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For economical private airport transfers, guided tours and similar travel services, please contact with our concierge service. Istanbul's top sights are grouped right around the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet Square, so you can visit them all on your first day.
Topkapi Palace (9-5, closed Tuesday; stay 2-3 hr). Get there at 8:45 am and go straight to the Harem, which gets overcrowded. Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) (9-4, closed Monday; stay 1 hr). Right next to Topkapi. Don't miss the best mosaics, on the upper level.
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) (stay 1/2 hr). Just across the park from Ayasofya, on the Hippodrome. The mosque is closed to visitors for 25 minutes after each call to prayer, and for several hours midday on Friday. Byzantine Hippodrome (stay 1/2 hr). Enjoy the monuments in the park. Sunken Palace Cistern (Basilica Cistern) (9-5; stay 1/2 hr). Located at the NE end of the Hippodrome beneath the little park. Grand Bazaar (9-5, closed Sunday & holidays; stay 1-2 hrs, longer if you're really shopping). Walk uphill on Divan Yolu from the Hippodrome and see the sights along the way, or take the tram along it to Carsikapi.
A Turkish bath (1-3 hr) can be amazingly refreshing after a long day! You can also use the one inside our facilities with refreshing and relaxing message service. Istanbul has dozens of excellent restaurants for dinner.
To tour Istanbul's top sights, one day (or two days/1 night) is a bit rushed (but possible); 3 days/2 nights is comfortable; 4 days/3 nights is wonderful!
Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia & Hippodrome (Thursday or Friday)
Morning flight to Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport (IST), and transfer to the hotel. Contact with the hotel or send us an email with your flight details we can arrange your transfer. Have lunch in Olive restaurant, then take a walking tour of Sultanahmet, the heart of historic Byzantium/ Constantinople/ Istanbul: theHippodrome, Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), the Blue Mosque and Yerebatan Saray (Sunken Palace Cistern). In the evening, relax over a candlelight dinner in Olive restaurant with the view of History next to you.
Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Istiklal (Friday or Saturday)
Get to Topkapi Palace before its doors open and go straight to the Harem to assure your place in the guided tour. After the tour, explore the rest of the palace/museum, perhaps having an early lunch. In the afternoon, walk or ride the tram along Divan Yolu to the Grand Bazaar for shopping, or take a taxi to the Kariye Muzesi(Church of the Holy Savior in Chora) to see its splendid Byzantine mosaics. In the evening, stroll along Istiklal Caddesi (La Grande Rue de Péra) in Beyoglu to find a cozy cafe, bar or taverna for a drink, then dinner.
Bosphorus Cruise (Saturday or Sunday)
Hop aboard a ferry for a cruise up the Bosphorus to Sariyer near the Black Sea. After a seafood lunch, ride south stopping at the Sadberk Hanim Museum, Rumeli Hisar castle, and/or Yildiz Palace and Park. Stop in trendy Ortakoy for seaside tea and snacks, then taxi to Taksim Square for some strolling and window-shopping in Nisantasi or along Istiklal Caddesi.
Lots of Choices! (Sunday or Monday)
If there's time before your board your homeward flight, visit the Archeological Museums, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, or the Egyptian Bazaar (closed Sunday, but there's a big flea market outside on that day); or search for art and antiques off Istiklal Caddesi; or hop aboard a ferry for the one-hour intercontinental round-trip/return cruise from Eminonu across the Bosphorus to Uskudar, Kadikoy or Haydarpasa.
Istanbul's top sights are grouped right around the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet Square
Topkapı Palace (9-5, closed Tuesday; stay 2-3 hr). Get there at 8:45 am and go straight to the Harem, which gets overcrowded.Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) (9-4, closed Monday; stay 1 hr). Right next to Topkapi. Don't miss the best mosaics, on the upper level. Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) (stay 1/2 hr). Just across the park from Ayasofya, on the Hippodrome. The mosque is closed to visitors for 25 minutes after each call to prayer, and for several hours midday on Friday.Byzantine Hippodrome (stay 1/2 hr). Enjoy the monuments in the park Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (9-5, closed Monday; stay 1-2 hr). Right on the Hippodrome across from the Blue Mosque, this is a treasurehouse of Anatolian art.Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray) (9-5; stay 1/2 hr). At the NE end of the Hippodrome beneath the little park.A Turkish bath (1-3 hr) can be amazingly refreshing after a long day!
Today you visit Istanbul's top Byzantine (4th to 14th centuries) sights, and go shopping
Divan Yolu (1 hr walking tour) Walk from the Hippodrome uphill along this historic boulevard, the ancient Roman Mese, to see the tombs of the Ottoman Sultans, other Ottoman buildings, and Cemberlitas (Forum of Constantine) to Beyazit Square (Forum of Theodosius) and Istanbul University. Take a bus or taxi to Edirnekapi and the Kariye Museum.Kariye Museum (9-4, closed Wednesday; stay 1-2 hrs). Come for the brilliant gold Byzantine mosaics that cover the ceiling and walls. Nearby is Tekfur Sarayi, Istanbul's only extant Byzantine palace, built into the huge 4th-century city walls. Take a bus or taxi back to Beyazit Square and the Grand Bazaar.Grand Bazaar (9-5, closed Sunday; stay 1-2 hrs, longer if you're really shopping). With its 4000 shops, it has something you want! Finding it is great fun. Have lunch at one of the little restaurants right in the bazaar. When you're done, walk downhill along Long-Market Street or take a tram or taxi to Eminonu and the Egyptian Market.Egyptian (Spice) Market (9-5, closed Sunday; stay 1/2 to 1 hr) Right next to the southern end of the Galata Bridge, it's much smaller than the Grand Bazaar, but the surrounding district is full of other shops selling food, clothing, kitchen utensils, etc. It's interesting. The tram will take you right back to Sultanahmet.
Explore the romance of late Ottoman Istanbul on a walking tour of Beyoglu, and a visit to the sultan's most lavish palace.
Galata Bridge (stay 1/2 hr) Start at the bridge over the Golden Horn which links Old and New Istanbul. Take in the view, and then walk north through Karakoy (Galata) and uphill to... Galata Tower (9-7, discount on Monday; stay 1/2 to 1 hr) Best views of the city from this Genoese cone-topped stone tower. Continue uphill to Tunel Squareand... Istiklal Caddesi (Grande Rue de Péra; 1-2 hr walking tour) Lots to see along the main boulevard of 19th-century Istanbul: a whirling dervish hall, grand old embassy buildings, the Pera Palas Hotel, and lots of boutiques. Have lunch at one of the plenty of restaurants on Istiklal Caddesi. Taksim Square From this hub of modern Istanbul, go downhill to Dolmabahce Palace or north to the Military Museum. Dolmabahce Palace (9-4, closed Monday and Thursday; stay 1-2 hrs) With a facade almost a quarter mile long, this is the mother of all Ottoman palaces, and a must-see if you're into magnificence. Military Museum (9-5, closed Monday & Tuesday; stay 1-2 hr) North of Taksim along Cumhuriyet Caddesi past the Istanbul Hilton, the museum chronicles 1000 years of Turkish military history-quite fascinating. At 3 and 4 pm you can hear the Ottoman Mehter, the world's original military band, in costume with period instruments.