Istanbul, a city split between Europe and Asia. This mesmerizing city full of traditions and culture will leave you wanting more. Here is a 5 day itinerary that will cover everything you need to see and do when in Istanbul! Keep in mind that you can do all of this easily in 2 or 3 days, but if you want to experience Istanbul properly, we recommend a 5 day visit.

Day 1 – Old Istanbul

The first things you’ll notice when arriving from the airport are towers rising from every corner. Istanbul is home to more than 82.000 mosques, and no, you do not need to see every one of them. But few of them are worth the mention 🙂

Hagia Sofia

The interior of Hagia Sofia is grand as it’s history that dates back to the Middle Ages. It opens at 9 AM and the mornings are the best time to visit it when there are still no tourist groups. The entrance fee is 60 TL (~8 €) but it is worth it. The interior is grand and majestic.

Blue Mosque

Across from Hagia Sofia is Sultan Ahmed Mosque, a historic landmark that still remains a functioning mosque. It is known as a Blue Mosque for its blue interior. We recommend visiting it in the morning from 8:30 AM to avoid crowds, and the entrance is free.

Basilica Cistern

In Yerbeten street, you will find Basilica Cistern. It is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The entrance fee is 20 TL (~3 €). Built in the 5th century, it was used to supply water.

Day 2 – Viewpoints

Sunrise at Kobbe Istanbul

The best view of Istanbul is from higher ground. Start your day by climbing the rooftop Kobbe. This was actually a smart business idea of a few local kids. They redecorated the rooftop and you can get a perfect picture here for a price – 100TL (~13 €). The roof nearby is free and offers an amazing view as well, so be sure to use it for great pictures.

Suleymaniye mosque

The rooftop above gives you a unique view of our next stop – Suleymania mosque. It is built on seven hills, and you can see it from almost every corner of Istanbul. Many people don’t come here so be sure to visit it. The gardens of mosque offer a beautiful view of Istanbul and Golden Horn.

Day 3 – New Istanbul

Ortakoy Mosque

We’ll spend the day at the New Istanbul. Start your day bright and early to catch a sunrise at Ortakoy Mosque. This place is usually pretty crowded before noon, so catching a sunrise is a good option. In essence, you get the place just for yourself and can witness an awesome sunrise. Behind the mosque you’ll see one of three bridges connecting Europe and Asia.

Rainbow stairs

A few bus stops toward the center you’ll find famous Rainbow stairs. This rainbow-colored urban staircase is part of a citywide guerrilla street art project.

Istiklal street

On your way to famous Istiklal street, stop for an authentic Turkish breakfast at Van Kahvaltı Evi. Istiklal is the main road in Istanbul, and it gets very crowded. It’s the It place, all the shops are here and many restaurants and cafes. The famous Red Tram goes through it, and you can hop on it if you like.

Galata Tower

This street will lead you to Galata tower, a medieval stone tower that offers a view of all Istanbul. The view from the tower is overlooking the whole city. The entrance fee is 25 TL (~3 €).

Galata bridge

When you climb down, just head to Old Istanbul, crossing the Galata bridge. This a good sunset spot. As the sun goes down behind the mosques, and you can see fishermen lined on the bridge, and at the docks freshly made Balik Emek. Perfect end of the day.

Day 4 – Bazaars

Take your time while visiting Bazaars. Many locals and tourists come here all day long. But there isn’t a thing you couldn’t find here.

Spice Baazar

Also known as the Egyptian Baazar offers a variety of spices, nuts, sweets and dried fruits. This is a perfect place to buy something for your loved ones back home, a dash of Istanbul.

Grand Baazar

This is a shopping maze. But you can get anything and everything at a cheap price. You need to haggle a little, but they expect that, so don’t be shy. When you get out of this maze, you should enjoy some Turkish authentic cuisine in the nearby restaurants.

Day 5

Balat

A colorful hidden gem in Istanbul. This is a neighborhood that will just take you in. With its colorful houses, cute little cafes, you won’t even feel like you’re in Istanbul. You could easily spend the day here relaxing.

Sunset boat tour

We’re not usually a fan of boat tours, but this one was quite enjoyable. A sunset boat tour following the European and Asian coast. You will cross under one of the bridges connecting these two continents.

If you have the time, spend a day or two just exploring the streets of Istanbul. This city has so much to offer and people are nice and kind. This was by far my favorite vacation I ever spent in a city. If the time allows you, we would recommend going for a few days in magical Cappadocia. You can check out our guide here -> Cappadocia guide

How to get around in Istanbul?

Istanbul actually has a very good and cheap public transportation system. All you need is Istanbul kart. You can get it at the airport in stands that look like yellow boxes. It costs 7 TL (~1 €). Covers busses, trams, metro, cable car. You can also get from the airport to the city center for just 30 TL (~4 €) in a very comfortable bus. You just charge it and use it as you go.

How to stay connected in Istanbul?

Hotels usually have free wifi, but of course, you’ll need something extra to help you around. Turkey has many telecoms that offer more or so the same thing. We choose Vodafone cause of its great coverage across the country. We paid 250 TL (~33 €), which is quite a lot for 20 GB.

Best time to visit Istanbul?

Late spring and early autumn are the best time to visit Istanbul. Temperatures are warm and cozy but not too hot. There are a few to none rainy days. The streets are not that busy, but don’t expect to be the only tourist in the city. Istanbul is an all year attraction.

Where to eat in Istanbul?

Exploring local cuisine is our motto! We recommend you do the same.

On the streets, you’ll find many touristy places that have a higher price than it should be. Here are our top authentic places to eat local cuisine.

Van Kahvaltı Evi – breakfast place
Ortaklar Kebap Lahmacun – lunch and dinner
Kucukoglu Barbecue Restaurant – lunch and dinner
Berekt Doner – for a quick snack

Where to stay in Istanbul?

We stayed for the whole time in one hotel Boss Hotel Sultanahmet. The location was great cause everything was within walking distance. The hotel offers a free breakfast that was delicious and had many options.