4 days in Istanbul

Where the West meets the East, the great city of Istanbul is an amazing destination. Some of you may immediately think that with the recent events it is not very safe to visit, but we visited in between two incidents and if it wasn’t for the news we would have never known that something was happening.

I can safely say that Istanbul was one of the most pleasant cities I have ever visited. Turkish people are very friendly, the food is amazing and the sights are breathtakingly beautiful. So follow me for 4 days in what used to be known as Byzantium and Constantinople.

Day 1 – Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern

We started our trip in the most famous neighbourhood of Istanbul, Sultanahmet. This is where you will find the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and many more famous sights. We were lucky to have excellent weather, and after a quick breakfast on the go, we headed to Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

I knew the history of Hagia Sophia, once a Christian Orthodox cathedral, it was turned into a mosque, and is now a museum. What I didn’t know, on the other hand, was how big and impressive the place was.

Hagia Sophia

The ceilings are so high it is unbelievable.

Deësis mosaic in Hagia Sophia

This is also where you will find the very famous Deësis and Comnenus mosaics, some signs left from its cathedral days.

Comnenus mosaic in Hagia Sophia

Make sure to peek through the windows for the most beautiful views of Istanbul’s roofs.

Istanbul's roofs

After a Turkish tea break, we were off to the Blue Mosque. It is good to note that the visits are allowed between prayer time and if you are a woman you will need to cover your hair. I made sure to wear a scarf around my neck at all time when in Istanbul so I could easily cover my head if I needed to.

Wearing a head scarf in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The inside of the mosque is embellished with light features, stained glass and mosaics.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The building itself is wonderful to look at and changes colours throughout the day, sometimes appearing blue, sometimes grey or even white!

The Blue Mosque in IstanbulThe Blue Mosque in Istanbul

We took a little bit of time to check out the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Serpent Column before grabbing lunch at one of the many restaurants around.

The Obelisk of Theodosius in IstanbulThe Serpent Column in Istanbul

In the afternoon, we first visited the Basilica Cistern, famous for featuring in a James Bond film (From Russia with love) and for its Medusa columns.

The Basilica Cistern in IstanbulMedusa column in the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

We then spent some time exploring the streets of Sultanahmet. Stopping for some baklava.

Baklava in Istanbul

We headed toward the Yeni Cami square where the beautiful ‘New’ mosque stands.

Yeni Cami mosque in Istanbul

Our last stop of the day was the Spice Bazaar, where we smelled and tasted a few things before buying some tea and some Turkish delights.

Spice Bazaar in IstanbulTurkish delight at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Turkish food is delicious and there are a few dishes I listed in a previous post that you need to try while there!

Istanbul and the Bosphorus

We crossed the Bosphorus and enjoyed watching the fishermen keeping busy at sunset.

Fishermen in Istanbul

Day 2 – Galata Tower, Karakoy and afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great on our second day but we didn’t get discouraged and headed out to explore Karakoy neighbourhood.

Karakoy Istanbul

Our first stop was at the Galata tower, a medieval building with amazing panoramic views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.

Galata Tower in IstanbulView from Galata Tower in Istanbul

We enjoyed the views and headed back downstairs for a warming cup of tea. The weather wasn’t getting better we, therefore, decided to go explore Karakoy’s streets so it would be easy to shelter in a shop if needed.

Street art in Istanbul

Embarrassing fact: I didn’t know Istanbul had an old tramway system running in the pedestrian streets. I actually discovered it when I almost got hit by one!

Istanbul tramway

We got lost in the streets and ran into some of the famous Istanbul sights like the Kamondo steps and Taksim Square.

Kamondo steps in IstanbulTaksim Square in Istanbul

It eventually started raining so we decided to take shelter at the Pera Palace Hotel for some tea and cake.

Pera Palace Hotel cakes

The place is gorgeous and famous for hosting the Orient Express passengers – including Agatha Christie – before or after their trip on the train.

Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul

Day 3 – Ortakoy and a cruise on the Bosphorus

We started the third day in the neighbourhood of Ortakoy, a charming traditional area with plenty of trendy restaurants and cafes.

Ortakoy in Istanbul

This is where we had the best Turkish breakfast of our trip!

After a very satisfying breakfast, we headed to Besiktas’ port to catch one of the Bosphorus boat tours. I cannot remember exactly which company we used, but they were very easy to find and we bought the tickets at one of the front desks at the port.

Ortakoy in Istanbul

We picked a hop-on-hop-off cruise which allowed us to stop and explore different neighbourhoods.

Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul

The boats are often enough that you won’t have to wait too long if the area you stop at is not very big.

Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul

We were lucky to have excellent weather on that day and the views were fantastic.

Bosphorus cruise in IstanbulBosphorus cruise in Istanbul

We first stopped at Emirgan, a small neighbourhood with a village vibe where we grabbed a coffee.

Emirgan in Istanbul

Back on the boat, we headed to Asia and stopped at Beylerbeyi for a quick bite on the go and nice views of the European side.

Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul

Our last stop was in Kadikoy, where we explored the small lively streets and grabbed yet another cup of Turkish tea (I did buy a couple of boxes to take back home as you can imagine).

Bosphorus cruise in IstanbulMarket in Kadikoy, Istanbul

We very much enjoyed Kadikoy with its lively market and plenty of bars and eateries. It seems like it would be a fun place to go out in the evening too.

Market in Kadikoy, Istanbul

Day 4 – Topkapi Palace Museum and the Grand Bazaar

Our final day was spent back in Europe. We spent the morning exploring Topkapi Palace.

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The place is beautiful, the architecture is amazing and the gardens are a real pleasure to visit.

Topkapi Palace garden in Istanbul

I also recommend visiting the harem where you can learn a lot about it, which (spoiler alert) is nothing like what you may imagine it to be. It was a lot more civilised and a lot less glamorous than what books and movies may have depicted.

Harem in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The harem was actually where the family of the sultan lived. It was a private and quiet house tucked away from the crowds of the royal court.

After lunch, we headed to the very famous Grand Bazaar, our final stop. We kept it for last as we knew we would probably buy souvenirs there (we did).

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

The place is very impressive with endless covered alleyways. It is vast and it is very easy to get lost in it.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

It is also magical and feels like shopping in a giant Aladdin’s cave!

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

We absolutely loved our time in Istanbul and we will definitely be back, where Europe shakes hands with Asia.

Istanbul

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28 thoughts on “4 days in Istanbul

  1. I was in Istanbul around 3 years ago and covered most of the things you mentioned. I absolutely loved the food there especially the gooey icecreams. Missed on the Pera Perla hotel though; I am not a Agatha Christie fan but the food looks delicious!

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  2. I’ve always been fascinated by Istanbul but have been a little afraid to visit. I saw a documentary on the Hagia Sophia and have loved it ever since. Such an amazing history! Great post!

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  3. The Hagia Sophia is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, in my opinion. Istanbul is an amazing city. Plus the food is great!

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  4. I’ve never been to Istanbul, but heard soooo many great things about it. Your article only made me wish to go there even more! Do you have a personal favourite place in the city?

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  5. Thanks for this amazing guide on Istanbul. The Spice Market and Karakoy’s streets.. both look great and so vibrant. Any place that has colours becomes even more special. Istanbul has so much to offer. Can’t wait to get there!

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  6. Istanbul is a wonderful city to visit. I wish that I had known about the Pera Palace Hotel. I would have loved to have tea there. It looks stunning!

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  7. I’ve never been to Turkey but I heard its beautiful especially the hot air balloon view. I notice that this city is actually very unique and different to all the typical cities that you see all the time. Definitely look forward to visit Istanbul soon.

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  8. I like what you said about not knowing that there were any accidents until you put on the news! I have been to Istanbul many times and looking at your photos has just brought me back. I really enjoyed visiting the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia, both very interesting.

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    1. I just wanted to mention it because Istanbul got really bad rep in the news but Turkish people truly are adorable! I find it unfair that the action of one man would jeopardise the entire tourism industry and those who live off it!

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  9. Completelty agree that thanks to news and the exagaration in media most great places are considered to be unsafe. I transited via Istanbul during my trio to Lebanon with kids last year and really wish my transit lasted bit longer than one day. Especially after reading your post – there is so much to see inn Istanbul!

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  10. I love Turkey, is one of my favorite cities, food and pastrery is delicious also! Good trip, I just would add a visit to the turkish bath or hammami, amazing experience to recommend!

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  11. This brings back so many magical memories for me! When I first backpacked through Turkey fresh out of university, I got a job at a little cafe just down the road from the Blue Mosque and spent so many beautiful moments in Sultanahmet. Istanbul is gorgeous and should be at the top of anyones list!

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  12. Turkey is definitely on my Bucket List as I would love to explore Istanbul & Cappadocia! With regards to Istanbul, obviously the Blue Mosque & for me, the Hagia Sophia are must sees in my mind. But I also want to walk the old bazaars & eat a lot of that great food! Such amazing history has happened there.

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