Istanbul is a wonder for travelers, especially since it has a lot to offer for every kind of interest. It is an amazing destination for nature lovers with the Bosphorus, natural parks, and groves. It perfectly caters to the interests of premium shoppers. And definitely, Istanbul is a gem waiting to be discovered piece by piece by history, and art enthusiasts.
Is Istanbul Worth Visiting?
With its metropolitan ambiance, wonderful Bosphorus Strait, and city silhouette over the horizon, Istanbul definitely is among the top must-see places. The city is considered the largest city in Europe. It is like an open world, waiting to be discovered between Europe and Asia. The city that brings the world’s most unique cultures together may surprise you at every corner.
Embracing every little detail of the magical world of Istanbul takes a lot of time, effort, and budget. If you know exactly what to do in Istanbul, you can get the gist of the city in a single day.
We’ve gathered a one-day itinerary that will help you to capture the essence of this amazing metropolis. This is your one-day Istanbul travel guide. Let’s dive in.
A Morning Stroll by the Coastline
Istanbulites know how to fully benefit from the city’s significant geographic position better than anyone. With the marvelous Bosphorus and Golden Horn, there are various places perfectly fit for a joyous morning walk by the sea.
On the Asian Side, the most attractive spot for early birds is the Caddebostan shore. You can come across people stretching, riding a bike, running, or sipping their coffees and enjoying the views. It is among the best viewpoints in Istanbul.
Of course, depending on which district you live in, there are other options that might be closer to you. For example, The beautiful park on the Moda coast is the best fit for people who live in Kadikoy, or Moda.
There is also another coastal park by the sea on the Maltepe coast. It could be a good option if you live in Maltepe or Kartal. Maltepe Park offers stunning views of the Princes’ Islands on the horizon.
On the European side, the coastal walking path by Kennedy Avenue is a great option for a peaceful morning stroll. The pathway extends from Bakırköy to the shores of the Historical Peninsula. The most attractive side is that a quick hike along the coastline offers surprising discoveries along the way. You can come across historical monuments, Istanbul’s historical sites, or cozy coffee houses for a morning treat.
Have a Tasty Turkish Breakfast
Along with its geography and cultural heritage, Turkish cuisine’s reputation rises to fame. But without a doubt, the Turkish breakfast might be the most well-known of them all. While visiting Turkey for the first time, Turkish breakfast is definitely a must-have!
The best side of trying authentic Turkish cuisine in Istanbul is the ambiance that comes within. This historical city has a captivating atmosphere in every corner with its scenic beauties and Bosphorus on the horizon. Having a Turkish breakfast with stunning views in the background is definitely an authentic experience.
There are lots of Istanbul breakfast spots that offer comprehensive menus with endless options. On the Asian Side, the most renowned places to have a Turkish breakfast are Mihrabat Grove, and Inci Bosphorus in Uskudar.
Mihrabat Grove offers the most picturesque setting for a peaceful morning treat. Inci Bosphorus on the other hand, fully benefits from its seaside location. You can take a sip from your tea while witnessing great views of the Bosphorus and 15 July Martyrs Bridge.
When we get to the European Side, our options diversify since the historical ambiance intensifies. The Barnathan Brasserie in Galata is an amazing spot to have an early morning breakfast. It is strategically located on the terrace of the historical Barnathan building, overlooking the Galata Tower and its sphere.
If you are looking for a more mystical ambiance, Seven Hills Restaurant in Sultanahmet has the most exquisite views. The restaurant is perfectly located just across the Hagia Sophia, and the famous Hammam of Hurrem Sultan. The majestic Istanbul landmarks and monuments create a perfect setting while enjoying the delicious tastes of Turkish cuisine.
The House Cafe in Ortaköy is another great place for a delicious breakfast. You can try out top-notch flavors while witnessing the postcard-like sight of Ortaköy Mosque with the Bosphorus.
A Joyous Tour on the Historical Peninsula
When we think about Istanbul, we deeply reminisce about its former inhabitants. The footsteps of civilizations that have ruled on these lands and their heritage still exist today. The Historical Peninsula of Istanbul is now like an open-air museum. It is a still-living site where you can come across breathtaking monuments, inherited from the Roman Empire and Ottomans on each corner.
The peninsula gathers the most historical places to visit in Istanbul together. Without a doubt, the majestic Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are the most glorious monuments. Along with them, there are an endless number of mosques, churches, cisterns, and palaces. Istanbul’s bazaars and markets, which are widely known for their authentic atmosphere, are even located here.
To discover the mystical world of Ottoman culture, we suggest you visit the Topkapı Palace. It was the main living space of Ottoman rulers and aristocrats. In the following, the recently restored Basilica Cistern is among the must-visit historical places in Istanbul.
The historical peninsula is among the best places to find carpet shops. Handmade carpets have great significance in Turkish culture. If you are considering buying a carpet as a souvenir, Fatih is the best place to find the best ones.
Within a short walking distance to the west from the Sultanahmet, from the historical Divan Yolu, you reach the Grand Bazaar. It is the prime spot for shopping in Istanbul, especially to buy golden jewelry. You can also find one-of-a-kind spices and herbs, Turkish delight, handmade carpets, and authentic souvenirs.
Again, within a short walking distance there you arrive at Eminönü. Here you witness a vibrant metropolitan area where you can find anything you are looking for. It is one of the top shopping destinations in Istanbul. We suggest you explore the wide range of spices brought here from all corners of the world in the Spice Bazaar.
We suggest you try out the most famous street food in Istanbul, the renowned Balık Ekmek while there. Plus, visit the historical shop of Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi to buy freshly ground Turkish coffee. Until lunch, the whole tour of the historical peninsula can take between 3-4 hours. It is a time well-spent, full of exciting discoveries.
Walk Around Beyoğlu to Galata
Beyoğlu and Galata are the most well-known neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul. These districts will make you feel like walking around in a European city. The narrow streets with cobblestone pavement are bordered by stylish apartments on both sides.
You can find local stores, and artisan coffee shops in Istanbul’s glorious Pera and Galata. Both offer a delightful blend of Istanbul architecture and a rich cultural tapestry.
During the Ottoman period, Genoese and Venetians were the main inhabitants of the area. Most of the buildings you come across today are from the second half of the 19th century. They highlight the area perfectly with their diverse European architectural styles. Today, Beyoğlu and Galata still preserve their uniqueness as the best spots for a quick walking tour in Istanbul.
Stroll from Taksim Square to Istiklal Avenue, a vibrant pedestrian street lined with European-style buildings. There are dozens of shops of locals and famous brands, artisan bakeries, and coffee houses along the way. Galata Tower, the marvelous medieval tower will greet you with its magnificent beauty and is open for a visit. Do not miss this opportunity to look over the panoramic views of Istanbul from the top of the tower.
Beyoğlu and Galata are known for their literary heritage, with dozens of bookstores and libraries. Walk among shelves in Sahaflar Çarşısı. It is a historical bookshop filled with stalls offering a treasure trove of antique books, publications, and prints. There are private bookstores where you can also find special editions in foreign languages.
Parallel to their historical significance, Galata and Beyoglu are the best spots to immerse yourself in the rich history of the city by exploring the antique shops in the area. Çukurcuma is one of the best neighborhoods in Istanbul for antique shopping. It is filled with deep-rooted antique stores, full of one-of-a-kind objects that remind us of simpler times.
Beyoğlu and Galata are the top destinations for art enthusiasts, too. These districts are home to the most remarkable museums and art galleries, along with Istanbul’s street art.
The most famous museum in the area is the Pera Museum. It offers a diverse range of collections, including artworks of orientalist painters such as Osman Hamdi Bey. In addition, visiting the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is among the most in-demand activities you can do in Beyoglu.
Premium Shopping Experience
When we said the city has a lot to offer to everyone, we meant it. When it comes to upscale retail therapy, Istanbul stands as a true fashion capital. The city boasts an array of luxurious shopping centers, other than the famous Istanbul bazaars.
There are diverse shopping streets from designer boutiques on Bağdat Avenue to global fashion houses in the most luxe shopping centers. Istanbul amazingly fulfills your expectations of a high-class shopping experience.
Located in the heart of Istanbul's vibrant Besiktas district, Zorlu Center is a lavish destination for luxury shopping. It is more than just a shopping center but a networking space. It is a place where people can interact with others who share the same interest as them.
Zorlu Center is home to iconic international designer brands. These include Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada, allowing shoppers to indulge in the latest fashion trends. It is also famous for its performing arts center, hosting world-class theatrical performances, concerts, and exhibitions.
Istinye Park in Sarıyer is another spot under the highlights of luxury and exclusivity. Intertwined with lush greenery, this open-air shopping center offers a refreshing ambiance for upscale shopping. Istinye Park features an impressive selection of high-end stores, including Versace, Burberry, and Tiffany & Co.
Bagdat Avenue on the Asian side of Istanbul is a bustling spot for the best Istanbul street shopping experience. It is renowned for its upscale brands and elite ambiance. With a vibrant atmosphere, chic boutiques, and exclusive venues, it caters to the desires of shopping enthusiasts.
While strolling along this iconic street you will explore the elegance at every turn. Bagdat Avenue is an outstanding Istanbul places to visit for those seeking a refined retail experience in Istanbul.
Sink the Sun with a Boat Tour on the Sunset
When the sun is setting down, the best thing to do in Istanbul is to get captivated by the dazzling city silhouette. And the best place to do is on a boat. Some private businesses organize sunset boat tours on the Bosphorus Strait. It is an amazing chance to get lost in Istanbul’s hidden gems and stunning city silhouette.
Some of these tours last until the night, with a serving of dinner and night shows. When the night comes, Istanbul is even more beautiful with everything hidden beyond the colorful lights all across the city. You can end your day with a peaceful and enjoyable night tour.
As another possibility, you can explore the vibrant nightlife of the city. As a city that never sleeps, Istanbul has a lot of entertainment options from nightclubs to Turkish taverns called “meyhane”.
The nightlife, in general, is liveliest in central locations, mostly around Beyoğlu, Galata, Karaköy, Nişantaşı, and Beşiktaş on the European Side. On the Asian Side, the safest and most vibrant nightlife is centered around Kadıköy, Moda, Bağdat Avenue, and Caddebostan.
Meyhane has a remarkable place in Turkish culture and is one of Istanbul’s local experiences. It is directly associated with the widely known local drink called “rakı” and a wide range of appetizers called meze. Mostly eating seafood is essential when you go to a meyhane. It is a must-try if you are fond of trying out different flavors.
For another what to do in Istanbul at night, you can consider going to a live event. Some venues organize live music events, offering a unique experience with exceptional stage performances.
Dorock XL, Zorlu PSM, and IF Performance Hall are the most famous ones. You can find tickets and event calendars online. It is possible to reserve your spot for these events beforehand easily.
There are also rooftop bars where you can go, try out a few cocktails, and enjoy the ambiance in peace. These bars are the best places to get lost in the city’s iconic night views. They are mostly centered around Kadikoy, Besiktas, Galata, and Beyoglu. If we were to specify, there are quality places where you can find the best spirits in Asmalımescit, Cihangir, and Suadiye.
Definitely, trying out premium wines in Istanbul’s artisan wineries is another option and a great one. There are historical wine houses, such as Victor Levi Wine House or Pano Winery. Beyoglu Winehouse is another gem to try out the most exclusive wines in the city with delicious dishes. Plus, they organize live events from time to time, such as jazz or blues nights to your night even more enjoyable.
Good to Keep in Mind
We’ve listed the best things to do in Istanbul in a day. This is a one-day itinerary full of must-dos, prepared to capture the essence of the city in 24 hours. However, there are limitless options, lots of other experiences to try out, places to go, and things to do in Istanbul.
Istanbul is the cultural capital of the city, filled with private galleries along with dozens of museums. Galleries like IKSV, Istanbul Modern, Arter, Akbank Sanat, DasDas, or annual art biennials are definitely worth visiting if there is a time. Most of these museums in Istanbul are private businesses that bring unique artists’ amazing artworks, along with digital displays, and permanent collections.
Istanbul is the city that leads the art world of Turkey and includes the performing arts. Places like AKM or Zorlu PSM, or other independent theatres organize the most captivating performances that definitely will get you goosebumps. Make sure to check the event calendar of these cultural centers before visiting.
The city has also a lot of options for nature enthusiasts, too. There are lesser-known places on the outskirts of the city such as Şile, Kilyos, Sapanca, or Polonezköy. You can immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance, and get lost in the picturesque beauties of it.
If you are looking for ways to catch your breath within the city, the groves and natural parks of the city are perfect for you. Visit Gülhane Park and Valide Korusu. Also exploring Belgrade Forest, or Atatürk Arboretum could be a good idea. If you have a chance, you can find the best scenery around the fall and spring seasons in Istanbul.
For an ultimate Istanbul experience, one lifetime might not even be enough let alone a single day, or a week. The most convenient way to live your best life in Istanbul, full of unforgettable moments, is to live like a local. Take a look at the best property options in Istanbul, and contact us to dive into the magical world of Istanbul.