How To Spend One Day in Istanbul: 1 Day Istanbul Itinerary

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Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

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

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!

1 Day In Istanbul: 24-Hour Itinerary

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

Morning: Turkish Breakfast And Shopping

Turkish Breakfast

Turkish breakfast table.

To kick off your 24 hours in bustling 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.

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

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.

Afternoon: Sightseeing In Istanbul

Blue Mosque

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.

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

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.

Basilica Cistern

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

If you’re looking for the intersection between history and beauty, then look no further than Topkapi Palace. 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.

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.


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 wonderful 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 A 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

If you’re visiting Istanbul and are short on time, I advise setting up your base in Sultanahmet. 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.

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 visited 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 your route upfront, and plan to download local rideshare apps to understand pricing expectations ahead of time.


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?

Yes, the highlights of Istanbul can be done 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. If you only have a day, locate yourself in close proximity to the top attractions and plan your day accordingly.

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, and respect the culture. Additionally, it’s normal for people to persistently try and sell items to foreigners, 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 wast 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 and there are fewer crowds, making it easier to see what you want 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 can be reached on foot.

How can I get around Istanbul while there for 1 day?

Either walk or use the public tram system. As mentioned above, most 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.

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 unique culture that is worth experiencing, even if only for a day.

So pack your bags, set off to the city that bridges two continents, and immerse yourself in the beauty and history of Istanbul in one day. 

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