11 Top Things To Do in Istanbul, Turkey – 2-Day Guide

11 Top Things To Do in Istanbul, Turkey – 2-Day Guide

11 Top Things To Do in Istanbul, Turkey – 2-Day Guide

Istanbul, a city of traditions, culture, mouthwatering food, incredible architecture, and some of the most welcoming and hospitable people. Istanbul, with its 15 million people, is the biggest city in Europe and the bridge between two continents: Europe and Asia, as the city is located on both continents. The city in Turkey is often seen as cosmopolitan, where everyone can be who they want to be. Plan to spend 2 or 3 days with the following things to do in Istanbul.

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Things To Do in Istanbul in 2 Days

Most of Istanbul’s tourist attractions are on the European side. It is easy to get from A to B by using public transport and the best part; Istanbul is very affordable! But before you start your trip, make sure to have a Visa for Turkey.

Order your Visa for Turkey online

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Day 1 – Undiscovered Istanbul

1. Galata Tower

Good morning in Istanbul! Head out to the Galata Tower, a medieval stone tower built on a hill, overlooking the entire city. The tower opens at 9 AM and tickets cost 25 Turkish Lira (TL) (4 USD) to visit the top. Trendy cafes surround the Galata Tower so you can easily get your breakfast and coffee there.

➳ Also read: Turkey Route Guide – 2 weeks

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istanbul galata trendy cafe

2. Colorful Balat – Unique Thing to do in Istanbul

Balat is one of the oldest districts and the best-hidden gems of Istanbul. Colorful, quiet sloping streets with old beautiful wooden houses. This hipster area is seeing a huge change as renovated buildings with cute cafes and restaurants are opening their doors — Balat is one of our favorite things to do in Istanbul.

Get to know everything about Balat, Istanbul.

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Surprising enough this area is still so quiet, especially in the morning. So from the Galata Tower, walk down the hill towards the ferry point Haliç Hattı to catch the boat to Fener, which is only one stop.

➳ Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

3. Suleymaniye Mosque

Take a 7-min public bus ride from Fener towards our next stop: The Süleymaniye Mosque. This former, largest mosque of Istanbul is built on top of one city’s seven hills and can be seen from pretty much anywhere. Its beautiful architecture remains somewhat unnoticed as the majority of the visitors only visit the Blue Mosque.

➳ Find out about the best city trips in Europe.

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best things to do istanbul Suleymaniye Mosque

4. Egyptian Spice Bazaar

A short 10-minute walk to the river through the lively streets of Istanbul brings you to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. A large bazaar of shops selling spices, nuts, oils, sweets, jewelry, and dried fruits. During religious and public holidays, the bazaar is closed.

Tip: On your way to the Spice Bazaar, visit the Rustem Pasha Mosque. During our visit, it wasn’t accessible due to construction, but we’ve heard great stories about it.

➳ Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

5. Secret Rooftop in Istanbul

Right before sunset, climb up the rooftop of Kubbe Istanbul. Harun, a friendly and welcoming man, is the owner of the well-decorated rooftop. Formally Kubbe was a top thing to do in Istanbul to watch the sunset from but it recently changed into a photography location with an entrance fee of 100 TL. (~ 18 USD) You can also enjoy a great free view from the rooftop next to the location. Or join a walking tour.

Must-read: 13 Easy Tips to reduce plastic and travel plastic-free

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best things to do istanbul rooftop

Getting to the rooftop is a bit of a search. The easiest way is to walk to Pak Pide Pizza Salonu. Once there, follow the road uphill and take the first left. It’s a bit of a shady back street, but there is an actual stair leading up to the rooftop. If you can’t find it, ask the locals for ‘Kubbe’ which means ‘Dome’.

Don’t like heights? There is a brand-new park with a walking path along the river offering a beautiful sunset view of Istanbul. We stumbled upon it by accident, and we couldn’t figure out the name. So here is the exact location.

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istanbul mosque view

Day 2 – Highlights of Istanbul

6. Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) is Istanbul’s most famous landmark. The breathtaking blue interior of the mosque is what brought its nickname: Blue Mosque. Start your morning at 08:30 AM to avoid the tour groups and prayer times. Covers are available for free, and there is no entrance fee.

➳ Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

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Sultan Ahmed Mosque istanbul

7. Hagia Sophia

From the Blue Mosque, we already see our next stop; Hagia Sophia. This UNESCO museum belongs to the world’s greatest archaeological achievements. Famous for its grandness and incredible interior.

Hagia Sophia is open from 9 AM to 7 PM and is closed on Mondays. Tickets cost 60 TL (11 USD). Don’t buy any skip-the-line tickets on the street. Order your tickets online as the Hagia Sophia is the most popular to do in Istanbul.

8. Topkapi Palace

Topkapi, an enormous former palace (now a museum) for sultans and their families. It hosts four large courtyards with gardens, smaller buildings, a view over the river and a stunning harem (where the female family members lived).

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istanbul topkapi palace

The beautifully decorated Topkapi Palace Harem has 300 rooms, 9 Turkish Baths, 2 Mosques, and even a hospital. The harem is located in the second courtyard on the left side.

The entrance fee to Topkapi Palace is 60 TL (11 USD) and a separate ticket to visit the harem 35 TL (6 USD). Order your tickets here.

9. Colored Houses (Yerebatan Street)

Time for lunch! It’s a 4-min walk from Topkapi to Yerebatan Street, with houses painted in the most vibrant colors. Different from Balat, this street is busy and filled with hotels and restaurants. Search for Kybele Hotel & Restaurant and have a good lunch is a wildly decorated environment.

➳ Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

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istanbul colorful Yerebatan Street

10. Grand Bazaar

A visit to the Grand Bazaar must be on your list of things to do in Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar is a large indoor shopping area with lots of traditional products like lanterns, rugs, jewelry and so much more. It is easy and fun to get lost here but be sure to follow the signs.  

If you are planning to buy something, get ready for a long and intense bargain. The bazaar is open from 9 AM to 8 PM and closed every Sunday.

➳ Also read: Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey 

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things to do istanbul grand bazaar

11. Umbrella Street Istanbul

Karaköy, a charming neighborhood filled with places to eat, have a coffee and enjoy the great atmosphere. The streets are filled with art, and one of those arty spots is the umbrella street of Istanbul. During the weekends and midday, this area is quite famous for a couple of photos and a drink. This is the exact location of the umbrella street.

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things to do istanbul umbrella street

The tram T1 is the easiest way to visit Karaköy because it stops right on the outside of the small neighborhood. ➳ Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

Are you planning to stay for longer than two days? Add Dolmabahce Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Beylerbeyi Palace and Prince Islands to your things to do in Istanbul. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, we did not have the option to visit these locations.

How to get around Istanbul

Istanbul offers many ways of getting around by public transport. The metro, bus, and tram run throughout the entire city. Ferries are also a quick and fun way to get from on side to the other. All transportations are convenient and affordable.

Istanbul Welcome Card
Ten public transport rides, skip the line at the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace with the super priced Istanbul Welcome Card! Get a great discount ordering your card via this link.

Get your Istanbul Card here

Istanbul Kart
Another option is the Istanbul Kart, which can be used in all forms of public transportation and recharged when you’re out of credit. It is highly recommended getting one and charge it with credit. Even if you’re a couple, you only need to get one Istanbul Kart because you can check-in multiple times with one card. Buy the card at the airport (outside at the bus area) or in Istanbul city.

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istanbul kart transportation

Istanbul Airport to City
Please note the following information is for the new Istanbul airport (İstanbul Havalimanı).

From the Istanbul Airport to the city center or vice-versa is easy by 40-minute airport transit bus, which runs every ± 20 minutes. Important is to know that you can show the name of your destination. The people at the airport can tell which bus you should take. Expect to pay between 15 and 25 TL (2.5 – 4 USD) depending on your destination.

Favorite restaurants & cafes in Istanbul

Dogaciyiz Gourmet ♥️♥️♥️
Pizzeria Pera ♥️♥️
Journey ♥️♥️♥️♥️
Muse cafe & botanical ♥️♥️
Babel Cafe ♥️♥️

Where to stay in Istanbul

Find all: Hotels in Istanbul

Airbnb in Istanbul is also a convenient option. Use this link to get 35 USD off your booking.

How much does Istanbul cost?

? Hotel: 30 – 60 USD / night
? Lunch / Dinner: 5 – 15 USD
? Drinking water: 0.50 USD for 1.5L
?️ Attraction entrances 5 – 15 USD
? Sim card: 10 USD (20GB)
? Bus/Metro: 2 USD per ride

Best time to visit Istanbul

March to May and September to November are the best times to visit Istanbul. During both Spring and Autumn, it is less busy, and the weather is comfortable.

Every Spring the International Tulip Festival is organized, the city is decorated with countless colors. Tulips in The Netherlands are originally brought from Turkey.

Turkey Visa

To enter Turkey, you will need to have a visa. An e-visa is easily arranged online in one day and costs about 22 USD per standard tourist visa.

Order your Visa for Turkey here

07/03/2020 https://www.saltinourhair.com/turkey/istanbul/
Blog comments (20)

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  • Need to update the price for visa. It’s now 35 USD

    • Salt in our Hair

      The price of a Visa depends on the country you’re applying from. The average price sticks around 22 USD at the moment.

  • Bibi Ayesha

    Hi I’ve been meaning to send you guys a message for so long and just never got around to it. I discovered your insta profile when I was planning our trip to Turkey last September and used your guides sooooo much! They’re so well written and practical and I ended up doing almost all of the things you recommended… It allow worked out so well that tours was the first blog I looked at for advice when I planned our Peru trip too. The advice and tips were all so spot on! Absolutely love your blog ♥️

  • Thank you so much for this post! Even though I am originally from Turkey I live in Vienna and never have been to Istanbul. My Fiancé and I are planning to travel to Istanbul this year in September so I had to look up what to do there. I find your post very helpful for that.

  • Anam shariff

    Hi I loved your Blog! Thank you for sharing! I want to know about the Hagia Sophia and topkapi fast pass? Do we have to buy tickets separately or is the tickets included with the fast pass? And can we use this card to go to any place included in the package for 7 days as many times as we want or just once? Can I trust this site to buy the premium card? Please suggest!

    • Salt in our Hair

      If you purchase the Istanbul Welcome Card, they are both included and it’s for a single entry.

  • Hi, amazing blog! Just wanted to ask about the secret roof top, the price mentioned in your blog is that the price for an individual entrance or both of you ?

    • Salt in our Hair

      Hi Sabiya! That was for the 2 of us :) Price for one entrance is 50 TL

      • Hi…this is not correct any more! I visit there 2 weeks ago and 100TL was per person!
        I really don’t think it worth the money only for a pic..

  • Monica Patterson

    Loved reading your blog! Wonderful advice! I saved it for my upcoming trip to Turkey. Thanks so much!

  • Hello,
    Just to let you know that Hagia Sofia and Topkapi palace increase their prices to 72 instead of 60. The harem is now 42. Maybe you can update your blog post. It was super useful for me during my few days trip to Istanbul.

  • Marie McNary

    Hey my boyfriend and I are going to Istanbul in a could weeks and love your blog! We wanna go to the places you talked about on your blog and take cute couple pics but don’t have a professional camera. Do you guys have your own or did you do a photoshoot tour there?

  • Wherethesoulswander

    Ziet er goed uit guys, door dit stuk krijgen we helemaal zin om die kant op te gaan ☺️

    Geniet van jullie tijd in Peru!

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