This post is a 24 hours Istanbul itinerary with the ultimate travel guide on what to see in Istanbul in one day. Istanbul is a modern and dynamic city, but at the same time it has a history that goes back 3000 years. It was once the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and is now the capital of Turkey.
It will be a challenge to see everything in Istanbul in one day. Istanbul is now the largest city in Europe. With 15 million people, there is always something to do besides the huge number of tourist attractions. But it's not impossible and if you plan your visit well, you can see the best things to do in Istanbul in one day.
istanbul in one day
I arrived late at night on a flight fromtehranand had a full day before flying back to Amsterdam. It was a crazy day, but because I prepared my Istanbul itinerary in advance, I was able to see the most important sights.
This post is more than a guide, it will help you make the most of your day in Istanbul. If you have more time, consider yourself lucky. You can never get bored in Istanbul and I can recommend this4 day itinerary.
One day itinerary in Istanbul
1. The Blue Mosque
There are many mosques in Istanbul and if you have to choose only one mosque in your Istanbul itinerary then choose the blue mosque.
I already visited the blue mosque at night when I arrived and the surroundings were peaceful and quiet. Even if the mosque is closed at that time, it's nice to walk in the courtyard without the crowds.
The blue mosque was the first thing to see on my Istanbul itinerary the next day. Despite waking up early, it was already quite busy. Once inside, it's easy to see why. What an exquisite beauty that can only leave you in awe.
2. Hagia Sophia
The next stop on my Istanbul itinerary was the Hagia Sophia. This was my top priority to see in Istanbul. A church built in Byzantine times has been turned into a mosque and now a museum. It has the history of Istanbul packed into an amazing architectural marvel.
When I entered the Hagia Sophia I was struck by the majesty and beauty of this structure. I just stood there for a few minutes to let it sink in. So I walked and looked at the details. An interesting mix of Muslim architecture with Christian mosaics and paintings still visible
3. Topkapi Palace
The palace where the sultans of the Ottoman empire resided for generations was another priority for me to visit and was next on my Istanbul itinerary.
I didn't expect to spend so much time in Topkapi, but the palace was much bigger than I thought. There are three beautiful courtyards with several beautiful buildings, all serving different purposes. Before I knew it, I spent two hours walking around.
Topkapi Palace was also very busy, but I thought it was worth it. If you have the museum pass, you must also visit the harem. Otherwise, you must pay an additional entrance fee to this area, which in my personal opinion is not worth it.
4. Archaeological Museum
One perk of having the Museum pass is that it includes several museums that I would otherwise have skipped. The archaeological museum was one of them. As it is close to the Topkapi Palace, I decided to pay a quick visit and was pleasantly surprised by its interesting collection. This is a must visit for history buffs.
5. Galata bridge and Galata tower
After all the museums and mosques I was hungry. I took the tram to the Galata Bridge over the Bosphorus to experience the famousfish and bread(a fish sandwich). Unfortunately I didn't have time to go inside the Galata tower and instead I ate my sandwich while watching the boats on the Bosphorus river and the fishermen on the bridge.
6. Grand Bazaar
How else could I end my Istanbul itinerary with some last minute shopping at the grand bazaar. After visiting thebazaars in iran, astehran bazaar, I missed the beautiful ceilings and left details of the past. The bazaar in Istanbul lacks the authenticity you find in Iran. That said, it's still an excellent place to buy spices, tea and delicious Turkish delight.
7. The cats of Istanbul
Obviously Istanbul cats were not planned in my Istanbul itinerary. However, even if you are only in Istanbul for one day, you will find a lot of them.
What I really liked is that people in Istanbul take really good care of them. People pet them and even leave food for them. It is always a joy to see happy cats roaming around the city.
The beautiful Kedi movie about the cats of Istanbul is great to watch before visiting the city.
Where to eat in Istanbul in one day
Food is one of the main reasons I would like to come back to Istanbul. Turkish food is delicious and there are so many local dishes that I had to miss it because I didn't have time. I only have one stomach and there is a limit to what you can eat and experience in 24 hours.
Honestly, finding good local food isn't easy. Most restaurants cater to tourists and serve the same kebab menu. I didn't find a special hidden gem that day, but I really enjoyed thefish and bread (fish sandwich) on Galata Bridge St and the Turkish Delight I tried at the Grand Bazaar.
You always need a reason to come back to a city and for me food will be one of them.
Where to stay in Istanbul for one night
I stayed inStanpoli Hostelin the dorm. I thought it was a good hostel with an excellent breakfast buffet on the top floor with a wonderful view of the Bosphorus and the city.
Istanbul in a Day on a Budget
The city of Istanbul is big and to keep it cheap you should consider buying these cards even when visiting for a day.
istanbul card– This card allows you to travel on public transport and get a 40% discount on fares. There is an extensive metro, tram and ferry network. You can buy the card at the airport and then go from the airport to Sultanahmet by metro, already saving a lot of money.
Sultanahmet is home to most of the sights like the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace and a good place to stay with plenty of hostels and guesthouses. It's easy to explore Sultahnamet on foot, but if you want to explore other parts of the city, the card is very useful.
museum card– If you want to visit both the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, it is worth buying the Museum card. It's a little cheaper and allows you to visit several other museums as well. Another advantage is that you only have to queue once to buy the card. This will save you a lot of time, because the queues at the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace are long.
How to Make the Most of Istanbul in One Day
Seeing Istanbul in one day is a challenge. With so much to do, you'll really need to focus on the highlights, and even then, it's going to be a busy day.
The following tips will help you make the most of your day.
1.The museum card:skip the long lines to enter Haga Sofia and Topkapi Palace by purchasing the museum card. If you visit both, the museumcard is even slightly cheaper than buying separate tickets.
2.Get up early:beat the crowds by getting up early. Istanbul is at its best as the sun sets over the Bosphorus and the city slowly comes to life.
3.Prepare your itinerary in Istanbul: Decide what you really want to see when you're there. It's a huge city and my Istanbul day trip itinerary not only includes the highlights but also makes sense logistically as the places are right next to each other.
If you only have one day in Istanbul and don't want to waste time stuck in traffic, find out beforehand how to get around between the places you want to visit. Public transport is cheap, but distances are long and traffic can be crazy.
When to visit Istanbul
Istanbul really is a year-round destination. Summers can get pretty hot, so spring and fall are best. Although winters are cold, this is also a great time to be in Istanbul. It will be quieter, cheaper and seeing the city covered in a blanket of snow is magical. Read here all aboutistanbul in winter.
Is Istanbul safe?
When I arrived late at night at my hostel I was greeted by several cats at the window. While I was paying attention to the cats, the hostel owner came out to greet me by my name. I was surprised he knew who I was, but I ended up being the only guest that day. With the recent terrorist attacks, tourist numbers have declined and most tourist establishments are struggling with declining revenue.
The chances of you accidentally being in the wrong place at the wrong time are still very small and therefore I can still recommend Istanbul to anyone. For me, I felt safe even though I was a female traveling alone. Istanbul is a big city, and like any other city, you have to watch out for pickpockets and tourist scams. These scams are more likely to cause problems than terrorism. Clickherefor an article on the most common tourist scams in Istanbul.
disclaimer:This post about Istanbul in a day contains affiliate links. If you purchase any services through any of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thank you for your support!
Know that if you plan to spend just one day there, you certainly won't get to see everything, but you will be able to easily see most of the biggest sites in the Old City, all of which are within short walking distance of each other.
Istanbul demands a minimum of two days, but we'd suggest at least four days to do it justice. Even with a week, you'd find yourself running out of time trying to tackle everything the city has to offer.Is 3 full days in Istanbul enough? ›
The short answer is yes, 3 days is sufficient time to get to see the main attractions of Istanbul, though the longer answer is that 72 hours isn't really enough time if you truly want to get to know the Turkish city on a more local level.Which is the best month to visit Istanbul? ›
The best time to visit Istanbul is mid-spring, in April and May, and also fall, from September to October. During these times the Turkish capital enjoys pleasantly mild weather, with temperatures running from the around 62℉ or 47℃ to 77℉ or 62℃.Is it worth going to Istanbul for a day? ›
From seeing UNESCO World Heritage sites, to learning about archaeology, to making friends with bookstore owners, to boat tours of the Bosphorus and everything in-between, Istanbul is absolutely worth visiting!Can you explore Istanbul on your own? ›
Traveling to Istanbul alone is great, but you're going to need to know where to stay! There are a ton of options here for every type of traveler, but if you're satisfied with staying in the center of town where there's always going to be something going on, that's really not a bad decision if you're on your own!Is Istanbul expensive for American tourists? ›
A generous budget of 276 USD per person per day (or 1932 USD/week) is more than enough for Istanbul.What is the best area to stay in Istanbul? ›
- Sultanahmet. ...
- Sirkeci. ...
- Taksim. ...
- Karaköy & Galata. ...
- Maçka & Nişantaşi. ...
- Kabataş ...
The best ways to get around Istanbul are the buses and trams, which conveniently cover the touristy areas. But remember, buses don't have maps inside and drivers do not announce stops, so you'll need to remain vigilant and watch where you are going.Can you wear shorts in Hagia Sophia? ›
Shorts are not ever permissible for men or women at the Hagia Sophia. Full length trousers should be worn instead of shorts.
- Sultanahmet Square | The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum | The Blue Mosque | The Basilica Cistern | The Hagia Sophia | Topkapi Palace | Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
- Insider Tip: The Blue Mosque is still a functioning mosque and tourists should behave accordingly.
Visiting Istanbul and going out aimlessly, discovering streets, flavors, and people is what makes it interesting when traveling, however, to adequately discover Istanbul, with a local guide is the guarantee that you won't miss a thing of this magical city.Can you wear whatever you want in Istanbul? ›
In the City
In Turkish cities, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable. There is no problem wearing shorts for comfort, except when you visit mosques. As for Turks, most of them will be wearing "smart casual" clothes: sleeved summer dresses or sleeved top and skirt for women, short-sleeved shirt and long trousers for men.
- 1 Take In The City's Street Art. View this post on Instagram.
- 2 Explore One Of The Many Museums. ...
- 3 Enjoy Panoramic Views With A Rooftop Cocktail. ...
- 4 Shop At The Grand Bazaar. ...
- 5 Drink Turkish Tea. ...
- 6 Drink Turkish Coffee. ...
- 7 Visit Hagia Sophia. ...
- 8 Visit The Blue Mosque. ...
January is the coldest month with daily average highs of just 8.6°C. December is warmer, with average temperatures of 10.8°C, but sees the highest levels of rainfall, with an average of 85mm.Which month is rainy season in Turkey? ›
Spring (March through mid-June) is prime because the weather is moderate throughout the country and the days are long. April can be rainy. This is high season for Istanbul and Cappadocia, with many boutique hotels fully booked, and prices at their highest.What are the cheapest months to go to Istanbul? ›
The cheapest time is the winter, from December to February, but the cold weather is less inviting. Best Time for Sightseeing: During the summer months of June, July, and August, the crowds around the sights in the old city can be overwhelming – and made worse by the hot and sticky weather.Which is better Cairo or Istanbul? ›
While both cities offer wonderful hospitality, Istanbul is more modern and comfortable. The new airport in Istanbul is very convenient and that takes a lot of hassle away from a visit. Istanbul is a walkable city while Cairo traffic makes walking “not recommended”.What is so special about Istanbul? ›
Istanbul, that offers unique historical and cultural riches together has hosted many different civilizations with its geography spread over two continents. This unique city which is admired by its charming nature and the attractive atmosphere is also the symbol of dynamic and modern city life.How much is enough for a day in Turkey? ›
Average Daily Costs
While meal prices in Turkey can vary, the average cost of food in Turkey is TRY317 per day. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out an average meal in Turkey should cost around TRY127 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner.
COVID test is not required when arriving in Turkey.What days are things closed in Istanbul? ›
- Closed Monday: Archaeological Museums, Ayasofya, Dolmabahçe Palace, Great Palace Mosaics Museum.
- Closed Tuesday: Topkapı Palace and Harem.
- Closed Wednesday: Chora Museum, Rumeli Fortress.
- Closed Thursday: Dolmabahçe Palace.
- Closed Sunday: Grand Bazaar.
Istanbul is, [laughs] I would say is a walking city but it's a sprawling city, and it has so many layers to it and so many hills.Are Americans welcome in Istanbul? ›
Yes, Istanbul is safe for American tourists. But more recently, the US Travel Advisory has recommended American visitors to be extra cautious due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions.Are American tourists welcome in Turkey? ›
Exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.Do Americans need a visa for Istanbul? ›
U.S. citizens do typically need an e-visa to enter Turkiye, but cruise ship passengers are permitted to come ashore without a visa for day visits by special arrangements.What is the most beautiful town in Istanbul? ›
Here are the following islands:
- Sedef Adasi.
- Tavsan Adasi.
“Istanbul bridges the divide between Europe and Asia, so it just takes a quick walk to traverse between the city's metropolitan city center and its historic district.What is the most luxurious part of Istanbul? ›
Arnavutköy is located between Kuruçeşme and Bebek on the European shore of the Bosphorus. It is famous for its historical wooden mansions overlooking the water. If you enjoy seafood, this is the place for you! There are plenty of fish restaurants along the coast of Arnavutköy.Is Uber in Istanbul? ›
Reserve a ride with Uber in advance in Istanbul
Complete your plans today by reserving a ride with Uber in Istanbul. Request a ride up to 30 days in advance, at any time and on any day of the year.
Yes, the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays, as well as on the first day of religious holidays. What are the Opening Hours of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul? The Grand Bazaar is open every day from 8:30 to 19:00, except Sundays and the first day of religious holidays.What is the number one tourist destination in Turkey? ›
Istanbul is one of the most important tourist spots not only in Turkey but also in the world. There are thousands of hotels and other tourist-oriented industries in the city.Do I need to cover my hair in Istanbul? ›
While visiting a mosque in Istanbul, women need to cover their heads, shoulders, knees .. and oh, toes can show. Chest and legs should be covered. You can carry your own scarf to cover your head but please note scarves are provided at the entrance of every mosque.Can you wear jeans to a mosque in Turkey? ›
Wear a long dress or long pants – Legs must be covered in order to enter the Blue Mosque. Cover your shoulders – No itty-bitty spaghetti straps, tube tops, or tank tops. Women must cover their shoulders while in the Blue Mosque.Can you enter Hagia Sophia with shoes? ›
All visitors, Muslims and non-Muslims are allowed to enter Hagia Sophia Mosque. Visitors should remove their shoes before stepping onto the mosque's carpets.Is Galata Tower worth visiting? ›
It is definitely worth visiting the Galata Tower as the views of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus along with the landscape of Istanbul is unmatchable!How far is Istanbul airport from city Centre? ›
Istanbul Airport is located northwest of the city in the Arnavutköy district. The distance (far) from Istanbul Airport (ist airport) to the center of Istanbul city is 54 kilometers. If you get a private taxi, it takes 45 minutes to get to the center of Istanbul.Do you need to book restaurants in Istanbul? ›
You don't have to make reservations for every restaurant, especially in week days. Even in weekend you can find a table in restaurants unless they are high-end, trendy venues with live shows etc.Are tour guides worth it? ›
But even if you're an expert, having a tour guide can bring so much more knowledge to enrich your experience. No matter how experienced you are as a traveler, it's the tour guide who can tell you the interesting facts and not-on-Google-secrets about a place.Is there hop on hop off in Istanbul? ›
Witness the beauty of Istanbul with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Audio commentary in 8 languages allows you to learn about popular attractions. Hop on an open-top bus and enjoy the sightseeing experience in the city of Istanbul. You can hop on and off at any stop and visit popular attractions of Istanbul hassle-free.
It is customary to tip a restaurant in Istanbul if the tip is not already included in the bill. It can be 10% of the total bill. You can leave a tip in the bill book.Can I bring a girl to my hotel room in Istanbul? ›
Can I stay with my girlfriend in a hotel in Istanbul? Yes, it is forbidden to ask if you are married or not in Turkey. Of course you can share the room with your loved one!Can you drink tap water in Istanbul? ›
Yes, it is safe to cook with tap water. The tap water in Istanbul is generally very clean, even good enough to drink straight from the tap. When you cook with tap water, you are only ingesting a tiny amount of tap water into your body in the worst-case scenario.What are the dos and don ts in Turkey? ›
Do wear modest loose fitting clothing, meaning no shorts for males or females. Do cover your head and no bare shoulders if you are female. Don't visit a mosque on a Friday, the Muslim day for worship. Don't talk or laugh loudly in a mosque.Is 1 day enough in Istanbul? ›
If you just want to see the attractions of Istanbul, a day or two should enough! If you like having a full itinerary, three days in Istanbul is more than plenty. However, if you are a more leisurely visitor, allow yourself extra time to enjoy all that the complicated city has to offer.What can I do to the Turkey the night before? ›
Dry-brining your turkey
By simply seasoning the raw turkey all over with salt up to two days before roasting, you'll end up with a much juicier roast. A whole bird can be seasoned two days before, a crown up to a day before and a boneless turkey breast should be seasoned no earlier than the night before.
- Visit the Blue Mosque.
- Shop at the Grand Bazaar.
- Experience Royalty in the Topkapi Palace.
- Stroll Through the Basilica Cistern.
- Sail through the Bosporus.
- Soak in the Beautiful Sunset.
- What Not to Miss Eating on a Day Trip to Istanbul.
- THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND.
The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. You can get local currency from banks and exchange bureaus, known as DOVIZ in Turkish. As of 13 October 2022, Turkish banks will no longer accept the old style £20 and £50 sterling banknotes.What should I pack for a trip to Istanbul? ›
- Comfortable shoes or sandals. As mentioned above, comfortable shoes are a must-have for your trip. ...
- Scarf or Shawl. Women will need to cover their hair when visiting religious sites. ...
- Long Dress, Skirt or Pants. ...
- Crossbody bag or Day Pack. ...
A generous budget of 276 USD per person per day (or 1932 USD/week) is more than enough for Istanbul.
In spring (April-May) and autumn (October-November) you may encounter rain, and the air may be cool or even chilly at night, but comfortable during the day; bring a warm jacket or a sweater and windbreaker.What is Turkey's coldest month? ›
Turkey has a mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters. The hottest month of the year is July with an average daily maximum of 35 C and an average low of 25 C. The coolest month of the year is January with an average daily maximum of 14 C and an average low of 5 C.What is the best month to go to Turkey? ›
April, May, September and October are pleasantly warm, with temperatures of 20°C to 30°C, so are typically the best times to visit Turkey's grand array of ancient sites. The summer months (June through to September) are very hot, with temperatures reaching the mid-thirties on the south coast.Which season is best in Turkey? ›
Turkiye experiences extreme climates and can thus be extremely cold during winters and can got excessively hot during peak summers. Thus, end of summer, spring and Autumn have the best climate to visit Turkey that allow you to freely roam without the weather becoming a hurdle.How much is a typical meal in Istanbul? ›
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||130.00TL|
|Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course||600.00TL|
|McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)||120.00TL|
|Domestic Beer (1 pint draught)||60.00TL|
How Much Does A Trip to Turkey Cost?
|Expenses||Price Per Item||Estimated Daily Cost|
How long you visit will of course depend on your schedule, but we think 2 days in Istanbul will give you enough time to see the main highlights. You could do this either as a weekend in Istanbul, or as the start of a longer trip, such as that outlined in our 2-week Turkey itinerary.How to spend 5 hours in Istanbul? ›
- Take a Food Tour of Istanbul. Food tours are one of our favorite things to do in urban cities. ...
- Visit the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is one of the top Istanbul tourist attractions, and with good reason. ...
- Shop in the Grand Bazaar. ...
- Wander a Neighborhood. ...
- Indulge in a Turkish Meal.
- Take a tour of Sultanahmet Square.
- Go shopping at the Grand Bazaar.
- Explore Eminönü and the Spice Bazaar.
- Stroll around Karaköy.
Recommended minimum layover duration is 7 hours for travelers whose flights are connected and have their boarding pass with them. We can accommodate business travelers with shorter layover duration. To be on safe side, you may consider a tour when you will have plus 8 hour layover in Istanbul.
A generous budget of 276 USD per person per day (or 1932 USD/week) is more than enough for Istanbul.Is it better to stay in old town or new town Istanbul? ›
First time visitors usually prefer old town to be near sights. If you're interested in nightlife than sightseeing, you may prefer Taksim area to be near clubs, bars etc. Rail transport available btw old town and Taksim with connection that takes around 20-30 min. 2.