Istanbul in 3 days – what to see when traveling on your own
For three days in Istanbul, you can, in principle, see all the main attractions of the city and add/dilute your cultural experience with long walks, cheerful noisy gatherings in local cafes/restaurants, enchanting shopping and visiting hamam.
Book a hotel in the Sultanahmet or Grand Bazaar area to stay close to everything and experience the full flavor of the city. Our choice of hotels in Istanbul: Darussaade Istanbul is a small nice hotel located in the very center of the city, from the bonuses – breakfasts served on the terrace overlooking Istanbul. See also a useful selection: 22 hotels in Istanbul with roof terraces.
Day 1 in Istanbul: Sultanahmet
Spend a whole day exploring the main attractions located in Sultanahmet – the Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia (plus optional Basilica Cistern located nearby) and Topkapi Palace. Don’t plan anything else for this day. Only on Topkapi need to allocate at least half a day. On the way to Topkapi, buy local delicacies, as you will want to halt on one of the green lawns or benches overlooking the Bosphorus.
Admire the evening views of Sultanahmet and treat yourself to dinner at one of the restaurants located on the roofs of the old city (rooftop terrace) – a very trendy format in Istanbul.
Day 2: The old quarters of Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar and the Hammam
Spend the morning exploring the atmospheric Suleiman Mosque and walking through the colorful streets of the old quarters in the Grand Bazaar.
If you want a little adventure, look for a secret abandoned roof in the Grand Bazaar area. This secret place you can try to find using Google maps by name Buyuk Valide Han. The search will not be easy, but the reward is the most amazing panorama of Istanbul.
Then – at the Grand Bazaar, where you can easily get lost for a couple of hours. Authentically you can have a snack with kebabs in one of the dozens of small family restaurants located in the Grand Bazaar or baklava-tea at the bazaar itself.
After an exhausting day, its best completion is to leave a couple of hours in the Chemberlitash Hamam and then drink wine with delicious fish in the Kumkapi area.
Day 3: Galata, the Golden Horn and New Istanbul
Spend the day walking around the Golden Horn, Galati, and Beyoglu.
Start your day in Eminonu, take a walk along the embankment, eat hot corn and feed the pigeons at the New Mosque. Admire the paintings and watercolors of Istanbul artists. Wander through the Spice Market, watch the fishermen on the Galata Bridge and climb the Galata Tower. Take a ride on the colorful red tram in the Beyoglu district. Try local street food at Iskadel Caddesi, as well as go up to Taksim Square and return from there to the Golden Horn on the funicular.
If you do not plan to spend the 4th day in Istanbul, set aside a couple of hours for a cruise along the Bosphorus. Check out the cruise schedules at Eminonu Marina.
Admire the sunset over the Golden Horn and spend the evening in atmospheric and fun Karaka.