Istanbul in a Week
Guide for a short trip to Istanbul
Five days is a good amount of time to spend in Istanbul and you can break up the days depending on preference. I've organized this guide by map and grouped activities by area of the city. The list includes my favorite spots and sites, but look them up and pick the ones you're most interested in.
This is a lot of ground to cover and if you have the time, I'd suggest breaking this up into two days and considering the Museum Pass. See Preparing For a Trip to Turkey.
1. Hagia Sophia. Once one of the largest cathedrals in the world, it's now a museum and attracts architecture enthusiasts who marvel at the massive dome. There is ongoing restoration work and parts of the interior are covered.
2. Blue Mosque. A short walk from the Hagia Sophia, and through the Hippodrome is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, built by the 14th Ottoman Sultan between 1609-1616.
3. Topkapi Palace. Palace of the Ottoman Sultans, houses various collections including the Imperial Treasury, Holy Relics, Weaponry, and a harem. Can easily take up half the day, so plan accordingly.
4. Basilica Cistern. Well preserved underground cisterns from the Byzantines.
5. Grand Bazaar. One of the oldest and largest covered markets, with over 4,000 shops. You can easily spend a full day here and even more easily get lost. Haggling required. Closed on Sundays. Depending on your pace, this could be sufficient for one day, but if there's still energy, read on.
6. Süleymaniye Mosque. Built for the longest ruling Sultan-known as Süleyman the Magnificent, this mosque is stunning. It has beautiful views of the Golden Horn and like other Imperial Mosques, the grounds contain a hospital, schools, a hammam, restaurants and soup kitchens.
7. Spice Bazaar. Known as the Egyptian Bazaar, it's a small 17th century market with spices, foods, and Turkish goods. The market itself is small and the area around is full of similar shops, restaurants, and is always lively and full of locals.
Eat & Drink
This area has overpriced and underwhelming food since it's got a high volume of tourists, leaving this area will afford better options and quality. To get familiar with food options, see the Istanbul Insider Guide.
1. Hamdi. Traditional mezes, kabob dishes and a great view.
2. Eminönü Fish Boats. While these are a tourist attraction, it's still a good spot to stop for a sandwich and a view. Bones included.
3. Vefa Bozacısı. Try Boza, a traditional wheat drink in this historic location.