Exotic Istanbul can take weeks to explore the nooks, crannies, Turkish coffee shops, kebab stands and more. What happens if you don’t have weeks? Fortunately, it’s possible to see the major jewels in this metropolitan city where East meets West and past meets present in 24 hours. Sure, you’ve got to move quick, but one day in Istanbul hitting the big attractions can be accomplished.
So, what shouldn’t you skip out on?
The neighborhood of Sulthanamet and its surroundings are the place to start the day. Here, charming little shops serving coffee and traditional breakfast line the streets. The area is also home to many of the historic and culturally significant attractions in Istanbul. First, pay a visit to the 6th century Hagia Sophia, a gorgeous museum. Then, head to the nearby Blue Mosque. The impressive Ottoman structure boasting six minarets is one of the most recognized mosques in the world. The interior is spectacular too, with hundreds of suspended lights and intricate decorations. When visiting the mosque, women should take care to cover their shoulders.
After exploring these two significant places, head over to the massive Grand Bazaar, which has been in place since the 14th century. It is one of the largest covered markets in the world. With nearly 60 streets and hundreds of vendors, the opportunities abound for some seriously fantastic shopping (and deals), plus a total attack of the senses with dazzling displays, food and more.
After shopping at the Grand Bazaar, take the tram down to the Spice Bazaar, another covered market featuring a bevy of delicious spices, snacks and more. Outside are fresh fruit and vegetable stands to indulge in a little afternoon snack of Turkish treats. Located in the Fatih neighborhood, the bazaar, which was built in 1664, has 88 rooms and can take some time to explore.
Wrap up the day with dinner under the towering Galata Bridge where restaurants line the Bosphorus and offer fresh-caught fish and more. If there’s still energy left, head out to experience a Turkish dancing show to cap off the day.
See the the city’s top sights on the Istanbul in One Day Tour!