If you only have three days in istanbul
Collected by Leeann Murphy, AFAR Local Expert
If you only have three days then there’s plenty of time to visit all the top sites in Istanbul, and to dabble in the local lifestyle. Fill days one and two with the must-see sites in old Istanbul; on day three go further afield to stroll the neighborhoods of Beyoğlu or venture west to visit Eyüp and the gilded mosaics of Chora Church. The close proximity of historical sites and the great public transport system mean conquering Istanbul with a three-day itinerary is easier than it looks.
Vişnezade Mahallesi, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
This decadent palace, which overlooks the Bosphorus from the European side, holds great importance to Turkey. The late-19th-century sultans resided here and ruled the Ottoman Empire from here, and while the Turkish Republic's capital is in Ankara,...
Dervişali Mahallesi, Kariye Cami Sk. No:8, 34087 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
To see a dazzling collection of glittery mosaics, go to Santa Kariye, the 5th-century Byzantine church. Also referred to as St. Savior in Chora and as the Church of the Holy Savior, the church is richly decorated with 14th-century mosaics in...
Emniyetevleri Mah. Eski Büyükdere Cad., Emniyetevleri Mahallesi, Yamaç Sk. No: 7, 34415 Kağıthane/İstanbul, Turkey
The allure of smoking nargile, also known as hookah and shisha, is insurmountable in the Middle East. In Istanbul, the most authentic place to try it is Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi. The 300-year-old Medrese has evolved from a religious school and...
Cankurtaran Mh., 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
The Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and Museum of Islamic Art in the gardens of Topkapı Palace make up the trio of Istanbul Archaeology Museums. An array of permanent and temporary exhibits display items from sculptures and...
Firuzağa Mahallesi, Dalgıç Sk. No:2, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Incurable romantics should visit the Museum of Innocence in Beyoglu, Istanbul. Read Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence first, or visit the museum and then read the novel, or visit the museum while you are reading the novel. It really...
Yıldız Mh., 34349 Beşiktaş/Istanbul, Turkey
A nice location in Istanbul is Otakoy-stroll the local neighborhood and enjoy a mint tea and sheesha on the waterfront. Local fisherman bring in their catch and even toss the cats hanging around a few treats. In the evening, young couples walking...
Süleymaniye Mah., Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar cad. No:1, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Suleymaniye Cami is a working mosque perched above Istanbul. Farther away from tourist areas, this mosque brings calm to your soul for its beautiful view outside and the dense quiet inside.
Şahkulu Mh., Galip Dede Cd. No:15, 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Just off the busy pedestrian street, Istiklal Caddesi, and a few steps down Galip Dede Caddesi in the Galata area, is the quiet and inspirational museum of the Sufi Mevlevi Lodge (Divan Edebiyati Muzesi). The Sufis are one of the mystical branches...
Cankurtaran Mh., Ayasofya Meydanı No:2, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The sun sets over Istanbul as I am coated head to toe with aromatic clay and served fresh fruit sprinkled with pistachios under the heavenly dome of a 457 year old hamam. Tenderly, my attendant washes me before lathering my body with olive oil...
The Theodosian Walls (aka The Walls of Constantinople) stretch just under 6 km across the border of Istanbul's Old City. Built by the Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century, they complimented an earlier protective wall built in the 4th century by...
Rumeli Hisarı, Yahya Kemal Cd., 34470 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
Most visitors to Istanbul probably don’t realize that there is a fortress there. Located on the western shore of the Bosphorus (just south of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge) is a fortress that dates back to pre-Ottoman rule. Rumeli Hisarı...
Ragıp Gümüşpala Cd. Eminönü Otobüs durakları yolu karşısı, Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Rather than take the suggestion of our guidebook (and spend 6 hours floating on the Bosporus only to navigate our way back to the dock of origin with a little trickery), we headed to the west of the Galata docks in Eminonu and bought a ticket for...
İstiklal Cd., Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The lifeblood of modern Istanbul is the two-mile-long pedestrian street Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), running from Taksim Square to the Tünel train station. It's equal parts touristy and local, commerce and culture, and strolling down...
Firuzağa Mahallesi, Bostanbaşı Cd. No:19, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
The Çukurcuma neighborhood, just a short walk down the hill from Istanbul’s busy İstiklal Avenue, is an antique, vintage, and retro lover’s delight. Step onto Faik Paşa Street or Turnacıbaşı Street and you step back in time....
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Meydanı Sok. No:46, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Closed for many years for restoration, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum reopened in late 2014 and is located on the edge of the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet. The building was once the palace of Ibrahim Pasha (1493-1536), the Grand Vizier,...
Sultan Ahmet Mahallesi, Ayasofya Meydanı, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
If the mosaics of the Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) and Kariye Museum (Chora Church) left you dizzy with admiration, then do take the time to visit The Museum of Great Palace Mosaics. The bi-level gallery sits beneath the Arasta Bazaar, just a stone's...
Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:99, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
A cultural hub for Turkish and international art, Istanbul Modern opened in 2004 as a permanent home for the contemporary Istanbul Biennial. The 8,000-square-foot warehouse sits along the Bosphorus next to the Golden Horn, a historically important...
Eyüp Merkez Mahallesi, 34050 Eyüp/Istanbul, Turkey
Overlooking the Golden Horn in Eyüp, Pierre Loti hill offers a spectacular panoramic view of Istanbul's seven hills. Linger here for a while and partake in the Turkish art of keyif - the art of idle relaxation - at one of the rustic teahouses and...
Kuzguncuk Mahallesi, Kuzguncuk Çarşısı Cd. No:7, 34674 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey
One of the sweetest and photo-worthy enclaves to line Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait is the former Jewish, Armenian and Greek neighborhood of Kuzguncuk. Located on the Asian side, south of the First Bosphorus Bridge, this “village within the city” is...
Kalenderhane Mah., Haşim İşcan Gç., 34134 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
The 921-meter long Valens Aqueducts - a prominent landmark in Istanbul's Fatih district - played a vital role in supplying water to the people of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Roman Emperor, Valens ordered the construction of the aqueduct...
Ali Kuşçu Mahallesi, Fatih Türbesi Sk. No:1, 34083 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Most travelers to Istanbul will make a bee line to photograph the blue hues of the hand-painted tiles that give the Blue Mosque its name. Though, for many locals one of the more intriguing mosques to visit is Fatih Mosque, located atop the highest...
This beautiful 19th-century palace on the Asian shoreline near the First Bosphorus Bridge served as a summer retreat for sultans and visiting dignitaries. Designed in a French neo-Baroque style, the palace features six halls and 24 rooms adjacent...
Yeniköy Mahallesi, Köybaşı Cd. No:93, 34464 Sarıyer/İstanbul, Turkey
The castles, bridges and palaces overlooking the Bosporus may be impressive, but it’s the smaller yalılar (waterfront mansions) that whip many people into a photo frenzy on a Bosporus cruise. These ornate multimillion-dollar Ottoman mansions are...
- 1The Tea Capital of Europe Isn’t Where You Think It Is
- 28 New Books You Need to Read Before Flying to France
- 3An Expert Guide to Working Remotely and Traveling the World
- 4Beyond the French Quarter: Discovering New Orleans’s Downriver Delights
- 5Intimate Portraits of Women Who Live as Men in Remote Albania