stroll around its streets, homes and theatres. Did the famed events described by Homer take place here? There’s simply no definitive answer, but as your mind wanders while you stroll through this timeless place you might just find yourself happily believing the legends…
An imposing tourist attraction in one of Turkey’s most popular resorts, Bodrum Castle has provided many a visitor with an afternoon of exploration when a break from the sun lounger is required. This impressive 15th century citadel was originally built by Christian knights. Today, Bodrum Castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962.
Among the most intriguing and fascinating tourist attractions of Turkey are the underground cities of Cappadocia. Visiting the underground cities is an exciting, authentic and fascinating journey. Built over a period spanning hundreds of years, the area now includes several such complexes many of which are now open to the public. The main tourist locations are the underground cities of Kaymaklı, Derinkuyu, Özkonak, Mazi and Ürgüp. The Cappadocia underground cities have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985.
A key entry on any list of major tourist attractions in Turkey, the picturesque sight of the Blue Mosque will impress even the hardiest sightseer. Built by the young sultan Ahmet I, the Blue Mosque was designed to rival its neighbour the Hagia Sophia and, with its hierarchy of increasingly large domes, this vast complex helped define Istanbul’s skyline. The interior is just as grand and includes swathes of blue tiles which give this magnificent building its name.
Among the best preserved Roman theatres anywhere in the world, this charming ancient construction remains a hugely popular tourist attraction. With a host of tour options available from the myriad of Antalya hotels, visitors to Aspendos can see this famous theatre along with a number of other Roman remains. Still able to seat up to 15,000 people it also plays host to an annual summer festival.