Istanbul is one of those amazing cities, you can easily spend days, weeks and even months exploring it. It seems I never have enough time for it. I can easily say, I have a secret love affair with Istanbul, as I was there already many times and I know it is never the last time. But what are the things to do and see in Istanbul if you are traveling there for the very first time?
Stay in a hotel somewhere in Sultanahmet area (for amazing views on Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and TOP location we recommend the Burcking Hotel), as you’ll only be steps away from the most impressive Istanbul tourist attractions. This way you’ll be able to walk pass the most amazing sights every day.
Use your first day to see the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the underwater cistern Basilica. If you have enough time visit the amazing Topkapi palace, Gulhane park and the Hippodrome too. Don’t also forget to wander around the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar.
If you don’t mind walking, I would definitely recommend you to walk from your hotel all the way to the Galata Tower. This way you’ll be able to see daily life in Istanbul and its true vibe. Not to mention crossing the Bosporus over the bridges is always interesting due to its many fishermen.
You’ll be able to see one of the best views over the Istanbul from Galata Tower. Not far from it, is the famous pedestrian street Istiklal, which leads up to the Taksim square. This is actually a little bit more modern part of Istanbul, full of cafes, restaurants and shops, where younger locals like to hang out.
Book your day for the Bosporus cruise. We would recommend you to drive all the way to Anadolu Kavağı station, where you can hike up to the Yoros fort, offering great views over the Bosporus and the Black Sea. Try the popular fish sandwich and continue the day by boat, reaching the Ortokay district, famous for its mosque and a popular hang-out spot for locals. If you are into sultan’s life and Atatürk, you might want to visit the Dolmabache palace too.
When finishing your cruise, walk to the old train station, best known for the Orient Express.
Enjoy the evening somewhere around Sultanahmet –for a nice spot with great views and seeing the vibrant evening life, head to the park between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
Use your last hours before flying back home / or continuing your travel for souvenirs shopping at the bazaar, where you can try yourself in bargaining. If you are into history and you still have enough time, I would go to see the archeological museum. And in between, don’t forget to indulge yourself with some traditional Turkish food.
If you are visiting Istanbul for the very first time, you really cannot and should not avoid the best things to do and see in Istanbul. But if you are like me, you will fallen for Istanbul completely, what sure means you will be back for more – and your next visits will be perfect for all the other sights and attractions, including some hidden gems.