24 hours in Istanbul


With a history of human habitation that dates back over 400,000 years, Istanbul is the type of city where you could spend a lifetime uncovering its highlights and hidden charms. But what if you’ve only got one day, where would you start to explore this melting-pot of cultures and civilisations?…

8.30am – Dolmabahce Palace
After a quick breakfast head for the Dolmabahce to admire the sheer opulence while wandering through its gold and jewel-adorned rooms.

10am – Sultanahmet District
Wander through the hub of historic Old Istanbul which is dotted with centuries-old mosques and winding alleys.

11am – Admire the Aya Sofya
Discover the history of the city’s most famous monument – the Aya Sofya. Its pillar-free dome is not only spectacular, but an architectural masterpiece.

interior of Blue Mosque in Istanbul Turkey

12 noon – Blue Mosque
Cross the street to the six-minaret Blue Mosque, famed for its gleaming interior made from white-and-blue tiles.

1pm – Enjoy a local lunch
Take a break for lunch at one of the many street-side kebab restaurants. Follow your meal with a tiny cup of coffee while listening to the city echoing with the afternoon call to prayer.

2.30pm – Head to church
Head to the Western Edirnkapi district’s Chora Church, an imposing Byzantine monument. Gaze at the mosaics and frescos that cover its ceilings and walls depicting scenes from the bible.

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Turkey

4pm – The Grand Bazaar
This covered market contains over 4,000 shops in a maze of connected vaulted passages. Haggle over Turkish carpets and rose oil or sample some of the street food on offer.

5pm – View from the top
Admire the 360-degree views over the city from the top of the imposing Galata Tower.

7pm – East meets West
Take the tram on the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn and walk along the Sahil Yolu corniche, where fishermen cast their rods into the sea.

8pm – Dine by the sea
Enjoy fresh sea breezes blowing off the Sea of Marmara. Select some fresh fish accompanied by a glass or two of the national drink, raki: an aniseed-flavoured alcohol. If you’ve got a sweet tooth why not try a square of lokum (Turkish delight) or even some syrupy baklava.

10pm – Beyoglu’s bars
After a day of history, relax in one of the city’s most scenic neighbourhoods and experience modern Turkish life at a cosmopolitan Beyoglu bar.

You can tour Istanbul in a day on Intrepid’s Urban Adventures, or get to know this fantastic city a little better on Istanbul In Depth. But why stop there? Check out Intrepid’s amazing tours of Turkey!

Photos: Rob McLeod, Hagia Sophia; Carolina Hicks, Blue Mosque interior; Pamela Anderson, Grand Bazaar.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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