Istanbul in a short time

View from the Galata Tower, Istanbul, by Packing my Suitcase.

Previous to my recent and first trip to Istanbul I heard and read a lot about the city, made some research as I always do, and of course, a list with must do’s too. I was already aware that 2 nights and 3 days would never be enough to cover everything I wanted to, even so I tried to fit as much attractions as possible within this short time in a city with so much to offer like Istanbul.

Exploring

Even with the short time, I could visit all the attractions that were on my list, and within these 3 days I had time to visit the Galata Tower and contemplate a beautiful view of Istanbul in an early morning, watching the city waking up…

This medieval stone tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 to replace the Old Galata Tower, which was destroyed by Latin Crusaders in 1204. The Galata Tower used to be the tallest building in Istanbul, 66.9 m high, constructed at 35 meters above sea level. The tower was my favorite attraction in Istanbul and it’s a must, especially in the early morning.

To have a very nice Turkish Breakfast nearby the Galata Tower, with tea and omelet:

To cross the Galata Bridge that links the Beyoglu and the Fatih areas of the city, and provides a beautiful view of the Bosphorus…

To pay a visit to the so famous Hagia Sophia (Hayasofya)…

Of Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia used to be a Greek Orthodox patriarchal Basilica, then an Imperial Mosque and nowadays a Museum. I particularly found it beautiful on the outside, but honestly didn’t think it was an amazing place on the inside. I have seen more beautiful religious buildings, besides it really requires renovation (they were actually renovating at the time of my visit). However, it is also a must in Istanbul!

Be impressed with the Basilica Cistern…

I admit that I had no high expectations of this place, but once I got there I realized how impressive it is. The Basilica Cistern is the largest cistern among several others lying beneath Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), 143m high, some fishes and the famous Medusa head.

To have some freshly pressed Pomegranate juice, found in almost every corner of Istanbul. If you like sour, then get one! I loved it!

To have a look at the Blue Mosque (officially Sultan Ahmed Mosque)…

Called Blue Mosque because of its blue tiles, its construction was completed in 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. During my visit I wasn’t able to get inside as when I got there it was closed for prayer, so before heading there, check the opening times.

It might seem silly for many of you, but what called my attention was that just beside the mosque there are individual water taps for people wash their feet, face and hands before attending the prayer. As many of you know, this is something Muslims must do before praying.

To explore the Topkapi Palace and its amazing rooms and beautiful view to the Bosphorus…

Of both Ottoman and Baroque architecture, the Topkapi Palace used be the residence of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. It is nowadays a museum with holy relicts of the Muslim world, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. No doubt a must see!

To walk the busy Istiklal avenue and the Taksim Square…

To bargain at the Spice and Grand Bazaars, where you will not only find spices and handcrafted materials, but also replicas of famous brands…

Useful tip: even spending a short time in the city, buy the Museum Pass, it costs 30 Euros for 3 days, and it gives you access to several attractions in Istanbul. Without the card you would spend the same price in least 3 museums, so it’s worth even for 1 day, in addition you can save time and take the faster line. Be aware that the card allows only one visit per attraction.

Gourmet tip: while in Istanbul I ordered some Turkish homemade gourmet truffles at Giano. The truffles were amazing and exotic, and their service was impeccable, they delivered at my hotel and even sent me a little card wishing me a great trip!

When in Istanbul, if you are interested on trying their truffles or chocolates you can e-mail your order to info[at]giano.com.tr. Their website is available only in Turkish, but I used Google translator to find out which flavor I wanted, you can’t go wrong with “Rokfor” – made of white chocolate and Roquefort Cheese. Remember to order at least 3-4 days in advance, as they customize the order especially for you. Thank you Giano‘s team, I loved it!

Where to stay

Before choosing my accommodation in Istanbul, I was in doubt to whether stay at the old area of the city, Sultanameht, close to the major attractions, or at the neighborhood where cafΓ©s, restaurants and bars are located, Cihangir. Truth is, I chose to stay at the latter, a very prominent area, which became popular among artists in the past years.

I have to say I was very happy with my choice, highly recommend to anyone and everyone, and would stay there again. Cihangir is very close to the Galata Tower, and you can be in Sultanameht within minutes by foot or tram, and just nearby you have plenty of options to eat and drink.

I was also more than happy and satisfied with my hotel choice: Frida Suites. With a very comfortable and stylish room, with a kitchen, great shower and extremely clean with an amazing smell, Frida Suites surprised me in every way. The hotel manager was incredibly helpful, nice and funny. Highly recommended!

Turkish Visa

It is important to be aware that nationals of some countries require visa to enter Turkey. This visa can be obtained online, or as soon as you arrive at the airport, on specific machines where you can make a payment and receive your visa before heading to the immigration line (it’s very important to know that to avoid wasting your time). To check if you need to pay for a visa, take a look here. Luckily, W and me were exempted from visa.

Getting to and from the airport…

With metro: you can reach the center city very easily with the metro. You will need to buy the metro tickets, available at the station entrance. I would recommend buying the Istanbulkart, which can be reloaded whenever needed.

By Taxi: I wouldn’t recommend this option unless you mind using public transportation, besides the traffic in Istanbul is horrible and you will probably pay more than you are expecting. If you choose this option, agree the price with the driver in advance.

By shuttle bus: this option is very practical in case you don’t want to walk with your luggage around the city or pay a lot for a taxi. There are buses leaving from the Airport to Taksim Square and vice-versa. One way costs approximately 11 Euros.

*All information based on AtatΓΌrk International Airport

Galata Tower and Bridge, Istanbul, by Packing my Suitcase.Even with the short time, I had a blast in Istanbul, and would go back in a heartbeat. I left too much to be discovered behind, so I will not hesitate to take the opportunity to visit it again when it appears. For more about my impressions of Istanbul, check my post Istanbul, until we meet again…

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • I have always dreamed of going to Istanbul, but I just haven’t made it there yet. This post is making me so jealous! The architecture is just amazing. And that Turkish breakfast looks so good!

    • Thank you for the lovely comment!! I hope you can make it there soon… Istanbul is a magical place with a lot to discover, I loved it!! The Turkish breakfast is really good indeed πŸ˜€

  • Nice post! Istanbul is really charming city with multi-kulti atmosphere, thanks for remind me my memories πŸ™‚ Bye. K

    • Thank you Kamila! Happy that you liked and that I brought good memories back πŸ˜€

  • Great post – you’ve done a fantastic job of selling Istanbul to me!! Would now really love to go.

    • hahaha thank you!! Im happy you liked it… and that you make it there soon! Let me know when you need some tips, I will be more than happy to help πŸ˜€

  • Wow! I’m impressed you guys packed so much in in 3 days. You guys did just as much as we did in an entire 2 weeks, hehe. The only thing we did extra was going to the Domabache Palace. It was SO amazing!!! I didn’t expect anything of it, but it was the most opulent palace I’ve ever seen. I’d say definitely see it next time you’re back!!
    I was so so disappointed too that the Hagia Sophia was under renovation. It ruined half of the grandeur of it… Sigh.

    • I know right?? But I have to say that the second day was very tiring… we did almost everything on food! If we had the choice we would have done it in 2 weeks too, taking it slow πŸ˜€ Awnn I wanted to go to the Domabache Palace too, and also to the Maiden Tower, but we had no time left πŸ™ its good so we will still have a lot to see when we go again πŸ˜€
      Yes, the Hagia Sophia was a bit disappointing… half of it was under renovation so having a nice picture from the inside was a bit difficult!
      Thank you for the comment Anna! Have a nice week!

  • Amazing place, food and photos! Very informative post, thanks for sharing Allane!

    • I am happy that you liked πŸ˜€ thank you for reading!! I wish you a great week!

  • Your pictures are so beautiful, they’re making me want to book a trip to Istanbul NOW! πŸ˜€

    • awnnn thank you Vlad!! You have to go there and make even more beautiful pictures, Im sure yours will look even better πŸ˜€

  • The food in Istanbul looks amazing!

  • Sha

    Wow, looks like you covered a lot! But I understand what you mean that there are more that you wish to cover. I sometimes wish I have all the time in the world to do all of it..haha…

    • hahaha yes me too Sha!! Especially when the city is so big as Istanbul, there is always a place to visit! πŸ˜€

  • It looks very nice and seems to be the perfect destination for a long city-trip πŸ™‚

    • It is indeed, I would surely recommend staying longer in Istanbul, so you dont have to hurry to visit everything and still have some time to enjoy sitting at a cafe πŸ˜€

  • I love Basilica Cistern too! Simple but oh so impressive.

    • Exactly!! It reminded me of you, as you told me it was worth to visit it πŸ˜€ it really was!

  • ps Maybe the renovation prevented you from fully admiring Hagia Sofia? I find it truly stunning but can understand also that plastic covers and wires can ruin the experience!

    • Yes probably πŸ™ but it was also sad to see the painting from ceiling coming off… its good that they are renovating!

      • Ohh a pity! I don’t remember it being that run down. Well, in that case, good they are renovating.
        Now that I am writing this I just remembered that I had a dream of being inside Hagia Sofia and one could see almost nothing. The whole ceiling was covered πŸ˜‰

        • Yes I know πŸ™ but probably it will look better once its renovated πŸ˜€ hahaha oh no, bad dream! See? Its time to go back there πŸ˜€

  • Loved this post and thanks for taking me back to SA very special place. Your photos of the cisterns are excellent and one of the highlights of our time there.

    • Im very happy you enjoyed the post Sue! Thank you! Its great to know that I brought you some good memories back πŸ˜€ the cistern is really amazing!

  • Nice overview! Turkey has been popular with Russian tourists for the last 2+ decades, but I have been kind of ‘meh’ on it. Two girlfriends traveled to Istanbul a few years ago and they said that they felt fairly harassed almost everywhere they went, because they didnt have a male companion. That said, Istanbul is such a culturally and historically pivotal city for western and eastern civilizations, that I know I have to pop in there some time…

    • I understand your friends… I have also heard the same story! Fortunately I went with my husband so I didnt have this problem, otherwise Im sure It would have been the same for me! But no doubt it is a fantastic city! I hope you can make it there sometime soon!! πŸ˜€

  • Hi Allane! What a great and informative post! Istanbul is on my top five list – on where to visit. I have been dreaming about this destination! The flight tickets from Norway, are so cheap, so I hope to visit one day when I am back.
    Your pictures are amazing! The food looks delicious. The hotel very comfortable. And it is obvious that there is so much to see in the city! I understand that three days were not enough to see everything! But it looks like you covered a lot! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Hanne!! Im happy that you liked it!!
      Yes, when you come back to Norway you should definitely go… the tickets from Germany are also very cheap, I was impressed!
      Yes 3 days are not enough, but yes I did try to cover a lot, so Im guessing I was able to visit the basic spots πŸ˜€ When you go stay longer.

  • Wow! What a great write-up and equally beautiful photos. What a vibrant city with a fusion of cultures. I’ll contact you for advice if I ever go to Istanbul!

    • Thank you so much Helene for your kind words πŸ˜€ please do, I will be more than happy to help you with your trip to Istanbul πŸ˜€

  • Amazing. Your post has made me want to go there NOW! I love the photos. Especially of the Cistern and the bazaars. I would spend hours there!

    • Thank you Ting!!!! Time to plan your trip there then πŸ˜€ and combine it with some relaxing days on the beach at the riviera!! And Im sure you would spend hours at the Bazaars, its amazing… so many stores!!

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    I’m definitely going to have to save this post for if I make it to Istanbul – you’ve managed to see and do so much in such a short space of time – from the sounds of things, it’s worth a visit just to see that chocolate truffle shop alone!!

    • hahaha Im happy you liked it!! Yes, it was a short time… I wish we had stayed longer… but its not so far from Germany, so we might go again soon, I hope πŸ˜€
      And I hope you can make it there!! Ohhhhh the chocolates are amazing!!! πŸ˜€

  • Loooooved this post! It took me back in time to the beginning of summer. How was your trip? What did you like most?

    • hahaha hi Virginia!! Thank you! Im very happy you liked my post πŸ˜€ My trip was amazing, I cant wait to go back to Turkey!! What I liked the most was the Galata Tower, the Turkish people and diving in Kas… AMAZING! πŸ˜€

      • Sounds great! I loved the views from Galata Tower too. The atmosphere is amazing, isn’t it? Are you planning future trips to Turkey?

        • Yes, I loooved the view from the Galata Tower, especially in the early morning, it was a great experience! Hubby and me loved it so much that we do hope to come back soon, but for now we didnt plan when! What about you?

  • Brilliant post. I can remember you telling me you where going to Istanbul! Looks like you loved it. πŸ™‚ You got some amazing pics of the Basilica Cistern. My camera was awful in there; too dark! πŸ˜› Hope you also enjoy your return visit there! Would you consider maybe going to Cappadoccia? Looks like the surface of the Moon there πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for the compliment πŸ˜€
      Yes I really loved Istanbul, and I do consider going to Cappadoccia, but this time I didnt stay long enough, next time I will make sure to visit it, looks amazing!!! πŸ˜€

  • SchΓΆner Eintrag, ich war damals zwar eine Woche da, aber leider nicht in den Zisternen! Du bist aber nicht doch insgeheim Γ–sterreicherin und brauchtest das Visum deshalb? πŸ˜‰

    • Jaaa Istanbul ist ein super Stadt! NΓ€chstes mal du muss die Zistern besuchen

      • Cool was verschlaegt dich nach Schland? Ich mag Latinos ganz allgemein sehr, davon kann es hier im manchmal doch tristen Zentraleuropa gar nit genug geben πŸ™‚

  • the captures reminds me so much of my last travel there! Such a beautiful city and so much to offer for those wish to see.. I am sure you had a good time and did you have Turkish coffee?

    • Thank you!! I am happy you liked my post πŸ˜€
      Indeed, Istanbul has a lot to offer and I hope to get back there soon to see what I didnt have time to see!
      No I didnt have Turkish coffee because I dont like coffee haha, but otherwise I would have tried πŸ˜€ I loved the teas though!

  • I hope you get a chance to visit again. I never knew they had teas!! Maybe I should visit Turkey again to have the Turkish Tea πŸ˜‰

    • Yes me too πŸ˜€ such an amazing place!!
      Yes they are very addicted to teas, especially black tea πŸ˜€ when you go again try! πŸ˜‰

  • Another place I would love to visit!
    Jessica, Turquoise Compass

  • Wow… I’ll go to Brazil in February And was thinking to go by Istambul, and stop 2 or 3 days. My doubt was if in a short time I can enjoy this magic place… You answered all my questions… Quickly and directly… A big thank you, dear! Btw, the pictures are amazing!

    • Thaank you dear ☺️ Im happy to have helped you!! If you need any other tips feel free to ask!! You will love Istanbul ❀️