Many people ask us whether or not 72 Hours in Istanbul is enough to see the city. Can someone visit Istanbul in 72 hours? The short answer is a ‘YES BUT’… As always.. Istanbul can get overwhelming so you’d better do some planning to get the most out of it. And if you plan it right, then YES 72 Hours in Istanbul is plenty of time to get a sense of what Istanbul is all about. We have another news for you: we did the planning for you and if you follow it you’ll be better off. Trust us 🙂
So, are you ready for an amazing race?
There is no shortage of shops, clubs, museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes in the city. So the key question is: what are YOU looking to do to?
Do you want to delve into the endless history? If so, there a number of glamorous museums, mosques, basilicas, and palaces in Istanbul right at your service. If that’s not your cup of tea and you’re just here to rest, why not indulge in the culinary scene? Perhaps you don’t know this yet, but you will soon discover that eating is one of our most important pastimes. We LOVE our FOOD and we want the BEST of it.
Or maybe you’re here to party… and party hard. Istanbul has made a name for itself for nightlife as it offers endless options for everyone at every budget.
Surely, it can get a little overwhelming when you suddenly have that many things to do. Where to go and what to do? In Istanbul, it’s easy get lost and waste those precious 72 hours in traffic. At times like these, the best thing to do is to ask “Someone Who Knows.”
Without further do, here’s is our suggestion on how you should spend your 72 Hours in Istanbul.
DAY 1: Let’s refresh Ottoman & Byzantine History 101
What to do: Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Fish restaurant with a view over Bosphorus
On your first day in Istanbul, get a quick breakfast and head over to TOPKAPI PALACE in Sultanahmet. The palace is huge and the information provided is very limited. So rather than staring at the walls, tiles and some artifacts, we highly recommend starting your tour with our Topkapi Cinematic Walk which gives you a sense of what life was like back in the 17th century. The tour takes you in the palace and the Harem and after the tour it would be a great idea to walk the rest of the Palace to admire the Ottoman heritage in the city. Plan about 3 hours for the Palace.
Walk back to Sultanahmet Square and have a quick lunch so you get in line for HAGIA SOPHIA which is an architectural jewel in Istanbul. Then walk across the park to the BLUE MOSQUE, or Sultanahmet Camii as Turks call it. Its English name comes from the famous blue ceramics adorning the mosque’s interior walls.
After the mosque, just walk around in the Sultanahmet area and get a feel for the Old City. And make a stop at the BASILICA CISTERN to cool off a little. The right way to end this beautiful day would be to enjoy a delicious dinner at a fish restaurant along the Bosphorus. The view will simply take your breath away and we’re sure you’ll like to sample the local drink, raki.
DAY 2: Act like a local
What to do: Spice Market, Grand Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque, Galata Tower, Istiklal Street, Nevizade
Start your second day by visiting the SPICE MARKET, which simply is too unique to describe in any word. Afterwards, you can head to the GRAND BAZAAR, one of the most amazing and interesting “malls” you will ever visit. However, don’t be mistaken, as it will not be your usual shopping experience. The Grand Bazaar hosts colorful streets, friendly but aggressive vendors who can sell you things in 5 languages, and offers all sorts of souvenirs, ranging from rare handmande carpets and Turkish Delight to spices and exquisite jewellery. The bazaar is a giant place and hence can get exhausting. You may spend a few days here but as you’re time is limited hit the highlights and move on.
The SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE is a short hike away from the Bazaar and is definitely worth a visit. Enjoy this marvelous piece of architecture built by the Masterful Sinan.
For the evening, you should venture out to where Turks usually hang out. So take the tram to Karakoy and switch to the Tunel (a short subway that goes up the hill) to arrive to GALATA. Galata is where the famous Istiklal Caddesi starts. But make sure to go up the GALATA TOWER and enjoy the view at sunset. Then stroll on the Istiklal Street towards TAKSIM. On your way make a stop at one of the taverns at the Nevizade street. We recommend Krependeki Imroz, a local favorite, to enjoy some raki and mezze. If yould rather have a quick bite, you can go to the Galatasaray Square and try “midye” (mussels) and “kokorec” (roasted tripe) that you can buy on the street. While you are at the Galata / Taksim area, you should also try out the nightclubs there. Take a look at our Party section with recommendations for the best bars and clubs in the area.
DAY 3: Get a feel for the riches
What to do: Bosphorus tour
You’ve been running around for the last 48 hours. So, your last day should be pleasing and memorable. Why not start your third day with a Bosphorus tour? This is one of the best ways to enjoy the panoramic views on a boat. While at it, you can also enjoy the sight of the mansions along the coastline and admire the magnificence of the two bridges that connect Europe and Asia. Check out your options here.
On your return, you have a number of options: you can hang out with the fishermen on the Galata Bridge or try your own luck at fishing by renting equipment, which would obviously be the more adventurous option. When you’re done, I think you should not miss the Rustem Pasa Mosque in Eminonu. If you still have some more shopping to do, you can then head to the Spice Market which will be nearby.
The second option after the boat trip is to go back to Galata and discover this historically Genovese neighbourhood. Galata’s cobblestone pavements, hidden old buildings, mosques, churches, and synagogues all lined next to each other will give you a better idea of Istanbul’s cultural and social structure. Check out our Galata Cinematic Walk that will walk you through this neighborhood in a fun way. End the evening at a nice restaurant/bar overlooking Bosphorus. 360 or Leb-i Derya are two venues with a view and you can’t go wrong spending your last evening in either one.
Enjoy and let us know what you’ve liked the most!