If you only have two days in Istanbul and are feeling a bit overwhelmed with what to do in those days, no need to worry! We’ve prepared a two-day-guide for you to maximize your Istanbul experience that’s packed with all the essential culture experiences highlighting the beauty of Istanbul.
The great thing about visiting Istanbul for a short time is that most of the important sights are within walking distance of one another on the European side. So it’s actually possible to visit most of the must-see locations in Istanbul in just one day. Day 1 of our travel guide will cover these places.
Hagia Sophia is one of the most resilient structures in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was first built in the 4th century. Suffering from the effects of fires and an earthquake, it was rebuilt twice after. The thing that most dazzles visitors today in the current Hagia Sophia which was built almost 15 centuries ago is the dome that looks as if its floating in thin air. Starting off as a church, Hagia Sophia then became a mosque and in the end turned into a museum. Hagia Sophia has a unique and groundbreaking architectural style and beautiful interiors. It’s a definite must-see in Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia is one of the most intriguing places in Istanbul and on the list of almost every visitor who ever comes to Istanbul. This causes long waiting lines for tickets and entrance. We strongly recommend you to get a skip-in-line ticket with a guided tour to avoid waiting and losing precious time on a tight schedule.
Residing in the same area as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque is one of most well-known mosques in Turkey. Its amazing architecture and thousands of beautiful, hand-made tiles inside makes visiting Blue Mosque a truly unique experience. The dominant blue color of the tiles in the upper section is where the name Blue Mosque comes from. Since it’s a place of worship, visitors are advised to wear modest clothes that don’t show too much skin.
Basilica Cistern was used to collect water and provide it to the citizens of Constantinople back in Byzantine times. After residents were relocated to a new complex, it was completely forgotten by the people of Constantinople and it was not used for centuries. In the 16th century, it was rediscovered by a scholar after conversations he had with local people who told him they were able to lower their buckets through their basement floors and obtain water.
Today the water storage capacity is not used to the maximum so that people can enjoy the beautiful columns and atmosphere of the cistern. With its unique past and appearance, Basilica Cistern is a very popular sight for visitors. We suggest getting a skip-in-line ticket with guided tour to avoid the crowds of the ticket line.
If you’re interested in the history of Istanbul, Topkapi Palace, with its fascinating history, is a place you should definitely visit. The palace was used by Ottoman Sultans as a home and their place of business between the 15th and 19th centuries. The harem section alone, where the ladies of the court resided, is about 300 rooms. Filled with rooms that witnessed this vibrant history, Topkapi palace shouldn’t be missed. In order not to wait in long lines and not miss out on the fascinating information, you may book a guided tour with skip- in line ticket.
After spending a day filled with beauty, history and culture, the most fitting end would be watching the amazing performance of the whirling dervishes. This unique experience showcases the dervishes practicing their 800-year-old mind blowing movements.
On the first day you visited some of the most important historical locations in Istanbul. On the second day, you can visit breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and go shopping in some of Istanbul’s most historical locations.
The Grand Bazaar is very different from usual shopping malls. It has more than 4,000 shops in it that sell unique items from all over Turkey. Some of these items such as rugs and towels are famous for their quality and texture and the colorful lamps are a great way to lighten up your home. 250,000 to 400,000 people visit the Grand Bazaar each day and get souvenirs or necessities for themselves and loved ones. If you’re in Istanbul, this 550-year-old labyrinth of a bazaar is the perfect place to find gifts for your loved ones and yourself.
Galata Tower is one of the most beautiful historical structures of Istanbul. This 63-meter-high stone tower is not only great to look at, but it also offers amazing panoramic views of Istanbul from it’s uppermost level. There’s an elevator inside that makes reaching to the top very easy, and once you do, you can fill your camera with Instagram-worthy photos. The neighborhood around Galata Tower is a beautiful historical district that has hidden gems on each street. You can spend some of the afternoon by visiting Galata Tower and strolling around this historical neighborhood.
One of the last stops of a perfect Istanbul getaway is a Turkish Bath. Going to a Turkish Bath is a truly unique and extremely relaxing experience. It can help you recharge after two busy days of sightseeing and touring around. But you have to be careful when you’re picking a Turkish Bath. If it’s not a good one, it can be a “unique” experience that you’ll remember for years for all the wrong reasons.
Here’s another completely unique activity that you shouldn’t leave Istanbul without experiencing. Sunset cruises are one of our favorite things to do in Istanbul, watching the sun set between Europe and Asia. Looking over the beautiful diverse skyline of Istanbul dotted with minarets and modern buildings under the mosaic colors of the sunset is a truly wonderful experience. Since it’s a favorite activity of many visitors, there are lots of companies offering these cruises. You can check out the page here about Bosphorus tours to get detailed information, or you can book a ticket from one of the best companies here.