Istanbul is one of the most magical cities in the world. Built on the Bosphorus, this city stretches across Asia and Europe, East and West, and this diversity is present in every detail. But Istanbul is also very, very busy. Sightseeing and taking pictures without the crowds can often be a struggle and the only way to avoid it is to plan your itinerary very carefully. Luckily we did exactly that!
Here comes our 3 day itinerary and instagrammable places in Istanbul.
- Sultanahmet Square
- The Blue Mosque
- Hagia Sophia Museum
- Seven Hills Restaurant
- Grand Bazaar
- Kubbe Rooftop
- Maya’s Corner
Although The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia do not open until 9am, Sultanahmet Square is already crowded by then. So if you want to get good pictures of both buildings, be sure to get here very early. And remember, it is totally worth and early wake up call!
Click here for the exact location of Sultanahmet Square.
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, better called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish, is Istanbul’s most famous landmark and you will clearly see why. The dramatic architecture and spires will make your jaw drop!
Built by the Ottoman sultan Ahmed I between 1609 – 1616, this is the only mosque in Istanbul having 6 minarets.
However, you must remember that the Mosque is still an active place of worship, which means that people must take their shoes off before entering and ladies will need to cover up. But to see the Mosque with its worshippers, to hear the sounds of faith, and to feel the spirituality makes the visit even more special.
Click here for the exact location of The Blue Mosque.
Hagia Sophia Museum
On the other side of Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia dominates the skyline with its red walls and minarets. It was originally built in 360 AD and it’s been a Christian church for more than a thousand years. But
Sultan Mehmed invaded the city in 1453 and declared that it should be turned into a mosque. Nowadays, Hagia Sophia is none of that. In 1935 it turned into museum and no worship takes place in there. It welcomes nearly 10,000 people per day and it’s no wonder that it is often referred to as the eighth Wonder of the World.
Click here for the exact location of The Hagia Sophia Museum.
Seven Hills Restaurant
Located on top of Seven Hills Hotel, this restaurant offers the most beautiful view of the two buildings. You can visit for breakfast, lunch, or just for a cup of tea (even if you are not staying at the hotel) and get ready to remain speechless!
Click here for the exact location of Seven Hills Restaurant.
For a classic Istanbul Instagram shot, head over the Grand Bazaar, where you can pose with beautiful Turkish handicrafts like lanterns, plates, tiles, rugs, and more. This is one of the most touristic places in Istanbul so you’ll have to be patient with all the people and the (not always) friendly persistence of the vendors. Note that if you take photographs for a while in a place, you may be expected to purchase something.
Click here for the exact location of Grand Bazaar.
Right before sunset, climb up Kubbe Rooftop. Formally Kubbe was a top thing to do in Istanbul to watch the sunset from but it recently changed into a photography location with an entrance fee of 100 TL (18 USD), which is quite a lot! However, the beautiful carpets, the birds flying overhead and the view over the city are just stunning.
Click here for the exact location of Kubbe Rooftop.
Kybele Hotel/Maya’s Corner Café
There is no place that reflects the mistery and charm of Istanbul more than this cute street! It’s called Yerebatan Street but you can use either Maya’s Corner Café or Kybele Hotel as a reference point. This is the street that best shows the true soul of Istanbul, where you can fraternize with the locals, where you can hear the muezzin calling for prayers when the sun goes down and the lights of the city turn up, where drinking a cup of tea will make you feel in a novel by Walter Scott.
Click here for the exact location of Kybele Hotel.
No visit to Istanbul is complete without stopping by the atmospheric Spice Bazaar. While the Grand Bazaar may be the largest and most famous bazaar in Istanbul, this spice market is the most colorful, fragrant, and often most fun – as visitors can taste the goods on offer.
Wondering what do they sell? A typical shop in the Spice Bazaar sells all sorts of dried herbs, spices, dried fruits and Turkish delights, but you can even find cheese, olive oil soaps, jewelry and much more besides.
Click here for the exact location of Spice Bazaar.
Topkapi Palace has been the home to Sultan kings and the political centre of the Empire for many centuries. Nowadays, it’s a gram-worthy museum which is wall to wall Instagram gold. Remember to pay a visit at the Harem as this is the most photogenic part of the museum.
Click here for the exact location of Topkapi Palace.
It is said that only 2% of all tourists visit the district of Balat during their trip, but we can firmly say that it was our favorite part of the city, where we couldn’t help but keep walking around aimlessly.
Balat is the oldest and most colorful district of Istanbul. The second you step foot along its narrow cobbled streets and historic buildings, you feel an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in Istanbul, and indeed the world.
It’s the kind of district where you can’t really go wrong – turn a corner and you’re walking past one of the oldest cafés in the city, turn another and you’ve got the city’s oldest meyhane, a type of traditional dinner spot.
Click here for the exact location of Balat.
Karaköy is the cool area of Istanbul. It is so colorful and full of life and just like Balat (but different), you’ll find something interesting to shoot on your every step. It’s full of street art and nice restaurants and cafés, and also, the famous umbrella street, which is one of the famous instagrammable places in Istanbul.
There are plenty of tempting options for dinner in Karaköy. The best-known of these is Karaköy Lokantası, a traditional eatery with a tiled interior inspired by the Topkapı Palace Harem. And then, keep the party going until late over cocktails at the hip Finn Karaköy.
Click here for the exact location of Karaköy.
Ortaköy Mosque is one of the hidden gems of Istanbul. We decided to go there in the early morning so that we could have the place all for ourselves, and it turned out to be an epic photography spot! The mosque lies on the edge of the Strait, with the Bosphorus Bridge in the background and as a little bonus you’ll most likely always be able to get some pigeons or seagulls in your shots.
Click here for the exact location of Ortaköy Mosque.
Arnavutköy is a charming neighbourhood on the European side, away from the touristic hustle and bustle. There aren’t many museums or so-called world-class landmarks, but Arnavutköy wasn’t born to be flashy. The charm of this area is the fact that it retains its quiet fishermen’s village feel, even though it’s located in one of the world’s busiest metropolis. On top of that, there are a number of old Ottoman wooden mansions to add to its beauty.
Click here for the exact location of Arnavutköy.
Galata Tower and İstiklal Street
The Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s most iconic visuals. It gives 360-degree magnificent view of Istanbul and climbing up at sunset time is probably the most romantic thing to do in Istanbul!
The area is characterized by many narrow cobbled streets, cafes, restaurants and small art galleries. The most famous street around there is definitely İstiklal Caddesi, where you can experience the unique energy and spirit of Istanbul. It is comparable to the Fifth Avenue in New York, with more than 3 million people going through in one single day.
What made this street even more famous is the vintage red tram that runs every 15 minutes. No trip would be complete without boarding one of these beautiful vehicles!
Click here for the exact location of Galata Tower.
Click here for the exact location of İstiklal Street.
To experience Istanbul at its most magical, walk across the Galata Bridge at sunset. This is possibly the best way to end your trip as it reminds you that you are standing in one of the greatest cities of the world. It is a bustling place full of traffic and people going about their business.
What we suggest is to simply blend in and observe the daily Turkish life in Istanbul, try to capture the moment and remember it forever.