Turkey is an amazing country, blessed with nice scenery and the unqiue cultural mix of Europe & Asia. There is a high possiblity that you will be on transit, most likely taking the national carrier: Turkish Airlines which connects you to more than 294 destinations worldwide.
So here’s what you can do if you have less than 24 hours on transit in Istanbul. Usually, flights on Turkish Airlines coming in from Asia region arrives very early in Turkey (between 4am-6am). Your next flight out maybe in the late evening… so every minute counts! Head downtown and enjoy the sunrise over the Bosphorus River that links Asia to Europe. Below is the list of attractions you may visit:
#1: Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
Open: daily from 09.00 till dusk
Closed: 30 min before until 30 min after prayer time, 2 hours during Friday noon prayer
The exterior of the mosque is not blue, a kind of contradicting the name. In fact, it gotten its name from the interior colour found in the mosque. This is the must visit place in Istanbul. Head there early due to the large crowds usually expected as it is one of the most widely photographed landmark. Allow yourself 1 hour to marvel and take in the surrounding sights. Go there early at 9am after your breakfast in the area.
#2: Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı)
Open: daily from 08.30 – 19.00
Closed: Sunday, October 29th and the full duration of religious holidays
Within walking distance of the Blue Mosque, one can shop freely at the Grand Bazaar, offering great deal of tourist souveniers, turkish delights, apple tea products, leather jackets, carpets, etc. You name it, they got it at the bazaar.
There are about 23 entrances to the area, so be careful not to get lost inside! Everything looks the same when one stepped into the Grand Bazaar. Get your bearings right and remember to always bargain the price down! Be warned: Turkish have a way with their words, buy what you need and move on… Otherwise, enjoy shopping and it closes at 7pm! So don’t leave this attraction at the last or else you will leave Istanbul with regrets…
#3: Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı)
Open: daily from 09.00 – 17.00
Closed: no closing days
One of the top attractions in Turkey, this palace offers one an insight into the life of the sultans. One will be able to capture the unqiue articheture of the buildings. Being located at Seraglio Point, overlooking the Marmara Sea, one can see the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus River, connecting Europe and Asia. Time to call for some photogprahy shots! As the area is a huge compound, give yourself around 1.5 hour to explore the place.
#4: Taskim Square
Situated in the European part of Istanbul city, this is where one can find cafes, high end shopping outlets, restaurants, hotels. Seen as a central city point of Istanbul, one can witness the buzz and hustle of the city. Taksim Square is also the location of the Monumnet of the Republic, which celebrates Turkish Independence. One can get to Taskim Square easily by public transport. Take the M2 line of the Istanbul Metro and/or the Kabataş-Taksim Funicular line.
#5:Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
Open: daily from 09.00 – 20.00
Closed: no closing days
A metro stop away from Taskim Square, there lies Galata Tower. If you walk from Taskim Square, it takes around 30 minutes with a stroll along numerous shops. If you are taking the Metro, alight at Sishane Stop, it is only 10 minutes walk from the station! Plenty of sights to take in along the way! The Galata Tower allows one to hike up the tower with an entrance fee of 18.50 Turkish Lira.
#6: Spice Market
Open: daily from 08.00 – 19.00 (Weekdays & Saturday) ; Sunday: 10.00-18.00
Closed: During Religious & Public Holidays
People come from around the world come to explore the Spice Market. One of the must visit places with huge amount of spices available that will certainly amaze you. It boast more than 85 outlets selling spices, Turkish deligh, sweets, jewellery, souvenirs, dried fruits and nuts.
#7: Bosphorus River Cruise
You would not deem to visit Istanbul without a hopping on the cruise along Bosphorus River. One will be able to witness the sheer beauty of Istanbul curising in between Asia & Europe continent. The shorter cruise usually takes around 1.5 hours and is truly worth it!
There is so much to do in Istanbul! But if you have only 24 hours, the above are things that you would consider doing before flying to your next destination~!
For a summary of activities to do in Istanbul, I have summarised it into a video: