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How to Spend 24 Hours in Istanbul

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Istanbul is a tale of two cities. Straddling Europe and Asia and divided by the strait of Bosporus, the former capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires is the only metropolitan city that has its foot on two continents, with the old city sprawled over European territory and the modern, residential areas established on the Asian side. Considering its massive size, a timeframe of 24 hours can hardly do any of the city’s gems any justice at all, but it is sufficient to scratch the surface and instill a curiosity for more. It is an enchanting city, fusing the history of several cultures, languages, religions, and eras together and establishing itself as Turkey’s economic and cultural epicenter.

one day in Istanbul

Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul is a city of contrasts, and not just in a geographical sense. Discover a synagogue, an orthodox church, and a mosque all erected in the same vicinity. Witness a man atop a horse, pulling a cart, and weaving in and out of traffic while a sea of luxury imported cars zoom by. Watch retired old men sitting and playing cards in quaint tea houses, while modern business women strut by in short skirts and suits, sipping their Starbucks coffee. Shop around in vast stylish, glass-fronted shopping malls or haggle at one of the old beautiful underground bazaars.

Have your camera on hand and be ready to shoot because everything will be picture-worthy.

1) Start your day with a traditional Turkish breakfast at one of the many waterfront cafes before introducing yourself to contemporary Turkey at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art a few steps away.

2) Stroll through the expansive Grand Bazaar and buy a wide array of spices, jewelry, hand-made crafts, carpets, and other trinkets.

3) Marvel at the regal splendor of the Hagia Sophia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and soak up the magnificence of Islamic architecture and Turkish history. Discover other historical landmarks around the Sultanahmet Square like the Basilica Cistern and the Egyptian Obelisk.

4) Saunter through the quaint alleyways of historic Old Istanbul (Stamboul) and witness the restrained mystique of the East blended beautifully with the pronounced boldness of the West.

5) Pay homage to the former Sultans of the Ottoman Empire by visiting the Topkapi Palace and walking through the former corridors of power.

6) Pick up a döner kebab for a quick tasty lunch on the go from a roadside vendor.

7) A trip to Istanbul is incomplete without stopping by at one of the many pudding and sweet shops along the way and sampling mouthwatering Turkish desserts like baklava or Sutlac (Turkish rice pudding).

8 ) Whisk over to the other continent by ferry and admire the beautiful skyline along the Bosphorus.

9) Take a late-evening break before dinner to wash off the grime from the day at a traditional Turkish bath, or hamam. Complete your session with a cup of strong Turkish coffee and a real Turkish delight.

10) Visit the stunning Ortaköy Mosque at night and watch the mosque come alive with a dazzling light show and serene evening prayers. For the best views of the mosque and the Bosphorus Bridge, make a trip to the Banyan Restaurant, an open-air rooftop restaurant that overlooks the Bosphorus strait.

11) Polish off the night with cocktails and other jet-setters on the rooftop terraces of Vogue or 360° Sky Lounge. Enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city, dance to the latest electronic tunes, and mingle with the city’s glamorous denizens.

12) Head to the buzzing areas of Taksim or Beyoğlu, the nightlife hubs of Istanbul for late-night drinks and dancing. You may even be able to find venues that showcase the cultural Turkish dance of belly dancing, or göbek dans.

İyi eğlenceler (have fun)!

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Photo by Greenwich Photography

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer poonam chopra

Poonam is a freelance writer from Orange County, California. She is passionate about traveling to the different corners of the globe, exploring the art of photography, and penning her experiences and observations. She has traveled all over Europe, Asia, and the U.S., and has lived in Orange County, San Diego, Paris, New Delhi, Berlin, and London. She has been largely inspired by the wise words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do rather than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

3 responses to “How to Spend 24 Hours in Istanbul”

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  1. Louise Charlotte Dreisig says via Facebook:
    February 15th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    That would be a long day but a memorable one for sure!

  2. Natalie - Turkish Travel says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    A great round up of things to do. Istanbul is one of the best cities in the world. Don’t forget the museum of Islamic art as well.

  3. Jamaica Vacation Reviews says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 8:05 am

    even though the bazaar has lost some of its traditional ambience, enough artifacts remain to make it an irreplaceable Istanbul experience


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