Istanbul is a booming metropolis that is strategically located across the Bosphorus Strait that divides Europe and Asia. It is fast developing as one of the most popular and an all-time favorite cities Europe. With a myriad of touristic attractions and interesting sites, it is indeed not possible to cover Istanbul over the weekend. Nevertheless, if one has just the weekend to spend in the fascinating city, they must make the most out it. It would be a good idea to take advantage of a local tour and discover Istanbul with a local.
Istanbul city straddles on two continents, and the surprisingly cosmopolitan city is sure to bedazzle you by its madness and mix of cultures. One has to plan their itinerary carefully so as to make the most of their stay in the city.
How to spend a weekend in Istanbul:
Visit Istanbul Day 1
Explore Sultanhammet Cami, the tourist hub of the city where you will come across the major attractions in Istanbul such as the timeless Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace. Enjoy visiting these jaw-dropping monuments and admire their grandeur. Make sure that you are properly dressed and follow the right etiquette especially when inside the mosque. Hagia Sophia will amaze you with its complex colonial architecture with both Christian and Islamic influences. Topkapi Palace is made with beautiful tiles, and you can sense the grandeur as you walk through. Later you can explore the depths of the Basilica Cistern with twin blocks that are carved into snake-haired Medusas.
When hungry, there are plenty of street food stalls that sell fresh Turkish foods. Explore other sites and shops in Sultanhammet for more food and shopping. Divan Yolu is well famous for grilled meatballs served with a white-bean salad. Another favorite is Beyoglu and Gurme Boncuk restaurant where one can enjoy an all-inclusive feast within the traditional Armenian-Turkish tavern.
On Sunday, take a public ferry to Besiktas and then over to Ortakoy, which is a swanky town with beautiful mosques and some fantastic art galleries plus coffee shops. Visit the Galata Tower that still stands tall today and offers tremendous views of the whole city. Another must stop is Hafiz Mustafa which is a long favorite among the locals and well known for cafés and Baklava outlets. Aya Sophia is another of the most famous attractions in Istanbul and first constructed as a church by the Byzantine emperor; it was later changed to a mosque by the Sulton Mehmet. Go ahead and admire Byzantium and Ottoman architecture influences the structure.
It is a must to visit and explore the oldest and biggest Bazaars in the world, the Grand Bazaar. However, be wary as you tend to spend more time here than planned as you can easily lose yourself amidst those maze of shops where one can find anything and everything!
For shopping and dining, head for the Taksim square and Iskatal that is loaded with an array of shopping, restaurants, cafés, and nightclubs. Oink an also go for an early lunch at the Asitane restaurant that is famous for recreating Ottoman Turkish dishes.