I love Istanbul. It’s one of those really vibrant cities, one foot in Europe, other one in Asia. Bigger one in Asia 🙂 I don’t think even a week would be enough to see and experience everything Istanbul has to offer, but the good news is, with three days you can get the feeling and plan a longer stay for the next time.
The best idea, how to use your time as optimal as possible is to spend each of the three days in one area. I did start with Historical Peninsula, also called the Sultanahmet Area, went to Taksim, Galata Bridge and Süleymaniye Mosque on the second day and crossed over to Asian side on third.
Istanbul is hilly, put on your most comfortable shoes and hit the road.
Sultanahmet is home to a lot of Istanbul’s most popular sites including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Hippodrome and Topkapi Palace. All of them are very close to each other, just 5-10 minutes walking, so you are facing a day full of magnificent views, history and culture. Start your day with Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia to beat the crowds and heat and move to the rest after lunch.
No trip to Istanbul is complete without stopping by the colourful Spice Bazaar, one of the largest markets in Istanbul. Make sure to have plenty of time to enjoy the vibrant market.
Don’t forget to stop for a cup of strong Turkish coffee, some freshly squeezed pomegranate or orange juice or a piece of delicious baklava along the way.
Süleymaniye Mosque was by far one of my most favourite places in Istanbul. Since it was a bit further away from the Sultanahmet, it was way less crowded, but offered spectacular views over the city and Bosphorus. My AirBNB apartment (book here to get 21EUR towards your first trip) was just 5 minutes from the mosque and I used to walk through the big relaxing yard every morning and evening. Less than 10 minutes walking from the mosque you’ll reach the Grand Bazaar, a unique market with 4,000+ vendors and 18 entrances in a historic setting. It’s a whirlwind of colours, sounds and smells and you can easily forget the time and spend an hour or two there. Even if you’re only admiring the displays. Just below the mosque is also a fairly big market to shop for some Turkish delight or have a coffee while watching people rushing by. Find your way to Galata Bridge, pick a place for a nice sunset later and have lunch in one of the hip cafes or restaurants in Karaköy (I loved the ones on Mumhane Str). After lunch, head up to Galata Tower to have some spectacular views over the city. From Galata Tower you can go to Istiklal Street and Taksim. Be prepared for a lot of climbing. Again 😊 If you’re out for nightlife, you’ll find it there.
I loved the Asian side of Istanbul with its artsy and hip neighbourhoods, lots of locals on the streets and those amazing street cafes offering delicious food with local prices. During the 30-minutes ferry ride to Kadiköy, you’re rewarded with gentle breeze and magnificent views of the city. Hitting the streets after arrival you’ll notice the change of scenery and atmosphere and immediately feel welcomed to Asia by a charming array of bustling sidewalk restaurants, cafes and shops.
If you’re looking for more authentic experience, find your way to Üsküdar neighbourhood, where the people you see, are locals, not fellow tourists, where you pay the local price and where you can have a relaxing stroll on the streets without being constantly hassled to buy something. Stop in one of the sidewalk cafes for the best fried fish you’ve ever had.
Watch the movie: Kedi
Best views: from Galata Tower and from Süleymaniye Mosque
Watch the sunset: on Galata bridge