Istanbul is the largest city in terms of population in Turkey, and also the most visited by tourists. Istanbul is the only city in the world whose surface is divided into two continents, Europe and Asia, which makes the city on the Bosphorus a new tourist destination for any travel enthusiast. Istanbul offers unique experiences, it is a city that welcomes its tourists with open arms, and wherever you go, you can see how the locals are eager to make you feel as good as possible in their city.
In this article we will present you an itinerary through which you can discover some of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Istanbul, a program that will be divided into 3 days.
- About Istanbul
- How do you get to Istanbul?
- Where to stay
- Transportation in the city
- Activities and sights in Istanbul - What to see in Istanbul
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
Stretched on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents, Europe to the west, Asia to the east, opening to the Sea of Marmara in the south. With a history of more than two millennia, the city had different names: Byzantium in Greek antiquity, Constantinople, as the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and after 1923, when Turkey became a republic, the city received the name Istanbul. Also then, Istanbul lost the status of the capital, in front of the city of Ankara.
Istanbul remained the economic capital of the country, with a metropolitan area whose population exceeds 15 million inhabitants.
How do you get to Istanbul?
Istanbul has two airports, located in different areas of the city:
- Istanbul Airport, located in the northwest, approximately 50 km, in the European part: all Turkish or Tarom lines land here
- Sabiha Gökçen Airport, located on the Asian side, 50 km away, where Pegasus, a low cost company, lands
To get from the airport to the city center, you can take the bus, taxi or transfer from the hotel.
We left Cluj with Turkish Airlines, and as we arrived quite late (after 12 at night), I preferred the option with the transfer from the hotel, for which I paid 60 euros round trip. It is also and the most convenient option, because we were met directly from the exit of the airport by the driver and taken to the front of the hotel. Likewise on the way back, when I had a flight at 6 in the morning.
Where to stay
The most suitable accommodation locations for tourists are those in the Fatih area, in the historic center, or in the Taksim - Galata area, the shopping and nightlife area of Istanbul. The simplest is to look for accommodation directly on booking.com, you can find nice accommodation at quite good prices. If you come by car, make sure that the hotel also has parking spaces.
We chose a hotel in the historic center, close to the two mosques (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque).
Transportation in the city
The city has a very well-developed infrastructure, starting from subways, trams, buses. The traffic is quite difficult during the day, that's why I recommend avoiding transport by personal car in the city, to go from one objective to another.
For public transport, a transport card will be useful, called Istanbul Kart, on which you will load the amount of money needed for travel. Buying it from the jukebox costs 25 TL. It is important to know that this card is not nominal, so you can travel with several people with one card.
Activities and sights in Istanbul - What to see in Istanbul
We left with a program already well established, by days, so that we could divide all the desired objectives into zones. We started with the European side, visiting the old city, took a cruise on the Bosphorus, visited the Taksim market area, the colorful Balat district, the Asian side and the television tower.
- Walking Tour
- Hagia Sophia
- The Blue Mosque
- Gulhane Park
- Bosphorus cruise
- The Tower of the Virgin
- Taksim Square
- Istiklal Street
- Galata Tower and Bridge
I started the day with one Walking Tour, so that we can enter the atmosphere of this fascinating city. The guide briefly presented the history of the city, took us to the most famous tourist attractions in the historic center (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Gulhane Park), gave us recommendations on what we can do and what we can visit in the city and introduced us to the wonderful world of Istanbul. Some of the visited objectives will be described below.
Hagia Sophia it is a mosque of historical importance for both Muslims and Christians, and was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage monuments. It was initially built as an Orthodox Christian church, in the 6th century, and then transformed into a mosque in 1453. Until recently, the mosque had been transformed into a museum, but now it has become a mosque again, so the entrance is free. Attention ladies and gentlemen, it is mandatory to have your head covered when entering a mosque. Also, everyone is obliged to take off their shoes and leave their shoes at the entrance, in specially arranged lockers.
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, officially known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is famous because it is the only mosque in Turkey with 6 minarets (towers). It was built in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmet I, who wanted to build a rival mosque to the Christian church transformed into a mosque, Hagia Sophia. At the moment, the Blue Mosque is in the process of restoration, so it cannot be seen in its entirety. But it is possible to enter and visit it inside.
Gulhane Park is the oldest park in Istanbul and is located near the Topkapi Palace.
After the guided tour, we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant. Istanbul has a lot of restaurants where you can eat very well, and I could say quite cheap. Many of these are on the top floor of the buildings, and offer spectacular views of the city.
After lunch, I did one Bosphorus cruise. We went on the cruise recommended by the guide from Walking tour, but there are many options for cruises, both online and directly from the spot. Most boats of this kind depart from the southern shore of the Golden Horn, from the Eminonu area. The cruise lasted around 2 hours, and cost 15 euros per person.
The Tower of the Virgin
The Tower of the Virgin it is best seen from the Bosphorus, so pay attention to it when you pass by it. The tower is located on a small island located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus and dates from the ancient period. It was used as a lighthouse, but now it has been transformed into a cafe.
In the evening, we went to visit the Taksim and Galata market area.
Taksim Square in the Beyoglu neighborhood is one of the representative and lively places of the city. It is the meeting place for demonstrations and demonstrations of the locals.
From Taksim square we got off on Istiklal Street, the most famous and popular street in Istanbul. It is a pedestrian street, full of shops, and represents the most energetic street of the city. The red tram, also known as the nostalgic tram, which has become a symbol of Istanbul, also runs here.
After Istiklat street we arrived at the Galata tower. It was built in the 14th century as an observation tower, and now offers tourists the opportunity to climb it to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.
We had dinner at a restaurant at the base of the Galata tower, in a dreamy atmosphere, where we were again delighted with Turkish delicacies.
After the tower, I crossed the Galata bridge to reach the Fatih area again, where we had accommodation. The Galata Bridge stretches over the Golden Horn, and is a place that attracts tourists and locals alike, thanks to the many restaurants that can be found on the bridge.
- Balat neighborhood
- The television tower
- Uskudar area
The next day I started visiting her Balat district of Istanbul, a neighborhood known for the colors of the houses, colors that bring cheerfulness and joy to any passerby. From the old center, from the Eminonu area, I reached the neighborhood very easily by bus.
The television tower
After that, we wanted to visit the Asian side of the city, to feel the pulse of the city from the other continent. The first time I went to Istanbul television tower, from where we could admire the splendid panorama of the city from the Asian side. The television tower was recently built, being located on one of the highest hills of the city, and is expected to become one of the most popular tourist attractions, thanks to the panorama it offers.
Because it was quite difficult to get to the television tower with public transport, we chose to go by taxi. Thus, we were able to enjoy crossing the Bosphorus bridge.
From the tower, we started towards Uskudar area, which is the commercial center of the Asian city. From there, I got back to the European area with the Marmaray subway, an underground subway that runs through a tunnel directly under the Bosphorus Strait.
Passing in Asia, I noticed the difference between the two parts of the city. If in the European part I saw a modern, touristic, effervescent city, European in the true sense of the word, crossing the Bosphorus I felt a traditional, quiet, maybe even a little more conservative city. It should be mentioned that the people I interacted with here did not know English, unlike those in Europe.
In the evening we had dinner again at a specific Turkish restaurant, with kebabs, Turkish delicacies and Turkish music in the background.
- Topkapi Palace
- The Grand Bazaar
- Pierre Loti
I started the third day visiting her Topkapi Palace. We decided to go in the early hours of the morning, to avoid the congestion during peak hours. I bought the tickets at the entrance, and as I arrived among the first, there was no one in line. An entrance ticket now costs 28 euros, and it can also be bought online (https://www.topkapipalace-tickets.com/).
Topkapi Palace it is the former residence of the Ottoman sultans for about four centuries, now turned into a museum. It is one of the important tourist attractions of the city, being the most visited museum in the country. The palace is built in the form of an architectural complex, made up of gardens and courtyards, being surrounded by several small buildings, which used to fulfill different functions. Currently, various representative exhibits for the history of Turkey are displayed in the museum. But there are also objects of interest for us, Romanians, considering that the original sword of Stephen the Great is exhibited at this museum.
The Grand Bazaar
After the delicious lunch taken on a terrace with a direct view towards the most important mosques in Istanbul, we continued to visit The Grand Bazaar. Everyone knows that Turkey, namely Istanbul, represented a commercial destination for Romanians after the 90s. Even if, for us Romanians, the Grand Bazaar no longer has the same importance as it did in the 90s, it is still one of the important tourist sights of the city, being visited by many tourists.
Pierre Loti – the panoramic area of the city
After dinner, we wanted to see the panorama of the city from the European side, so we went to the area Pierre Loti, a hill from which you can admire the city and the Golden Horn. From the historic center you can take a bus to the bottom of the hill, and from there you can go up by cable car or on foot.
We ended the evening, of course, at a restaurant where we enjoyed the tasty local dishes for the last time.
These are some of the most important tourist attractions in Istanbul, but not the only ones. Depending on time and preferences, you can also visit other locations, where we unfortunately could not get there, due to lack of time or because they were under restoration. Some of these objectives would be the Cistern basilica, Dolmabahce palace, Camlica park.
For lovers of history, culture, gastronomy, or even for tourists who want to tick off as many destinations as possible, Istanbul is the right choice.