Istanbul is the magical convergence point, not only between East and West, but also between past and present, between ancient and modern.
3 days in Istanbul isn’t nearly enough time to explore all the city has to offer but gives you enough time to get a good overview of the city.
Let us help you make the most of your trip with this article, so you can experience some of the best things to do in Istanbul over 3 days.
How to Spend 3 days in Istanbul
3 days may seem like very little time for a city like Istanbul. There is so much to see and do in this great city, that it may take months to explore every inch of it. Having said that, we don’t think there is a set amount of time that would be optimal for visiting the city.
Some people storm in and out of Istanbul in a day, others complain thirty days were insufficient. The length of your visit depends on your interests and what you really want to see in the city.
If you have only 3 days in Istanbul, you can still visit the major sites and go home in awe of this place. No matter how long or how short your visit will be, we are sure you’ll like Istanbul.
3 Days Istanbul Itinerary
For this three day itinerary to Istanbul, we have included almost all the must-see sights in the city. It is also possible to follow this itinerary if you are spending a weekend in Istanbul. This itinerary is designed to provide a flavor of the city as a whole. It, of course, isn’t possible to explore all of Istanbul’s sights in just three days.
- Blue Mosque
- Hagia Sophia
- Topkapi Palace
- Grand Bazaar
- Turkish Bath
- Spice Bazaar
- Galata Tower
- Taksim – Beyoglu
- Dervish – Sema
- Asia Side
- Maiden Tower
Let’s start to discover Istanbul in 3 days
Day 1 in Istanbul
Start from Sultanahmet area, two of the most significant monuments in Istanbul stand face to face separated by the leafy Sultanahmet Square. On one side is the Blue Mosque, built by Sultan Ahmet; to whom this part of the city owes its name; and in front of it is Hagia Sophia, a magnificent example of early Byzantine architecture.
A nearby plaza marks the site of the Hippodrome, a chariot racing stadium built by the Romans around AD 200.
Across from the Blue Mosque, the city descends towards the Sea of Marmara in a labyrinth of avenues, with traditional Ottoman-style houses built on the remains of what was the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors.
Topkapi Palace, the famous Ottoman historian Evliya Çelebi described Topkapi Palace as “the most precious sultanate that human skill could have created.”
It is as if the palace was built to remind any sultan who lived there of the great power she had over his empire.
The palace, which was inhabited by the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, receives thousands of visitors from all over the world. Topkapi Palace is one of the most splendid monuments in Istanbul.
Time to shooping go ahead to Grand Baazaar in old city, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops.
After a long day you should go and relax in Turkish Bath. There is no complete visit to Istanbul without spending an hour or two in a Turkish bath (hamam).
Day 2 in Istanbul
Day two of this ‘3 days in Istanbul’ itinerary covers more of the best things to see in Istanbul such as the Spice Bazaar, Galata Tower, Taksim – Beyoğlu and if you want to have a different experience, attend the Sufi Music Concert.
Spice Bazaar(Egyptian Bazaar), the second biggest closed bazaar of Istanbul. It was named Valide Bazaar when it was first founded but it was named the Mısır Carsısı (The Egyptian Bazaar), due to the many types od spice sold there, it is known as the Spice Bazaar by foreign tourists.
Galata Tower, it was called the Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese and the Megalos Pyrgos (The Great Tower) by the Byzantines. It took its present shape during the Genoese period.
Today, the Galata Tower operates solely as a touristic attraction by a private company. The elevator only goes to the 7th floor, and the last two floors of the tower must be climbed by stairs.
After passing though the restaurant on the top floor, there is a balcony that encircles the tower. The restaurant’s view showcases a scene of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.
Walk on the Istiklal Avenue or Istiklal Street is one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, runs from Taksim Square nearly all the way to the landmark Galata Tower. It is the beating heart of the city, the three million people that pass it every day.
Then feel free to attend the Sufi Music Concert or the Dervishes Ceremony.
They are a group born into Sufism (the mystical wing of Islam); that is to say, they belong to the mystical, philosophical, scientific and poetic branch of Islam. The order of the dancing dervishes was founded by Jelaluddin Mevlana Rumi, from whom the name Mevlevi comes, by which the Islamic world knows this unique religious congregation.
This is a spiritual, mystical and informative tribute that has been started since the 13th century by the poet and philosopher Mevlana Rumi C. and his followers.
The program begins with an introduction to Rumi, followed by Sufi music, and the “sema ceremony.” In this way, the dancers bring 800 years of tradition to life on stage, resolutely representing their faith in being a lifelong follower of the Mevlevi tradition.
Day 3 in Istanbul
The Bosphorus strait splits the city in two Europe and Asia. All the main attractions in Istanbul are in Europe side Istanbul but the Asian side of Istanbul in fact contains a large number of attractions that are well worth your time.
Kadikoy and Uskudar are the main transport hubs of this part of the city. From both, it is possible to find a direct bus or minibus line to almost anywhere in Asian Istanbul, and also to a lot of places in the European Side.
Kadıkoy Market, the bustling and colourful fish market, spices, gourmet shops, and street food.
Bağdat Caddesi ( Avenue ), the road that the Ottoman army once used while leaving Istanbul has now become one of the most popular shopping and entertainment center.
Beylerbeyi Palace, it was thought to serve as a summer residence of Ottoman sultans and a state guest house to entertain the foreign heads of state and sovereigns and it was constructed on demand of the sultan of the period. Beylerbeyi meaning “Lord of Lords”, is located in the Beylerbeyi neighbourhood of Üsküdar district in Asia Side of Istanbul.
Camlica Hill, it is one of the highest hills of the city, located on the Asian side, from where you can have a great panorama over the city and the Bosphorus.
Maiden Tower, (Turkish: Kız Kulesi), also known as Leander’s Tower (Tower of Leandros), it is one of the most popular place to visit in Istanbul.
Moda, A neighbourhood occupying the peninsula just south of Kadikoy, Moda features some neo-classical architecture and parks on the sides of the peninsula. It is a favourite place for people of Kadikoy of all ages to take a short stroll on a summer evening.
Kanlica, the Bosphorus neighborhood of Kanlıca is famous for its creamy and tart yogurt, which is served sprinkled with powdered sugar.