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. Many people think Istanbul is full of sunshine and ideal temperatures all year round. Yet, snow and rain hit December and the winter months descend. Additionally, summer gets quite hot, so complete outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid high temperatures between 12 noon and 3 pm.
The experts at Property Turkey have shared what there is to do outdoors in Istanbul, from the less energetic activities to those that get the adrenaline running.
1) Bosphorus cruise activity
Bosphorus Strait is a stretch of water which separates Istanbul’s Asian and European continents, and for centuries, empires fought to control the strait for global power. 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) 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.
4) Helicopter tours
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.
5) Colourful Istanbul
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.
6) 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. 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.
7) 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.