We’re a quarter of the way through 2022 and I’m catching up to the travel that I’ve been missing! Hubby and I just finished a 2-week journey through Turkey, Greece, and Cairo and I have so much to share with you all. If you’ve been following me on Insta you’ve seen some of the pics, but I’m going to be sharing more in-depth tips about each destination right here on this blog.
We kicked off the trip in Istanbul, which is just a short 2-hour flight from our home in Beirut, Lebanon. I had been to Istanbul years ago when I lived in Milan, but that was a short business trip so I didn’t get much time to explore at my leisure. I had been looking forward to going back to really get a feel for Istanbul, the culture, the sights, and of course the food, so I was so excited for the opportunity to return.
I read a ton of travel blogs and advise on planning an Istanbul itinerary, but I didn’t want a jam-packed touristy itinerary that would leave us exhausted. Plus, Istanbul is gigantic and very spread out, so if you only have a limited amount of time in the city deciding what to do can be overwhelming.
Istanbul is one of those iconic, incredible cities which will leave you fascinated on each and every visit. It is the magical melting pot of East and West, full of enchanting cultural experiences everywhere you look. Istanbul will charm you with its Ottoman mosques, energetic bazaars, and beautiful tea house and coffee shops.
You could spend a week in Istanbul and still not get to experience all the city has to offer, but 3 days is just enough time to get a feel for the city.
I wanted to move at a more relaxed pace and fit in some activities I didn’t read about EVERYWHERE, so I skipped popular attractions like the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, Süleymaniye Mosque.
Keep reading for my balanced/lazy 3-day Istanbul itinerary and travel tips to get the most out of your experience!
Istanbul 3 Day Itinerary
Istanbul Itinerary Day 1
Start your morning early with a classic Turkish breakfast, before making your way over to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
Hagia Sophia is one of Istanbul’s most famous monuments, with a unique and controversial history. It started as a Christian church built by Constantine the Great in 325 AD and stayed that way until 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. Struck by the beauty of the structure, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror converted the church into his imperial mosque.
Facing the Hagia Sofia is the Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 – 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. The Sultan’s goal was to build a mosque that would rival the Hagia Sophia, which at the time was the most respected mosque.
From the outside, the Blue Mosque is exquisite, but the interior of Hagia Sophia is far superior. The Blue Mosque is also currently under construction, which distracts a little from the beauty, but it is still a sight to behold.
Insider Tips for Visiting a Mosque
Visitors are welcome at any mosque in Istanbul, but non-Muslims should try to avoid prayer times, especially Fridays at 1pm
Mornings are best for getting photos since there will be fewer crowds
Women should dress conservatively (arms, legs and shoulders covered) and bring a head scarf to cover their hair as well.
Shoes are not allowed inside, so you will have to leave them at the entrance
No eating or drinking inside
Avoid flash photography
If people are inside worshipping, please show respect and keep your distance
After you’ve explored the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, head over to The Grand Bazaar for some shopping!
This Istanbul icon perfectly reflects the spirit of the city and no trip to Istanbul is complete without a visit. Be prepared – it’s enormous! You can lose yourself in the maze of alleys, and the sights, sounds, smells and vendors waving to you from every direction can cause serious sensory overload.
The Grand Bazaar was founded by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, and he wanted to concentrate trade of goods to protect against theft. The gates were always closed at night for everyone’s protection and the merchants shared the cost to have guards patrol the bazaar.
Insider Tips for Visiting a Bazaar
Be aware of your belongings and watch out for pickpockets
Vendors will offer you tea or sweets to come to their shop – politely decline if you are seriously not interested in buying anything
Many vendors will offer shipping to the US, but I prefer not to use those services since you have little recourse if your goods never show up
Most rugs can be folded up small enough to fit into your luggage
Bazaars are usually built like a bowl, so as you walk in you are heading slightly downhill. If you get lost and can’t find your way out, just walk uphill and you will eventually find an exit.
After shopping to your heart’s content, drop off your goods at the hotel and enjoy a casual lunch. Anywhere you go will have doner kebab or grilled lamb, and it was always amazing!
Istanbul Itinerary Day 2
No trip to Istanbul is complete without experiencing a hammam. The Cağaloğlu Hamam is a historic hammam in Istanbul, Turkey. Finished in 1741, it is one of the last major hammams to be built in Istanbul during the Ottoman period, and was actually Listed in the book “1000 Places To See Before You Die.”
It’s one of the more expensive hammams in Istanbul, but in my experience, it was worth every penny. The treatment starts out with a relaxing steam, followed by a luxurious bath, and foam bubble massage. After the treatment you relax with some tea and Turkish snacks, and I left feeling like an absolute princess. After that we headed back to the hotel so I could do my hair and makeup, and the next stop on the list was a photo shoot.
Being a content creator means good photos are a must! But even if you aren’t a blogger you deserve to have some amazing shots to commemorate your trip. I booked a photo shoot at Taht Istanbul, an amazing photo studio that recreates some iconic Turkish settings – a rooftop, a floral feminine café, a royal palace bedroom, and a bazaar.
You can book time to come in and take your own photos with a friend, or hire one of their pro photographers for a photo session. They also have dresses and costumes for rent, and offer photo editing. The pics were amazing, and it was a fun and unique addition to my Istanbul itinerary.
After that we grabbed appetizers and “drinks” at a nearby rooftop. The views were gorgeous, but as we learned none of the restaurants in the area served alcohol because of the proximity to the Süleymaniye Mosque.
After that it was time to head over to the Dolmabahçe Palace. Dolmabahçe is Turkey’s largest and most extravagant palace and Istanbul’s first European-style palace. The Palace was built in 1843 by Sultan Abdulmecit I and is lavishly decorated with tons of gold, stunning furnishings, and crystal everywhere. The grounds are immaculate, with stunning views of the Bosphorus through beautiful white gates.
Istanbul Itinerary Day 3
In the spirit of just doing something quirky and random in town, we discovered the Museum of Selfies pop up exhibit and had to check it out. It was full of various playful vignettes, from an emoji ball pit to an upside-down room. After that we did a leisurely walk, popped in and out of some cafes and souvenir shops, then went back to the hotel to unwind and get ready for our last dinner in town.
For a glamourous (but pricey) night out, don’t miss Sunset Bar & Grill. Sunset is one of the leading fine dining restaurants in Istanbul with drop dead views of the Bosphorus Bridge and Asian shoreline. Reservations are a must, and it’s worth it for celebrating a special occasion, or just dropping in for drinks and appetizers if you just want to check out the view.
Have you been to Istanbul? Let me know what you think about this itinerary, and check out more about each place we went to in my
Istanbul Insider Travel Tips
Where to Stay in Istanbul
Everything is pretty spread out, but you’ll find great hotels near a
Getting Around Istanbul
There is a tram and a public transportation system, but we only used Uber or Taxis.
Be careful of pricing scams
A lot of Uber drivers will message you to negotiate the price and refuse to pick you up if you don’t agree.Taxis tend to refuse to use the meter and will try to fix a VERY inflated price with you. Always insist they turn the meter on when you get in the car!Most drivers don’t speak a lot of English, so be ready to show them the Google map location of your destination
Safety Tips Istanbul
I wouldn’t recommend Istanbul for female solo travelers, but it’s great with friends or a significant otherDress on the conversative side
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