15 hour layover at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul

My husband and I arrive at 10:25pm and leave at 1:40 pm. We would like to see
Istanbul. What is the most efficient travel to city and what do we need to know and what about visa and currency and what time do we need to be back to catch flight to Chicago. What are must see sights.

Posted by David
Bellevue, WA, USA
758 posts

maybe cover a mosque and the bazar in the morning. check out taksim square area if you're not tired on the arriving night.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7340 posts

Penelope, you really only have the morning for sightseeing. You can go to the Sultanhamet area and visit the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, the Spice Market (not the big bazaar across town), and the Underground Cistern if you get an early start, but probably not see all of them. It's a short cab ride from the airport into the city; if you get a room for that night, find one in Sultanhamet so you'll be close to the sights you want to see the next morning. You probably will need to be back at the airport before noon. You can get a visa at the airport, or you can get one in advance from the nearest Turkish consulate (I'm thinking Chicago?). Turkey uses New Turkish Lira as currency, for such a short stay I suggest just using your credit/bank card (although the taxi might require cash; you can change some money at the airport for a high fee, or order some currency in advance from your bank or AAA).

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
335 posts

My suggestion is to stay at a hotel at the airport since you're arriving so late. If you start a new thread requesting ideas for airport hotels you should get plenty of recommendations. You'll buy your visa when you arrive and before you clear customs (bring U.S. dollars). In the morning take a cab to Sultanahmet. All of the sites in this area are very close, so just request that the driver take you to the Blue Mosque. I am assuming that you have not been to Istanbul before. You realistically have time to only see a couple of things. Here is what I recommend. 1). Arrive at about 8:00 am (earlier if you plan to eat breakfast downtown) and walk around the Hippodrome. That will take about 30 minutes. Spend the rest of the time before 9:00 am checking out the Sultanahmet area. 2). Most sites open around 9:00 am. See the Aya Sophia first (make sure it will be open the day of the week you will be there). This is the top site that you'll have time to see. It takes about 2 hours for a good visit, but you can do a decent turbo visit in an hour. 3). If you have time, run across the street to see the Blue Mosque. It will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Spend any remaining time shopping, snacking, looking around, etc. There is a little bazaar right next to the Blue Mosque if you want to shop. You can get cash for your visit at the ATM at the airport. There are more ATMs near the Aya Sophia and Topkopi in the Sultanahmet area. Of the sites I mentioned, only the Aya Sophia charges for entry. You can pay for it with a credit card, so you'll only need cash for the cab both ways and any snacks or small items you plan to buy. I'd allow for about 45 minutes to get to the airport. Assuming that you need to check in two hours before your flight, you'll need to leave for the airport no later than about 11:00. Have fun!

Posted by Penelope
Ankeny, Iowa, usa
2 posts

What about taking the train into the city to see the Blue Mosque or would a cab be better?

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
335 posts

Yes, you can take the metro or the bus to Sultanahmet. There are stops on the Divan Yolu nearby. Just allow more time and do a bit of research on what you need to do based on the method you choose. I suggested using a cab to save time. I do recommend taking a cab back to the airport to save time. One thing I did not address in my previous e-mail is luggage. You'll need to allow a bit of time to either get your left luggage at your hotel or to take it over to the airport lockers before you head into town on your departure day. You may also want to see if you can check in for your flight and check your bags first thing in the morning to save time later in the day.

Posted by Mark
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, USA
62 posts

With your late arrival time the Hotel at the airport is going to be your best bet. The are currency change booths at teh airport and they ahve medicare rates and all chancre a 3-4% commission. If you are going to make this work you must plan on getting up early and get out of the hotel at the crack of dawn. The traffic in the mornings is absolute madness so I'd forget all about taking a taxi and use the Metro, which has a station located in the lower portion of the airport. You can board the M1 line at the airport (that is the end of the line in that direction), stay on the M1 line and get out at the end of the line at Aksaray and take a taxi from there You can also use the Red line, transfer to the Blue line and then exit at Sultanahmet and be ready to go. In the time available you probably won't have a chance to do more than catch a look at the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome before heading back to the airport. You can use a taxi to get back but I find these risky due to the ever present traffic issues and you can't afford to get stuck in gridlock. The Metro offers a secure way to get directly back to the airport without worrying about road construction and traffic jams.