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How Many Days Do You Need to Fully Enjoy Your Trip To Istanbul?


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Denise B.

Last updated : May 14, 20249 min read

Itinerary Ideas

Istanbul is a multi-faceted city, where east and west, Asian and European, ancient and modern meet. Land is divided by waterways and time is divided by empire. 


Whether you have one day, a weekend, or longer, the city has much to hold your attention. If you choose to hit the highlights or live like a local, GoWithGuide has a corps of expert and enthusiastic specialist guides who will add value to whatever time you have available. 

Tours can be customized to the size of your party, the length of your stay and above all, your specific interests. 

Only One Day in Istanbul 


Old Town, otherwise known as the Walled City, is nestled in the heart of the bustling metropolis. The most popular sites in Istanbul are found here, all within walking distance of one another. The Hippodrome, or ‘Horse Square’ was built at the dawn of the third century when Byzantium, as it was known then, was still a provincial town. Nevertheless, the Roman emperor of the time saw fit to build an arena for chariot races, surrounded by a stadium that could seat 100,000 spectators. Subsequent emperors filled the area with statues of their own likenesses, their gods, and the heroes of the day. Obelisks, columns, and paved walkways marks the area where this hub of social life stood for almost a millennium. Smaller artifacts can be seen in the complex of museums nearby that are dedicated to the city’s archaeology and antiquities.  


Within a five-minute walk, you will see the multiple minarets and domes of two of the city’s premier places of worship, the Blue Mosque and the pink edifice known as the Hagia Sophia. They were built in the 6th and 17th centuries respectively, and are both in daily use. Slightly north of the Hagia Sophia is the Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th century to provide water for royalty, the clergy, and other inner city inhabitants. The underground cistern is capable of storing 80,000 cubic meters of water but is kept almost empty so that visitors can admire the forest of 336 columns that support the ceiling. 


Most of the eclectic mix of Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian marble and granite columns were brought in from ruined sites around the Roman Empire. Their carvings and engravings tell a myriad of tales. The cool cistern is a photographer’s delight and a welcome respite on hot summer days. Also within the Old Town is the Topkapi Palace. This sprawling 60 hectare complex was built on a hill overlooking the Sultan’s domain. The courtyards and formal gardens separated what was then the seat of government from the royal residence. There is time for a light lunch at the palace restaurant overlooking the Bosphorus strait, the busy gateway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.  


A kilometer walk or a quick tram ride away is the Grand Bazaar, Turkey’s premier showcase for manufactured goods, curios, and mementos. Another 800 meters north is the Spice Bazaar, which specializes in culinary delights such as baklava and Turkish coffee. You are now close to the shoreline, where your Bosphorus cruise awaits. Options range from a one-hour sightseeing trip to a leisurely dinner-time excursion against the backdrop of the city lights. The Hodjapasha Cultural Centre, which is housed in what was once an ancient Turkish Bath, provides alternative entertainment for the evening. The dance shows range from traditional belly dancing to the entrancing Whirling Dervishes. 

Two Days in Istanbul 


If you are fortunate to have a two-day stay in Istanbul, trips to the other side of the Golden Horn and the Asian side of the city are essential. We start back at the seafront, but train enthusiasts may choose to take a short detour to the Sirkeci Station. In its heyday, this was the grand eastern terminus of the original Orient Express route from Paris. The service is still offered once a year in late summer. 


A short distance away, spanning the Golden Horn, is the Galata Bridge, the fifth structure to be built on the site. The drawbridge replaced the legendary pontoon bridge that pitched and rolled with the waves. The current bridge is 490 meters long with a span of 80 meters and accommodates tram lines, a four-lane freeway, and a pedestrian walkway on either side. The balustrades are occupied by fishermen for most of the day, so be alert when they cast their lines into the Bosphorus. On the lower deck of the bridge is a string of restaurants where the fish of the day could not be fresher.


On the other side of the Golden Horn, you might want to take a short ride on the world’s second-oldest subterranean railway, opened in January 1875. Only parts of the London Underground are older than this funicular. It is 500 meters long and has only one car running in each direction, the journey taking approximately 90 seconds. It was a welcome innovation in its day and brought much relief to pedestrians who needed to climb the 25 degree hill from the shore to the commercial center. 


You will disembark on the southern end of Istiklal Avenue near the Galata Tower. For several centuries, this landmark watchtower was the tallest structure in what was then Constantinople. The observation deck is 61 meters off the ground and affords 360 degree views of the city. Istiklal means independence, and this elegant pedestrian mall is also known as the Grand Avenue of Pera. It is lined with buildings in a variety of architectural styles, and has rows of small lanes leading off it.


Old apartment blocks have been redesigned to accommodate boutiques, galleries, theatres. and international chain stores. Restaurants, food markets, and bars interspersed with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches provide refreshments for both body and soul. As twilight approaches, you might like to make your way back to the old part of town in order to catch a ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asian sector of the city. Sunsets looking over the western spires of Istanbul are indeed memorable. The relaxed atmosphere, superb local cuisine, and vibrant night-life will round off your second day. 

Five Days or More in Istanbul 


A few extra days in Istanbul will allow you to absorb more of the nuances of the city, and provide an opportunity to block off time to explore further afield. If you’re a cat-lover, this is the city for you. Istanbul sports the nickname ‘Catstanbul’ as its residents ensure the well-being of the more than 100,000 cats in honor of the prophet Mohamed who loved the species. They are fed well, especially with fish, and some live in custom-built, feline-sized apartments dotted around the city. 


For the young at heart, another small version of the city can be found at Miniaturk, north of Galata. More than 100, 1:25 scale models of iconic Turkish landmarks are on display here. The Theodosian Walls that successfully fortified the Old Town for almost a thousand years are on the other end of the scale. These massive triple defenses were built in the 6th century and kept the city safe until the Ottomans broke through in 1453. Large sections of the wall have survived the city’s expansion through the ages, though, and make for amazing scenic landmarks. 


A trip to Princes’ Island at the south end of the Bosphorus, a vigorous massage in an ancient Turkish bath, and an evening at a Süperlig soccer match are all also quintessentially Turkish experiences worth exploring. 



Life in Istanbul adheres to the western notion of weekdays and weekends in most instances. There is a noticeably different atmosphere from Friday to Sunday evening. However, several of the major attractions close for one day during the week, and not all on the same day. 


Our seasoned guides all know the rhythm of the city and will optimize the time you have available. They offer private tours, tailor-made to ensure that your experience is the best that Istanbul has to offer. 

Istanbul Tour Guide - Tunahan O.

Tunahan O.


I am a tour guide in Istanbul. I usually do walking tours and street tours. I have a lot of routes in Istanbul                                                                                                                                 

Istanbul Tour Guide - Semih B.

Semih B.

5.00 / 5
(1 reviews)

Hi there. My name is Semih. I live in İstanbul. I am professional licensed tourist guide. I would like to host my curious tourist guests as being their tour guide.                                                                                                                                  

Istanbul Tour Guide - Yasin K.

Yasin K.


Merhaba (Hello) from a friendly Istanbulite! My name is Yasin, a licenced tour guide who is in love with his city. Istanbul is more than a regular city. It has been a melting pot of different empires, religions, languages and cultures for centuries! I've been living in this amazing city for 36 years and have about 8 years of experience as a guide. My purpose is not only to show you some historical buildings but also give you a chance to learn more about our unique history, culture-traditions, cuisine, daily life etc. I am very interested in both Roman/Eastern Roman (Byzantine) and Ottoman heritage of Istanbul, so I can offer you very specific tours that you'll always remember. I have basic information on the old/medieval Greek and can read the Ottoman Turkish. I can also understand caligraphic inscriptions easily. I believe that if you really want to feel the soul of historical buildings, you should know what those inscriptions explain to us. That's why I spent so much time to improve myself in this field. I also love photography and trying different types of healthy and traditional food. Fortunately, Istanbul gives us a great chance for them. I'll be so happy to help you with them, too! Feel free to contact me for either a full-day or a half-day tour. I can provide you a complete program or customizable itinerary. Let's explore this amazing city and unique culture together!                                                                                                                                 

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