36 hours in Istanbul

Here's the rub. I only have 36 hours in Istanbul: a friday and saturday (May 28-29). Any advice? Must sees, or places to visit/eat? Obviously Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

Grateful for any tips/advice.

Posted by Sharon
2725 posts

You might find some good tips here if you haven't already seen this article:

36 hours in Istanbul

Also, Rick's guidebook on Istanbul is excellent! Istanbul a great city--you can see a lot in 36 hours!

Posted by John
Princeton, NJ, USA
5 posts

Many thanks for the tips. Ironic that the Times' article-title was the same as my post...total coincidence:)

Posted by Deanna
Canton, GA, usa
235 posts

Take the short 90 minute Bosphorus cruise, as it will give you another perspective on the city! Also, the Grand Bazaar, while very touristy, is something to see. We also enjoyed walking around on Iskitlal Cadessi (prob spelling it wrong) but it is also totally different from the Sultanhamet area. As for eating, we enjoyed a great fish lunch on the bridge...prepare to be given a huge sales pitch by every restaurant you walk by, but the fish is good and the views are wonderful!!

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

Obviously you don't have much time, but we really liked the Basilica Cisterns, the Spice Market, and the Topkapi Palace. I guess you'd have to regard the Grand Bazaar as a must-see, but it definitely has a tourist-trap feel. I don't think many Istanbul citizens shop there.

Posted by Mike
Tampa, FL, USA
417 posts

That was a good article, but here are a few notes:

St. Saviour in Chora is recommended. This is a great site, and worth time to visit, but on such a short stop, I would substitute the Blue Mosque or Suleymaniye Mosque instead as both are closer to the old city and still very impressive.

Hagia Sophia is only passingly mentioned and is not even a stop on the 36 hour visit. This is a true mistake as the building is breathtaking, startlingly beautiful, and historic. DO NOT MISS HAGIA SOPHIA!!! Blue Mosque is right across the street.

Topkapi deserves more than a short visit to the Harem.

Here is what I would do:

Friday- Arrive afternoon (I assume). Grand Bazaar. True, not many locals, but it is a great place to visit! Dinner at local restaurant. Mosques are probably closed since Friday is the Muslim holy day, but I'm not positive about this.

Saturday- Full Day! 9AM Topkapi Palace, 10AM Harem at the palace. Leave by 11:30. Quick lunch, then Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Late afternoon cruise on Bosphorus, dinner at local restaurant.

That gives you an overview of the old city and the most historic monuments. It is by no means exhaustive, but it is what I would do if I only had 36 hours. These sights are all close together, so you will minimize travel time or backtracking. Get a hotel in Sultanahmet area, the old city.

Posted by Carole
Shaw Island, Washington, USA
71 posts

Taksim Square at night is such fun and great nightlife and restaurants. Go take a hamam when you are too tired to do anything else. Not exactly nurturing but worth the experience!