The majority of attractions in Istanbul are clustered on the European side of the city – Sultanahmet and Beyoglu / Taksim Square. So, it is ideal to cover them area-wise.
Day 1 - Arrival in Istanbul
Day 1: Since you have just arrived in the city, so I would recommend an evening cruise on the Bosporus. Enjoy river cruising with folk show performances served with Turkish cuisine on a 2 hours cruising.
Day 2 - Walking Tour of Sultanahmet
Walking Tour of Sultanahmet, the home to the city’s most important attractions and you must hire a tour guide for the day who’ll walk you around the magnificent history and architecture of the Ottoman Empire. Start your day with:
Topkapi Palace – The court of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It was built in 1461 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II. You must reach here at least by 7:30 or 8 am as the queue starting building up early and it would take you more time in the queue at the entrance.
After Topkapi Palace, you may get hungry and you can enjoy the lunch inside Topkapi Palace at a restaurant having a great view of the Bosporus from the top. After lunch walk to the next stop and pass by Hippodrome Square.
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) – The most striking mosque in Istanbul. It is advised to dress respectfully when visiting, although shawls and outer garments are given at the door if necessary.
Visit the next stop which is just 2 minutes’ walk away.
Hagia Sophia (pronounced as Ayasofya) – The most famous and iconic site in Istanbul.
After Hagia Sophia, you can either go to Basilica Cistern or you can walk to Grand Bazaar. Grand Bazaar closes at 7 pm so you must manage your time accordingly. This will be a long day, you will be walking about 6 – 8 km to cover this all.
Day 3 - Take a boat trip to Princess Islands
Take a boat trip to Princess Islands. It will be a rejuvenating tour for you. Visit the biggest island called Buyukada. After traversing the Sea of Marmara by boat, you will arrive in the quaint island and explore this island by horse carriage. It takes 2 hours in the boat from the Istanbul port to the island. The boat sails after every 1 hour, so you can set your plan accordingly. In my opinion, leave early morning so you get the maximum time on the island.
After you return from the island, you can utilize this time for shopping at Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market.
Day 4 - Explore Beyoglu, Galata Bridge, and Dolmabahce Palace
Start your tour from:
Galata Bridge: Bridge connecting the north and south of European Istanbul.
Galata Tower: Former watchtower offering great views of the city. This tower was known to be built in 528 and is considered one of the oldest towers in the world.
Dolmabahce Palace: Built in 19th century. It was the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire with the last of Ottoman Sultans was residing there.
Istiklal Street: The heart of Beyoğlu / Taksim Square and Istanbul’s most famous street. I would recommend this place to be the last stop of the day because this is where you’ll be spending time in shopping, tasting Turkish food and chilling in a nice café or bar. It’s the liveliest street in the whole of Istanbul and overcrowded too. After the sunset it becomes brighter with the city lights and music from the cafés, you will love the evening vibe of this street.
Day 5 - Grand Shopping Day
You can plan this day by yourself, depending on the kind of shopping you want to do. Check out the list of shopping areas I have mentioned in the former part of the blog and enjoy the day as you like. If you are a shopaholic, then I guess 1 day may not be enough for you because shopping in Istanbul is Crazy!
What else can you do if you are not interested in Shopping?
Take a day trip to Bursa, an Ottoman capital city filled with fascinating relics of the past. Soak in the incredible view as you take the cable car up to Mt. Uludağ. Visit the ancient Grand Mosque, snack on roasted chestnuts and Turkish sweets, and wander through the silk market.
Day 6 - Departure Day
Return back home with sweet memories!