Introduction to Istanbul
Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium or Constantinople is a bridge that connects Asia and Europe. Due to the fact that the city embraces two continents, it’s food, arts and many other cultural aspects have both Asian and European influences. Istanbul has a lot to offer because of its historical monuments, exquisite food and unique culture that combines European, Asian and Middle Eastern influences - Istanbul is a captivating stopover for your multi-city flight. If you have a quick stopover in the city, here's how you can spend 2 days in Istanbul, Turkey.
Day 1 of 2 Days in Istanbul: See the best sights and mosques in the city
For your first day in Istanbul, you can check out these top things to do and the best mosques in the city. You don't have to do everything on the same day but it will you an idea how to spend your two days in Istanbul.
Best things to do in Istanbul
Out of the many highlights of the city, these are the top attractions you need to visit during your stayover in Istanbul.
Hagia Sophia is an architectural masterpiece that used to be a church. It was then used as a mosque and now it's a museum.
It was built in a region that is prone to earthquakes and has been able to withstand for centuries despite having damages from many natural disasters. Be sure to purchase skip the line ticket as the lines can be overwhelming.
2. The Blue Mosque
With its iconic six minarets, the blue mosque takes its name from the blue tiles used to decorate its interior. Many travel photographers mentioned that the blue mosque is the most photogenic building in Istanbul. The interior of the mosque is decorated with hand painted blue tiles; the upper area is covered with hand painted glazed ceramic and the lower stories are illuminated with stained glass windows. The mosque is completely free to enter but the public is not allowed during prayer times. The prayer times are between 11.30 to 13.00, 14.30 to 15.30 each day and on Friday, the mosque is closed from morning to 14.30. Keep in mind to wear a proper dress which covers up your entire body (women need to wear a head covering) when you are visiting.
3. The Grand Bazaar
Your Istanbul stopover wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the grand bazaar and the spice bazaar. The grand bazaar has 50 streets and about 4000 shops where you can buy almost everything. The spice bazaar which specialized in spices is a colorful place to visit. In both places, be aware of the local prices and be prepared to haggle. Be aware of the prices of your purchases or else you might pay a lot more than you should.
Best mosques to visit in Istanbul
Istanbul has more than 3000 mosques which makes it difficult to decide which ones to visit during the stayover. Apart from the already mentioned Blue Mosque, here are few other mosques that you should visit.
Suleymaniye – It is the second-largest mosque in the city which was built in the 16th century. The tombs of sultan Suleymaniye and his wife can be found there.
The new mosque – Also known as Yani Cami was completed in the 1600s is a well-known mosque to study Ottoman title works.
Sehzade Mosque – This mosque is the first project of the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
Day 2 of 2 Days in Istanbul: Check out the neighborhoods and follow the off-the-beaten trails
For your second day, we recommend to check out different neighborhoods or stray away from the crowds by exploring these recommended non-touristy spots.
Best neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul
Istanbul is a city where millions of people live and work. The following is a list of areas you might be interested in visiting.
Sultanahmet is the city’s old town which was once the political center of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Most of the city’s attractions like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Egyptian Obelisk are located in this part of the city.
2.Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
These places are the center of modern Istanbul. These places have shopping, restaurants, bars and much more. Taking a stroll down the Istiklal street special during the night is a unique experience as the street becomes lively during the night with music and street performers.
Galata bridge and tower are the main attractions in this part of the city. The viewing gallery at the top of the tower gives you an amazing view of the city. The queues for the tower are pretty long. Galata bridge connects the two sides of the European part of the city. Don’t forget to enjoy a fish sandwich while you visit the bridge.
Off the beaten trails in Istanbul
If you are a person who likes to avoid multitude of tourists and have a peaceful stopover, we suggest the following places.
There is no better place to escape from Istanbul's noise and traffic than the prince Islands which consist of four islands. Cars and other motorized vehicles are forbidden in these islands. Carriages are the main source of transportation or you can hire a bicycle. Also, you can travel between islands without having to pay extra. You can enjoy a peaceful day with sightseeing, swimming, biking, and hiking in these islands.
2. Haci Bekir
Turkish delight is loved by the masses all over the world. Haci Bekir is widely regarded as the birthplace of this mouth-watering dessert. They have been producing Turkish delights since 1777. The shop is just off the seaside of Kadikoy.
3.Turkish bath (Hamam)
A Turkish bath which consists of a series of soaping, steaming, scrubbing and massaging will revitalize your body. The bath usually takes around an hour or two and the prices depend on the type of treatment you select.
Bonus tips for your 2 Days in Istanbul, Turkey
Best foods and best places to eat and drink in Istanbul
Turkish cuisine is famous for being rich in flavor and variety. If you are a foodie, there are a few meals you should try. Frist, the Turkish breakfast, which consists of white bread, a variety of jams, cheeses and honey.
For a delightful Turkish breakfast, one of the places to go where you’ll get good value for your money is Van Kahvalti Evi suggested by Our Escape Clause blog.
Second is Meze and Kebabs, which are all over the city and there are more than a number of well-known ones to try. There are many famous places to have Meze and Kebabs in Istanbul. The Wanderlust blog suggests Akcanlar in Taksim Square because of its traditional menu.
Third, dessert, consisting of Turkish delight, Baklava, and Halva. These desserts are served everywhere including most cafes. So find your local café grab a dessert and a coffee or tea and sit and enjoy.
Travel Itineraries for Istanbul
If you have selected Istanbul as a stopover for your multi-city flight, these are some of the best itineraries to make the most out of your stayover in Istanbul.
24 hours in Istanbul.
Got only 24 hours to experience Istanbul? If so, UK travel blogger Wanderlust Chloe has a brilliant 24-hour itinerary to cover the major attractions of the city. She has been traveling since 2014 after leaving her job and has experience visiting countries all over the world.
Check out her blog here.
3 days in Istanbul
Chrissy is a tourism management graduate that shares her traveling adventure on her blog, Travel Passionate. She has shared tips on transportation modes, dishes you need to try out and many more in her 3-day itinerary.
5 days in Istanbul
Two By The World is the blog of independent travelers Joao Santos and Andre Nogueira from Portugal. They have shared their views and tips on Istanbul and to make the most of your 5-day stayover.