Istanbul, Turkey’s vibrant capital, is one of my favourite cities.
This thriving melting pot is dynamic, colourful and truly historic with so much to do and see.
It’s hard to do Istanbul justice in just two days.
But if you’re like me, rushing around site-seeing and trying to do it all isn’t that appealing.
I would prefer to soak up the sensation of a city and feel like I have experienced a place, even if it is fleeting!
You too can experience insatiable Istanbul at a more relaxed pace by using my itinerary and images as a guide for your Turkish adventure.
+ How to Spend 2 Days in Istanbul +
DAY 1: Visit The Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Basilica Cistern
Start your day with a zing and experience a traditional Turkish coffee.
This will give you the kick-start you need to explore this diverse metropolis comprising of 39 different districts and 14 million people!
Depending on where you stay you can walk to most attractions within Istanbul and the public transport system is also fantastic.
We stayed in the Beyoglu district and enjoyed walking down the main street of İstiklal Avenue, wandering the cobble stone lanes lined with colourful fruit carts and crossing the lively Bosphorus each day to the old city of Sultanahmet.
It’s in Sultanahmet where you will find the stunning Aya Sofya museum, the Blue Mosque and the Basilica Cistern.
Make your first stop the gloriously golden Aya Sofya museum.
Formerly a place of worship, Aya Sofya is now one of the most prominent monuments in the world in terms of architecture and art.
Wander around and take in the spectacular interior complete with the famous domed roof, intricate golden mosaics, majestic marble pillars and fantastic stories behind this crowning monument to the Byzantine Empire.
The museum opens at 9am daily (except Monday) and it’s worth getting in early, before the lines start to lengthen.
The Blue Mosque
After you have experienced the awe inspiring Aya Sofya, make your way by foot to another must-see, The Blue Mosque.
Built to rival Aya Sofya, this famous landmark was named for it’s beautiful blue Iznik tiles that decorate the spectacular interior.
Once inside, take your time to admire the 260 stained glass windows, the voluptuous curves of the ceiling and feel the spiritual energy whilst standing close to the expansive central prayer space.
It’s hard to decide if the beauty of the Blue Mosque does surpass the grandness of Aya Soya, but each site will definitely remain in your mind.
You must be covered to enter the Mosque, so make sure you take a scarf to cover your hair and try and dress modestly.
Also take note of the prayer times for the season in which you are travelling.
Close to the Blue Mosque and hidden under the busy streets of Istanbul you will find The Basilica Cistern.
If you’re visiting in the warmer months you will welcome the Cistern’s soothing cool atmosphere (we certainly did!).
The 336 marble columns are lit up handsomely and will guide you to the famous Medusa heads.
Let the hollow sound of the underground and the steady dripping water reinvigorate you for your lunch time spread.
A Turkish Lunch
Your morning has been full of the historic wonders of Sultanahmet, now you should reward yourself with a traditional Turkish Lunch.
There are plenty of thriving Turkish restaurants down the hill from Aya Sofya.
Stop in for lashings of delectable dips including beetroot, hummus, artichoke, olive and of course baba ganoush.
Also enjoy a diverse variety of pides and get your source of greens with a Mediterranean salad.
Full from lunch head to the life blood of Istanbul, the vivacious Bosphorus river.
The Bosphorus forms part of the boundary between Asia and Europe and is a hub of activity.
Enjoy watching the numerous fishing boats and cruise ships coast along the water and admire the throngs of local fisherman aiming to catch their dinner.
You now have the evening to explore Istanbul and all it has to offer.
Enjoy the hustle of Taksim Square, dine out at a roof top restaurant (Lebiderya was great!) or if you’re up for it dance the night away at a heaving nightclub.
Day 2: The Galata Tower, Spice Markets, The Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace
Our second day in Istanbul was just as exciting and oh-so inspiring!
Start your day with a sweeping 360 degree view of Istanbul from the Galata Tower.
You will gain a fresh perspective of the city and see how vast Istanbul really is.
I loved seeing the appealing aesthetic of the numerous mosques, pop up continually on the horizon.
Make sure you also look down so you can people watch and be fascinated at how the Istanbul locals truly live.
Crossing the Bosphorus, your next stop is the famous Spice Markets!
Get ready to experience some sensory overload in this part of the old city.
The vibrant colours, heady aromas and exotic flavours along this bustling strip are something to experience.
Take your time to meander through the different stalls selling dried fruit, nuts and of course spices.
Stall holders are happy for you to taste their produce so make sure you purchase some snacks to nibble on throughout the rest of your Turkish adventure.
The Grand Bazaar
Continuing on from the Spice Markets, you will have yourself a similar experience at the famous Grand Bazaar.
The sprawling Bazaar is made up of 56 streets and more than 4,000 shops, the term ‘enormous’ is an understatement.
If colour is your thing you wont be disappointed.
Stacks of brightly painted ceramics, silk scarves, gorgeous pestemals and glowing stained glass lanterns are all on offer.
You can spend a considerable amount of time and cash here, so if shopping is your passion make sure you take plenty of time to browse.
Believe me, you need time to determine which ceramic bowl, plate, jug, spice jar is the one you really desire.
SO MUCH CHOICE!
The theme of ‘colour’ continues as you visit the must-see Topkapi Palace.
This place is full of treasures that won’t disappoint.
Everything about the Topkapi Palace is opulent and overwhelming, from the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, the hundreds of beautifully presented Ottoman sitting rooms and pavilions to the sweeping views of the Golden Horn and over to Asia.
I’m a sucker for mosaic tiles and I went a tad mental taking photos of the pretty porcelain masterpieces.
You must visit this magnificent spectacle when in Istanbul!
Turkish Tea & Sweets
Take some time out to put your hard working feet up and do some very important taste testing!
Your Istanbul experience is not complete without sipping Turkish Tea from an ornate gold-flecked glass whilst devouring the most amazing sweet treats.
Sampling the Turkish Tea and Sweets was a common occurrence for us whilst in Istanbul and I can highly recommend taking some R-&-R time at the famous Hafiz Mustafa!
Enjoy different types of nutty baklava, sweet rice puddings and of course the delectable Turkish Delight!
So there you have it – a run down of the 2 days I spent in Istanbul!
Would I go back? Absolutely!
Obviously you can’t cover everything in just 2 days, but I hope my itinerary has given you a taste of what you can experience at a more relaxed and enjoyable pace.
If you would love more travel tips and tricks, make sure you sign up to my ‘Great Mail’ list!
Just pop your details in the box below this post! Simple.