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3 Days in Istanbul

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The top sights to see on your first time in Istanbul!

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Thrifty Traveler
  • Like a Local

16 Places

3 City Tips

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16 Places

Day 1

Blue Mosque

Religious Sites

Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)

Architectural Buildings, Religious Sites, History Museums, Historic Sites

Basilica Cistern

Ancient Ruins

Topkapi Palace

History Museums, Museums

Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi

Religious Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks

Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)

Flea & Street Markets

Cemberlitas Hamami

Spas

Day 2

Spice Bazaar

Specialty & Gift Shops

Meshur Eminonu Balikcisi

Restaurants

Galata Bridge

Bridges

Galata Tower

Historic Sites, Observation Decks & Towers

Beyoglu

Neighborhoods

Mikla Restaurant

Restaurants

Istiklal Street

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Taksim Square

Neighborhoods

Day 3

Sehir Hatlari Cruise

Boat Tours

Chris O's City Tips

  • The city's public transportation is modern, clean, efficient and inexpensive. For many visitors (and locals), the tram system is an especially handy way to get around.
  • Keep in mind that Istanbul is a very hilly city: Wear comfortable shoes when hitting the streets.
  • Dress modestly and remember that some of the city's most popular attractions, such as the Blue Mosque, are actually religious destinations as well - be respectful!
    Day 1
  • Save
    Blue Mosque
    Religious Sites
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Dating from the early 1600s, the historic Sultan Ahmed Mosque is more commonly know as the Blue Mosque for the many blue tiles adorning its walls, as well as its giant blue stained glass windows and blue painted ceilings. You might want to do some neck limbering exercises before entering because you'll be looking up in awe the whole time you're here!

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Men would be wise not to wear shorts and women should cover thighs, shoulders, tops of upper arms and hair.
    • Bring your own socks! You'll need to take your shoes off to enter the mosque.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • my choice of the best mosques between the 14000 05/29/2015
    • Amazing but lots of visitors! 05/29/2015
    • Blue Mosque
    Address:
    Sultanahmet
    Istanbul 222
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 518 13 19
    Other:
  • Save
    Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
    Architectural Buildings, Religious Sites, History Museums, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    One time Greek Orthodox basilica, one time imperial mosque, this architectural marvel and cultural landmark is now a museum. When you go, keep an eye out for the “Viking graffiti” that was carved into the wooden rails of the top floor.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Lines for purchasing tickets here can be daunting. Consider buying yours online in advance.
    • The museum is closed on Mondays and some religious holidays.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A wonderous site 05/29/2015
    • First time to Istanbul 05/29/2015
    • Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya)
    Address:
    Ayasofya Square, Sultanahmet
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 212 522 1750
    Other:
  • Save
    Basilica Cistern
    Ancient Ruins
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    The largest of the many hundred ancient cisterns lying beneath the streets of modern Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is one of the city's top historical attractions. While it's just as amazing to visit as any of the others, it's usually not nearly as crowded.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Check to see if there are any upcoming concerts - an amazing opportunity to enjoy its unique acoustics.
    • Brush up on your “night photography” skills here, and bring a small tripod for super cool pics of the cistern's columns reflection in the water.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #6 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Jaw dropping Roman Cistern 05/29/2015
    • My favor photo site in Istanbul 05/29/2015
    • Basilica Cistern
    Address:
    Imran Oktem Cad. No:4 D:5 Sultanahmet, Fatih
    Near St. Sophia
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90-212 522 12 59
    Other:
  • Save
    Topkapi Palace
    History Museums, Museums
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Get ready to be dazzled and amazed – not only by the array of jewels and artefacts from Topkapi's collection, but also by the panoramic views of the Bosphorus. The lavish seat of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, Topkapi Palace is a must for any first-time visitor to Istanbul!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Planning to see the Sacred Relics (Abraham’s Pot, Moses’s Staff, David’s Sword, Muhammad’s footprints and more)? Don't wear shorts, miniskirts, tank tops or strapless clothing.
    • Do not leave the palace without a visit to its harem!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • The Best of the Big Three 05/29/2015
    • One full day is not enough 05/29/2015
    • Topkapi Palace
    Phone:
    (0212) 522 44 22
    Other:
  • Save
    Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi
    Religious Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Whether or not you want to partake in smoking some flavoured tobacco from the hubbly bubbly shisha pipes, you'll love the traditional tea and Turkish coffee here. Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi is an evocative spot to relax and unwind - popular with tourists and locals alike. Even walking down the covered passage from the bustling street into Corlulu's courtyard - with its myriad rooms decked out with all sorts of antiques and age old décor - is a delight for the senses.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    Tips
    • Apple seems to be the most popular and tastiest tobacco option here.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #51 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Exotic atmosphere 05/26/2015
    • Sheesha lovers a def recommended 05/20/2015
    • Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi
    Address:
    Mollafenari Mh.
    Istanbul
    Turkey
  • Save
    Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
    Flea & Street Markets
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Don't worry if you get a little lost while exploring the Grand Bazaar - with its dozens of covered streets, thousands of shops and hundreds of thousands of daily visitors, it can be a little overwhelming! The bazaar, also known as Kapali Caris, is really something to see though, offering an unparalled shopping experience brimming with vibrant culture and living history. So enjoy it; just be sure to keep an eye on your belongings and pay attention to the signage pointing to the different exits.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • Actually shopping and not just gawking in bewildered amazement? It would be rude not to haggle!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #59 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Just fake designer goods and you have to haggle HARD 05/29/2015
    • Worth a visit but not great 05/29/2015
    • Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)
    Address:
    Beyazit Gate
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    21-+90-534-631-01
    Other:
  • Save
    Cemberlitas Hamami
    Spas
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Affordable luxury is offered at this historic hamam situated next to the Grand Bazaar. Dating back to 1584, Cemberlitas Hamami is a truly authentic Turkish Bath. Booking an appointment here is a squeaky clean way to soak up ancient culture.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveler
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    Tips
    • Baths are divided by sex here. There are mixed hamams in Istanbul but for the traditional experience, Cemberlitas is hard to beat.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #7 of 107 Spas & Wellness in Istanbul
    • Relaxing 05/29/2015
    • Relax at the end of the day 05/28/2015
    • Cemberlitas Hamami
    Address:
    8 Vezirhan Caddesi
    Çemberlitaş
    Istanbul 34440
    Turkey
    Phone:
    90 212 522 79 74
    Other:
  • Day 2
  • Save
    Spice Bazaar
    Specialty & Gift Shops
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Istanbul's Spice Bazaar is a centuries-old foodie wonderland that's as exciting to visit as it is budget friendly and delectable! Whether you're foraging your way through this aromatic labyrinth of yum, shopping for gifts, or just taking it all in, it's without doubt a sight to behold (and to smell)!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • Love pastrami? Check out the Cankurtaran Gida shop for this and plenty more traditional Turkish meats and cheeses.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #17 of 407 Shopping in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Skip the Grand bazaar - the spice bazaar is much better. 05/29/2015
    • Totally unexpected 05/28/2015
    • Spice Bazaar
    Address:
    Rustem Pasa Mahallesi 34116 Istanbul, Turkey
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    5376466331
    Other:
  • Save
    Meshur Eminonu Balikcisi
    Restaurants (Seafood)
    Chris O Says:

    You can't miss these gawdy boats rocking alongside the Eminonu Pier at the “Old City” side of Galata Bridge, and nor should you. And why exactly are the boats bobbing back and forth in steady rhythm? The cooks working in their kitchens are tossing Istanbul's favorite street food to the waiters working the tables on land, that's why! For a cheap and fun snack served in singular style, Eminonu's swinging boat restaurants are ace!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    Tips
    • The sandwiches from the boats are basically just bread and fish. For condiments such as the traditional pickles, you'll need to pay a nominal fee at a kiosk next to the boats.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #825 of 4,915 restaurants in Istanbul
    • Norwegian mackerel but otherwise uniquely Turkish 05/13/2015
    • Good admosphere. 05/03/2015
    • Meshur Eminonu Balikcisi
    Address:
    Yeni Galata Koprusu D:25
    Eminonu/Cagaloglu, Fatih
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    5288208
  • Save
    Galata Bridge
    Bridges
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    There's been some sort of bridge spanning the Golden Horn from “old” Eminonu to “new” Beyoglu since at least the 6th century, and today's pedestrian-friendly Galata Bridge is as much a link between ancient and modern as ever. It's still a hot spot for local fishermen too and a great vantage point for admiring the sunsets for which Istanbul is famous. Shutterbugs, this location is for you!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Trendsetter
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • You would have to be blind (and deaf) not to notice all the bars and restaurants on the bridge. But be aware there are far better and more authentic places to eat than here.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #81 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Buzzy place, avoid the big restaurants and look for the cool wooden cafe 05/29/2015
    • Awesome place 05/28/2015
    • Galata Bridge
    Address:
    Hobyar Eminonu Mh., Hoca Kasim Koprusu Sk
    Istanbul
    Turkey
  • Save
    Galata Tower
    Historic Sites, Observation Decks & Towers
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    The 1,500-year-old Galata Tower is an enduring and iconic landmark of Istanbul, and despite the many modern towers and rooftop bars and restaurants, this medieval stone tower still offers some of the best views of the city, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    Tips
    • The tower is open from 9am - 8 pm daily - at the height of tourist season, lines can be long, so plan to visit early.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #49 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Totally worth it on the right Day 05/28/2015
    • Prices now higher than ever 05/28/2015
    • Galata Tower
    Address:
    Buyuk Hendek Cad.
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    212 293 8180
    Other:
  • Save
    Beyoglu
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Take the Beyoğlu Tünel funicular to spare your legs from the steep climb to Beyoğlu Square and then make time to explore this beautiful neighborhood, renowned for its many restaurants and a buzzing nightlife.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Shopping Fanatic
    Tips
    • Be sure to check out some of the shops selling traditional musical instruments near the Tunel's top terminus - how many different types of cymbals can you spot?
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #77 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • The place to be if you like shopping and good food! 05/27/2015
    • The best 05/11/2015
    • Beyoglu
  • Save
    Mikla Restaurant
    Restaurants (Turkish)
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    Located atop the roof of the Marmara Pera Hotel, Mikla Restaurant offers upscale and stylish dining with a menu of contempory dishes based on traditional Turkish cuisine. Mikla is also home to an excellent al fresco bar where, come evening, guests get to enjoy one of the most spectacular shows in town: sunset over the Golden Horn.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Luxury Traveler
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • If you're planning to dine here, a reservation is highly recommended - you might want to tidy up first too if coming from a day of sightseeing.
    Plan to stay:
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #206 of 4,915 restaurants in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great service, great food, great place 05/27/2015
    • Really great service, food not living up to expectations 05/27/2015
    • Mikla Restaurant
    Address:
    The Marmara Pera Hotel, Mesrutiyet No 15
    Beyoglu
    Istanbul 34430
    Turkey
    Phone:
    90-212-293-5656
    Price range:
    $51 - $102
    Other:
  • Save
    Istiklal Street
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    There's no better place to get a sense of this massive city's diverse and cosmopolitan makeup than this short cobblestoned and pedestrianized street. It's hardly a bad option either for a quick bite, spot of shopping and top quality people watching (by the throngs)!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Like a Local
    • Shopping Fanatic
    Tips
    • As in any crowded urban space, keep track of your belongings here - it's very safe, but petty crimes and pickpocketing are possible.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #65 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Wonderful 05/28/2015
    • Oh what a beautiful street. .. 05/28/2015
    • Istiklal Street
    Address:
    istiklal street Taksim
    Beyoglu
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +905324216164
    Other:
  • Save
    Taksim Square
    Neighborhoods
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    The cultural and social heart of Istanbul, Taksim Square is the place to go for any variety of local action. From major festivities such as New Year's Eve celebrations to some of the city's most popular restaurants, shops and nightspots, Taksim Square is the go-to hub for many an Istanbul native … and probably the easiest place in town from which to hail a cab!

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • Major political protests tend to be staged here. You'll be safe, but it doesn't hurt to have idea of the local news before heading to the square.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #152 of 1,272 things to do in Istanbul
    • A simple square 05/28/2015
    • The Meeting Place 05/28/2015
    • Taksim Square
    Address:
    Gumussuyu Mh., 34050
    Istanbul
    Turkey
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Sehir Hatlari Cruise
    Boat Tours
    See more photos
    Chris O Says:

    At some point during your stay in Istanbul you must hit the water for some sort of cruise on the Bosphorus. Sehir Hatlari's cruises are an especially picturesque and affordable way to begin getting a sense of just how gorgeous (and expansive) this age-old city is. The “Full Bosphorus Cruise” from Eminonu to Anadolu Kavagi is ideal for seeing a good stretch of Istanbul as well as much of the Bosphorus, and includes time to explore the 15th-century Yoros Castle (an uphill but easy hike) on the Asian side of town; to admire the views of the Black Sea from there; and to have a seafood lunch near the base of the castle or on the waterfront.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveler
    • Hidden Gems
    Tips
    • This may “just” be the public ferry, but there's an informative headphone guide available, and the photos you'll take and memories you'll keep will be splendid.
    Plan to stay:
    More than 3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 28 Boat Tours & Water Sports in Istanbul
    Certificate of Excellence 2014Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Hate to give them a low review 05/28/2015
    • Take this cruise ! 05/24/2015
    • Sehir Hatlari Cruise
    Address:
    Evliya Celebi Cad. No:1 - 4
    Kasımpaşa , Beyoğlu
    Istanbul
    Turkey
    Phone:
    +90 (0212) 313 80 00
    Other:
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