How Many Days In Istanbul Is Enough? Inc. Itineraries

Chasing the Donkey may include affiliate links - if you decide to make a purchase through these links, we receive a commission without any additional cost to you. Disclaimer & privacy policy.
Post author Enes

Written by our local expert Enes

Originally from North Macedonia, Enes is a well-traveled enthusiast residing in Türkiye. He combines his extensive knowledge and avid wanderlust to bring you insightful narratives of his Turkish adventures.

Are you wondering how many days in Istanbul are enough? We have the answer. In this guide, we explore what to see and do and find out just how many days are sufficient for Istanbul.

Turkey Travel Blog_How Many Days In Istanbul Is Enough

Istanbul is a remarkable city with many itineraries and wonders to see; each stone of each building in Istanbul has a story to tell. And, if Istanbul is in your travel plans, you might want to know how many full days you should spend in Istanbul to make the best of your trip.

There are pros and cons to how many days are sufficient for Istanbul – but as a local, I suggest that a three-day trip to Istanbul is the perfect amount of time if you want to be able to discover the main Istanbul attractions.

That said, you could spend weeks in Istanbul and not see all it offers, as it is just that big of a city!

But don’t worry; you don’t have to rely on Google for your trip because we’ve prepared the perfect Istanbul itineraries to help you decide how long to stay in Istanbul for all who want to discover the secrets of this city.

If you’re ready, let’s see where to go for a complete discovery of Istanbul.


1 Day in Istanbul

  • Visit Sultanahmet, the historic center, to see The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Topkapı Palace, the Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar
  • If time permits, get on a sunset Bosphorus Cruise tour and enjoy nightlife at Taksim Square and Istiklal Street

2 Days in Istanbul

  • Day 1: Follow the 1-day itinerary
  • Day 2: Explore Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Galata Bridge & Tower, and then visit Asian side districts Kadikoy (for food tours) and Uskudar (for a sunset view). Don’t miss Camlica Mosque

3 Days in Istanbul

  • Day 1: Follow the 1-day itinerary
  • Day 2: Spend time in Taksim, Istiklal Street, and Galata Tower observation deck. Enjoy street food and traditional Hammam (Turkish Bath)
  • Day 3: Visit the Asian side, same as described in the “2 days in Istanbul” itinerary

4 Days in Istanbul

  • Day 1-3: Follow the 3-day itinerary
  • Day 4: Explore either the Adalar (the Princes’ Islands) or Balat, a traditional Jewish quarter

5 Days in Istanbul

  • Day 1-4: Follow the 4-day itinerary
  • Day 5: Explore Balat and the Princes’ Islands (if not visited already) or Besiktas neighborhood, home to the majestic Dolmabahçe Palace

7 Days in Istanbul (Or More)

  • Day 1-5: Follow the 5-day itinerary
  • Additional Days: This would allow you to explore more of the Asian side, enjoy slow-paced leisure activities, and even take out-of-town trips outside Istanbul, such as to Princes’ Island, Troy, Ephesus, Izmir, Bursa, and plenty more

Out Of Town Trip Ideas

If you have an extra day or more, consider some of these idea for further exploration:

  • Troy: an ancient city known for the legendary Trojan War. Visitors can explore the archaeological ruins, including walls, towers, and the replica of the famous wooden horse
  • Sapanca Lake: Known for its peaceful and idyllic natural surroundings. Activities include hiking, picnics, or simply enjoying the tranquil scenery
  • Ephesus: An ancient Greek city on the coast of modern-day Turkey, it’s home to prominent Roman-era structures like the Temple of Artemis, the Library of Celsus, and an impressive amphitheater

3 Days In Istanbul Itinerary

Now, let’s give you some more details on the above itineraries for Istanbul

Day 1 – Getting into the History of Istanbul

Is Istanbul safe? - Aerial view square near Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

On the first day, we will dive into the history of Istanbul. Our trip will mainly focus on the Fatih district.

The Crown Of Istanbul: Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia has had iconic significance for different religions and nations throughout history; beginning your journey with this iconic monument will be the best way to comprehend Istanbul’s history.

Explore The Ottoman Architecture: Blue Mosque

Where To Party In Istanbul - Istanbul At Night

The Blue Mosque, commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I, is one of the most notable mosques built during the Ottoman Empire’s classical era. Like many famous Ottoman mosques, it borrowed architectural characteristics from Hagia Sophia.

Visit The Hippodrome At Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square is home to Constantinople’s Hippodrome, where chariot races occurred in the Roman and Byzantine eras. One of the square’s must-sees is the ancient Egyptian obelisk, which dates to the 15th century BCE.

Discover The Depths Of Istanbul: Basilica Cistern

How Many Days In Istanbul Is Enough - The Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern, built in the 6th century CE, is the largest of the many hundred cisterns beneath Istanbul. The Istanbul Municipality recently renovated the structure. With its tranquil and mysterious atmosphere, it is well worth a visit.

See The Uncovered Wonders: Istanbul Archaeology Museums

Every street corner in Istanbul is an open-air museum. If, on the other hand, you wish to view the original artifacts discovered in Istanbul, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums provide a unique experience with its vast collection of historical artifacts from numerous civilizations.

Day 2 – Embracing The Modern Istanbul

  • Dolmabahçe Palace
  • Taksim Square
  • Discover Istiklal Street

On your second day in Istanbul, you’ll take a trip to the more modern parts of the city and enjoy the local cuisine.

See Spectacular Dolmabahçe Palace

Romantic places in Istanbul - Dolmabahce Palace
Dolmabahce Palace on the banks of the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Dolmabahçe Palace functioned as the administrative center of the Ottoman Sultans. The palace is located on the European side of the Bosporus and provides a spectacular outlook.

Discover The Local Culture At Taksim Square

It’s now time to explore Taksim Square. Today is your chance to immerse yourself in the local culture. In order to sample the local cuisine, you may visit local cafés, restaurants, dessert stores, bakeries, and pubs. 

Explore Istiklal Street

Best Things To Do In Istanbul - taksim square Red tram in Istiklal street

Istiklal Street is one of Istanbul’s most renowned tourist attractions. Even though simply wandering down the street is enjoyable, Istiklal hosts various spots you should not miss. The Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Pera Museum, and Galata Tower are among them.

Day 3 – Shopping And Saying Goodbye

  • Grand Bazaar
  • Spice Bazaar
  • Bosporus Ferry
  • Bosporus Dinner

It’s your last day in Istanbul, but don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to shop and say goodbye to the city!

Visit The Famous Grand Bazaar

Best Places In Turkey To Visit For Every Kind Of Traveler - Istanbul Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets. It has over 4,000 shops where you can buy a wide range of souvenirs. Just be wary of sly vendors who will try to overcharge you for their wares.

Continue Shopping At Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar is Istanbul’s second most famous market after the Grand Bazaar. Although the bazaar is a notable center of the spice trade in Istanbul, it also includes many shops that sell different products.

Take A Bosporus Ferry

After a long day of bazaar shopping, take a tranquil ferry trip on the Bosporus. This one is especially recommended for couples because the Bosporus is one of the most romantic places in Istanbul.

Finalize Your Trip With A Delicious Bosporus Dinner

Romantic Places In Istanbul - Bosphorus Sunset Cruise
Bosphorus strait with ferry boats on the sunset in Istanbul, Turkey

After your tour on the Bosporus, finish your Istanbul trip with a great dinner. Choose one of the many restaurants along the beachfront. If you drink alcohol, a traditional Turkish drink called raki may be the finest way to end your trip.

Brands We Use And Trust

Where To Stay In Istanbul

SJ at Galatata Tower Istanbul

When planning your accommodation in Istanbul, the location is key, particularly about the itineraries we suggested.

A strategic starting point is the Sultanahmet district. This center, packed with historical landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, will put you right at the heart of Istanbul’s rich cultural heritage. You’ll wake up each morning surrounded by rich history, ready to dive into Istanbul’s vibrant life.

However, if you’re sticking around for more than a few days, consider checking out accommodations in areas like Taksim, Kabatas, Karakoy, and Galata.

These areas are bustling social hotspots brimming with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Plus, you’ll have Galata Tower and Istiklal Street right on your doorstep – perfect for sightseeing.

Looking to get beyond the usual tourist trail? In that case, the Asian side of Istanbul might be your perfect match.

Neighborhoods like Kadikoy and Uskudar offer more local and authentic experiences. Here, you’ll find yourself enjoying mouth-watering local dishes and spectacular sunset views. At the end of the day, choosing the right place to stay depends on your personal itinerary and what you want out of your Istanbul experience.

How To Get Around Istanbul

Istanbul Metro Train Travel

Getting around a city as expansive as Istanbul might feel daunting at first. Still, the city is well-equipped with an array of transport options that effectively cover its geographical spread.

For a genuine Istanbul experience, try the public transportation system, which includes trams, metros, ferries, and buses. To make your commute hassle-free, grab an Istanbulkart, a reloadable smart card that gives you access to all of the city’s public transport – such a no-brainer.

If comfort is high on your agenda, taxis are also an attractive option; just be a little wary, as some drivers are known to take the scenic route to rack up the fare. But no worries! You can side-step any potential extra cost by using BiTaksi, a local Turkish app that works just like Uber and ensures you get the best taxi rates – keep Turkish Lira on hand for this.

However, the best way to soak up the ambiance of Istanbul is simply by walking. Believe me, you’ll end up discovering not just the major sights but also the intriguing little nooks that no taxi or metro can take you to.

FAQ About How Many Days To Spend In Istanbul


Let us help you by answering your burning questions about how long to stay in Istanbul.

Is spending seven days in Istanbul too much?

No. There is so much to see that spending seven days in Istanbul would mean you’d both be busy but could do so at a relaxed pace. 

Would 2 Days Be Enough In Istanbul?

No. But, if that is all you have, you could see a few great attractions of Istanbul and get an idea of the local people and culture. Here is your guide to spending two days in Istanbul.

I have four days to spend in Istanbul; what can I see?

Here is your guide to spending four days in Istanbul.

Where to stay in Istanbul?

Here is your guide on where to stay in Istanbul.

Which month is best to visit Istanbul?

The peak-season period of mid-April to June and from September to October comes with the best weather and the most touristic crowds. There will be fewer crowds during the colder off-season, but the main attractions are always open, and the city is bustling with locals.

Where is the best place to get breakfast in Istanbul?

Here is your guide on where to eat traditional Turkish breakfast in Istanbul.

What is the cheapest time to visit Istanbul?

Without question, that is, during winter—December to February.

Does it snow in Istanbul?

Yes, so please be prepared.

Here is all you need to know about snow in Istanbul.

What is the general overview of Istanbul?

Istanbul, straddling both Europe and Asia, has a rich historical and cultural legacy, making it a captivating destination for you.

How many days are suggested for a thorough exploration of Istanbul?

To explore Istanbul thoroughly, visitors should aim to spend between 3 to 5 days in the city, although a one-day itinerary could cover some of the most important sights.

What are some major attractions in Istanbul?

Major attractions in the city include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar, among others.

What is the appropriate dress code in Istanbul?

To respect local customs, particularly when visiting religious sites, dressing conservatively is encouraged in Istanbul.

Any tips for shopping in local bazaars?

Yes, always haggle when shopping in the local bazaars. Prices are usually marked up, and negotiation is a common practice to secure a fair deal.

What is Istanbulkart, and do I need it?

Istanbulkart is a prepaid smart card that can be used on all types of public transportation in Istanbul, bringing about considerable convenience and cost-effectiveness for traveling around the city.

How can I get cost-effective access to several attractions in Istanbul?

Purchasing a ‘Museum Pass’ gives you free admission to various attractions in Istanbul. It’s beneficial for those who intend to visit many museums and historical sites.

What is the best time to visit Istanbul?

The best time to visit Istanbul is during spring or autumn when the weather is favorable, crowds are fewer, and accommodation rates are generally more affordable.

What makes the Asian side of Istanbul special?

Istanbul stretches beyond its European part, and venturing to its Asian side, particularly the Kadikoy neighborhood, provides a different ambiance and experience.

What is a recommended day trip from Istanbul?

A day trip to the Princes’ Islands offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.

What out-of-town trips can be made from Istanbul?

Fascinating out-of-town day trips are also possible for those with more time, e.g., to Troy or Ephesus.

So, now that you know how many days are sufficient for Istanbul – when will you go?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Move This Adventure To Your Inbox & Get An Instant Freebie

Subscribe To Unlock Your FREE Customizable Travel Packing List & All Our Best Tips!