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Straddled between two continents – Istanbul is an incredible city; a mix of old and new, European and Asian, beauty and chaos. It’s one of the most fascinating cities that I’ve visited with incredible culture and history, sites and tours, food and drink. It has everything one could want when traveling.
Having spent a week in Istanbul, I’ve created the perfect itinerary for spending 4 days in Istanbul.
How to Spend 4 Days in Istanbul – The Perfect Itinerary
Before reading further, if you want suggestions on where to stay in Istanbul (I suggest new town Istanbul), tips on how to get around, and more – make sure to read The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Istanbul
Day 1 – Old Town Istanbul
On your first day in Istanbul, head to old town – south of Galata Bridge. Old town is where you’ll find most of the tourist attractions in Istanbul, and your first day will be packed with seeing the main sites so make sure to start early so that you can pack everything in!
Once you cross the bridge, immediately head to the spice market (Mısır Çarşısı) to walk through one of the largest bazaars in Istanbul. Once you’ve walked through the market, head to the two most famous mosques in Istanbul – Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. (Please note, at the time of writing The Blue Mosque is under construction and not worth the visit). Each mosque is free to enter but it’s required to cover your head, shoulders, and knees. Once you’ve visited each mosque, head to Hoca Casa Sk. where you’ll find an array of traditional Turkish restaurants for lunch.
After lunch I suggest a visit to a less touristy bazaar – the second hand book bazaar and a stop at La Tienda de Las Hermanas to try Turkish delight.
If you have the time and it interests you, you can visit Topkapi Palace Museum; the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and the main residence of the sultans until the 17th century.
For dinner, make reservations at the one star (very affordable) Michelin restaurant – Aheste in new town Istanbul.
Day 2 – Balat + Turkish Hamam
North of old town, along the Golden Horn is the charming, colorful neighborhood of Balat. This area is by far my favorite in Istanbul – it’s incredible cute and charming and worth a visit when you’re in the city.
Once you get to Balat, there are tons of cute cafes you can sit at and have a coffee; but the best part of the neighborhood is truly just walking around and appreciating the beauty. For lunch, eat at the Greek tavern Barba Vasilis – a delicious Greek/Turkish restaurant.
After leaving Balat, stop at the Suleymaniye Mosque – one of the more beautiful and less touristy mosque in Istanbul. I also highly suggest a visit to a Turkish hamam for a fun and unique experience. If you’re visiting Istanbul as a couple, I recommend the Suleymaniye Hamam; if you’re visiting Istanbul solo or with friends, read this list of other hamam options.
For dinner, make reservations at the Turkish restaurant Antiochia Concept.
Day 3 – Arnavutköy
On day three in Istanbul, head more off the beaten path to Arnavutköy, a neighborhood northeast of Istanbul’s new town, and a nice escape from the bustling city. The neighborhood is famous for its wooden Ottoman mansions and seafood restaurants that line the streets. If you visit here, you’ll get a more local taste of Istanbul. However, before arriving to Arnavutköy, first visit Van Kahvalti Evi an incredible Turkish restaurant that serves breakfast.
For dinner, make reservations at the seafood restaurant Eleos.
Day 4 – Asian Side of Istanbul
On your last day in Istanbul, cross the Bosphorus River from Europe to Asia to explore the Asian side of the city. To do this, head towards the Galata bridge where you can hop on a Turyol boat for a short ride over to another continent. You can purchase tickets at the port – 3 for 40 lira. I suggest getting off near Kadıköy as that’s where you can find tons of bars and restaurants to eat at.
For dinner, head back to Europe to dine at Sofyali 9 Restaurant. I also suggest before dinner cocktails next door at Moretenders’ Cocktail Crib & Sushi. If you’re tired of eating of Turkish food, the sushi at Moretenders’ comes highly recommended.
And with that, your 4 days in Istanbul has come to an end. This itinerary shares with you the best sites to see, neighborhoods to explore, and restaurants to eat at. I hope that you enjoy! By the way – don’t get stuck without travel insurance! If you’re traveling to Turkey I highly recommend travel insurance for peace of mind. I use and recommend World Nomads.
For more suggestions and a visual look at Istanbul, make sure to check out my Instagram page by searching “#ppinturkey” or looking for the highlight “Turkey”