Spend One Day in Istanbul – My One Day In Istanbul Itinerary

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Written by Rachel, a digital nomad from Barcelona Uncovered.

Looking for the perfect way to spend one day in Istanbul? You’re in the right place! I recently made a short trip to Istanbul, and it was a whirlwind adventure. Here is how I suggest you spend 24 hours in Istanbul

Turkey Travel Blog_How To Spend One Day In Istanbul

The city of Istanbul is truly a city like no other. If you only have one day to explore, don’t worry! I can attest that with some careful itinerary planning, you can easily make the most of your 24 hours in Istanbul.

With this expert itinerary in your pocket, you’ll be able to sightsee, taste, and explore your way through Istanbul in one day!

One Day In Istanbul Itinerary

Here is an Istanbul 1 day itinerary that I think you’ll love.

One Day Itinerary Morning Idea: Turkish Breakfast And Shopping

Start Your Day With A Turkish Breakfast

Turkish breakfast table.

To kick off your 24 hours in the bustling heart of Istanbul, you’ll want to start with an authentic Turkish breakfast. You’ll find delectable spreads of freshly baked bread, cheese, jam, farm-fresh eggs, and juicy tomatoes and cucumbers at any one of Istanbul’s breakfast spots.

And, of course, tea is a morning must-have in Turkey. But if that’s not your cup of tea, then don’t worry! You can easily find a cozy coffee shop just around the corner.

Take some time in the morning to fuel up for the energy you’ll need to explore all that Istanbul offers in just one day. Enjoy!

Grand Bazaar – One Of The Best Places To Visit

Sultanahmet Grand Bazaar

I hope you’re ready to stop! The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered shops in the world, with over 4000 shops! Don’t forget to negotiate the pricing while you are picking up your Turkish souvenirs.

Spice Bazaar

Turkish spice - Egyptian Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Turkey. Egyptian spice market

Next on your adventure, navigate the streets to the spice bazaar. As you wander through the colorful stalls, you’ll be transported to a world of sights and scents unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! You’ll find various exotic Turkish spices, each with its unique flavor and history.

You’ll find teas, each with its own distinct aroma and health benefits. Plus nuts, sweets, herbs, souvenirs, and more at the most famous shopping street in Istanbul. This is a perfect place to grab gifts for folks back home. So take your time, explore, and soak in the culture as you shop your way through the spice bazaar.

One-Day Itinerary For The Afternoon: Sightseeing In Istanbul

Blue Mosque – A Must-See On Any Turkey Itinerary

Turkey Tourist Sim Card Options - In Istanbul

After a morning of shopping, it’s time for an afternoon of sightseeing! First on the list is the world-renowned Blue Mosque – the one mosque you have to see before any other.

One of the most notable sights in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque is a picturesque Ottoman-era building with thousands of impeccable hand-painted blue tiles. In addition to the blue, calligraphy is also adorned through this 1600s masterpiece. The profound level of detail is truly like no other.

Sultanahmet Square / Hippodrome of Constantinople

Immediately behind the Blue Mosque is the Sultanahmet Square and Hippodrome of Constantinople. A former public arena used for chariot races, this spot is packed with remnants and history. The hippodrome’s massive size and intricate designs will quickly transfer you back into the city’s rich past!

Hagia Sophia Mosque – Best To Visit Early

Hagia Sophia mosque in Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey

Revel at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, previously a Christian church turned Mosque after the Ottoman Empire.

Dating back to the 6th century, you’ll enjoy firsthand a blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural elements. Renowned for its colossal dome, you’ll quickly see why this has been an engineering marvel for centuries and will be cherished for centuries to come.

As of January 15th, 2024, Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque has introduced a distinct policy for tourists and worshippers. If you’re visiting for cultural exploration, there’s now a 25 euro entry fee. This ticket grants you access to the gallery floor, where you can admire the sanctuary’s stunning Ottoman and Byzantine features, including the historic mosaics. 

Basilica Cistern – One Of My Favourite Spots

How Many Days In Istanbul Is Enough - The Basilica Cistern

Only 150 meters from Hagia Sophia, head to the Basilica Cistern, the largest of cisterns located under Istanbul for water filtration systems.

Previously closed for renovations, Basilica Cistern opened once again in 2022. Constructed from columns that originated from ruined temples, the design symmetry and size are seriously impressive. An underground exhibit, this makes a great retreat from the heat if you’re visiting Istanbul during the Summer months.

Topkapi Palace – Totally Wow

If you’re looking for the intersection between history and beauty, then look no further than Topkapi Palace in the center of Istanbul. Built in 1465, Topkapi Palace is the oldest and largest surviving palace in the world. The palace is incredibly beautiful and ornate and surrounded by gorgeous gardens. I recommend grabbing tickets ahead of time and don’t skimp on the harem tour.

Don’t leave Istanbul without seeing one palace; if it is not this one, then maybe these would suit you better.

Galata Tower – 

Rooftop Restaurants In Istanbul - Galata tower Istanbul and night

Formerly a watch tower, now a museum with an unbeatable 9-story view of the city! Come here to revel in more history, but seriously, the views here can not be beaten. The first seven floors of the tower can be reached by elevator, with the final two floors requiring climbing steps.

One Day Istanbul Itinerary For The Evening

Balat Neighborhoods

bright pink colorful house in Balat, Istanbul

After a busy afternoon of sightseeing at the best spots in Istanbul, explore the Balat neighborhood, a borough with rich history and colorful homes. Known to be one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Istanbul, Balat is full of galleries, restaurants, cafes, and cobblestone streets.

Check out Vodina Street, a buzzing street with plenty to explore. This is the perfect street to grab a snack after a busy afternoon sightseeing.

Turkish Bath

Turkish Baths For Women Guide

After a full day of exploring one of the world’s busiest cities, you might feel exhausted and ready to unwind. But when you thought your experience couldn’t get any better, don’t miss your chance to try out something special – a Turkish bath! Like a spa, a Turkish bath (or hammam) is a unique and relaxing experience involving a steam room, sauna, bath, and exfoliation.

The process typically begins with a steam session that prepares your body for a series of treatments, including a full body wash with cold and hot water and an invigorating scrub. Not only does this ancient bathing ritual cleanse and rejuvenate your body, but it’s also a fantastic way to immerse yourself in a centuries-old tradition and feel genuinely pampered.

Dinner in Istanbul

After a jam-packed day of shopping, sightseeing, and some relaxing, it’s time for a proper Turkish dinner to wrap up your perfect 24 hours in Istanbul.

First up is Meze, or small appetizers before the main dishes. You can expect cold items for meze, with items like hummus, baba ganoush, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), cacik (yogurt and cucumber dip), and cheese and olive combinations.

After round one, leave some room for the entree. Enjoy a kebap, street meat of beef, lamb, chicken, or fish, prepared over charcoal and served on skewers or donors, similar meat but served from fresh cuts in a bread-based wrap with salad and garlic sauces.

Don’t forget alcohol. Raki is a national drink of Turkey, a spirit made of twice-distilled grapes. It is rich in culture and tradition and is often enjoyed in large dinner settings. I’m from Barcelona, so wine is a big part of my diet. Though it is a spirit and not a wine, it did not disappoint!

Lastly, no dinner is complete without dessert. Plan to finish this delicious meal with baklava, one of Turkey’s most famous dishes. Baklava is a layered pastry filled with chopped nuts drenched in syrup or honey.

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How To Get Around Istanbul In One Day

The tram stopped at the column of Constantine in Istanbul

Istanbul is a massive city, and you should not plan on being able to rely solely on foot. Fortunately, most of the sightseeing activities listed above are in close proximity, and there are plenty of taxis, buses, and metro stations to help connect your journey through this incredible city.

Most people will grab an Istanbulkart upon their arrival in the city. This renewable card allows you to upload money to use on the metro, bus, or ferry. After purchasing the blank card, link your HES code to the card to add money. A HES code is a combination of your nationality, passport number, year of birth, and surname that you text to “2023.” I promise it’s easy.

Now that you’ve got the Istanbulkart down like a pro, it’s time to hit the city! The metro is the fastest and easiest way to get around the city. While taxis are also readily available, be prepared to sit in traffic for longer journeys and discuss your route ahead of time with cab drivers.

Where To Stay In Istanbul For One Night

If you’re visiting Istanbul and are short on time, I advise setting up your base in Sultanahmet. There are many things to do in Istanbul from there. Not only is it centrally located, but you’re also in close proximity to many of the must-see sights in Istanbul.

However, be warned that it can be bustling and a bit chaotic here, with a different vibe compared to other parts of the city.

That being said, we had a great time during our stay at the Agora Life Hotel and would highly recommend it. From its comfortable rooms to its fantastic location, it’s the perfect spot to experience all that Istanbul offers.

Layover Idea With Turkish Airlines

If you’re flying with Turkish Airlines and have a layover in Istanbul, you’re in for a treat with their “Touristanbul” service. Imagine this: you’ve just landed in one of the world’s most vibrant cities, and instead of waiting around at the New Istanbul Airport, you get to explore Istanbul for free. Yes, you heard that right! If your layover is between 6 and 24 hours, Turkish Airlines offers a complimentary tour of Istanbul.

Here’s how it works: After landing, head to the hotel desk in the International Arrivals Terminal—there is no need to register in advance. Just show up, and they’ll sort you out. The tour includes transportation, a guide, and sometimes even meals – all on the house. This is a fantastic opportunity to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Istanbul.

You’ll visit some iconic spots like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar. Picture yourself strolling through these historical landmarks, savoring Turkish delicacies, and maybe even catching a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. It’s an excellent way to maximize your layover and experience a slice of Istanbul, all without an extra cost.

Keep in mind that you’ll need a visa for Turkey, so check your eligibility before you fly. And remember, this is subject to schedule changes and availability, so it’s always good to double-check with Turkish Airlines before you get your heart set on this mini adventure.

Touristanbul is more than just a stopover; it’s an unexpected journey into the heart of a city that straddles two continents. So, next time you find yourself with a long layover in Istanbul, don’t just sit in the airport. Go explore!

Best Time To Take A One Day Tour In Istanbul

Istanbul is one of those rare destinations that never disappoints, no matter what season you choose to visit. While it’s true that summers can get pretty hot, the city’s unique culture and breathtaking landmarks are definitely worth experiencing.

When I started my 1 day in Istanbul in August, I had my doubts about the heat, but it turned out to be no different than other parts of Europe. So, whether you’re planning a trip months in advance or impulsively booking a last-minute getaway, there’s never a wrong time to visit Istanbul!

24 Hours in Istanbul Travel Tips

If you only have 24 hours, stay close to Sultanahmet, which is close to plenty of main attractions. Prepare to cover up when going to mosques and plan to haggle on pricing at the markets. As in any big city, be mindful of pickpockets.

If you take a taxi, always ask about your route upfront, and plan to download local rideshare apps to understand pricing expectations ahead of time. Cabs in Istanbul are bright yellow and are easy to find. But, be warned, they can be dodgy in terms of costs and payment.


Now that you have the perfect itinerary for spending one day in Istanbul, here are some frequently asked questions about visiting this famous city.

Can you see Istanbul in 1 day?

No. It is far too big. You can see some of the highlights of Istanbul in one day, but prioritization and planning will be important. Istanbul is a beautiful city with a rich history and over 15 million people. You could easily spend weeks here as there is so much to explore. 

Is Istanbul safe?

Istanbul is a safe city, and visitors frequently feel safe walking around the city. The locals will greet you with warmth and kindness and are always willing to help. However, like any city, use common sense, keep your eye out for pickpockets, especially in crowded places to visit, like the Galata Bridge, and respect the culture. Additionally, it’s normal for people to try and sell items to foreigners persistently, so be firm and consistent with your responses.

Is it worth going to Istanbul for a day?

Yes, it is worth going to Istanbul for one day. Exploring some of the best history, cuisine, and sightseeing spots in Istanbul is possible even if you only have a day. Even visitors there for a short time will understand why Istanbul is a bucket list city for many travelers.

How can I spend a day in Istanbul?

You should spend one day in Istanbul enjoying kebabs, a morning of shopping at the Grand and Spice bazaars, sightseeing at the critical spots near Sultanahmet, and venturing through charming little neighborhoods. And, of course, don’t forget to end your day with a hammam (Turkish Bath).

Can you explore Istanbul on your own in one day?

Yes – it’s totally possible to explore Istanbul on your own. There are so many sightseeing and shopping opportunities around. As long as you have a plan in mind, exploring Istanbul on your own is a great option.

Where should I stay in Istanbul if only there for 1 day?

Sultanahmet – this is right in the center of everything, and you won’t waste your time traveling around the city. If you only have one day, you need to make each minute count!

When is the best time to visit Istanbul for a short trip?

Spring or fall are the best times. Temperatures are still warm in Istanbul, and there are fewer crowds, making it easier to see the top things in a short period of time.

Is Istanbul a walkable city?

This depends on what you want to do, but the main attractions, such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace, are all found within the Sultanahmet district, so they can be reached on foot.

What is the best way to get around Istanbul while there for 1 day?

Either walk or use the public transport system in Istanbul. As mentioned above, most of the main attractions you’ll want to see are within walking distance, especially if you base yourself in a hotel in the Sultanahmet area. Otherwise, the tram system is super sleek and reliable if you want to venture further out.

FAQs About Istanbul In 24

Certainly, here’s your content reformatted with the questions as headings and the answers in regular text:

What are the best things to do in Istanbul in one day?

Istanbul offers a variety of attractions to explore in just one day. Some of the best things to do include visiting iconic landmarks like Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, exploring the vibrant Grand Bazaar, and enjoying the scenic views from the Galata Tower.

How can I start my day in Istanbul?

To make the most of your one day in Istanbul, start early. Enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast called Kahvalti, consisting of various delicious dishes. This will provide you with the energy to explore the city throughout the day.

What are the recommended places to visit in Istanbul in one day?

During your one day in Istanbul, make sure to visit iconic landmarks such as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. Other notable attractions include Topkapi Palace, the Galata Bridge, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.

How can I get around Istanbul in one day?

Istanbul is a walkable city, and many attractions can be reached on foot. However, to save time, you can also use public transportation. Consider getting an Istanbul Card, which provides convenient access to buses, trams, and ferries.

What is the best way to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center?

From Istanbul Airport, you can easily reach the city center by using the Istanbul Airport Metro, which connects the airport to various locations in Istanbul. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or arrange a private transfer in advance.

Is it safe to visit Istanbul for one day?

Istanbul is generally a safe city for tourists. However, it is always recommended to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Avoid isolated areas at night and take standard safety precautions, such as keeping an eye on your belongings.

Can I see Istanbul in one day on a layover?

If you have a layover in Istanbul, you can definitely explore the city in one day. Istanbul’s efficient public transport system and close proximity to the airport make it convenient to visit key attractions during a layover and experience the essence of the city.

What should I eat in Istanbul during my one-day visit?

When in Istanbul, don’t leave without trying some traditional Turkish dishes. From street food delights like kebabs and Turkish delight to savory dishes like authentic Turkish pide (flatbread) and baklava for dessert, there are countless culinary delights to discover.

Is it possible to see all of Istanbul’s attractions in one day?

While it may be a challenge to see everything Istanbul has to offer in just one day, it is still possible to get a glimpse of the city’s highlights and immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere. Prioritize the attractions that interest you the most and plan your day accordingly.

What is the best time to visit Istanbul for one day?

Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) are generally the best times to visit Istanbul. During these seasons, the weather is pleasant, and the city is less crowded compared to the peak summer tourist season. However, Istanbul has its own charm year-round.

How many hours should I spend in Istanbul in one day?

With only one day in Istanbul, you will have limited time. Ideally, plan to spend at least 8-10 hours in the city, allowing you to see the main attractions and soak up the local culture. It’s a busy day, but it will give you a taste of Istanbul.

Final Word On 24 Hours In Istanbul Türkiye

There you have it – the perfect way to spend one day in Istanbul, Turkey. What are you waiting for? Prepare for an unforgettable adventure in a historic city that never gets old.

Istanbul offers endless sightseeing opportunities with stunning architecture, vibrant markets, delectable cuisine, and a unique culture that is worth experiencing, even if only for a day.

Now that you know how to see Istanbul in one day, all you have to do is to pack your bags and set off to the city that bridges two continents.

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