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TOP Things to do for a Weekend in Istanbul, Turkey

Experience the best of Istanbul with our top weekend recommendations! From historic landmarks to vibrant markets and delectable cuisine, Istanbul has it all.

Top things to do in Istanbul

Spread across two continents and between two seas, Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures and a perfect blend of Eastern and Western traditions. Formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul has always been one of the most significant cities in the world. All of its heritage has survived to this day, and it is open to its visitors. From ancient landmarks like the Hagia Sophia to bustling markets and delicious cuisine, Istanbul offers a little something for everyone.

How much time do you need to visit Istanbul

Istanbul is the biggest and most populated city in Turkey, so even for those who live there, it's hard to know every corner of the city. As a visitor to Istanbul, wanting to get a good taste of what this city is about, we recommend staying for at least 2 full days to see some of the most significant attractions Istanbul has to offer.

Grand Baazar
Grand Baazar

Where to stay in Istanbul

Istanbul sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, but most of its popular landmarks are located on the European side, mainly in the district of Fatih. Being within walking distance of all the main attractions of the city makes Fatih a great location to base yourself when exploring Istanbul. For our visit to Istanbul, we decided to stay near the Grand Bazaar, and we were lucky to find a hotel with great value, right in the middle of everything - Hotel California, where we stayed for our entire visit.

What to eat in Istanbul

As being a cultural blend, Istanbul pleasantly affects its food scene with a large diverity of local cuisine. Turkish people enjoy starting their day with tea, called Çay or Turkish coffee, which is cooked by boiling, not brewing, or mixing with hot water, unlike some other types of coffee. A popular must try fast food is Turkish Kebab, especially the variation of Adana Kebab. The finest example of Turkish desert is without doubt Baklava, which you can't miss trying during your visit to Turkey.

Top things to do in Istanbul

From the iconic landmarks of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque to the bustling bazaars of the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage that defines this enchanting city. Delve into the flavours of Turkish cuisine with a culinary exploration of traditional eateries and street food stalls, savoring mouthwatering delights such as kebabs, baklava, and Turkish delight. Here are the TOP things to do in Istanbul!

Grand Baazar
Grand Baazar

Go shopping at Grand Baazar

With over 60 streets and 4000 shops, the Grand Bazaar is one of the biggest, oldest, and most visited covered markets in the world. You could call it the world's first shopping center. Originally, we hoped to do some street photography inside the bazaar, but little did we know that, despite being full of traditional products, the Grand Bazaar is run in a very modern way, which didn't suit the vision we had for our photographs. Anyway, we spent many hours getting lost among the streets of the Grand Bazaar and ended up buying some very unique souvenirs. We encountered the same situation at the Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar), which is basically an extension of the Grand Bazaar, not being any different from it.

Ortaköy Mosque
Ortaköy Mosque

Sunrise Photography at Ortaköy Mosque

The Ortaköy Mosque is definitely one of the best locations to visit at sunrise. This mosque is smaller than other popular mosques in Istanbul, but it's located right by the riverside next to the Bosphorus Bridge, connecting the two continents, making it an iconic view of Istanbul. When you show up early, you'll see local fishermen casting their rods and some street cats looking for an easy meal. The Ortaköy Mosque ended up being one of my favourite locations I visited in Istanbul.

Ortaköy Mosque
Ortaköy Mosque

Eminönü Harborside

The Eminönü promenade is the starting point for tours on the Bosphorus River. Along the riverside, you'll find many food stands and small shops where you can buy some snacks as you enjoy the view over the river, with the Galata Tower playing the main role in this landscape. The Yeni Cami Mosque is right on the other side of the street, and since you're already there, you should pay it a visit. There's no entrance fee to enter the mosque.

Yeni Cami Mosque
Yeni Cami Mosque

Galata Bridge and Galata Tower

As you've gotten to Eminönü, don't hesitate to walk by Galata Bridge. The bridge itself offers a 360-degree panoramic viewpoint. Head towards Galata Tower, where you'll find many picturesque locations. The narrow roads surrounding Galata Tower are filled with cozy restaurants and shops. This is a very nice area to take a walk or sit down and enjoy some coffee with baklava.

Eminönü Harborside
Eminönü Harborside

Fatih - the cultural sight of Istanbul

Istanbul sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, but most of its popular landmarks are located on the European side, mainly in the district of Fatih. Sultanahmet Square is Istanbul's old town, and it houses some of the city's most significant historic monuments. From this square, you can visit many important archaeological sites nearby, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. All of these iconic locations are in the same district of Fatih, so plan a few hours for yourself to see them all.

Other places in Istanbul worth mentioning

During our short visit to Istanbul, we visited a few other places which, although enjoyable, we don't feel are unmissable spots for anyone visiting Istanbul. The neighborhood of Balat gained popularity for its colorful buildings and steep narrow roads. Some of the streets in Balat are filled with cafes and restaurants offering very attractive prices, much more affordable than cafes in the touristy area next to Galata Tower. Another place we didn't find extraordinary was Istiklal Street with its iconic red tram. Istiklal Street is a great place for shopping or dining in some fancy restaurants. The area is modern but doesn't really stand out from the other iconic locations of Istanbul. Make sure to visit these places if you find some spare time during your visit to Istanbul, and let me know if I'm right about these places in the comments!

Yeni Cami Mosque
Yeni Cami Mosque

Istanbul Weekend Itinerary

Day 1

  • Start the day with Turkish breakfast with Turkish Coffee or Tea,

  • Head to the Grand Baazar - be ready to spend there few hours,

  • Head to Eminönü, check the New Mosque,

  • Walk through Galata Bridge towards Galata tower,

  • Head further to Istiklal Street to see the red tram,

  • Join the locals watching sunset at Eminönü Promenade,

Day 2

  • Visit Ortaköy Mosque for some iconic pictures at sunrise,

  • Head to Sultanahmet Square (Free)

  • Visit the Blue Mosque and the area around (Free),

  • Visit Hagia Sophia Mosque (25 Euro),

  • Visit Topkapi Palace (40 Euro),

  • Visit Basilica Cistern (17 Euro).

  • End the day watching sunset at Eminönü Promenade,



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