3 Day itinerary Istanbul - a practical guide how not to get lost!

> June 08, 2024
3 Day itinerary Istanbul - a practical guide how not to get lost!


It looks like you’re heading to Istanbul! My 3 day Istanbul itinerary will help you organize your own visit in order and the way to enjoy the best of Istanbul and not get lost among the streets and bazaars of Turkeys and arguably the Europe s biggest city. I was looking forward to visit Istanbul for a long time and it did not dissappoint me. For me it stays one of the best cities to visit in the world and one of very few cities that takes about 3 days to see.

For each day, I ordered the stops in a way that makes sense and won’t have you backtracking all over the place, and I will always tell you how long you should expect each place to take and how much it cost. I will not take you through all of the places as some of them are simply not worth visiting.

We’re practical people over here and hate when we need to search high and low in order to get all the info for our trip. So for your convenience (you’re welcome), there is information about opening times and prices at each site mentioned, plus a link to each site’s website.  

You can also open the inserted Google Maps that already has the walking route set up, so all you have to do is press start and be on your way once you get to Istanbul. The routes start at the first tourist site on the list, because I am not psychic and can’t tell which hotel in Istanbul you’ll be staying at. (Make sure you read our guide on the best areas to stay in in Istanbul before making that decision.) 

I also added our restaurant recommendations in the box at the beginning of each day. You can read more about what to eat in Istanbul in another article. It includes not only nice restaurants, but tips on where to grab a fast snack, like a kebab or some divine Turkish pastries, in case you don’t have time to sit down. And honestly the restaurants in Istanbul are one of the best in the world with world class service.

There’s a lot to pack into Istanbul in 3 days, so let’s get movin’

You might also be interested in reading:

Here is how to plan the best 3 day itinerary to visit Istanbul


Day 1 - Sultanahmet

Day 1, 1st stop: Hippodrome, Serpent Column

Day 1, 2nd stop: Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

Day 1, 3rd stop: Blue Mosque

Day 1, 4th stop: Little Hagia Sophia

Day 1, 5th stop: Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

Day 1, 6th stop: Theodosius Cistern video mapping


Day 2 - Topkapi Palace and museums

Day 2, 1st stop: Topkapi Palace 

Day 2, 2nd stop: Istanbul’s Archeological Museums

Day 2, 3rd stop: Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

Day 2, 4th stop: Cağaloğlu Hamam Ottoman Luxury Experience


Day 3 - Across the Golden Horn

Day 3, 1st stop: Suleymaniye Mosque (Suleiman Mosque)

Day 3, 2nd stop: Spice Bazaar aka Egyptian Bazaar

Day 3, 3rd stop: Galata Tower

Day 3, 4th stop: Beyoğlu rooftops

Day 3, 5th stop: Dolmabahçe Palace

Day 3, 6th stop: Private yacht tour on the Bosphorus


Day 1 of Istanbul 3-day Itinerary: Sultanahmet 

Map of day 1 of 3 days in Istanbul itinerary (Sultanahmet)

Click through to our Google Map with the directions to all the places mentioned in day 1 for this 3 days in Istanbul itinerary

Main sites visited on day 1: Sultanahmet Square, Hippodrome, Serpent Column, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Mosaics Museum, Little Hagia Sophia, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Theodosius Cistern (video mapping show)
Restaurant tips: Babylonia Restaurant | Turk Art Restaurant (rooftop!)| more restaurant tips
Hotels in Sultanahmet: 5-star: AJWA Sultanahmet, Vogue Hotel Supreme | 4-star: Fer Hotel, Boutique Saint Sophia
Further reading: Istanbul Best Places to Visit | Istanbul Travel Tips | Best Areas to Stay in Istanbul

Day 1, 1st stop: Hippodrome, Serpent Column

The Serpent Column and the Obelisk of Theodosius on Istanbul’s Hippodrome

The bottom leftover part of the Serpent Column and the top leftover part of the Obelisk of Theodosius on Istanbul’s Hippodrome

Time spent here: 20 minutes 

With only 3 days in Istanbul, you’d better get off to an early start! If you’ve taken our advice and are staying in a hotel in the historic Sultanahmet neighborhood (like at theAJWA Sultanahmet or Vogue Hotel Supreme), you can hang back at breakfast for a few extra minutes, because you’re right next to all the main tourist sights.  

Once you’ve had your extra croissant, head straight to Sultanahmet Square, which is the central plaza of Sultanahmet, and admire Istanbul’s Hippodrome, a former public sporting arena from the last centuries BCE. Imagine chariot races, public executions and parades. Honestly there is not much to do at the square itself. Basically just look around and move along to another stop.

Nowadays the Serpent Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Walled Obelisk are the only remnants of the Hippodrome’s glory days.  

Day 1, 2nd stop: Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, what to see in 3 days in Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, inside and out, with Karin

Distance from last stop: 300 m (0.2 miles) 

Time spent here: 1 hour  

Just a 5-minute walk through Sultan Ahmet Park from Sultanahmet Square is Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. Hagia Sophia is a Christian basilica turned mosque (turned museum and then, from 2020, a mosque again). Find details about visiting Hagia Sophia here.  

Hagia Sophia is the reason I wanted to visit the Istanbul in the first place as I love Byzantium history and I also have a bit of enamour with Osman Turkey. And I must say it delivered only partially as the Suleiman Mosque which you are going to see the 3rd day delivered much more.

Tip: Mosques usually closed to the non-Muslim public during prayer times (5x a day from sunrise to sunset) and for about an hour beforehand due to cleaning. Midday prayer is the one that’ll get in the way of sightseeing the most. Friday is a special day in Islam. It is called jumah, the day of gathering, and some mosques are closed completely until after midday prayer.  

You’ll want to time your visit to Hagia Sophia so you don’t get there just in time for midday prayer. Hagia Sophia is now (starting in summer 2022) not completely closed during prayer times, but the entire middle part is sectioned off for non-Muslims. It’s best to plan to arrive at 11 am at the latest so you can see it in its entirety. 

As always on my vacations I was there in a wrong time during the prayer so I saw about a half of the Hagia Sophia and then had to comeback later to see it all.  

Hagia Sophia is free to visit, as are all mosques. Just make sure you’re wearing modest clothing and cover up your legs and upper arms, and hair for the women.  

Tip: The Boutique Saint Sophia is one of the 4-star hotels we recommend in Sultanahmet, and it is right next to Hagia Sophia.  

  • Hagia Sophia, map link 
  • Open daily 9 am–7 pm (last entry at 6 pm) during April to October. It closes at 5 pm in other months. Beware of prayer times.
  • Free entry   

Day 1, 3rd stop: Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The not-so-humble Blue Mosque, officially Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Distance from last stop: 300 m (0.2 miles) 

Time spent here: 1 hour  

Another one of Istanbul’s great mosques, Blue Mosque, is right across from Hagia Sophia (closer to the Hippodrome), but unless you’re visiting in 2024, you’ll run into renovations.  

In the summer of 2022, there is scaffolding inside blocking off almost everything you’d want to see inside the Blue Mosque, accompanied by long lines of tourists trying to get into the confined space.  

The tiny glimpse of the ceiling, albeit with the iconic blue tiles, isn’t worth the hassle and you should be content with seeing the Blue Mosque and its 6 minarets (read about the uproar those caused when they were built here) from the outside.

Istanbul Mosaics Museum in Turkey

Istanbul Mosaics Museum

If you have 20 minutes and USD 6 to spare, check out the Istanbul Mosaics Museum, which is right behind the Blue Mosque.  It’s a relatively small museum of mosaics that date back to year 450–550. See the largest ancient mosaic in the world and head to the next spot.  

Honestly, I quiet liked the museum as there is a pleasant temperature if you're visiting in the summer. It's quite cheap to visit and mainly there are some interesting mosaics inside which I haven't seen anywhere else in the world.

Day 1, 4th stop: Little Hagia Sophia

Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Little Hagia Sophia

Distance from last stop: 0.5 km (0.3 miles) 

Time spent here: 20 minutes  

If you’re in the mood for one more mosque, see Little Hagia Sophia in the very southern part of Sultanahmet, almost by the water. It is true to its name, so it won’t take you long to walk through.  

Just like big Hagia Sophia, this church was converted into a mosque from a church. But not just any church—from one of the most important structures of the Byzantine period, the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, originally built in the 530s.   

  • Little Hagia Sophia, Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi, Küçük Ayasofya Camii Sokagi No:20, Fatih  
  • Open daily 10 am–6 pm except for prayer times  
  • Free entry  

Day 1, 5th stop: Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

The displays at Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul

Some depictions of everyday life (haha) at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul

Distance from last stop: 0.5 km (0.3 miles) 

Time spent here: 1.5 hours 

I like to learn about the culture I am visiting not only through the best sites (and great food!), but also through visiting some of the museums. You’ve already seen ancient tiles, so now head just across the Hippodrome to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art.  

You’ll see a lot of Turkish rugs, Qurans, a few strands of prophet Mohammad’s beard, and—my favorite part—the large ethnography hall that shows life during the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. I can't stress enough how this museum is interesting. In a retrospective, I found this museum the third best in Istanbul just after the Technology Museum and Topkapi Palace.

You’ll need 1.5 hrs to see the museum.  

Day 1, 6th stop: Theodosius Cistern video mapping

The Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul

Before the video mapping starts @ Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul

Distance from last stop: 350 m (0.2 miles) 

Time spent here: 30 minutes  

Last but not least, round off your day with something old and something new with a video mapping session at the Theodosius Cistern (Şerefiye Sarnıcı).  

This is truly a unique world experience. Where else will you see a high tech production combined with 2000 years old Roman architecture mixed with a cool story? This is how I imagined learning history when I was young instead of semi-boring numb copywriting info tablets.

The largest of around 80 underground cisterns in Istanbul, Theodosius Cistern (Şerefiye Sarnıcı) was part of the largest underground water distribution system in the Roman Empire.  Inside, you can see 32 marble columns and the original red bricks of the walls. 

Groups are let down into the cistern every hour on the hour. Get there at least 15 minutes before the full hour so you have enough time to get your tickets. The video mapping show lasts about 10 minutes and is very cool to experience.  

Day 2 of Istanbul 3-day Itinerary: Topkapi Palace and a hamam

Map of day 2 of 3 days in Istanbul itinerary (Sultanahmet with Topkapi Palace)

Click through to our Google Map with the directions to all the places mentioned in day 2 for this 3 days in Istanbul itinerary (I apologize on behalf of Google Maps, the route for today is looking a little wonky, but you can, obviously, walk to the Archeology Museum, despite what the map says.)

Main sites visited on day 2: Topkapi Palace, Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam, Istanbul’s Archeological Museums, Cağaloğlu Hamam
Restaurant tips for day 2: Divella Bistro Restaurant | Queb Lounge  (rooftop!)|more restaurant tips
Hotels in Sultanahmet: 5-star: AJWA Sultanahmet, Vogue Hotel Supreme | 4-star: Fer Hotel, Boutique Saint Sophia
Further reading: Istanbul Places to Visit (with Topkapi Palace guide) | What to Expect at a Hamam 

Today, the list of sites you’ll visit may seem short compared to yesterday, but that’s because a large chunk of your day will be swallowed up by the Topkapi Palace.  

To keep things simple, you will be staying in the Topkapi Palace area for all of today’s activities, which means in the northern part of Sultanahmet.  

Day 2, 1st stop: Topkapi Palace 

A part of Topkapi Palace with view of Istanbul

Topkapi Palace: incredible. Views: incredible. Summary: A must-see!

Time spent here: 4–5 hours 

The first and main site you’ll be visiting today requires 4–5 hours of your time, so make sure to get a good breakfast in before you head in. There is a café on site, but it’s useless for anything more than a tea with fabulous views.  

Beware the Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays.  

Topkapi Palace is now a museum, but it used to be the stomping grounds of Ottoman sultans from the 1460s until the 19th century, though it gradually lost its cool factor when new palaces, like the Dolmabahçe Palace (you’ll be visiting that one tomorrow), started being built along the Bosphorus and the sultans preferred to hang out in them instead.  

The palace grounds are enormous, which is why I say you need so much time there. The general layout consists of a series of pavilions built around 4 large courtyards. In its prime, the palace housed up to 4000 people, so there are, in fact, a lot of rooms.  

Don’t miss the chance to see possibly the oldest unrenovated building you’ve ever laid eyes on—the Haghia Irene from the 4th century. Or the fancy Imperial Council Chamber, Palace Kitchens, or Outer Treasury.

The blue tiled walls of the harem at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The intricate wall design at the Harem (Topkapi Palace)

And of course, everyone’s favorite (we actually found the Kitchens slightly more interesting!), the Harem. The harem was in fact the sultan’s family quarters, the area that was restricted to everyone else that wasn’t part of the Ottoman dynasty, namely any man that wasn’t related.  

For all the details on visiting Topkapi Palace and especially on getting yourself a ticket that won’t require you to stand in line for 2 hours, read the Topkapi Palace section of our Best places to visit in Istanbul article.  

  • Tickets: Topkapi Palace+Haghia Irene combo is TL 320 (USD 18), Topkapi Palace+Haghia Irene+Harem is TL 420 (USD 23). Consider a guided tour or the Istanbul Museum Pass if you want to skip the line.   

Day 2, 2nd stop: Istanbul’s Archeological Museums

The exterior and interior of Istanbul’s Istanbul’s Archeology Museum

Karin, ready for some historical action at Istanbul’s Archeology Museum

Distance from last stop: 300 m (0.2 miles) 

Time spent here: 2.5 hours 

If you’re as excited about museums as I am, you’ll be excited to know you have two in plan right after you grab some lunch (unless you’ve spent most of the day at Topkapi, in which case skip one of the museums).  

First, very close to Topkapi Palace, lie the three museums that make up “Istanbul Archaeology Museums”: Archeology Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art.  

You can visit on 3 on one ticket, but certainly don’t leave out the large sarcophagi display in the Archeology Museum. If you want to see all 3 buildings, set aside 2.5 hours of your time.  

  • Archeological Museums, map link 
  • Open daily 9 am–8 pm from April to October, until 6:30 pm in other months (ticket office 30 mins to an hour before closing time)  

Day 2, 3rd stop: Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

Catapult exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam in Istanbul

Catapult exhibit at the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

Distance from last stop: 600 m (0.4 miles) 

Time spent here: 1.5 hours 

Then, head across Gülhane Park, a wonderful city park full of art that’s next to Topkapi Palace, to the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. There are 12 sections in the Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam, each one focused on a different area (astronomy, physics, medicine, optics, etc.) and the Muslims’ innovations in that area.   

Plan on spending 1.5 hours in this museum.  

Day 2, 4th stop: Cağaloğlu Hamam Ottoman Luxury Experience

Steam room of the Cağaloğlu Hamam in Istanbul

I would pay to just sit here and drink tea, let alone get scrubbed by someone! @ the fabulous Cağaloğlu Hamam, the best hamam in Istanbul

Distance from last stop: 700 m (0.4 miles) 

Time spent here: 2.5 hours 

If your legs aren’t hurting right about now, you’ve skipped some spots on the itinerary! How lazy of you!   

It’s time to complete your sultan experience—you deserve to go to a hamam. If not in Istanbul, then where? 

If you don’t know what a hamam is, our “What happens in a hamam in Istanbul” article, where we talk about what to expect in a hamam and describe the steps of the deep scrub that you’ll be undergoing.  

In summary, a hamam, or Turkish bath, is a public bathing facility with steam baths, regular baths, people that scrub you, massage you, put nicely-smelling potions on you, and then give you tea and send you on your way. Aside from a few exceptions (we mention those in the hamam article too), men and women always go separately.  

We went to Cağaloğlu Hamam, the best hamam in Istanbul, and can’t say enough great things about it. The Ottoman Luxury Service was just that: luxury. Two hours of steaming, massaging, bubble-bathing and scrubbing will make you feel like you found yourself an actual oasis in the middle of Istanbul.  

Whichever hamam you choose, make sure not to skip this utterly Turkish experience. I’m curious to know if it’ll be the highlight of your trip!

The Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, a Member of Design Hotels, hotel near Taksim Square in Istanbul

Views for days and an in-house hamam @ Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, a Member of Design Hotels

Tip: Some of Istanbul’s hotels have their very own, onsite hamam. Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, a Member of Design Hotels near Taksim Square is one of them, the Galata Istanbul Hotel MGallery is another.  

Hotel tip: The interior design of the Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, a Member of Design Hotels is soothing for the soul, I don’t know how else to put it. The cool, neutral tones of the rooms, with wooden floors and mood lighting and minimalist design just feel calming to me.    

This 5-star hotel offers everything from a Turkish bath to aromatherapy showers and therapeutic water beds.   

The Gezi Hotel is right by Taksim Gezi Park, which is next to Taksim Square.  More details in our article about the best areas to stay in Istanbul.   

Prices start at USD 200 per night for two people with breakfast.

Queb Restaurant with Hagia Sophia view in Istanbul

Views and great food @ Queb Lounge

We think you should end your day at one of Istanbul’s incredible rooftop restaurants, like Queb Lounge. You can spend your time reminiscing about your visit to the Hagia Sophia yesterday.  

Day 3 of Istanbul 3-day Itinerary: Across the Golden Horn

Map of day 3 of 3 days in Istanbul itinerary (Sultanahmet with Topkapi Palace)

Click through to our Google Map with the directions to all the places mentioned in day 3 for this 3 days in Istanbul itinerary (you will probably want to take a taxi out to some places, but it isn’t impossible to walk it all)

Main sites visited on day 3: Suleiman Mosque, Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar, Galata Tower, Beyoğlu rooftops, Dolmabahçe Palace, private yacht sunset tour on the Bosphorus
Restaurant tips: Georges Hotel’s rooftop Restaurant 24 | Fish Port Restaurant |more restaurant tips
Hotels in Eminönü and Beyoğlu: 5-star: Orientbank Hotel Istanbul, Autograph Collection, Galata Istanbul Hotel MGallery | 4-star: Walton Hotels Galata
Further reading: Istanbul Travel Tips | Istanbul Fun Things to Do | Eating in Istanbul 

Today’s a day that’ll have you moving around quite a bit, because you’ll be heading outside of Sultanahmet. You’ll start in the waterfront neighborhood of Eminönü and then cross over the Golden horn to Beyoğlu and beyond, so wear some comfortable shoes, pack your headscarf, and let’s go!  

Hotel tip: The Orientbank Hotel Istanbul, Autograph Collection is a fantastic 5-star hotel that is very close to the Suleiman Mosque (it’s converted from a bank!). It’s in a central position between Sultanahmet on one side and Beyoğlu neighborhood on the other. Read more about it in our Best areas to stay in Istanbul article

Day 3, 1st stop: Suleymaniye Mosque (Suleiman Mosque)

The exterior and interior of the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul

Karin covering all the right spots (head scarf coming soon), and the interior of the Suleymaniye Mosque staring the color red

Time spent here: 1 hour 

We’ll start the day with a little mosque time. This time at my favorite of Istanbul’s mosques, Suleymaniye Mosque (Suleiman Mosque). It’s in the Eminönü neighborhood. 

Keep in mind that mosques closed to the non-Muslim public during prayer times (5x a day from sunrise to sunset) and for about an hour beforehand due to cleaning. Midday prayer is the one that’ll get in the way of your sightseeing the most. On Friday, which the day of gathering for Muslims, it only opens after midday prayer (it’s closed the entire morning).  

Make sure you’re wearing something that adheres to the standard dresscode of no legs, no shoulders and no hair (for the ladies). Set aside an hour for your visit. More details on visiting Suleymaniye Mosque.  

  • Suleymaniye Mosque, Süleymaniye, Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Cd. No:1, Fatih  
  • Open daily 9 am–6 pm (closed at prayer times and 1 hour before due to cleaning), on Friday visits only possible after noon prayer  
  • Free entry  

Day 3, 2nd stop: Spice Bazaar aka Egyptian Bazaar

Spices displayed at the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul

You might not know how much spice you need to buy until you visit the Egyptian Bazaar when you suddenly feel the urge to haggle over a baggie of curcuma

Distance from last stop: 800 m (0.5 miles) 

Time spent here: 30 minutes 

We have strong anti-Grand Bazaar opinions that we share in our Best places to visit in Istanbul article, but I do understand that for some people, not visiting a bazaar while in Istanbul would be the equivalent of not taking a selfie under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, so my suggestion is:  

The Spice Bazaar aka the Egyptian Bazaar. Nicer sellers, smaller crowds (and smaller overall), lower prices (though still a lot of them overpriced), less crap souvenirs on sale, lots of spice and tea (=lots of colors and smells).  

It’s close to Suleiman Mosque and it gives you all the bazaar vibes without ruining your mood for the rest of the day like the Grand Bazaar.  

Whatever you do, only go in and shop if you’ve brushed up on your haggling etiquette! If you aren’t haggling, you’re getting ripped off. But you aren’t haggling, so it’s your own fault. Give it 30 minutes and see what you think.  

  • Grand Bazaar, Beyazıt, map link  
  • Open daily 10 am–6 pm  
  • Free entry  

If you’re still in Eminönü when you get hungry, head to Fish Port Restaurant. It’s under the Galata Bridge. If you just want to grab something and go, it’s also the best place to try some of the best street food in Istanbul, like balık ekmek, the mackerel sandwich. More about eating in Istanbul here. 

Day 3, 3rd stop: Galata Tower

The view from the top of the Galata Tower in Istanbul

The view from the top of the Galata Tower. I’m smiling because I’m not standing in line for tickets anymore.

Distance from last stop: 1.5 km (0.9 miles) 

Time spent here: 30 minutes (not counting the line for tickets) 

If you haven’t worked up an appetite yet, you can cross the Golden Horn to Beyoğlu. The neighborhoods you’ll want to explore are Galata and Karaköy. These are known for their many cafes and small boutiques in the colorful alleys that used to be shabby but are now cool and upcoming.  

The Galata Tower is one of the oldest towers in the world and one of the city’s top tourist sights. It’s now a museum with a pretty cool view.  

We thought it was ok, but not something you have to be sad you missed if you couldn’t make it out there. Great views, but you can get those from Beyoğlu’s rooftop restaurants just as well (or better).  

The Galata Tower is known for the crazy lines for tickets, read about the details of visiting Galata Tower here. You’ll need 30 minutes inside the tower, and up to an hour more if you’re waiting for tickets at the wrong time.  

  • Galata Tower, Bereketzade, Galata Kulesi, Beyoğlu  
  • Open daily 8:30 am–11 pm (ticket counter closes at 8:30 pm) during April to end of October. It closes at midnight in other months (ticket counter closes at 11 pm).  
  • Tickets cost TL 175, the Istanbul Museum Pass is valid at Galata Tower.  

Day 3, 4th stop: Beyoğlu rooftops

Rooftop restaurant at Georges Hotel Galata in Istanbul

Be sure to make a reservation to get the best seats @ Georges Hotel’s rooftop Restaurant 24

Distance from last stop: 0 km (0 miles)  

Time spent here: 1 hour 

Beyoğlu is the neighborhood in Istanbul most known for its rooftop restaurants. Sultanahmet also has no shortage of those (see our tips in the box under each section, we were very happy in Turk Art Restaurant), but the ones in Beyoğlu do get a really nice panoramic view of Sultanahmet in its entirety, plus and the water, too.  

We can recommend Georges Hotel’s rooftop Restaurant 24 with elegant and comfortable seating and incredible views.  

Walton Hotels Galata’sZula Galata Restaurant gets you a view of Galata Tower and is definitely one of the best restaurants in the city.  

Day 3, 5th stop: Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul

The beautiful and show-offy Dolmabahçe Palace

Distance from last stop: 3 km (1.9 miles) 

Time spent here: 1.5 hours  

Get yourself into a taxi and head out further north to the palace that made the sultans abandon Topkapi Palace: Dolmabahçe Palace. We have tips on using taxis in Istanbul (and what to watch out for) in our Travel Tips article. From Galata Tower, the trip should take about 15 minutes, depending on traffic.  

Note: The Dolmabahçe Palace is closed on Mondays.  

When it was built, it was intentionally made extravagant and European in style so as to impress the world and cover up the fact that the Ottoman Empire wasn’t doing so well.  Dolmabahçe Palace is the biggest palace in Turkey, and it sits right by the Bosphorus.  

You’ll want to set aside 1 or 2 hours to look around.  

Day 3, 6th stop: Private yacht tour on the Bosphorus

Photos from our private sunset yacht tour on the Bosphorus in Istanbul

Photos from our private sunset yacht tour on the Bosphorus

Distance from last stop: 0.5 km (0.3 miles) 

Time spent here: 2 hours 

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of ferries that cross the Bosphorus every day, and even those regular public transportation trips give you some sort of nice view.  

But if you want to end your 3 days in Istanbul on a high note, get yourself onto a private yacht sunset tour. Groups are kept small and you’ll get the best service, snacks, and drinks. And dinner if you choose a dinner cruise.  

The trip we took lasted about 2 hours and cost USD 55 per person. Find your yacht on getyourguide.com, where you can read reviews before booking. This isn’t an affiliate link, we’re just recommending it because we tried it and liked it. 

It’s a wonderful way to see the city after finishing this 3 days in Istanbul itinerary. You escape the crowds and get one last peek of all the highlights of your trip.  

Tours leave from the Kabataş terminal that’s just south of Dolmabahçe Palace.  

Some quick tips to consider before your 3 days in Istanbul:

Map of neighborhoods in Istanbul

A map of Istanbul's most popular neighborhoods, which are basically the only areas that have anything interesting for tourists in them. 

  • The Istanbul Airport is 50 km (30 miles) northwest of the city center. Traffic in Istanbul can be nuts and getting a taxi or shuttle is the only way to get from the airport. You should be mentally prepared to spend 2 hours in the car before you get to your hotel.  
  • Always carry cash in Istanbul. There are ATMs everywhere, but a lot of places won’t take cards, like taxis (get cash at the airport!) and some stores.  
  • The Istanbul Museum Pass costs TL 700 (about USD 38) and is valid for 5 consecutive days and gets you into 13 museums in Istanbul. It’s not the cheapest museum pass but even if you don’t end up saving money, it does one other very important trick: it gets you past the very long lines at the ticket desks. 
  • Read all of our Istanbul travel tips including how to haggle and what tourist scams to look out for.  
  • Get yourself a hotel in Sultanahmet. Yes, it is the most touristy part of Istanbul, but don’t forget you’re also a tourist, so you’ll be right next to all of the main tourist sites if you stay there. We’ve commented on the general feel and safety of Istanbul’s neighborhoods in another article. Take this beauty for example:

AJWA Sultanahmet, the best 5-star hotel in Sultanahmet Istanbul

Livin’ like a sultan @ AJWA Sultanahmet 

The AJWA Sultanahmet is a new 5-star hotel from 2017 that gives you luxurious Ottoman style complete with hand-made carpets, hand-painted tiles, exquisite bedding, and an overall wow factor. The common areas are decorated with art by the best Turkish artists.   

This is the place to stay to complete your Ottoman experience post-hamam (see end of day 2 below).  A restaurant on the 8th floor provides great food and views. There’s also a spa and indoor pool.   

Prices start at USD 270 per night for two people with breakfast.  

We’d love to hear from you! Shoot us a comment under this article, or even on our Facebook page. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in Istanbul.

This post may contain affiliate links. We earn a small commission if you make bookings through my links, at no additional cost to you. This helps us keep this blog free, thank you!  


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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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