How Many Days Do You Need To Visit Istanbul?
Planning to visit Istanbul? Let’s be honest. There is no such thing as too many days when it comes to this city. Spanning across two continents, Asia and Europe, there are countless attractions to see, events to attend and delightful flavors to taste here. Yet, if you have only a couple of days to visit Istanbul, keep calm and let us craft the most comprehensive itinerary for an unforgettable journey!
Visit Istanbul in 1 Day
If you are to stay one day in Istanbul, you need to plan out your schedule very carefully. Istanbul is a big city and it takes a long time to get to places. Traffic can get incredibly congested, especially during rush hour. Keep in mind that you might not even be able to get on public transport at certain times.
With that being said, let’s start our trip at the heart of the city. First off, we are heading to the famous Blue Mosque. With its interior design consisting of blue tiles, lush red carpets, and a grandiose chandelier, the Blue Mosque was built by the genius architect Mimar Sinan during the 17th century. As it is still being used for prayers, visitors are only allowed before or after the prayer times. In general, the visiting hours are from 08:30 am until one hour before dusk each day, excluding 90 minutes each prayer time, and two hours during Friday noon prayers.
Hagia Sophia, only a five-minute walk from the Blue Mosque, is the all-time favorite of many visitors and locals alike. Once a Greek Orthodox Christian cathedral, later an Ottoman imperial mosque and now a museum, this medieval building has been up and running since 537 AD and has countless stories to tell from the Bible, encrypted on its walls.
Turkish Ice Cream
After crossing off Hagia Sophia from the list, you follow the tramline towards the Bosphorus. Direction: Eminönü. A short walk of twenty minutes will take you there. But hold on, not so fast. First, let’s take a pitstop to satisfy our sweet tooth, shall we? After all, we have a long Istanbul tour to run against the clock. Depending on the season, you may opt for some traditional ice cream made with goat milk or some simit, a type of crispy pastry typically encrusted with sesame seeds.
Gülhane Park & Topkapı Imperial Palace
Look around! There are several shops selling traditional Turkish carpets, souvenirs, and on your right, you will spot a hidden entrance to a magical garden called the Gülhane Park. Don’t be shy and take a step. You will discover the centuries-old walnut and oak trees whispering sweet melodies. Gülhane Park, located right beside the Topkapı Imperial Palace, was not open to public for centuries. If you happen to visit Istanbul during the months of March or April, fortune smiles on you. It is when thousands of tulips bloom and decorate the park, mesmerizing you with their distinctive scents.
Next up, we are heading for the Spice Bazaar. Located at Eminönü, a walking distance from most tourist attractions of Istanbul, the Spice Bazaar is one of the largest bazaars in the city and it attracts spice lovers from all around the world. Here you can shop for traditional Turkish goods, various ethnic spices and herbs, and the classic souvenir Turkish Delights.
Dervish Show at Hodjapasha
Are you out of breath? It is perfectly understandable. Visit Istanbul in one day can be too much to take on. No worries, now it’s time to chill. Depending on the schedule of your return flight, you may choose to catch a whirling Dervish show at Hodjapasha or opt for a quick ferry tour at the Bosphorus. If you have some time for dinner, grab a plate of the Turkish delicacies such as Iskender Kebab, a type of Kebab topped with yogurt and tomato sauce, and Baklava, a traditional Turkish dessert. Yummy in the tummy!
Visit Istanbul in 2 Days
Do you think two days in Istanbul is enough? Visiting Istanbul in two days is still a challenge but with less of a rush than the first option above. After the classic trip to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, we will top it up with the Sunken Palace. Conveniently located at the heart of the Old City, this place was once used to be the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. Attracting visitors from all around the world, the Basilica Cistern is an absolute eye candy.
Let’s make our way up to the Grand Bazaar. You will surely remember this location from the movie Accidental Spy (If you haven’t watched it yet, you have no idea what you’re missing out on!) With all those spices and divine aromas that fill the air, Grand Bazaar can be an overwhelming beauty to handle. Give yourself a few minutes to take it all in and let’s keep on exploring this ancient bazaar, and maybe even shop till we drop.
Bosphorus Dinner Cruise
Bear in mind, we have an elegant occasion planned out for the night: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise, where the elegance of the Bosphorus meets the traditional flavors of Turkish cuisine. In this cruise tour that lasts around 3 hours, you will get to savour the gourmet zest of the local cuisine, enjoy the vivacious Turkish Folk tunes and oriental dances, all the while exploring the Bosphorus at night. With its blinking lights reflected on the deep blue sea and its ancient waterside mansions afar, the Bosphorus Dinner Cruise is the ultimate romantic getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Make sure to have a light coat with you as the Bosphorus breeze has no mercy on anyone 🙂
Hop on – Hop off Bus
After a good night sleep, the next day we will hop on the double-decker buses to delve into the hidden treasures of Istanbul. Taking these buses is the best way to squeeze many sights into a brief period of time. They are quick, easy and efficient. You can go for the Red Route, which takes you to the Old City, Taksim Square, Galata Bridge and the Bosphorus. The Blue Route, on the other hand, allows us to experience the Golden Horn and a cultural journey through different civilizations.
Visit Istanbul in 3 Days
You can join many activities three days in Istanbul. Visiting Istanbul in 3 days can be the best option for those who would like to get past the classic routes and have a deep understanding of the culture as well.
Topkapı Imperial Palace
For the first day, you can opt for any of the options above with a pleasant twist: Topkapı Palace Museum. To step into the history of the glorious Ottoman Empire, a visit to the Topkapı Palace is a must. Built in 13 years and finally opened in 1478, this splendid palace used to be the home sweet home of Ottoman Sultans and their mistresses for centuries. Remember to take a Turkish coffee break in Gülhane Park before setting out to visit the Grand Bazaar, where your senses are aroused by fresh herbs and aromatic spices.
Taksim and Galata
The next day, hop on the ferry and discover all that the Bosphorus strait offers during daytime. This is also the best spot to enjoy a cup of warm, dark-red Turkish tea.
On your third day in Istanbul, opt for the Red route of the double-decker bus to spend a day around Taksim and Galata. Get off at Taksim square and make your way down the Istiklal street. We will spend half a day to shop around Istiklal Street, where you will find all sorts of brands and luxury goods.
Ara Güler Cafe
All that walking is bound to build up an appetite. Just a hop, skip and a jump up the street, you will spot the all famous Ara Güler Café. Also known as the “Eye of Istanbul”, Ara Güler was was an Armenian-Turkish photojournalist famous for his depiction of Istanbul life through black and white photos.
Chocolate lovers, hands up! We’ve just caught you eyeing those chocolate bars at the buffet. Let us take you to the best chocolate spot in town for your sugar fix. Near the halfway mark of Istiklal street, make your way to the left and follow the backstreets. You will find yourself in the middle of a narrow dead-end street. Panic not! Just keep going till the end, where you will most probably find a long queue. J’adore is the frequented chocolatier of many Istanbulites. Away from the beaten track and the tourist crowds, this two story venue offers ooey-gooey chocolate desserts, the most famous being “Oh La La Beatrice”.
After the dessert break, we continue our walk. On your right, you can spot a narrow street that will take you to the famous Cezayir street, also known as the French street. Here, you can take lots of pretty photos with the colorful houses designed to remind the streets of France. Following the Tanzimat reforms which effectively started Turkey’s Europeanization process in 1839, new palaces and mosques were built in Neoclassical, Baroque and Rococo styles, or a mixture of all three. Especially during the first years of the Turkish Republic, the French had a big effect over the transition of Alaturca to the modern life. You can spot many classic European style architecture in and around Taksim.
A short walk from the Istiklal street will take you to the famous Galata Tower. Apart from the view of the Bosphorus it provides through its rooftop, the tower is mostly known for a man named Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi. The rumor goes that he had a passion for flying and he crafted his own wings to fly over the Bosphorus all the way to the Asian side of Istanbul. Who knows if he was successful? Galata Tower is a step into the history nevertheless.
Nightlife in Istanbul
If you’re keen to discover the city’s nightlife, head back to Taksim where all sort of bars, pubs and clubs are lined up along the Istiklal Street. Alternatively, you can take the nostalgic tram from Galata if you are not in the mood for walking back up the steep hill.
Visit Istanbul in 7 Days
You have a week in Istanbul. Hurray! You will get to make the most of your trip and soak up the culture in seven days Istanbul. There are many trendy as well as off the beaten path spots to check out throughout this week and here are some of the must-experience ones.
Starting with the all-time classics such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, now you have the extra time to spend visiting the Hippodrome that once was the social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. A few fragments of the original structure survived to this date and they are worth a visit.
A short tram ride can take you to the Ottoman Empire’s last palace, aka Dolmabahçe Palace. You need about an hour to visit this magnificent piece of architecture sitting right next to the Bosphorus. Beware, taking photos inside is not allowed.
Beşiktaş and Çırağan Palace
Moving on with your trip, walk to Beşiktaş which is about 20 minutes on foot, to check out the local hangouts scene. You can drop by a third wave coffee shop or keep it as authentic as possible with the good old traditional Turkish tea at a hole in the wall tea house. Alternatively, you can visit the Çırağan Palace Hotel for some fancy tea party with a breathtaking Bosphorus view.
Now that you are all the way down here, walk about 20 more minutes to reach Ortaköy, another touristic spot famous for its endless Kumpir stalls. Kumpir is a typical Turkish dish, made with a baked potato and various locally made toppings that you can choose from. We recommend adding Kısır and Haydari sauce as toppings, for a truly authentic Kumpir experience.
If you are in the mood for some original Turkish architecture, head to Arnavutköy. Here you can also have an extensive dinner mainly consisting of seafood delicacies. With a view over the Bosphorus, there are many seafood restaurants to try. Pair it up with a glass of Rakı, Turkish alcoholic beverage, and you are set to go for a Turkish night.
Next morning, check out the artistic scene of the city through an exhibition at Istanbul Modern or Pera Museum. The afternoon can be spent at a Turkish bath in Karaköy for a relaxing spa time. After the bath, stroll around the colorful streets of Karaköy, and check out the street arts, take photos in front of painted walls and staircases.
Bosphorus Boat Tour
The next day you can spend a pleasant morning sipping your tea or coffee across the Bosphorus. For this, simply get a Bosphorus boat tour. You can hop on and off at any stop you would like to explore more. Finish off your day at Çiçek Pasajı, aka the flower market, for a typical Turkish dinner accompanied with romantic Turkish music.
Sea Life Museum and Legoland Museum
If you have kids, or you have an inner child that wants to discover the city through more fun activities, save a day to visit the Sea Life Museum and Legoland Museum, that are located right next to each other. You will be amazed at the variety of the magnificent sea creatures while your children will get to enjoy building their own lego castles.
Hop on – Hop off Bus
The next day check out the routes the Hop-on & Hop-off Bus offers. As mentioned above, both routes take you through the most popular sights to visit, making sure you cover every inch of the city. To check out the Golden Horn above a hill, drop off the bus at around Pierre Loti and take a cable car to the top of the hill. Enjoy a cup of dark red Turkish tea before making your way back to the city center.
Now that you have visited each and every authentic spot in Istanbul, it is high time you make your way to Balat, a down-to-earth neighborhood of narrow cobbled streets and colorful houses. Here you can find trendy cafes and avant-garde art galleries, as well as centuries old Armenian, Jewish and Greek architecture that reflect the cosmopolitan face of Istanbul. Some of the crucial ones to cross off your list include the Bulgarian Church, the Greek Ecumenical Patriarchate basilica, and the Chora Museum.
With all these attractions to check out, you might be wondering how to manage it all and make the most out of your trip? Easy peasy! That’s where the Istanbul Tourist Pass steps in, assisting you with every detail to achieve perfection on your trip.
Istanbul Tourist Pass is much more than your average city sightseeing pass! We are your best friend and your personal guide in Istanbul who help you access over 20 top attractions and tours for free, skipping long queues via fast-track guided entry at top museums, gettin you to your hotel with free private airport transfer, keeping you connected with free wifi hotspot service, giving instant travel advice via free WhatsApp support and most important of all, saving your time and your money up to 65% off of regular prices if you were to buy all of these services separately.
Offering three options of 2 Days for 95 Euros, 3 Days for 115 Euros and 7 Days for 145 Euros per person, as well as group discounts, at Istanbul Tourist Pass, we aim to take care of all the complicated details for you to spend a pleasant stay in Istanbul.
The pass includes guided tours for the top attractions that the city offers such as the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern, Hagia Irene and many other museums. It also grants you access to Bosphorus Boat Trip, Hop on Hop off Bus, Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and many more. To check out the full list of attractions that the pass includes, visit here.
You can buy your pass with only a few clicks and start using it right away through instant online delivery. For more information on Istanbul Tourist Pass, check out the Frequently Asked Questions and our live chat support.
Remember, you aren’t visiting Istanbul every single day. Why break the bank and be miserable during your trip while you can easily pass lines, save time and money, and enjoy the city to the maximum?