Our flight arrives in Istanbul around 7. At the airport we order a taxi via Uber to take us to our Airbnb.
The taxi driver stops and loads our luggage, but then quickly jumps into the car and tells us to get in a few metres further forward. We run to the front and get in as quickly as we can - the taxi driver is not actually allowed to load us there, as we learn from him later. That is reserved for the "airport taxis".
Once we arrive at the BnB, we just drop off our luggage briefly before heading towards Taksim to have something to eat for dinner. We decide on the Selvi Restaurant where we eat very tasty starters and kebabs.
On the way back, we stop at a small market where we buy beer and raki to finish the evening on our roof terrace.

Day 1: Egyptian Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Book Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia & Yerebatan Cistern

In the morning, we set off again towards Taksim Square to find something for breakfast. We quickly find something in İstiklal Caddesi, the most famous street in Istanbul. At Taksim Sütis has a very tasty breakfast.
From here we walk to tram T1 to get off near the new mosque. From the stop, we head first for the former German Orient Bank.

From here we stroll on to the Egyptian Bazaar. The covered bazaar houses about 100 shops with a huge selection of open spices and teas!

Then we walk to the Süleymaniye Mosque. From here you have a great view of the Bosphorus and the Galata district!

After enjoying the view, we make our way to the Grand Bazaar. In the countless alleyways (sorted by sector), it's easy to get lost. No wonder, after all, there are almost 4000 shops in a very small space!

After exploring the bazaar a bit, we find an exit and make our way to the book bazaar, one of the oldest markets in the city. Among other things, there are books about art history, the Ottoman Empire and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey in 1923. Religious works, including the Koran, are also sold here.

We leave the book bazaar in the direction of the university and make our way towards the blue mosque. On the way, we stop at the rooftop bar "The Terrace Restaurant Cafe" to quench our thirst. From here you have a brilliant view of the blue mosque! We have a beer and cool down a bit at the air conditioning, which tries to cool down the air coming through the open windows.

Recovered, we make our way to the blue mosque, just in time, at 16:30 (30 minutes before prayer time) the entrance closes. Vestments to dress appropriately are available free of charge at the entrance. We marvel at the dome from the inside until we are asked to leave the mosque at prayer time shortly before 5 pm.

Actually, we wanted to go on from here to see the catacombs. But because of the barriers we end up in front of the entrance to the Hagia Sophia. We thought that we could only visit it after prayer time, but we were simply waved in. At the entrance, we buy appropriate suits for a few euros, so that we can dress accordingly. From the inside, the Hagia Sophia is much more impressive than the blue mosque!

After we have finished exploring the mosque, we make our way to the Yerebatan Cistern, also called the Sunken Palace. Known from films (including James Bond: Love Greetings from Moscow), the cistern is one of Istanbul's most impressive sights! The entrance fee of 350 TL is definitely worth it!

In the meantime, it is already evening, so we look for a restaurant for dinner. We decide on the recommendation of the guidebook Ziyafet kuzu çevirme sirkeci and are not disappointed. The lamb and the starters are really delicious - only beer is unfortunately not available.

We make our way towards our accommodation. Before we walk home from Taksim Square, we explore the İstiklal Caddesi. We let ourselves be lured by one of the ice cream sellers and are amused by his show. When we pay, however, they try to cheat us: the vendor's son gives everyone a flat 410TL, regardless of how many ice creams they have bought.

Day 2: Topkapi Palace & Bosphorus Boat Tour

In the morning, we walk from our accommodation towards the Bosporus to look for something to eat for breakfast. We quickly find what we are looking for at .... The breakfast and especially the location directly on the Bosphorus is really great!

After breakfast, we set off for Topkapi Palace. Until the end of the 1850s, this was the residence of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
The complex is really impressive and still very well preserved for its age (construction began in 1460). The exhibitions include the Topkapi dagger and the spoon-maker's diamond. From the last of the five courtyards you have an excellent view of the Bosphorus!

After exploring the huge palace, it is already late afternoon. We make our way to the harbour in Sirkeci to take a round trip across the Bosphorus. On the way, we stop at a snack bar to recover briefly from all the walking and the heat.

When we arrive at the harbour, we can directly board a boat, which departs only a few minutes later. From the water we have an impressive view of the Budapest skyline!

The journey continues past the Dolmabahce Palace, which replaced the Topkapi Palace after it was no longer fit for purpose.

We then head towards the 15th of July Martyrs Bridge, which connects the European part of Istanbul with the Asian part of Istanbul. Slowly, the sun is also setting, illuminating the landscape in a beautiful red.

Back at the harbour, we walk across the Galata Bridge to look for something to eat from there. We walk past the Galata Tower towards the accommodation until we finally find it near İstiklal Caddesi. At Müzeyyen Meyhane Asmalı Mescit we eat a very tasty starter and a grill platter. Afterwards, we head to Nevizade Street, a side street of İstiklal Caddesi full of bars, for another beer before heading back to the accommodation.

Day 3: Galata Tower, Egyptian Bazaar & Departure

In the morning on the first day we go to the Taksim Sütis to have breakfast. From here we take the historic tram T3 to get to the Galata Tower.
When we arrive at the Galata Tower, contrary to our expectations, there is no queue, we can buy our ticket directly (~20€) and take the lift to the top. Once at the top of the tower, a spectacular view of the Istanbul skyline and the Bosphorus awaits us. The view is really worth the money!

From the Galata Tower we walk to the tram to cross the Galata Bridge again to the Egyptian Bazaar. Here we stock up on spices and tea before we leave. Then we head back to our accommodation to pick up our luggage and take a taxi back to the airport.

Frequently asked questions

Istanbul's new airport is about 50km outside Istanbul. The easiest way to get into the city is by taxi, which costs about €30 and takes between 40 minutes and an hour.

Make sure the taxi meter is on! There are no night surcharges. Taxis in Istanbul can be ordered directly via the Uber app.

Istanbul has a well-developed public transport network. These are very cheap, a ride with the Istanbulkart costs 15TL, a little less than 50ct. The Istanbulkart can be purchased for 3€ at the tram / metro stops. The card is loaded with money and can be shared with several people.

Alternatively, you can pay directly by credit card at the tram / metro turnstile, but then the ride costs 30TL (approx. 1€).

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. If cash is needed, it can be withdrawn from ATMs, but there are fees of about 6% almost everywhere.

How long should you stay in Istanbul?

We had actually planned to stay in Istanbul for four days. Due to bad weather, however, our flight was delayed by one day, which is why we only had three days in Istanbul.

Three days was not enough to experience Istanbul, I would recommend 4-5 days so that you have enough time to see everything.