When you are planning your visit ahead of time, one of the most crucial and baffling things to figure out is how many days to budget for a city. Many times, we notice we either overstay or don’t get to see everything a city has to offer. The crucial thing here is to make an itinerary matching your timeline and your needs.
Being a vast city full of history, Istanbul may require a longer time to tackle. But with this carefully crafted itinerary, you’ll get the essence of the city in three days and will get to see the most important parts.
The lucky thing about visiting Istanbul is that, a lot of historical artifacts are located close to each other. Some of the most famous architectural masterpieces are within walking distance of each other and people spending only one day in Istanbul tend to visit these sights and they can all be visited on the first day of a 3-day-itinerary.
Rebuilt twice after facing earthquakes, rebellions and fires, Hagia Sophia has witnessed a lot. The third Hagia Sophia we know today was built in the 6th century and it was meant as a place of religious and social gathering. With the beginning of the Ottoman Empire’s rule in the city, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque. Today, it is a cherished museum with its mesmerizing interior and fascinating dome. It is a must-see in Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul and there is the waiting line to prove it. To avoid that, we recommend you to get a skip-the-line ticket with guided tour.
Blue Mosque is an amazing architectural structure from the Ottoman Empire and one of the most loved mosques in Turkey. Inside the mosque, each of the lower piers has 20,000 wonderful handmade ceramic tiles. The upper levels have more colorful tiles which being predominantly blue are responsible for the name Blue Mosque. It is important to note that visitors are not allowed to enter during prayer times and there is a dress code that requires one not to wear shorts or revealing clothes.
Basilica Cistern is 150 meters away from the famous Hagia Sophia and it is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern. Back in the Byzantine days, it was used to collect and supply water for Constantinople. Surprisingly, citizens of Constantinople stopped using it during a move and the Basilica Cistern was forgotten until the 16th century when a scholar learned of it while trying to rediscover Byzantine artifacts in Istanbul.
Today the Basilica Cistern is not used to its full capacity so that the storage chambers will be empty enough to allow visitors to view its architecture and enjoy the atmosphere. Basilica Cistern is a sight to see and visited by many. If you’d like to skip the waiting line and want to find out more about the interesting history of Basilica Cistern, get a skip-in-line ticket with a guided tour.
Topkapi Palace was home to the sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to 19th century. Nowadays it is a large museum that showcases the tumultuous and amazing history of the rulers of the empire. With an extra ticket, you can also visit the harem section where the ladies of the court resided. This is also a large section in itself with more than 300 rooms and different facilities.
Topkapi Museum is a very large and popular museum with a rich history. If you’d like to pass the crowds waiting for their ticket and learn about the colorful history of the enigmatic rooms and heirlooms, book a skip-in-line ticket with a guided tour here.
The best way to end a day filled with history and architecture would be to watch the unique and brilliant show from the whirling dervishes. Seeing the whirling dervishes getting lost in their impossible-looking, 800-year-old movements is something not to be missed. You can get more information about the show and book your tickets here.
After seeing the most important historical sights on your first day, the second day can get a bit more relaxing with some shopping and sightseeing, Istanbul-style.
The Grand Bazaar is very different from a usual shopping center, it is one of the oldest and largest market places in the world. Around 250,000 to 400,000 people visit and shop here each day. Here you can find all kinds of unique souvenirs that can remind you of your time in Turkey and get gifts for your friends. Turkish handmade rugs are of great quality and the lamps sold there can bring a cool eastern style to your home. Better be careful to not get lost in this market that is home to 4,000 different shops and don’t forget to haggle!
Galata Tower is a beautiful, historical stone tower of 63 meters (206 feet) that offers panoramic views of the Bosphorus. As is the case with many places offering these views, Galata Tower requires some ascending. The good news is, there is a lift that takes you up and you will only need to go up the last two stairs to go to the view deck. It is a part of town that is definitely worth the visit and you can make it an afternoon activity by both visiting Galata Tower and walking around the historical neighborhood around it.
This busy and historical street is one of the places that many visitors and locals of Istanbul pass by during the day. It has many nice shops, cafes, pubs and unique products you can try. The street is reserved for the use of pedestrians except for a red tram passing in the middle every once in a while, which is one of the hallmarks of this famous cobble-stoned street.
An Istanbul experience is not complete until you’ve experienced the Turkish Bath. Bathing on steamy marbles hundreds of years old in these historical baths is a very unique and relaxing experience. On top of having a nice hot bath, you get to enjoy a traditional Turkish bath massage. It is very refreshing and pleasant when given by the right people. You can book your ticket for one of the best and oldest hamams in Istanbul here.
The best way to end your second day is to go on a sunset cruise of the Bosphorus, between the two continents. Watching the skyline of Istanbul and seeing the different sides of this buzzing city during sunset is a once-in-a-lifetime activity that shouldn’t be missed. You can browse our detailed guide about Bosphorus Tours or just book tickets for Bosphorus sunset cruise directly here.
After spending two whole days in busy and colorful Istanbul, you might want to see a different part of Istanbul. Princes’ Islands are the perfect answer for that.
The name of the islands come from the early Ottoman history and the Byzantine times. Back then, these islands were a location reserved for exiled princes and monks who got in trouble.
When you hear the word islands, it may sound like a resort town with beaches, but that is not the case. These islands are more of a romantic scene with cobblestone roads, beautiful gardens and lovely houses. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the islands, so you can rent a bike or get a horse carriage. If you get frustrated with the big city traffic of Istanbul, the Islands are the perfect place for a day trip to escape to and to rest and recharge.
If you’d like to get your day trip taken care of for you and relax, book tickets for a Princes’ Islands Tour.
Note: If you’d like to see some of these places at your own pace and your way, you can craft your own tour with a tour guide showing you around the places you select. If you prefer this method, here you can contact a highly reputable company and tour guide.