One Day in Istanbul: Tips & Tricks
Iconic cities like Istanbul deserve more than 24 hours of your time. It is a multi-faceted city, waiting to be explored. However, when tight schedules get in the way of your wandering, planning and some nifty tricks can make one day just enough to give you an unforgettable taste of Istanbul.
Warning: it will make you want to go back for more.
1. Start the day nice and early
It goes without saying, but if you have limited time, you don't want to waste any of it in bed. Wake yourself up with a cup of strong (understatement) Turkish coffee, and mingle with the local cats as the city starts to wake up around you.
2. Plan your home base
If you've only got one or two nights in Istanbul, you should make sure that your sleeping quarters are as central as possible. That way, you won't waste any time in transit, and you can probably walk almost everywhere. You're spoilt for choice in Istanbul: from 5 star hotels to youth hostels, there's something for everyone's budget.
The hostel I chose, at a ridiculous 5 euro per night, was close to the Galata Bridge, which meant I could wake up early (see point 1) and watch the local fishermen start their day:
This is crucial. You have to realize that in 24 hours you can't really see every nook and cranny of a place, let alone a city like Istanbul. So decide what you don't want to miss out on, and leave the rest for next time. My own top spots were Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque (conveniently close to each other), the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, which I managed to squeeze in and also see other amazing places in Istanbul!
The trick is to make your plan a feasible one and enjoy the ride.
4. It's all about the street food!
In between visiting mosques, museums and bazaars, take a moment to try some divine Turkish street food. Go for simit (a circular bread peppered with sesame seeds) and freshly roasted chestnuts. You'll soon get used to the lovely smell wafting around most roads!
5. Don't spend more than an hour in the Grand Bazaar
This will be controversial, but as I've already said here, I didn't quite feel that the Grand Bazaar has that authentic Turkish feel anymore. There are many more bazaars around Istanbul and you really don't want to waste any of your precious time there. That said, the place in itself is an architectural wonder, and many wares are worth lusting over, if not buying.
Pro tip: Use that saved up time to check out the Sunken Cistern, Istanbul's underground secret! Its moody lighting and quiet atmosphere was definitely a highlight of my day in the city.
6. Lunch time!
Food is important. Food keeps you going and gives you strength to see more sights (how's that for an excuse, mum?), and in Turkey, food is also a pleasure. Go for local favourites like kebap and kofte, and of course end your meal with kunefe and some good old çay (that's tea for the rest of us).
7. Get lost!
No, I'm not telling you to leave this page. This wouldn't be The Anti-Tourist if I didn't tell you to get off the beaten path and just walk wherever you fancy. In ignoring the map for a while, you get to stumble upon some really unique spots, such as this quiet little cemetery (dating back to the Ottoman period) and this incredibly cute hotel entrance!
Wandering off is something I do anywhere, even for at least half an hour - maps are not an exhaustive list of sights to see.
8. End your day at Beyoglu
Beyoglu is on the European side of Istanbul, and is definitely the trendier and more urban area of Istanbul. From cobbled alleys full of pretty little shops to elegant restaurants and shopping malls, you can find anything here. Don't forget to look out for the classic red tram clattering its way through the streets!
And there you have it - my way of spending one day in Istanbul. I always try to make the most of my time abroad, and hopefully this handy guide can help you plan your visit to Istanbul too! Do leave your own tips in the comments below, I'd love to read them :)