Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey

13 Things to Do If You Only Have 3 Days in Istanbul, Turkey

Galata Tower in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay Colourful umbrellas in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay Galata Tower in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay Colourful umbrellas in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay Rooftops in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul Turkey with text overlay

Planning a trip to this underrated city in Turkey? Read on for the perfect 3 day Istanbul itinerary for first time visitors and what you need to know before your visit!

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Istanbul in Turkey (now officially Türkiye)? Unfortunately, for many of us (myself included before this trip), what springs to mind isn’t always the rich culture, beautiful architecture, welcoming Turkish hospitality and colourful sights.

Colourful umbrellas in Kadikoy in Istanbul

A quick preface for what to expect from this guide to Istanbul: on Yoga, Wine & Travel, I focus on promoting the best of a destination, providing practical travel advice so that readers can plan their trips with ease, and encouraging people to experience the incredible things that places have to offer.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

With the exception of a small handful of places (curse you, Naples), I’ve been fortunate that the vast majority of my travel experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. So, it’s no surprise that I do tend to talk about how wonderful a place is and how you really need to buy a plane ticket ASAP. I’ll be the first to admit this.

Taking the ferry to the Asian side in Istanbul Turkey

However, in this article, I’m not going to gloss over and ignore the fact that there has been a string of high-profile and devastating attacks as well as political unrest in Istanbul in the past. Instead, my goal is to present you with my personal unabbreviated impression of the city and our experience over the few days that we spent there.

I ask that you do your due diligence on traveling to Istanbul, weigh up whether you personally feel that the positives outweigh the risk, and make a decision that you’re comfortable with. If you’re on the fence about traveling to Istanbul, all I hope that this guide does is re-balance the perspective and encourage you to consider that there’s more to Istanbul beyond the news headlines. Wondering what the best places to visit in Istanbul are? Read on.

So, is it safe to visit Istanbul?

Rooftops in Istanbul Turkey

Multiple governments have travel advisories telling its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Istanbul or to reconsider travel to the country. Should you cancel your travel plans? It depends. Like I said before, I’m not here to tell you that it’s all unicorns and rainbows.

From my personal experience, Istanbul is a curious blend of European and Asian culture, the city is buzzing and the streets are busy, and almost everyone we met (barring the taxi driver who overcharged us by almost 5 times the normal rate) was friendly and helpful. If you didn’t know its recent history you would think that it was just any other major city around the world.

Ferry to Kadikoy Asia in Istanbul

We did not experience any petty crime, but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be aware and cautious, just as you would at home or abroad in any other country. According to this US government crime and safety report, “Overall, street crime in Turkey is low. However, you should use the same precautions you would take in the United States. Turkish citizens are the chief perpetrators and victims of most of the crime in Turkey. Although violent crimes (e.g., sexual assault, rape, murder) do occur, the expatriate community is only infrequently targeted. 

One piece of advice we did receive from an Istanbul local was to avoid Taksim Square. Though it is a popular nightlife and shopping district and one of the Istanbul main attractions, it wasn’t on our to-do list to begin with so did not go out of our way to check it out during our 3 days in Istanbul.

Quick tips for your first trip to Istanbul

Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul Turkey

✈️ There are 2 airports in Istanbul – Havalimanı (airport code: IST) on the European side and Sabiha Gokcen (airport code: SAW) on the Asian side. The old airport, Ataturk, shut in late October 2018.

It currently takes slightly less time to travel to the heart of the city from IST, and 50 minutes to an hour from SAW. The airports are extremely busy with multiple security checkpoints, so I would recommend that you arrive early when you are flying out of the country.

SAW Airport Istanbul Turkey

To get to the city from Istanbul Havalimanı airport or Sabiha Gokcen airport, you can take either a taxi or Uber. To get around town, we found that the waiting times for an Uber were longer and we were cancelled on by drivers a few times. Alternatively, save yourself some hassle and pre-book your Istanbul Airport Private Transfer or pre-book your Sabiha Gokcen Airport Private Transfer.

🛂 You need an e-Visa to enter Turkey – Rates vary depending on nationality and you can apply for your visa ahead of time on the official Turkish government e-visa website here. When we applied, the approval was almost immediate and you will need to download and print out a copy of the visa.

💱 Turkish currency – The Turkish Lira (TL) is used in the country and the exchange rate is very favorable right now – approximately 26 TL: 1 USD or 28 TL: 1 Euro as of mid-2023. Euros and USD are occasionally also accepted (and sometimes preferred) by shops and tour companies.

🌤️ Weather – When we visited in September, it was already significantly cooler in Istanbul than other coastal areas like Izmir, Alacati, Fethiye and Oludeniz. In fact, I had to buy a winter coat in Istanbul because I hadn’t packed enough warm clothes!

🗓️ Best time to visit Istanbul – In general, tourism numbers are far lower than they have historically been, so in my opinion there is no “bad” time to visit Istanbul if you want to avoid tourist crowds. However, the weather is more pleasant from April to about October/November, after which it can get bitterly cold.

🌐 Language – Turkish is the most spoken language in Istanbul, and most people, especially those in hospitality or food & beverage, speak English very well so you shouldn’t have a problem with communication.

Rainbow stairs in Istanbul Turkey

👚 Dress code in Istanbul – Most people in Turkey are Muslim, yet Istanbul (and Turkey as a whole) is not extremely conservative. You can walk around with sleeveless tops and female tourists are not required to wear headscarves. The only exception is when you enter a mosque, in which case you will need to abide by the dress code (in general, men must wear long trousers and women must cover their hair, arms and knees).

Looking for more Turkey travel tips? Read more on what not to do in Turkey over here!

How to get around Istanbul

Funicular Istanbul Turkey

There’s plenty of public transportation options in Istanbul, though you will find that you can get around on foot relatively easily. There is a rechargeable transport card that you can purchase (Istanbulkart) but Istanbul is very walkable so we didn’t find ourselves using the metro, bus or tram system frequently.

Taxis are another way to get around Istanbul, and there are plenty of them zooming around town. However, most taxis won’t use the meter and will charge you a much higher fare. Make sure you agree on the price before you hop in.

If you are staying in the Beyoglu/Galata area, there is a convenient funicular system that runs between Istiklal Street and the Karakoy waterfront area. This is handy because it is a fairly steep 15-20 minute uphill walk if you’re trying to get back to Beyoglu/Galata from Karakoy.

The tram system is fairly extensive around the city, and you can buy tickets from machines at each stop. There are also frequent ferries that connect the city.

If you do plan on taking public transportation, you can consider purchasing the 7 Day Tourist Istanbul Welcome Card which is delivered to your hotel and includes 10 public transportation tickets, admission to the Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace, as well as a Bosphorus Cruise.

The best areas to stay in Istanbul

Beyoglu district in Istanbul Turkiye

We stayed in the Beyoglu district, just steps away from the Galata Tower and Istiklal Street. Pera Neuf offers a small collection of stylish and classy yet comfortable boutique apartments in the thick of it all. The owner is extremely responsive and accommodating, and the check-in/key collection process was very easy.

Pera Neuf Apartment near Galata Tower in Istanbul

We loved how clean the Pera Neuf apartment was (we booked the Double Room with Balcony) – the beds are extremely comfortable and the shower pressure is fantastic. Though this isn’t a full-service hotel, the rooms are also cleaned every day (except Sundays) and all the amenities are provided including shower gel, shampoo and conditioner.

Pera Neuf Apartment near Galata Tower in Istanbul

There is a small kitchenette if you plan on making yourself a simple breakfast in the mornings, or simply pop downstairs for a delicious flat white from the neighborhood coffee shop.

Balcony at Pera Neuf in Beyoglu Istanbul Turkiye

There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby Pera Neuf but once the windows are shut you don’t get any street noise. Just so you know, there is no elevator in the building so please bear that in mind if you have mobility issues – we stayed on the 2nd floor.

Pera Neuf Apartment near Galata Tower in Istanbul

If you want to be in a convenient location close to the majority of the best things to do in Istanbul, click here to check current rates and availability at Pera Neuf or click here to see other centrally-located and highly-rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

If you’re hesitant about the stairs at Pera Neuf or looking for other options, I would recommend looking into Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is also in the Beyoglu area. Like Pera Neuf, Be Mate Casa Di Bava offers one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and also “deluxe” apartments which have a small balcony.

Based on my research, reviewers appreciate the spacious apartments, the convenient location and like that the building has a lift. We would seriously consider staying here for our next trip to Istanbul. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava.

Important information about hotel booking in Turkey: You can not book hotels in Turkey using when you are already in Turkey, as it has been blocked by the Turkish government (so has Wikipedia, for that matter). Instead, make sure you book hotels for your stay in Turkey before your trip, or use for any last-minute hotel bookings that you need to make when you are already in the country.

13 of the best things to do in Istanbul in 72 hours

Galata Tower Istanbul Turkey

Wondering how many days in Istanbul is ideal? For a first-time visitor, there are plenty of things to see and places to visit in Istanbul, and to cover all of the sights you should aim to spend no less than 2 to 3 days in the city (though you could easily spend more than a week in Istanbul and still not run out of things to do and see).

Most of the popular tourist attractions are close to one another, meaning you can cover a lot of ground easily and make the most of your time in Istanbul.

Istanbul Museum Pass Turkey

Before we start, you may have heard of the Museum Pass Istanbul, a card that will allow you to enter a dozen different historical and cultural attractions in the city. It currently costs 2250 TL as of August 2023 and is valid for 5 days.

The biggest benefit is that you get to skip the ticket lines (but not the bag checks) and scan the bar code on the card to enter the sights. It can be purchased at several different locations including the Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, as well as online.

Sofia Hagia Istanbul Turkey

However, is the Museum Pass Istanbul worth it? In my opinion, not really. Of the 12-or so sights that accept the Museum Pass Istanbul, we only ended up using the card at the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace & Harem and the Archaeological Museums. And since our visit to Istanbul, Hagia Sophia as it has been converted back into a mosque, and a new entry fee of 25 Euros for foreign tourists is required as of January 2024.

Basilica Cistern Istanbul Turkey ticket office

It’s also important to note that the Basilica Cistern and Dolmabahçe Palace do not accept the Museum Pass, and the Blue and Suleymaniye Mosques do not have an entrance fee.

If you are visiting other parts of Turkey, I would recommend that you get the Museum Pass Turkey instead as it costs 3500 TL as of mid-2023 and grants entry into more than 300 museums and ruins across Turkey. It is valid for 15 days. This is what we ended up doing as we also visited Ephesus, Cappadocia, Fethiye and Oludeniz, and saved a few hundred Turkish Liras on entrance fees.

Researching what to do in Istanbul in 3 days? Read on for what to add to your Istanbul 3 day itinerary:

1. Go on the Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Istanbul on Food Food Tour Turkey

I love food tours, but when have I ever listed a food tour as the first thing you should do in a city? Never. But that all changes with this incredible Taste of Two Continents food tour hosted by Yummy Istanbul (previously called Istanbul on Food), a delicious alternative to the “classic” Istanbul sightseeing tour.

Food market in Istanbul Turkiye

If you thought food tours were only about eating, you were wrong! This tour lasts 6-7 hours and takes you on a cultural and culinary journey across Istanbul.

The reason why this Istanbul food tour is one of the first things you should do when you arrive in Istanbul is because it will help you get acquainted with the city, and shows you Istanbul off-the-beaten-path.

Tale of Two Continents food tour in Istanbul Turkiye appetizers

You get to learn about the city’s history, culture, traditions and insider secrets, taste Turkish dishes you’ve never even heard of before, and your guide will have tons of fantastic dining recommendations for you.

It starts at 9:30 AM when you meet your guide and fellow group members (groups are capped at 7 people). Ibrahim, our guide, has been doing this for 15 years – so you know you’re in great hands!

Turkish breakfast in Istanbul Turkiye

Next, you’re taken through the local market to gather an assortment of Turkish breakfast items including clotted cream and honey (bal & kaymak), scrambled eggs with tomatoes and green pepper (menemen), cured meat and hazelnut paste that is a million times better than Nutella. The dishes are mouthwatering, but pace yourself because this tour includes more than 10 different food stops throughout the day!

After breakfast, you’ll hop on a ferry to cross over to Kadikoy and Moda on the Asian side – something very very few tourists do. The Asian side is what “everyday life” looks like for most locals, and is a lot more laid back than the touristy parts of Istanbul. Here, you eat. A lot.

One of the restaurants we visited, Çiya Sofrası, was even featured in an episode of Chef’s Table! We tried pickled vegetables, mussels, Turkish pizza (pide), tantuni (chopped meat, onion, tomatoes and spices, served wrapped in flatbread), lamb intestines (tastier than it sounds) and finally, Turkish ice cream! We even visited the restaurant where the kebab was invented.

We received a media rate for the tour, but I would not hesitate to recommend The Taste of Two Continents tour for anyone visiting Istanbul for the first time – this is the best food tour in Istanbul, and is well worth every penny.

The 7 hour guided tour costs US$125 per adult, US$75 for children aged 6-12 and is free for infants – this includes food, drinks (alcohol is extra), your ferry ticket to and from the Asian side and an experienced (and very entertaining) local guide. Tours take place every day, rain or shine, and can be booked online here. The tours do sell out early so book ahead to guarantee your spot.

Thinking about heading to Istanbul? My recommendation for independent travelers would be to book a stay at Pera Neuf, a beautiful boutique apartment in the Beyoglu district near the Galata Tower. The apartment is conveniently located, incredibly spacious and will make you feel right at home in Istanbul. Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf.

Also consider staying at Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is similarly in the Beyoglu area. Be Mate Casa Di Bava offers stylish one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and also “deluxe” apartments with a small balcony. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava or click here to see other highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

2. Walk across the Galata Bridge

Bosphorus Strait Istanbul Turkey

This bridge isn’t exactly the most beautiful bridge around, but it is a hub of activity and connects the neighborhoods of Karakoy and Eminonu/Sultanahmet across the Golden Horn.

The reason why I’ve added it to this list is because it’s a fantastic place to people-watch, and is lined with people fishing all day long on either side of the bridge.

3. Visit the Spice Bazaar

Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

Once you’ve crossed the Galata Bridge, the Spice Bazaar is just a 2-3 minute walk away in the Fatih district.

Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar or Mısır Çarşısı, the covered Spice Bazaar was built in the 17th century and features nearly 100 shops selling spices, tea, sweets, jewellery and other souvenir items.

Egyptian Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

Visiting the Spice Bazaar is one of the top things to do in Istanbul and is an absolutely delightful assault on the senses – this is a great place to buy gifts for friends and family back home, and is far less chaotic or sprawling than the Grand Bazaar.

4. Tour the Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkaki Palace Harem Istanbul Turkey

The Topkapi Palace complex is also on the Eminonu/Sultanahmet side of Istanbul, and is a huge 15th-century palace that was once occupied by sultans and their families for 4 centuries; it also served as the administrative and educational centre of the state until the sultans relocated to the Dolmabahçe Palace in the early 1850s.

Topkaki Palace Harem Istanbul Turkey

The Topkapi Palace houses various gardens, courtyards, exhibits as well as the harem – the residence of the sultan and his family. Entrance to the harem, or private family quarters where the Sultan resided with his wives and concubines, costs extra if you do not have the Istanbul or Turkey Museum Pass. Otherwise, a combined ticket for the Topkapi Palace and Harem costs 950 TL.

Topkapi Palace Harem Istanbul Turkey

You should plan on spending an hour or two at the Topkapi Palace. The palace is closed every Tuesday.

Wondering where to stay in Istanbul? We loved our stay at Pera Neuf. This small collection of beautiful boutique apartments is located in the Beyoglu district near the Galata Tower. There are plenty of amazing restaurants and coffee shops nearby. Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf.

You might also consider staying at Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is in the same district. Be Mate Casa Di Bava also offers modern one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and also “deluxe” apartments which have a small balcony. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava or click here to see other highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

5. Check out the Istanbul Archaeology Museums

Istanbul Museum Turkey

On your way out of the Topkapi Palace, make sure you stop by the Archaeology Museums – a must visit in Istanbul for history buffs showcasing artifacts from Turkish, Hellenistic and Roman civilizations.

Istanbul Museum Turkey

The artifacts on display include the busts of Alexander the Great and the God Zeus, a large sarcophagus believed to be prepared for Alexander the Great, objects from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia as well as tile and pottery specimens dating back to the Seljuk and Ottoman empires. Entry costs 340 TL or you can use your Museum Pass (Istanbul or Turkey).

6. See the Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Turkey

Also known as the Ayasofya, the Hagia Sophia is the one of the most prominent monuments in Turkey and dates back to the early 6th century. The current structure is actually the third in its place, as the previous two were destroyed.

Sofia Hagia Istanbul Turkey

For nearly one thousand years, it stood as the largest Christian church in the world and features a stunning dome and wonderfully preserved Christian mosaics that can be viewed from the upper gallery.

Christian mosaics in the Hagia Sophia Istanbul Turkey

After the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, the Hagia Sophia was converted and used as a mosque for nearly 500 years, before finally being converted into a museum in 1935.

Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul Turkiye

In July 2020 it was announced that the museum would be converted back into a mosque and you can check prayer times here. Entry was free for some time, but a fee of 25 Euros per foreign visitor was introduced in January 2024.

Decorated rooftop of the Hagia Sophia Istanbul Turkey

Swing around to the southeast corner of the Hagia Sophia (turn left when you exit) to visit the five tombs of the Sultans. Phew – we’re halfway through, keep reading if you’re wondering what to do in Istanbul in 3 days!

7. Head down to the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern Istanbul Turkey

If you’ve read Dan Brown’s Inferno or watched the movie, this is where the story reaches its peak, with the protagonist searching for a plague that threatens to devastate humankind.

This underground water cistern was the major water reservoir of Constantinople and dates all the way back to the 4th century before being rediscovered in the 1500s. Exploring the depths of the Basilica Cistern is one of the best things to do in Istanbul.

There are two striking stone Medusa heads in the far corner of the cistern, with intricately carved snakes protruding from her head. Located near the Hagia Sophia, the “Sunken Palace” is well worth the eerie walkthrough.

Medusa head in the Basilica cistern Istanbul
Photo credit: sabinoparente via

The cistern is not covered by the Museum Pass. You can use the Istanbul Welcome Card or they accept Turkish Lira at the on-site ticket office. They do not accept any other currencies. The Basilica Cistern reopened in mid-2022 following major renovation work.

Wondering where to stay in Istanbul? We enjoyed our stay at Pera Neuf and highly recommend it for independent travelers visiting Turkey. This small collection of beautiful boutique apartments is located in the Beyoglu district near the Galata Tower. There are plenty of amazing restaurants and coffee shops nearby. Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf.

You might also consider staying at Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is in the same district. Be Mate Casa Di Bava also offers modern one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and also “deluxe” apartments which have a small balcony. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava or click here to see other highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

8. Visit the Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey

The Blue Mosque is also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque and is located opposite the Hagia Sophia mosque. Practically synonymous with the city, the Blue Mosque is perhaps the most well-known monument in Istanbul and dates back to the 17th century when Sultan Ahmet I decided to build the mosque to reassert Ottoman power.

Dress code and entry rules at Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey

Though visiting the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul, it is in fact still a working mosque, and is therefore closed to tourists during prayer time.

Aerial view of Blue Mosque in Istanbul at night
Photo credit: william87 via

In general, the opening hours of the Blue Mosque Turkey are from 8:30/9 AM until one hour before dusk each day, excluding 90 minutes for prayer, and two hours during Friday noon prayers.

Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey

Read more on the prayer times here. You will need to abide by the Blue Mosque dress code before you enter, and entry is free.

9. See the Suleymaniye Mosque

Though the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye Mosque is just as stunning and receives far fewer visitors.

It was completed in the mid 16th century and rebuilt after a fire ravaged the structure just over 100 years later. Like the Blue Mosque, it is open every day but closed for prayer. As it sits on an elevated hill you can check out the sweeping views over the rooftops of Istanbul.

10. Wander through the Grand Bazaar

Ceramics at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

Ask anyone where to go in Istanbul and this indoor market will almost always be on the list: also on the Eminonu/Sultanahmet side of Istanbul is the famous Grand Bazaar (or Kapalı Çarşı). Though we had been semi-warned about pushy salespeople at the Grand Bazaar, it wasn’t as hectic as we had imagined, and the atmosphere was unlike any other I’ve experienced.

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Turkiye

This maze of shops is colourful, electric and fascinating. You don’t have to buy anything here, though we did end up purchasing some beautiful towels, blankets and scarves.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey

And that concludes the tourist attractions that I would recommend that you visit on the southern end of the Galata Bridge/Eminonu/Sultanahmet. If you start early, you’ll find that it is possible to visit sights 3 through 10 on the list within a day.

Boutique hotel in Istanbul: We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Pera Neuf nearby the Galata Tower. It was a fantastic base for spending 3 days in Istanbul and I would love to stay here again! Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf.

Alternatively, you might also consider checking out Be Mate Casa Di Bava in the same district. Be Mate Casa Di Bava also offers modern one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and the building is equipped with an elevator (which many older buildings in Istanbul don’t have). Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava or click here to see other highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

11. Visit the Galata Tower at night

Galata Tower at night in Istanbul Turkey

Galata Tower was nearby our hotel and is an iconic structure along the Istanbul skyline. The 5th century tower is one of the top sights to see in Istanbul, and was once used as a prison. It now stands 68 metres tall, and you can access the viewing platform for a small fee (but the lines can be very long).

Galata Tower at night in Istanbul Turkey

If you only have 72 hours in Istanbul, I would recommend skipping the Galata Tower viewing platform because you might find an equally stunning view with a drink in hand at a rooftop bar; instead, visit the Galata Tower at night to see it all lit up in purple.

12. Tour the Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahce Palace Istanbul

This palace is one of the most opulent in the world and one of the top places to visit in Istanbul. Dolmabahçe Palace was the residence of the last Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and was built in the 19th century.

Today, the palace houses gilded treasures including the world’s largest crystal chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria of England. Though you can’t take photos inside the palace or the harem, you can check out the surrounding gardens and beautiful gates facing the Bosphorus Strait.

Ticket office at Dolmabahce Palace Istanbul

Though many articles state that you can enter the palace with a guide, we didn’t and neither did the other visitors while we were there. However, the palace closes on Mondays and you can not use the Museum Pass here so you will need to pay to enter both the administrative section and harem. Tickets are not available for purchase in advance online.

13. Drink up at a rooftop bar

Miklas rooftop bar Istanbul Turkey

I do love a good rooftop bar, and Istanbul has plenty to offer. Our favorite was Miklas within The Marmara Pera hotel. Cocktails are amazing and reasonably priced considering the location, and the view is unparalleled. Make sure you get here early to snag a good spot on the outdoor terrace and watch the city transform from day to night.

Wondering where to stay in Istanbul? We highly recommend Pera Neuf, a handful of stunning, renovated boutique apartments in the Beyoglu district steps away from the Galata Tower. It’s perfect for couples and solo travelers who only have 3 days in Istanbul. Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf.

You might also like Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is conveniently located in the same district. These modern one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes are stunning, and you can also choose to stay in one of their “deluxe” apartments with a small balcony. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava or click here to see other highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

Where to eat and drink in Istanbul, Turkey

Müz Botanik Cafe in Istanbul Turkiye

Aheste – just steps away from the Pera Neuf apartment, Aheste is a small upscale restaurant serving delicious modern Turkish food. Try the broad bean mash, beetroot and pea patties and organic chicken confit.

Pizzeria Pera – I was craving pizza, so we headed to the best pizza joint in Istanbul. The Diavola pizza is to die for, and prices are very reasonable.

Poika – Poika is a small coffee shop near the Blue Mosque with simple breakfast and light lunch dishes and sandwiches, as well as fabulous coffee.

Muse Coffee & Botanical (Müz Botanik & Kahve) – A seriously stunning cafe surrounded by lush greenery and gorgeous pottery. Oh, and the coffee is on point!

Where to go after Istanbul

Turkish Airways Turkey

Istanbul is a fantastic place to start your Turkey adventure or end your trip. It was actually the last stop of our Turkey trip – you can check out the rest of the 2 week Turkey itinerary here.

Cappadocia hot air balloons at sunrise in Turkey

If you’re starting in Istanbul and moving on, you can opt to hop on a 1-hour plane ride to the Cappadocia region (Kayseri or Nevsehir airports) or Izmir where you can mosey on to Ephesus, Pamukkale and Alacati.

Istanbul is also an 6-hour drive from the ancient cities of Troy or Pergamon. Alternatively, head south to Fethiye in Turkey’s Turquoise Coast for some ocean therapy and plenty of sunshine.

Ready to book your trip to Istanbul? Stay at Pera Neuf, a gorgeous boutique apartment just steps away from Istiklal Street and the Galata Tower. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby, and it is a hop and skip away from the major tourist attractions in the city. Click here to check current rates at Pera Neuf or click here to see more highly rated accommodation options in Istanbul!

Following extensive research, we would also consider staying at Be Mate Casa Di Bava which is also in the Beyoglu area. Like Pera Neuf, Be Mate Casa Di Bava offers one-bedroom apartments with small kitchenettes and also “deluxe” apartments which have a small balcony. Click here to check availability and rates at Be Mate Casa Di Bava.

Headed to Turkey? Here are more Turkey destination guides and tips:

I hope this guide has helped you to plan your Istanbul itinerary! Have you visited Istanbul? Are there any other spots you would add to this list of things to see and do in Istanbul?

Did you find this guide helpful? Pin this for later!

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  1. I have read so many blogs about Turkey, but this is the best by far and very helpful guidelines ever!!! Travelling in a weeks time,so excited! Your Fethiye guide is soo helpful as we were going to spend most of our time in that area. Really glad I found your website. Pinning this now for my travel.

    1. Hi Krisel,

      I’m so happy to hear that you found these guides helpful. Have an amazing trip! Turkey is so breathtaking and we can’t wait to make it back over there.

      Safe travels.

  2. Thank you for this article. I’m staying in Pera Neuf right now, absolutely stuffed from the amazing food tour with Ibrahim! I’d recommend both thoroughly. I wouldn’t have thought to travel over to the Asia side of Istanbul, but that seems a much more dynamic and genuine part of the city than the very touristy Western areas, not to mention a nice ferry ride, we saw dolphins! I’ll spend my remaining evenings over there.

    1. Hi Ben, so glad you found this article helpful! Enjoy the rest of your stay – the coffee downstairs from Pera Neuf is amazing if you happen to be a coffee aficionado!

  3. Great article!

    My fiancé and I will be spending the last three days of our honeymoon in Istanbul and we just reading up on different laws and customs there. During your trip did you carry your passport on you at all times? Generally when we’re abroad we lock them somewhere in our room and carry photo copies/US state ID’s so they’re safe but I’m reading some conflicting posts online about whether or not to carry our actual documents on us.


    1. Hi Chelsea, so glad that you found this helpful! I personally did not carry my passport around at all times, nor was I ever asked to show it when we were out and about. Honestly I would just carry a photocopy of the passport page and approved Turkish Visa, and lock your passport away when you’re sightseeing in Istanbul. Have a great trip!

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