I ended by 10 days in Turkey with 3 days in Istanbul! I had high expectations for Istanbul as I knew there were so many things to see in Istanbul and so many things to do in Istanbul. What I hadn’t quite expected was how huge and spread out the city is especially if you want to see tourist attractions in Istanbul and local neighbourhoods!
I managed to see a lot on my 3 day Istanbul itinerary though including going over to Kadikoy, the Asian side of Istanbul. So here’s my Istanbul itinerary and how I recommend you spend 3 days in Istanbul too!
3 Day Istanbul Itinerary
1 Day in Istanbul
First on my 3 day Istanbul itinerary I had to get from Istanbul Airport into the city which takes a long time! I came from Cappadocia but even if you arrive on an International flight, read this post of mine as it details how to get from both of Istanbul’s Airports into the city!
Sultanahmet Tourist Attractions
Once arriving in Istanbul centre I recommend heading straight to the Sultanahmet side of the city because this is where all of the main Istanbul tourist attractions are. I had to cross over the Galata Bridge to start with which gave me a fantastic view over the river and the mosques on the other side, it was a good way to start my 3 days in Istanbul!
There are many attractions and activities in Istanbul. I started off visiting the Blue Mosque which isn’t as blue inside as you may think but it was very beautiful and best of all its FREE to enter!
I then crossed the square and headed to Hagia Sophia. Earlier this year I read Dan Brown’s book Inferno (which I highly recommend!) and this building plays a big part in the book.
I’ll warn you now that you do have to be careful around here. A lot of men will be selling themselves as a tour guide, which is fine if you want one but it can get annoying if you don’t so be firm in your response if you don’t want one.
I would recommend booking a guided tour online and purchasing a skip the queue ticket in advance as the queues here can get very long. You can book a ticket online like this:
My next stop, as with Dan Brown’s book (although writing this may have just given away part of the ending so sorry!) was the Basilica Cistern, which took some finding as there’s only a small building on the street level where the tickets are sold and then it all goes underground!
This is a huge area used to hold water for the city built in AD 532, and from the outset, it sounds quite boring but along with reading the book and the ery-ness down there it was quite an interesting place to visit.
To book a guided tour and skip the queue ticket in advance, check out this amazing offer on GetYourGuide here!
Grand Bazaar and Spice Market
From things to do in Istanbul, you are very close to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market so they are a good place to visit next and to keep your Istanbul sightseeing together with just 3 days in Istanbul!
Both markets are a fun place to visit although the men working in there can get a bit annoying as they are very salesy and I had a few inappropriate comments as a solo female in Istanbul.
Other attractions you can visit in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul is the Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace and Suleymaniye Mosque!
Istanbul Guided City Tours
This part of Istanbul is big, busy and fascinating. If you want to see the area in the easiest way possible and learn a lot whilst you’re seeing it, I really recommend booking a city tour like these tours below so you can see all the things to see in Istanbul in 3 days but also learn a lot too!
2 Days in Istanbul
Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue is a completely different part of the city, it’s much more modern with high street shops. It wasn’t my favourite area when I visited but I think with 3 days in Istanbul, it’s good to see this side of the city too.
To get here, you can use public transport which includes taking the tram and funicular which is an experience. You’ll also need to get an ‘Istanbulkart’ to use the transport. In this post, I detail how to get an Istanbulkart and use public transport!
If you keep walking all the way from Istiklal Avenue you’ll soon reach the Galata Tower and neighbourhood which is a good area of Istanbul to see and it has plenty of cafes and restaurants for lunch.
You can also go up to the top of the Galata Tower to see an amazing view of Istanbul!
Bosphorus Boat Trip
Come afternoon or evening on day 2 of your 3 day Istanbul itinerary, I recommend getting out onto the Bosphorus which is one of the most enjoyable things I did with my 3 days in Istanbul!
Tickets can be purchased by the Galata Bridge, or you can book a trip like this in advance, for more choice I would book in advance, especially if you want evening entertainment on your Bosphorus boat tour and have a dinner cruise like this.
3 Days in Istanbul
On your last day of the 3 days in Istanbul, I recommend going to an off the beaten path place in Istanbul!
Personally, I headed over to Kadikoy which is the Asian side of Istanbul. This was something I had really wanted to do seen as the city is split over two Continents, how cool that you can visit Europe and Asia within an hour!
I have written another post on my day on the Asian Side of Istanbul here and I would highly recommend adding it into your Istanbul itinerary as it really made my 3 days in Istanbul!
To end your 3 days in Istanbul in a mildly relaxing manner, I suggest visiting a Turkish Bath or Hammam as they are known which is an experience, to say the least.
To end your 3 days in Istanbul, head back to the Galata Bridge to catch the sunset!
Accommodation in Istanbul
It is really important that you stay in a good area of Istanbul and close to the tourist attractions if that’s what you want to see. Have a look at accommodation in Istanbul here:
- More of my Turkey Posts:
- Visiting Kadikoy on the Asian Side of Istanbul from the European Side!
- How to Travel From Istanbul to Cappadocia!
- How Much Does a Trip to Cappadocia, Turkey Cost?