Whether you’re passing through or have a short vacation, if you’re wondering “what to see in Istanbul in 3 days,” you’re in the right place. Of course, this incredible city, which has no analogues in the world, cannot be fully explored in such a short time, but it is enough time to finally and irrevocably fall in love with it. In this article, we will tell you about the most famous sights, which should be visited by everyone who comes to Istanbul for the first time.
Istanbul sights – what to see in 3 days?
For the first time in Istanbul, it is better to stay on the European side. It could be the Sultanahmet district or Beyoglu – conditionally the center. Although there is no city center in Istanbul as such, let’s determine the place with the greatest number of attractions.
In 3 days to see a lot of places in Istanbul, but be prepared for a walking marathon – tiredness in the legs to replace the pleasant impression of what you see. We also highly recommend buying an Istanbul kart right at the airport to get around the city easily, quickly and on budget. From the airport you can also take the Havabus bus with the transport card.
By the way, if you don’t want to go to every museum and palace, and you need to see everything in the shortest possible time, a tour of the Bosphorus will be a great alternative for you. There are a huge number of tours of the Bosphorus, both private and city tours. In 2 hours it is quite possible to see the beautiful views from the strait and still take a break from the long races. The Galata Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Rumeli Fortress, and the suspension bridges of Istanbul are the bare minimum you will get from a boat tour. By texting me, you can know about the walking options.
What to see in Istanbul – Day 1
We suggest we start with the nearby attractions. Between Sultanahmet and Beyoglu are the main ones.
If you are staying in Sultanahmet, the first thing you should do is go to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Both religious works of art are opposite each other. If your vacation in Istanbul falls in the warm season, be sure to take a walk in the nearby Gulhane Park. Then make your way to the Eminenyu district. This peculiar transportation hub offers a great choice for your destination. You can take a ferry to the Asian side, have a shopping day at the Egyptian Market, and continue at the Grand Bazaar, walk across the Galata Bridge past the fishermen and into a completely different Istanbul – which is what we suggest you do.
Galata Bridge and Galata Tower
After crossing the Galata Bridge you get to Karakey district. From Karakey metro station you can go left to explore the neighborhood from the inside or right to Galata Tower. You can walk to Galata Tower through the winding streets of European aristocratic houses and mansions, and take one of the oldest Tünel subways in the world back.
As you approach the Galata Tower, photograph it from all sides and climb to the top, if you are not intimidated by the queue.
In general in Istanbul it is difficult to single out some of the most special attractions, as this city, and disposes just to walk and stare around – everywhere will be authentic and beautiful.
What to see in Istanbul in 3 days – Istiklal Avenue
Walking along the streets around Galata you involuntarily get to Istiklal Avenue. You can walk along this avenue all day and not get bored. There is something for everyone: beautiful mansions, churches, mosques, stores, cafes and bars with terraces overlooking the beautiful Bosphorus. Istiklal is also famous for the famous red streetcar that runs along the street. It is likely to be difficult to ride because of the large number of people who want to, but it is everyone’s sacred duty to take a photo. Istiklal ends at Taksim Square. The main attraction of the street is the new “Golden Ring”, where you can walk to the Cihangir district where you can buy some antiques from the many shops and auction houses.
Istanbul Sights – Day 2
My second day in Istanbul, we suggest starting in the Karakey neighborhood. The seaside neighborhood with its many cafes, coffee shops, bakeries, stores of local designers and cozy streets is perfect for breakfast. Choose any place you like; each has its own zest, interesting interior and presentation.
After a hearty “Turkish breakfast” let’s go to the newest restored landmark of Istanbul – Galataport. The port is just beginning its work, but already huge cruise ships are coming to its shores. The promenade also offers a sweeping view of the city. You can sit down at one of the establishments to drink tea and admire the landscapes of multifaceted Istanbul.
Besiktas and Ortakoy
Next right on the course is the district of Besiktas, a place popular with the atypical and beautiful Dolmabahce Palace. If you do not like crowds of tourists, queues and long waiting – it is worth to see at least its richly decorated snow-white gates. The view is sure to impress everyone.
From Besiktas, walk to the Ortaköy district to see Istanbul’s most charming Baroque mosque on the Ortaköy promenade and taste the best kumpir (the equivalent of crumble potatoes) and waffles in the city. This reward is definitely worth the long drive.
If you still have strength and desire, you can drive to Arnavutkoy to see the Turkish San Francisco with its wooden colored mansions right on the waterfront.
We also want to reassure you and warn you against panic and melancholy from not being able to see as much as possible. You have to take your time to see Istanbul, trying every “piece” of this incredible city. You should definitely come back here more than once, because each visit will reveal the city in a new way.
What to see in Istanbul – Day 3
It’s the last day in the city of love, incredible history, and the confluence of great eras. What to do on your last day in Istanbul? We have three options for you: go shopping for gifts in the Grand Bazaar, visit the colorful Balat district, or take a ferry to the Asian side, such as Kadıköy.
At the Grand Bazaar you will find everything from spices, sweets, and coffee to furnishings, clothing, and jewelry. The covered market is a whole complex consisting of 66 streets and more than 4,000 stores.
Balat is a cozy neighborhood with cobblestone streets and colorful houses. Since ancient times it has been the home of Jews, Armenians and Greeks. Today the area is loved by tourists for its photogenic places where you can walk for the whole day. Nice cafes, antique stores, churches, and other attractions await you in Balata. Do not miss this small but important area of Istanbul.
In this article we decided not to touch on visiting the Asian part of the city, as we think it would take more time for a leisurely stroll. But if you are very curious, you can take the city ferry from Eminenyu or Kabataş pier and in 20 minutes you are in Kadıköy. One of Istanbul’s oldest neighborhoods, but especially loved by Turkish youth.
The winding streets are lined with houses decorated with brightly colored murals, with independent boutiques, stylish cafes and restaurants with Anatolian cuisine. In the coastal Moda district you can enjoy panoramic views of the Marmara Sea and the Sultanahmet district. This is where you will experience the real life of the locals.