What can you do with only 1 day in Istanbul, Turkey? We’ve been to 30 European countries, but this was our first time in Turkey. Come and see the best things do to in Istanbul — in one day!
If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, these are the spots we recommend. Find the names and addresses on our Istanbul Map, or scroll to the bottom of this blog to view the map!
Start with breakfast — a Lebanese breakfast, that is!
I know you’re supposed to eat Turkish food in Turkey … but we can recommend this Lebanese breakfast because it’s where we ate! Arada Beyrut restaurant was one block from our Airbnb in Istanbul. It has outstanding reviews, and we give it five stars! Your table will be overflowing with food. We dare you to eat it all!
Stroll through Gülhane Park
We always enjoy finding parks in the city, and this Istanbul park was fabulous! Plus it has a neat history. Did you know that the tulip actually originated in Turkey, and were then exported to the Netherlands? We imagine that the tulips are absolutely lovely when they’re blooming in this park!
Hagia Sophia Mosque
This is one of the most popular places to visit in Istanbul! It’s always crowded, but it’s worth the crowds. The Hagia Sophia, which was built in the 300s, has a fascinating history! Over the years it has been a Catholic cathedral, Christian church, museum, and Muslim place of worship! Enjoy the mosque grounds too, including the Sehzadeler Türbesi and Tomb of Sultan Mehmed III. Then walk around Sultanahmet Square just outside of the mosque!
Unfortunately this place was closed on the day of our visit, but it looks pretty neat! It used to transport water to Istanbul from more than 12 miles away! Plus, a James Bond movie was filmed here, so that’s cool!
The Blue Mosque
Visiting the Blue Mosque is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul. The lines are long but the inside is stunning! While you wait, read the informational panels that describe the Muslim faith and beliefs, and to learn more about the Turkish culture. Unfortunately the Blue Mosque was undergoing renovations during our visit, so we don’t have any photos to show you it’s beauty. I guess you’ll have to see it in person for yourself!
The Grand Bazaar
The number one thing I wanted to do was to shop at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul! I could imagine the colorful market stalls and crowded streets of shoppers. Who knows what the merchants sell! . . . I don’t — because the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays. Don’t visit on a Sunday like we did!
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Misir Çarsisi Spice Market
Fortunately this spice market was open so I could still do some shopping while in Istanbul, Turkey! It was buzzing with energy and colors and aromas! From rich spices and fancy dishes to shiny fabric and wooden games, this is a great place to shop for souvenirs in Istanbul! (I bought 4 ramekins for $1 each!)
Altan Sekerleme (Turkish Delight)
You can’t travel to Turkey without trying Turkish delight! This is probably the most popular Turkish food that tourists like to try, and that’s because there’s a flavor for everyone! We adored this local candy shop because the family who owns the business was extra helpful and kind. We even got to sample a variety of treats!
Rustem Pasha Mosque
Tourists marvel at the Catholic churches in western Europe, and tourists admire the beautiful mosques in Turkey too. Although this one isn’t as massive as the Blue Mosque or as popular as Hagia Sophia, we loved its local feel in a quiet neighborhood. Add this to your list of places to visit in Istanbul!
The city of Istanbul is divided by water into a European side and an Asian side, but the European side is also divided by this bridge. It’s a car and pedestrian bridge on top, but you can also walk along a lower level that’s full of restaurants with fresh seafood (and pesky waiters too). There’s no doubt that this is one of the most popular places to visit in Istanbul! Watch fisherman, follow boats, and try not to get pooped on by seagulls when you walk along the Galata Bridge!
Karaköy Railway (World’s Second Oldest Underground Tram)
Did you know that the second oldest underground tram in the world is in Istanbul? The poster describes it as a short, sweet, and pleasant ride — and it truly was! Catch a short ride to save your feet from extra walking.
Asmali Dürümcü Restaurant
You can’t leave Istanbul, Turkey without trying a kebab! Our Airbnb host recommended this restaurant. It was so delicious that we actually ate here for both of our nights in Istanbul. We recommend the kebab wrap and the roasted red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate. Yum!
Find the exact location of these places on our Istanbul map so you can pin them to your Google Map!