Romantic things to do in Turkey
Published on: November 21st, 2019
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
With worldly culture, incredible architecture and stunning coastline, it’s no surprise that Turkey is a popular choice for honeymooners.
There’s plenty to discover beyond the major cities though, and to help you discover a different side to the country, our experts have picked out a few of their favourite romantic things to do in Turkey.
From cruising the Bosphorus at sunset to making pottery in Cappadocia, here’s how to make the most of a romantic trip to Turkey.
1) Cruise the Bosphorus at sunset
Istanbul’s heart and soul, the Bosphorus is a narrow strait of water that uniquely separates the Asian and European continents. As you cruise along the waters of the Bosphorus, you’ll pass incredible palaces, restored Ottoman villas, ancient fortresses and local waterside residents. Viewing Istanbul from the sea provides an entirely new perspective on an incredible destination, once dubbed “the city of the world’s desire” by a Byzantine visitor in the 12th century.
Cruising the Bosphorus is a wonderfully romantic way to begin your trip in Turkey, as you’ll gain a real sense of the country’s capital. A private cruise allows you to take control of your itinerary, and see your own side to Istanbul. Pass decadent wonders like Çırağan Palace, journey near to up-and-coming creative districts or marvel at two continents merging into one. To really round off your experience, indulge in local Turkish culinary delights on board – it doesn’t get much more romantic than that.
2) Find peace at Suleymaniye Mosque
Visiting a mosque is an excellent way to delve into Istanbul’s heritage, but the major sites like Hagia Sophia are often overrun with tourists. To get off the beaten track, head to Suleymaniye Mosque – an equally impressive structure that’s popular amongst locals. Built by infamous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, the Suleymaniye Mosque takes pride of place on the third hill of old Istanbul. Visiting Suleymaniye is a wonderful insight into local life, as it’s a working mosque open for Istanbulites to come and go as they please.
This palatial structure was first built between 1550 and 1557, so there’s tons of history to uncover here too. Visitors can spend their time here flitting between the four minarets, said to represent the fact that Süleyman was the fourth of the Osmanlı sultans to rule the city. Suleymaniye offers stunning panoramic views over Istanbul too, with its terrace offering unbeatable views of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Whichever corner of Suleymaniye you explore, it’s a beautiful spot for couples to escape the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.
3) Ride a hot air balloon in Cappadocia
There are few things more romantic than floating above the clouds in one of Cappadocia’s hot air balloons. See the region’s fairy chimneys from a different perspective, with balloons carrying passengers up to an awe-inspiring height of 800 metres. The first balloon flights in Cappadocia took place in 1989, and the tradition has held strong ever since. It’s no surprise in a landscape so diverse; wherever you are in the sky, you’re bound to get a unique view of Cappadocia.
For those who aren’t so keen on heights, Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys are magical in and of themselves. The most romantic of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys can be found in Zelve valley, where three canyons meet in the Valley of the Monks. Zelve is well off the tourist path, and dipping in and out of the caves and churches here is a uniquely romantic way to spend a day.
4) Make pottery in Avanos
Cappadocia is not just about hot air balloon rides, and there’s plenty of other things on offer for those wanting to stay closer to the ground. One of the most creative towns in the region, Avanos, has a longstanding tradition of producing ceramics. At around 8 kilometres away from Cappadocia’s historical town of Göreme, Avanos is perfectly placed on the banks of the Red River. Here, clay supplies are abundant and local craftsmen have been taking advantage of the river’s bounty since 2000 BC.
Inside family-run workshops, local artisans craft beautiful pottery out of bare clay. Once created, the pottery is then passed through to painters, who use their steady hands to add intricate detail to the exquisite pieces. Anything and everything can be found in Avanos, from ceramic ashtrays to decadent dinner plates. Today, visitors can try their own hand at creating pottery in one of the town’s many workshops. Have a go at creating a bespoke piece for your loved one, or simply watch the local craftsmen at work in their beautifully stocked studios.
5) Wander through Istanbul’s cisterns
Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern is a uniquely romantic place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The cistern was built in 532 AD by Emperor Justinian to house the Great Palace’s water supply, and today is open for visitors from across the globe to explore. At 70 metres wide and 140 metres long, it’s the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul. There’s a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere, and the 336 columns here have all been salvaged from ruined temples and ancient cities. The cistern’s symmetry is breathtaking, and it’s the perfect place for couples to steal some time away from city life.
6) Sail Bodrum’s waters
Sitting at the heart of the Turkish Riviera, Bodrum is one of the most romantic destinations in Turkey. This seaside getaway is characterised by boutique hotels, foodie hotspots and stunning Aegean coastline. The town’s elegance is palpable, with trendy bars lining the waterfront and beaches playing host to well-heeled travellers. Strict building regulations have preserved Bodrum’s ancient Greek character, and today the town centre is a wonderful sprawl of whitewashed houses. Couples can spend their time here wandering through the town centre, or seeing Bodrum from the sea aboard a private sailing gulet.