July 5, 2020

Istanbul in one or two days – what to see and do

To get started, learn more about Istanbul and read about the main attractions of the city. See also what yummies are worth trying in Turkey.

For a short stay in Istanbul, it is best to book a hotel either in Sultanahmet (the old city of Istanbul) or in the Galata area (Karaka). It is even better to choose a hotel with a restaurant terrace – a very special experience of living in Istanbul. Check out our selection of 22 hotels in Istanbul that serve breakfasts on terraces overlooking the Bosphorus.

Istanbul in one day

Spend your only or first of two days in Istanbul in Sultanahmet (Old City), moving closer to sunset in the Galati area.

Breakfast overlooking the Bosphorus

Traditional Turkish breakfast with a beautiful view of the Bosphorus – the best start to the day in Istanbul. If breakfasts are not served at your hotel, go to the nearest cafe and order kahvalti (Turkish breakfast) in tandem with menemen (Turkish version of scrambled eggs, more here ).

Topkapi Palace

If you are limited in time, it is best to start the day with a tour of the Topkapi Palace. It is ideal to be here for hours to 9 am (to the opening, to avoid crowds) and immediately go to the harem area. Before entering Topkapi buy simit – Turkish sesame bun, which will be an excellent snack at a spontaneous picnic somewhere on the grass or a bench in Topkapi garden. You can easily spend half a day in Topkapi, so if you are limited in time, watch the time and try to keep within no more than a couple of hours.

Practical information (cost, schedule) can be found on the official website of Topkapi Palace.

Aia Sofia, Basilica Cistern, and Blue Mosque

The majestic Byzantine temple Aya Sofia, converted by the Ottomans into a mosque, is located opposite the Blue Mosque, a beautiful symbol of Ottoman Istanbul, you just have to go through a flowering alley with fountains. Basilica Cistern is an underground reservoir of Constantinople, located just behind Sofia. And in Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque must go necessarily. Basilica Cistern – a place for an amateur)

The cost and schedule of work can be found on the official website of the museum Aya Sofia.

Lunch or snack in Sultan Ahmet

In fact, at this stage, you will be very tired and wildly hungry. Therefore, plan an hour for delicious Turkish food and rest. Lahmacun or pide, Turkish pizza options – a great quick snack for those who are not going to particularly linger over a meal. Traditional Turkish coffee, which is prepared on the coals in the Sultanahmet area – a great way to cheer up).

Galata Bridge and Galata

On the way from Sultanahmet to the Galata Bridge, stop at the Spice Bazaar to buy spices and sweets. If you have time and energy climb the Galata tower, if not – just take a walk around the Galata bridge, watch the fishermen, watch the sunset.

The evening is ideal to spend in Karakoy – the area located immediately after the Galata bridge. There are a lot of inexpensive restaurants, food courts, cafes, bars, and trays with mussels stuffed with rice.

Second day in Istanbul

If you have two days in Istanbul, you can slightly reduce the pace of the first day and postpone for the second day, for example, the ascent to the Galata Tower. In any case, the second day in Istanbul should be devoted to the Bosphorus, shopping, and Hamam.

Cruise on the Bosphorus

Start the day with a 1.5-hour cruise on the Bosphorus. After the cruise, take a walk under the Galata bridge and buy the famous Istanbul sandwich Balik ekmek  – fish sandwich, which is prepared and sold from floating kitchen boats under the Galata bridge. Very funny authentic experience plus a great snack.

Suleymaniye Mosque and Grand Bazaar

On the way to the Grand Bazaar, stop at the Suleymaniye Mosque, where the famous Roksolana Haram and her beloved Sultan the Magnificent are buried. Very pleasant and atmospheric place.

Spend an hour or two at the Grand Bazaar. Here, in principle, you can find anything. If you do not need anything, you can just walk around the Grand Bazaar, looking at various Turkish products. In this area, you can also enjoy a kebab meal in one of the small family restaurants.

Chamberlain and dinner at Kumkapi

Devote the second half of the day to the original Turkish experience – a steam room in the Hammer Chemberlitash. Here, every visitor will be well steamed and washed, well, and besides this, they will plunge into the atmosphere of old Istanbul)

Not far from Chamberlitash is Kumkapi district (see details in the guide ), where you can dine very colorful. After dinner, climb onto the terrace of your hotel with a bottle of vino or a cup of tea and admire the views of evening Istanbul.

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