Istanbul is located right in the middle of Europe and Asia. It is an amazingly diverse city filled with wonderful smells, sights, and sounds. One could easily spend weeks in this wonderful city and not graze the surface of what Istanbul has to offer. But, if you’re short on time, and only have two days in Istanbul, this is the perfect guide for you. As always, I maintain my philosophy of visiting “must see” attractions, and also taking the time to explore and enjoy the culture on your own. Without further ado, here is what I did with my two days in Istanbul.
Where to Stay During Your Two Days in Istanbul
I highly recommend staying in the hip district of Taksim. Although most of the religious and famous sites are located on the other side of the city, Taksim offers a wonderful variety of shopping, cafes, restaurants, and bars with unparalleled views of the city across the river.
I spent a lot of time wandering along side streets, enjoying street food, shopping, smoking hookah, drinking coffee, and drinking alcohol on rooftops. It was my favorite place to get lost in during my two days in Istanbul.
Day One in Istanbul
Galata Tower and Surrounding Area
Head towards Taksim square and Galata Tower and take in all of the wonderful sites. You’ll run across a rainbow stair well or two-don’t forget to take a photo for your instagram! This city is full of rainbows-as you’ll see a little later on!
The Tower itself is nothing spectacular. But the area around the tower is to die for! Admire all the beautiful home and store fronts.
Stop in for a Turkish Coffee
Although I could barely stomach a couple of sips-Turkish coffee is an important part of the culture. When you stop in for a coffee, local cafe owners will chat with you-even if they don’t know English that well.
Eat at Galata Konak or another Rooftop Restaurant
I promise you won’t be disappointed with the views. Even though the food was only so/so-it didn’t matter. My eyes were enjoying the feast that is Istanbul.
There are so many rooftop bars and restaurants in the city. Make sure you go to at least one during your two days in Istanbul!
Smoke Some Hookah
I recommend Sokak Kulubu-not only for the wonderful hookah, but the hip atmosphere, with, guess what, more rainbows!
Enjoy the many pedestrian streets and shops around Galata. You can find so many wonderful items in these shops-and people are willing to bargain with you. Great gifts include turkish lamps, boxes, rugs, textiles, towels, jewelry, evil eye charms, and more.
End the Night at a Bar (And take some crappy, funny photos)
End the night at a bar, with your boyfriend, friend, or yourself, maybe getting drunk and buying tacky gifts from the local kids.
I recommend any bar in the Taksim area-just walk down any street and take your pick. You’ll be goaded by dozens of bar owners to get you inside. Drinks are pricey compared to everything else and Istanbul, and weak .I recommend drinking wine or beer-you’ll get more for your money.
Day Two in Istanbul
Day two of your two days in Istanbul will be jam packed with the “must dos”.
Visit the Hagia Sofia
You absolutely must see the outside of the Hagia Sofia, the church turned mosque, turned museum.
If you’re a history buff or you want to pay more for a tour guide, pay to see the inside. If you are neither of those things, the inside will be only vaguely interesting- I wish I had spent the money for a proper tour guide-without one, you’ll end up a bit lost. There is no dress code for the Hagia Sofia.
Visit the Blue Mosque (But be Aware of Prayer Times)
I was not aware of prayer times-and ended up having to wait about three hours for the mosque to open to the public. But, I did get to hear some absolutely beautiful prayers.
There is a dress code for the Blue Mosque. Basically, women have to be almost completely covered. Men have to cover their shoulders and knees. The mosque does provide clothing, but the wait can be a bit long-better to just bring your own.
The inside is quite beautiful-unfortunetly I was there during construction. But, I still quite enjoyed the mosque.
Visit the Cisterns
If you need to kill some time, because you forgot about prayer times for the Blue Mosque, grab a bite to eat and then head to the Cisterns. They are cool, eery, and quite beautiful.
Try and take pictures of the Cisterns and then give up because with the lighting it is near impossible to get a half way decent shot.
Go to the Grand Bazar, Spend Lots of Money, and get Lost
I loved this place. It was gigantic-you will get lost-just enjoy the moment. There are multiple entrances and exits-plan on caring or taking the metro whenever you pop out. If you’re with a group, stay together.
I bought presents for my closest family and friends (about twenty people!) and spent hardly any money. I also bought a lot of presents for myself. The exchange rate is fantastic; you’ll get a lot for your money here. Don’t be afraid to bargain!
Go to another Rooftop Restaurant and Enjoy your Last Night
People do flock to the rooftops for sunsets, so reserve a table or get there early and have a few drinks before dinner.
No matter where you travel, make sure you have a healthy balance of site seeing as well as enjoying the city, wandering around and eating and drinking. I hope you have a fantastic time with your two days in Istanbul. Until next time.