48 Hours In Istanbul – Two Days In Istanbul Itinerary

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now a specialist Turkey travel planner.

Here is your 48 hours in Istanbul itinerary. You can’t see it all, that’s for sure, but we have lots of ideas about spending two days in Istanbul.

Turkey Travel Blog_48 Hours In Istanbul_Two Days In Istanbul Itinerary

You have 48 hours in Istanbul – what are you going to do in those two days? Well, firstly, you need to understand one essential thing – you cannot see it all.

It is impossible.

You can’t even chip away at the tip of the iceberg. But you can get a taste of it, and you’ll probably be so intoxicated you can’t wait to return.

What you do during your two days in Istanbul, the bustling and superb city, really depends on your personal preferences. Are you a history buff? Do you enjoy shopping? What about nightlife? There are so many choices that finding something to fill your days won’t be difficult. However, I’ve put together a plan for 48 beautiful hours in Istanbul below. Feel free to mix and match a few other things if these don’t float your boat, but I think these activities will give you a general flavor of what you can expect.

Of course, you need to choose where you’re going to stay. To help make this plan easier, I suggest you base yourself in Sultanahmet. This is the oldest part of the city and where you’ll find a lot of tourist must-see sights. There are large hotels in this area, hostels, and smaller spots to stay; undoubtedly, there’s something for every budget.

Day 1 In Istanbul Itinerary

How To Spend The Morning In Istanbul

Most Beautiful Mosques In Turkey - Blue mosque in Istanbul at sunset

Grab those comfortable shoes and set your alarm because this is going to be an early one! But you’ll need some food to fuel up for your busy day, and that means a Turkish breakfast or kahvalti.

You won’t struggle to find somewhere to eat breakfast in Sultanahmet, but Green Garden Restaurant Café and Ayasofya Asmaalti Café & Restaurant are two great picks in the area.

Once you’ve eaten, it’s time to head to Hagia Sofia. Join the queue as early as possible, and you won’t have to wait too long. As Hagia Sofia is now a mosque, there is no entrance fee, but you can leave a donation if you want to.

Vladimir Hagia Sofia - Sultanahmet Istanbul

After that, hop over the gardens to Blue Mosque, which is one of the most stunning mosques you’ll ever see in your life. Again, there’s no fee here, but you will need to queue.

Remember that both of these buildings are working mosques, so they will be closed to visitors during prayer times, especially on Fridays. You should also wear modest clothing (even in summer) and cover your head if you’re a woman. You’ll be asked to remove your shoes, which will be stored safely at the doorway.

How To Spend Your Afternoon & Evening In Istanbul

What To Eat In Turkey - Turkish Food - Balik Ekmek
Balik ekmek (fish in bread)

In Sultanahmet, you’ll find markets that sell the Istanbul Kart and automated machines where you can top them up. This pre-paid public transport card allows you to use trams, buses, the Metro, and ferries. It’s highly recommended you do this, as you’ll save a fortune on taxis as public transport in Istanbul is very cheap and easy to use. 

Jump on the tram down to Eminonu on the water and try balik ekmek (fish in bread) for a late lunch. This is a traditional thing to do as you check out the beautiful Galata Bridge and fishermen attempting to fill their buckets with fresh fish.

This is a bustling area, so make sure you keep a good hold of your bag – and watch out for tourist scams. It’s not unusual for children to run around asking for money; it’s up to you what you want to do here.

Glatata Bridge Istanbul -2

Spend a little time exploring the area and taking some photographs before walking over the Galata Bridge and following the water to Galataport. This huge shopping center is open-air and has some fantastic views over to the Asian side of Türkiye.

You can splash some cash here, and if you want to, you can stay for dinner as there are plenty of places to choose from, including the famous Salt Bae restaurant. There are also some funky bars to try.

However, you can also jump on the tram outside Galataport and return to Sultanahmet, where many restaurants serve traditional Turkish kebabs.

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Day 2 In Istanbul Itinerary

How To Spend The Morning In Istanbul

Asian side of Istanbul and popular Bagdat avenue at Valentine's Day
Bagdat avenue, Kadikoy

Your feet might be stinging a little from the day before, but there’s no time to waste on this 48 hour in Istanbul itinerary! Grab some plasters and fuel up for breakfast.

Once you’re done, jump on the tram down to Eminonu, and this time, head to the ferry station, where you can get the ferry over to Kadikoy. If you need to top up your Istanbul Kart, there are plenty of machines to do that.

Once you arrive in Kadikoy, you’re in Asia! Yes, you can visit two continents in one holiday. Walk around this charming but busy area and enjoy the vibes. There are many cafes, and you’ll find doughnuts and cakes everywhere! There are also lots of markets and shops to check out.

A good recommendation for lunch is kofte ekmek, which is a meatball sandwich. You’ll find small ‘bufe’ kiosks selling this along the main street at a very reasonable price.

How To Spend Your Afternoon & Evening In Istanbul

Romantic places in Istanbul - Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace

Once you’ve eaten, jump back on the ferry, but you’re going to Besiktas this time. This is another bustling area, but once you get off the ferry, turn left and walk along the main road to Dolmabahce Palace.

This is a spot you’ll never forget. A magnificent palace, you’ll want to take lots of photos outside, but it is forbidden to take photographs inside. Tours aren’t guided, but visitors are encouraged to keep moving through in a slow but steady stream. As such, you’ll only need two hours here – but it will be two impressive hours.

Once you leave, head back the way you came and jump in a taxi on the main road in Besiktas. You’re going to Ortakoy, which is right on the Bosphorus shore and the home of Ortakoy Mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge.

Turkish simit bread with Ortakoy Mosque Istalbul - vegan in Istanbul
Ortakoy Mosque

Ortakoy is a very touristy area, and it’s the best place to grab kumpir, which is jacket potato with whatever filling you want on it – and some people have every single filling! If you have a sweet tooth, grab one of the huge waffles with all manner of sweet stuff on top.

If the sun is still up, take lots of photographs as the sun sets, and be sure to head to the café on the water, where you can try salep, a warm and creamy drink with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top.

You’re far from home here, so it’s best to jump in a taxi and head back to Sultanahmet. You’ll no doubt be tired, so why not spend some time in one of the bars around Sultanahmet? There’s a chilled-out vibe here, and nightlife ends around 1 am.

Now that you have your 48 hours in Istanbul itinerary – please tell us how you will spend your two days in Istanbul. 

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