How to Spend 2 Days in Istanbul
Two days in Istanbul let you explore beyond the must-see attractions and discover the city’s European and Asian sides. Split your time between continents, experiencing the UNESCO World Heritage highlights in and near Sultanahmet, and then spend day two navigating the sights and tastes on the eastern side of the Bosphorus. Here’s how to do Istanbul in 48 hours.
Day 1: Sightsee in the City
Morning: Maximize your time with an early morning tour of Topkapi Palace and take a peek at the lavish former residence of the Ottoman’s sultans, including the Harem Apartments. Stop to take photos of Sultanahmet Square, the former Hippodrome of Constantinople, before visiting two more of Istanbul’s architectural highlights—Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) and the Blue Mosque.
Afternoon: Browse the stalls at the gigantic Grand Bazaar, where you’ll find everything from handicrafts to clothing to carpets—be sure to haggle if you want a bargain. Continue to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where the colorful spices make for stunning photographs and you can taste lokum (Turkish Delight) in every flavor imaginable.
Night: Stroll over the Galata Bridge at sunset to watch the local fishermen casting their lines along the Golden Horn—another great photo opportunity. Galata is an atmospheric spot for dinner and drinks, but for evening entertainment, you could also attend a Whirling Dervish performance or a traditional belly dancing show.
Day 2: Journey to Asia
Morning: Ride the ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy on Istanbul’s Asian side and spend the morning exploring the neighborhood. Ride the historic tram and visit the famous fish market, then continue north into Uskudar to admire landmarks including Beylerbeyi Palace, Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, and Beylerbeyi Mosque.
Afternoon: Set sail on a scenic cruise along the Bosphorus and admire views of both sides of the city. Keep your camera handy as you pass landmarks including the Bosphorus Bridge, Dolmabahce Palace and Ciragan Palace on the European shore, and Beylerbeyi Palace, Maiden’s Palace, and Anadolu Fortress on the Asian side.
Night: This is your last chance to sample Istanbul’s delicious cuisine, so spend your final evening on a Turkish food tour. Relish tasty street-food favorites like simit bagels, tuck into freshly grilled kebabs, and indulge in sweet baklava accompanied by a glass of traditional raki and a classic Turkish coffee.