Wondering what to do in Istanbul? Perfect! You’re in the right place.
I have visited the city several times over the past 20 years and know the place well and these are my recommendations for what to get up to if you have one day in Istanbul.
You can see a lot.
What To Do In Istanbul In One Day
The Market Area of Mısır Çarşısı & The Grand Bazaar
This is the famous spice bazaar in Istanbul and one of the must-visit areas in the city.
It (along with the Grand Bazaar) is great to wander around and see all the food, spices, souvenirs, and so much more.
It’s a great place to start the day at and get some amazing cheese, dates, fresh fruits etc for breakfast or a snack.
You can always do it the other way around and end the day there for food as well.
Inside the market.
A lot of fresh fruits to get.
There is also the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul that you should also see which you can get to from Mısır Çarşısı easily as it’s just several minutes walk from it.
From the Grand Bazaar, you can continue to the Hagia Sophia in 15 minutes or so walking.
Spend 1-2 hours (or more) wandering around these markets.
Visit The Blue Mosque, New Mosque, & Hagia Sophia
The Blue Mosque (official name the Sultan Ahmed Mosque) was built in 1609 in the Ottoman era and functions as a mosque but is also popular with tourists.
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul used to be a cathedral but was converted to a mosque by the Ottoman Empire. Then it was a museum but has recently become a mosque again.
Spend 1-2 hours exploring these historic places.
The New Mosque.
The ceiling murals inside the mosque.
See The Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is the largest old cistern in Istanbul having being built in the 3rd-4th centuries and is only 150 metres from Hagia Sophia so head over to here after visiting them.
Wander the Streets For Shopping in Istanbul
Shopping in Istanbul is great for a few hours along its long central shopping street the İstiklal Caddesi which starts by Taksim Square and the myriad of side streets and markets.
You can find everything around these places from modern clothes shops, souvenirs, to old traders in the markets.
Stroll Along The Istanbul Waterfront
The Istanbul waterfront, whether on the European side of the Bosphorus or the Asian side, is a good place for a walk to see the local Istanbul people hanging out, fishing, and watching the goings and comings of boats along the Bosphorus.
The popular street-side bagel snacks are everywhere and are tasty!
Take a Boat Cruise On The Bosphorus
The Bosphorus separates Europe from Asia and getting out on a boat is the best way to experience it (along with taking a walk on the waterfront.
If you want to have a budget experience then just take the local ferries that run passengers from one side of the Bosphorus to the other.
If you want to spend a bit more then you can take a proper tourist cruise boat which will take you along the Bosphorus and the best time to do that is around sunset.
On the local ferry.
See The Sufi Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha Cultural Center
Located in a 15th-century bathhouse, the Hodjapasha Cultural Center is where you can see a traditional Sufi meditation dance.
The dancers are known as whirling dervishes and it’s a mystical experience to witness.
Sufism is a sect of Islam that concentrates on the inner mystical dimension. It originates in Turkey dating back several hundred years.
Istanbul is one of those must-see cities to visit once in your life.
If you’re planning to travel around Turkey have a look at my post about travelling from Istanbul to Ankara and then across to Kars in the Far East of the country on the sleeper train.
Also visiting Cappadocia during the winter months which is like a magical land at that time of year.
This is the travel insurance company I recommend you to use for your travels: World Nomads Travel Insurance
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