Istanbul, Turkey at Sunset

Three Incredible Days in Istanbul

Istanbul is not a city you can visit only once. It’s also not a city you can visit only twice, a fact I learned on my recent trip to the city – my second. With world heritage sites as common a sight along the city’s streets as food for its ubiquitous pigeons, Istanbul is a place you could quite literally spend a lifetime.

For me, however, there are far too many other incredible destinations in the world (let alone in Turkey) to devote more than a few days to each trip in Istanbul – I personally plan to take additional ones in the not-so-distant future.

Whether it’s your maiden voyage to the city formerly known as Constantinople, or you’ve back more times than all the Roman emperors combined, check out these tips for the best way to spend three days in Istanbul.

Need help planning your trip to Turkey? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

Where to Stay in Istanbul

Istanbul has some of the most amazing scenery, culture and cuisine in the world, so it makes sense that it would be home to some of the planet’s finest hotels as well. Whether you stay at Hotel Rixos Pera in trendy Beyoglu, the Renaissance Istanbul Polat Hotel along the beautiful Bosphorous or the Loka Suites in Kadıköy (the Asian side of the city), you’ll enjoy a hotel stay that’s as legendary as the rest of your visit.

Day 1: Constantinople, Not Istanbul

Today, Istanbul is a modern, impossibly dynamic city of more than 10 million, but in order to understand it properly, you need to start in the past. For that, venture across the Atatürk Bridge and over the Golden Horn inside the Old Walls of what was once the city of Constantinople. (But not before stopping several times on the bridge to take pictures of/with the fishermen!)


There’s a treasure around literally every corner in Old Istanbul, from spiritual sites like Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque and Hagia Sophia church, to ancient shopping centers like the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, to the regal Topkapi Palace, to Ayasofia, which is perhaps the nicest (and most beautifully maintained) Turkish hamam in town.


If you want to take your Old Istanbu…er, Constantinople experience to the next level, hop in a cab bound for Asiatane, an outstanding restaurant that uses inspiration from the past (specifically, Turkey’s Ottoman past, and in some cases even farther back in history) to innovate. Whether you enjoy lunch or dinner here, you’ll feel like nothing less than a sultan once you’re finished with your meal.

Day 2: Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Strange as it might sound, I’m going to recommend that you start the second of your three days in Istanbul in the exact same spot as you did you first – Atatürk Bridge – only this time, instead of walking toward the mosques and palaces to your west, I want you to walk toward the fairytale-looking tower off to your east.

This is Galata Tower, and it dates back to the late 14th century, when the Genoese had colonized the city then known as Constantinople. Its impressive history – and the views from the top of it – notwithstanding, it makes the perfect bridge between old Constantinople and modern Istanbul.


Near the base of tower, you see, begins Istiklal, Istanbul’s modern (and decidedly European) pedestrian shopping street, which is also where you’ll find the city’s charming streetcars. Walking along Istiklal is not only great retail therapy, but sojourns down its side streets into the neighborhoods of Beyoglu and Cihangir yield impossibly picturesque vistas, which are not entirely un-reminiscent of San Francisco.

Istiklal ends at Taksim Square, one of Istanbul’s most iconic addresses, from which you can walk downhill to the Bosphorous, the strait that separates the European landmass from the Asian one. Spend your afternoon strolling along the Bosphorous, sampling street food and exploring additional historical sites such as Dolmabahce Palace. If your stroll doesn’t whet your seafaring appetite, consider taking a cruise along the Bosphorous as night falls on the city.

Day 3: A Day Trip to Asia

Your third of three days in Istanbul begins where your second ends, or at least it might – I’m giving you two options. The first is to head to the port near Dolmabahce Palace and board any of the numerous ferries bound for the Asian lobe of Istanbul. This side of the city isn’t as replete with tourist attractions as the European side; rather, it’s a place to get lost and explore on your own.

Feeling more energetic? Head to Atatürk Airport and board a flight for Konya, a city located in central Anatolia, which has a reputation as being Turkey’s most conservative. (Translation: Amazing Islamic culture and architecture everywhere!). The main attraction here is the Green Mausoleum, a spectacular mosque (and, now, museum) built to honor Mevlana, more popularly known as Rumi.


Spend your day exploring the center of Konya on foot. Or, if you’ve feeling even more energetic still, take a taxi to the nearby small town of Sille, whose history is illustrative of the ethnic strains that plagued Turkey in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s fall, and spend the rest of your day exploring there.

If three days is all you can devote to your Turkey trip this time, head back to Konya Airport to catch your flight back to Istanbul. Or, if you’ve got more time and want to continue exploring Turkey, board a bus bound for Nevesehir, the closest large city to the iconic Cappadocia region. Along the way, stop at Saruhan, a Silk Road-era caravanserai, to enjoy a spellbinding performance from the Sufi “Whirling Dervishes.”

Hotels and Hostels in Istanbul

Whether you spend your three days in Istanbul actually in Istanbul, or you go rogue like I suggested in the last few paragraphs, finding a place to stay in Istanbul can be difficult – not because of lack of selection or availability, but due to an abundance of it.

I’ve stayed several places in Istanbul, from the simple Chillout Hostel located along Istiklal, to the swanky Renaissance Istanbul located near the Bosphorous Bridge. There are places everywhere in-between these two price points (and significantly above, in the case of the two opulent Four Seasons properties at Sultanahmet and the Bosphorous).

The best way to make sense of all the lodging options in Istanbul is to use a modern hotel search aggregator, such as or Hipmunk. Or, once again, to take advantage of my personalized Travel Coaching service.

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Turkey

About The Author

is the author of 847 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Farhanah Diman October 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Hi! Your pictures are so beautiful! May I know from where did you take the picture of the bridge and the river under the Galata Tower headings? Thank you!

Robert Schrader October 22, 2015 at 8:34 am

I took the picture of the bridge from the Renaissance Bosphorous hotel!

alex October 25, 2015 at 3:58 am

Do you have any suggestions for traveling across Tukey? We are trying to see Istanbul, Cappadocia, Mount Nenrut, and many others, but the trains seem very complicated. Do you think bus is the best way to go?

Robert Schrader October 26, 2015 at 7:44 am

Bus is fine, but quite long. Domestic Turkish flights tend to be pretty affordable!

Serhat Engül December 26, 2015 at 5:55 am

Photos are really great. I like the way you see Istanbul through your camera. Istanbul is a great city. It is very big though. I talk to many people who come for 1-2 days and say “if only we had a week here”. Many people miss some highlights like Suleymaniye Mosque. There is a great post about the mosque over here:

Emrah Ayvali April 11, 2016 at 3:50 am

Istanbul is the one of the best cities of the world, It is possible to see harmony of modern and authentic view. Besides there is chaos in the city by architectural point of view and there is always rush.

Thanks for the information that you shared. I love to live in this city, I work as part time photographer and there is no other place where I can make photos without any limit. Here are some of my Istanbul photos:

whatwaytoday May 18, 2016 at 7:40 am

Galata Tower! You’ve just reminded me where we had a great evening chilling on some stairs with lots of people drinking and chilling into the night. Had lots of fun going over to the Asian side around Kadikoy, definitely recommend getting out of the Old City for a few days to get a complete feel of Istanbul. Great photos here, almost as good as the food in Instanbul.

تور ارزان استانبول May 25, 2016 at 2:41 am

very beautiful photos and perfect information if you permit me I want to translate your information and put it in my website in below link

Serhat Engul October 4, 2017 at 11:54 am

Excellent photos and inspiring adventure. You seem to have a great lens and camera. I find your photos truly professional. Well done!

Robert Schrader October 9, 2017 at 9:30 am

Thanks sir! 🙂

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