Istanbul, or Constantinople because it was as soon as famously named, was the traditional capital of the Roman and Ottoman Empires. It was known as Basileousia, or “Queen of Cities” and even at present, it’s simple to see why.
3 days in Istanbul is simply sufficient time to see this vibrant and bustling metropolis is a large metropolis that spans two continents; Asia and Europe. As the capital of the Roman and Ottoman Empire, you’ll be able to look forward to finding a plethora of historic and engaging points of interest, from the enduring Blue Mosque, the traditional Hagia Sophia, the world’s oldest and largest coated market, The Grand Bazaar, and the underground cisterns. In this Istanbul itinerary, you’ll see all of those high points of interest and extra while you go to this superb metropolis.
The Perfect 3 Days in Istanbul Itinerary
If you solely have three days in Istanbul however wish to take advantage of out of your go to, don’t fret. In this three-day Istanbul itinerary, you’ll have the ability to discover all the key sights that make this nice metropolis so magical. We enlisted the assistance of The Turkey Traveler, the #1 journey weblog on all issues Turkey-related. Offering insider ideas, suggestions, and guides, The Turkey Traveler is your final useful resource that can assist you plan the proper journey while you go to Istanbul Turkey.
So, while you’re prepared for the proper Istanbul Itinerary? Let’s get began…
- Day 1 in Istanbul – Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet Square, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, a Sunset Bosphorus Cruise
- Day 2 in Istanbul – Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, Lunch At Eminonu, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Istiklal Street and Taksim
- Day 3 in Istanbul – Turkish Bath (Hammam), Kadikoy, Camlica Mosque, Uskudar
An effective way to discover Istanbul is to purchase an Istanbul Card. It is legitimate for 7 days from the primary interplay and consists of skip-the-line tickets to Istanbul’s high points of interest. It additionally consists of 10 rides for public transportation and vouchers to Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and a Bosphorus Cruise.
Day 1 – Sultanahmet – Historic Center
There isn’t any higher solution to begin exploring Istanbul than leaping straight into its historic heart – Sultanahmet. It is dwelling to a few of the most iconic historical landmarks in Turkey – from the Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque. No itinerary is full with no go to to this neighborhood.
After having fun with a conventional Turkish breakfast, you’ll have loads of power to discover the previous metropolis. Better often known as Kahvalti, a Turkish breakfast consists of cured meats and dips, contemporary cheeses, egg, and contemporary breads together with a Turkish bagel. After the savory you’ll take pleasure in pastries, honey, and jams.
The most well-known landmark in Istanbul is arguably Hagia Sophia, one of many oldest buildings in Istanbul.
In reality, the constructing was inbuilt 537, at a time when there was no Istanbul. When it was constructed, Istanbul was Constantinople, a reputation given to the town by the Byzantine Empire. For 1,100 years, Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. And it wasn’t till 1453 did the Ottoman Empire conquer it and named it Istanbul.
That is why Hagia Sophia was initially a Catholic Cathedral. Once the town was seized by the Ottomans, it was changed into some of the vital mosques within the metropolis.
In 1934, the mosque was transformed right into a museum by the federal government. In 2020, the Hagia Sophia turned a functioning mosque once more, a lot to the delight of the Turkish individuals.
The Hagia Sophia has 4 minarets, which signifies that the mosque was constructed by the sultan. Its exterior is attractive with hints of crimson and gold, however the inside will amaze you even additional. It has huge marble slabs and a 32-meter principal dome that exudes nothing however opulence.
- Opening Hours: April to October: 9am to 7 pm day by day November to March – 9am to 6pm. (closed on Mondays)
- Free entry to Hagia Sophia with museum pass or 72TL if paying on the entrance.
- Tram cease – Sultanahmet
The Blue Mosque
Just minutes away from the historic Hagia Sophia is one other considered one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks – The Blue Mosque also called the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Though the Blue Mosque may look extra spectacular than the Hagia Sophia, particularly with its unintended 6 minarets, the Blue Mosque was solely constructed round 400 years in the past.
Parts of the Grand Palace of Constantinople have been destroyed to construct The Blue Mosque. There isn’t a whole lot of historical past to The Blue Mosque, besides that it was constructed by Sultan Ahmed I to spice up the morale of the Turkish individuals after the Fifteen Years’ War.
From the outside, you may surprise how The Blue Mosque received its title. None of its exterior is blue. Visitors will perceive as soon as they step inside this non secular landmark how the mosque received its title.
The dome of the mosque is roofed with ornamental blue ceramic tiles that characteristic conventional Ottoman patterns. Along with the Islamic-style ornaments that dot this huge constructing, the Blue Mosque is solely an architectural masterpiece.
Though it won’t be as historic as Hagia Sophia, its charming decor goes to make you fall in love!
After visiting the 2 most iconic mosques in Istanbul, stroll round Sultanahmet Square. This is the park that connects each The Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque, but it surely has rather more to supply guests.
Check out the Obelisk of Theodosius, an Egyptian obelisk that was re-erected right here within the 4th century AD.
The park is stuffed with adorned fountains constructed in the course of the Ottoman interval. They served as consuming water for vacationers and a spot the place Muslims might purify themselves earlier than coming into a mosque to hope.
Before the Ottomans took over Istanbul, Sultanahmet Square was a Hippodrome, an historic Greek stadium for horse racing and chariot racing. That is why you may discover the odd form of the park.
Before you head off to the subsequent cease of our 3-day Istanbul itinerary, think about what it was like again then!
See if yow will discover a spot that sells Turkish Ice Cream, in any other case referred to as dondurma. The Turkish ice cream right here comes with slightly efficiency while you purchase it, and that alone is value each penny (or Lira)!
Minutes away from Sultanahmet Square is among the most important buildings for the day-to-day lifetime of the Byzantine Empire – the Basilica Cistern. Built in 532 by Emperor Justinian, the Basilica Cistern is the largest of the a whole bunch of cisterns that exist beneath Istanbul.
Many of those cisterns have collapsed over time, however due to the Basilica Cistern’s 336 columns and many maintenance, the cistern is open to guests. Most of the columns got here from salvaged temples and guests can nonetheless see the carvings on lots of them.
The cisterns have been an underground reservoir water system that was designed to carry massive portions of water and accumulate rainwater. This water is then equipped to all the metropolis so that everybody can have clear water to make use of. It’s some of the unbelievable historic Greek applied sciences. This tour gives skip the ticket strains to enter the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern with a neighborhood host.
- Opening Hours: Wednesday-Monday: 9 am to 7pm (from November to march 9 am to 5pm) Closed on Tuesdays.
- Cost: 72 TL (word this doesn’t embody the Harem) To ebook the Harem, it’s one other 42 TL)
Topkapi Palace was inbuilt 1460 after the conquest of Constantinople to function the house and administrative constructing for the Ottoman sultans. It took a complete of 18 years to finish.
The grandeur of the Topkapi Palace is plain, but it surely wasn’t sufficient for the Ottoman sultans. Starting within the seventeenth century, the sultans began to favor spending their time of their palaces alongside the Bosphorus Strait.
In the mid-Nineteenth century, Topkapi Palace was not in use and was changed into a museum. Inside, guests will discover tons of displays on Turkish historical past, massive courtyards, and exquisite gardens.
But maybe essentially the most well-known part of the Topkapi Palace Museum is the Harem, a non-public quarter the place the feminine members of the sultan’s household lived. The tiling contained in the Harem is equally beautiful, if not, extra beautiful than those within the Blue Mosque.
Along with the stained glass home windows and complex patterns all through the entire inside, the Harem is nothing lower than breathtaking. Get a skip the line ticket that features a guided tour of the Audience Hall, High Court, Historical Kitchens, and The Treasury.
Sunset Bosphorus Cruise
No Istanbul itinerary is full with out having fun with a Bosphorus sundown cruise. The cruise departs from the Golden Horn and cruises across the Bosphorus Strait, some of the traditionally necessary our bodies of water.
Today, the Bosphorus Strait acts because the boundary between Europe and Asia, so company technically get a tour of two continents!
All Bosphorus sundown cruises will showcase a few of the most necessary buildings alongside the Bosphorus Strait, such because the Dolmabahce Palace and Maiden’s Tower. Guests may go below the spectacular Bosphorus Bridge that connects Istanbul’s European aspect and Asian sides.
Depending on the kind of cruise you’ve chosen, there is likely to be meals and leisure on board. We suggest deciding on an opulent Bosphorus dinner cruise, so you’ll be able to have the possibility to pattern conventional Turkish meals like meze and raki, in addition to expertise cultural dance just like the Whirling Dervishes whereas sipping on Turkish espresso.
We took a yacht cruise to absorb the sights, and this cruise takes you on a 2.5-hour boat cruise of the Bosphorus Strait to see Istanbul’s high points of interest together with Galata Tower and the Dolmabahçe Palace, each the Asian and European Coasts the Küçüksu Palace which was the searching lodge of the Ottoman Empire.
Day 2 – Sultanahmet and Taksim
You’ll be strolling rather a lot on the second day of our 3-day Istanbul itinerary, so be sure to put on one thing snug at present! On the second day, you’ll end exploring the sight in Sultanahmet and head throughout the Galata Bridge into Taksim, the so-called trendy heart of Istanbul.
Start your second day in Istanbul with one of many oldest and largest coated markets on the earth – Grand Bazaar. It has an estimated whole of 61 streets and over 4000 outlets, that means that guests can spend a complete day right here and doubtless not see all the things.
An interesting fact about Grand Bazaar – it’s thought-about the primary shopping center on the earth, which makes it the proper place to buy some souvenirs!
You can discover quite a lot of stuff right here – from low-cost counterfeits to antiques. But if you’re in search of one thing to recollect your journey by, then we suggest getting a pleasant Turkish rug, a Turkish lantern, or a nazar amulet.
When you might be drained from strolling up and down the streets, loosen up in one of many native tea outlets. Have a pleasant Turkish Tea (çay in Turkish) and a neighborhood snack earlier than you proceed.
If you resolve to buy one thing (which you completely ought to), don’t overlook to barter! The Turkish are superb salesmen and you may pay much more than what the merchandise is value!
- Hours: 10 am to 6pm
- Tram Stop – Beyazit Kapaliçarsi
Located a couple of minutes from the Grand Bazaar is the Spice Market. Unlike the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is quite small. There are solely two streets, they usually kind the letter L.
Constructed within the seventeenth Century, the Spice Bazaar is far newer than the Grand Bazaar and guests can instantly inform by the second they stroll in. It is rather more modern-looking and chic than the Grand Bazaar.
But maybe essentially the most putting characteristic of the Spice Bazaar is the odor. When you go in, your scent is instantly overwhelmed by the completely different spices. A mixture of sweat, tea, spices, and herbs create a novel odor that’s iconic to the Spice Market. If you wish to buy Turkish tea, the Spice Bazaar is a good place to take action.
- Hours: 10 am to 6pm
- Tram Stop – Beyazit – Kapaliçarsi
Lunch At Eminonu
Once you have got completed your purchasing spree in these bazaars, it’s time to pattern some native meals. Luckily, Eminonu, the neighborhood the place the Spice Bazaar is positioned, is the proper place to take action.
This bustling neighborhood is a good place to pattern Turkish food. Unlike eating places in Sultanahmet which are focused towards vacationers, the eating places right here appeal to locals due to their reasonably priced costs and easy Turkish flavors.
The greatest solution to expertise Eminonu is to stroll round and see what you want. Our favourite restaurant in Eminonu is Sehzade Cag Kebap. Its lamb sis kebap is so wealthy in taste and melts in your mouth!
After a hearty lunch, it’s time to proceed exploring Istanbul. Head over to the Galata Bridge, which connects the historic heart of Istanbul with its trendy heart. The bridge spans throughout the Golden Horn, an iconic physique of water and some of the in style spots for fishing.
It shouldn’t be unusual to see native fishermen lined up from one aspect of the bridge all the best way to the opposite.
All the fishermen carry forth a ton of seagulls. Combined with the multitude of pedestrians and boats coming from out and in, strolling throughout Galata Bridge is an iconic second. Though solely 490 meters lengthy, it might probably take a little bit of time to get throughout!
Perhaps essentially the most well-known attraction within the trendy heart of Istanbul is Galata Tower within the Beyo?lu District. The tower was inbuilt 1348 below the rule of the Byzantine Empire. At 63 meters above the bottom, it was the tallest tower again then and served as a part of Constantinople’s fortification.
Nowadays, the Galata Tower is among the greatest locations in Istanbul for panoramic views of the town. From the balcony, you’ll be able to see Sultanahmet, Golden Horn, Bosphorus Strait, and even the Asian aspect of Istanbul on a superb day.
Besides admiring the spectacular views, be sure to discover the displays that element the historical past of the Galata Tower. This tower was an necessary a part of each the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire’s historical past.
- Opening Hours of Galata Tower: 9 am to 7 pm
- Cost: 35 TL
Istiklal Street and Taksim
The final exercise on the second day of our 3 days in Istanbul itinerary is to discover Istiklal Street and the Taksim neighborhood.
Istiklal Street is a 1.4-kilometer (0.87-mile) pedestrian-only road in Istanbul that’s at all times bustling. Home to quite a few eating places, fashionable bars, and stylish cafes, you’ll be able to spend hours right here and never see a few of the greatest issues it has to supply.
Here you’ll discover the historic Istiklal tram that covers half the span of Istiklal Street. Though it is likely to be tempting to get on it and save your self a while, the tram might be slower than strolling due to all of the pedestrian site visitors!
The greatest solution to see Istiklal Street is to simply stroll round and go into any outlets which may fancy you. Don’t miss the dessert outlets and the possibility to check out baklava, the nationwide dessert of
Turkey. There are many flavors to it however you’ll be able to’t go fallacious with the unique pistachio taste.
As you stroll up Istiklal Street, you’ll ultimately end up in Taksim Square. Many individuals contemplate Taksim Square to be the guts of contemporary Istanbul, and also you’ll actually see much more worldwide manufacturers equivalent to Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Marriott, and the likes right here.
On the western aspect of Taksim Square (close to the doorway of Istiklal Street) are a number of doner kebabs outlets. If you haven’t gotten the possibility to strive them but, that is the place to go. Just anticipate a protracted queue and a whole lot of hungry individuals shoving round!
Before you allow, take pleasure in a pleasant dinner at one of many rooftop eating places close to Taksim. Our favourite is 360 Istanbul, and it has earned its title for the 360-degree views its penthouse gives. 360 Istanbul normally turns into a pleasant nightlife venue later within the evening.
If you wish to take a look at the nightlife in Istanbul, this can be a excellent spot to take action. Otherwise, there are quite a few choices alongside Istiklal road!
An important journey tip is to get an Istanbul Museum Pass to skip the road to in style museums like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Harem, Great Palace Mosaics and extra in style museums in Istanbul with the guided tour app. Check out this go here.
Day 3 – Asian Side Of Istanbul
Our final day in Istanbul covers the Asian aspect of Istanbul and in addition gives one thing slightly extra stress-free.
Turkish Bath (Hammam)
After a protracted day of strolling round Istanbul, I feel it’s time to loosen up. Luckily, there may be the proper place in Istanbul to take action – a Turkish Bath, or Hammam in Turkish.
Turkish Baths have been an necessary a part of Islamic tradition, serving as a spot the place guests can cleanse themselves earlier than coming into a mosque, and a spot the place company can socialize.
Nowadays, a Turkish Bath is extra of a soothing expertise the place company can come out fully refreshed and one of many best things to do in Istanbul.
There are loads of Hammams in Istanbul, however we suggest Ca?alo?lu Hammam. Built in 1741, it is among the final baths constructed below the Ottoman Empire. The inside of the Ca?alo?lu Hammam is attractive and appears like a museum of its personal.
When it involves experiencing a Turkish Bath, there are lots of packages to select from. Depending on the way you wish to be pampered, you’ll be able to select one thing that’s extra complete or one thing shorter.
Before you go, be sure to take a look at the completely different packages Ca?alo?lu Hammam gives on their official site!
Now that you just’ve skilled the primary points of interest on Istanbul’s European aspect, it’s time to head over to the Asian aspect. The Asian aspect is thought for its unbelievable meals and extra laid-back life-style. With loads of residential areas, it is among the greatest locations to remain in Istanbul for households.
Our first cease on the Asian aspect is Kadikoy, a neighborhood identified for its reasonably priced eating places with genuine flavors. Seafood is a specialty on the Asian aspect, so don’t miss out on the possibility to strive some stuffed mussels and fish sandwiches!
Head in the direction of the sub-neighborhood of Moda, the place yow will discover a promenade alongside the Bosphorus Strait. Go for a brief stroll and take within the spectacular views and refreshing sea air earlier than heading to your subsequent vacation spot!
Built in 2019, the Camlica Mosque is a brand new attraction you don’t usually discover in any guidebooks. But if you’re following our Istanbul itinerary, you’ll not miss out on this hidden gem.
The Camlica Mosque is the largest mosque in all of Turkey and its trendy building makes it a spectacular landmark. Besides being a mosque, it options an artwork gallery, a library, and a museum.
Everything within the Camlica Mosque simply speaks of luxurious and opulence.
Don’t miss out on the huge courtyard that boasts spectacular views of the Bosphorus Bridge. Perched on high of a hill, the views from there are beautiful. The Camlica Mosque is located in Camlica Park, an enormous inexperienced area that’s in style for households to benefit from the outdoor.
If you might be nonetheless early within the afternoon, spend a while strolling round. You’ll be grateful for some contemporary air after the previous 2 days on the European Side.
After you might be executed exploring the Camlica Mosque and its huge grounds, head over to the quaint neighborhood of Uskudar on the Asian Side. This neighborhood is thought for its bustling fish markets and a long-stretching promenade with tons of cozy cafes.
Facing west, the shores of this seaside neighborhood is among the greatest locations to catch the sundown in Istanbul. But what makes Uskudar much more beautiful is the historic Maiden’s Tower that sits just some hundred meters off the shore.
At the appropriate spot, the solar units behind this Byzantine-era fortification and its silhouette is simply spectacular.
After the solar units, stroll across the neighborhood and discover a seafood restaurant with a view for dinner!
Where to Stay in Istanbul
- Swissotel The Bosphorus – This five-star luxurious resort proper is within the centre of Istanbul on the European banks of the Bosphorus. It is an ideal location for exploring Istanbul with a rooftop pool and free WiFi. Check out Availability & Prices at Booking.com/Trip Advisor
- Sura Hagia Sophia – Located in Sultanahmet, this 5-star resort is completely located to all the primary points of interest. The resort additionally gives a well-designed backyard with a lovely pool space and Free Happy Hour. Check out Availability & PricesBooking.com/Trip Advisor
- Elite World Europe Hotel – Situated near the airport, this newly-opened resort gives luxurious at finances costs. Perfect for a layover or to keep away from Istanbul site visitors you probably have a flight leaving within the early morning hours. Check out Availability & Prices Booking.com/Trip Advisor
Tips For Visiting Istanbul
- Bring snug sneakers – Istanbul is a metropolis that’s greatest found on foot. The metropolis has a nickname of “City on the Seven Hills”, so be sure to carry some snug sneakers to stroll across the metropolis!
- Dress conservatively – Though Turkey is barely extra liberal than most Muslim international locations, it’s nonetheless a Muslim nation. Make certain you received’t put on one thing too revealing. For the mosques, males can’t put on tank tops and their pants should cowl their knees. Hats are additionally not allowed. Women should cowl their heads, shoulders, and knees. You’ll have to put on a shawl to cowl your head earlier than you enter.
- Be Mindful of the Prayer Times – If you propose on visiting the mosques, be sure to take a look at the prayer instances. Visitors aren’t welcome throughout this time.
- Get an Istanbulkart – The Istanbulkart is a necessity when utilizing Istanbul’s transportation system. It is a great contactless card that’s used to pay the fare. You can get one from most main public transportation stations.
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To get to and from the airport, we (Dave and Deb) took TransferExpert.com. Their providers have been skilled and pleasant! It was good to have an indication with our title on it ready for us after we landed on the hectic airport.