4 Days In Istanbul Itinerary

Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul… Whatever name you give it, this ancient city is a rendezvous with History. Straddling two continents, Asia and Europe, it conceals treasures of its own. Immerse yourself in its diverse culture and let yourself be captivated by its splendor through this 4 days in Istanbul itinerary.

Istanbul is a gigantic city, teeming with life with its bazaars, its mosques by the hundreds, its ancient Byzantine churches, and its Byzantine and Ottoman palaces, it offers a striking contrast between past and present. With your senses awakened, set off to discover it and you will see that its hospitality is nothing short of legendary.

Day 1 in Istanbul

Ortakoy Mosque

Ortakoy Mosque

Along the banks of the Bosphorus on the European side of Istanbul, the Ortakoy Mosque is nestled in the eponymous district, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. “ Ortakoy ” literally means “middle village.” The fact that it is nicknamed this way, even though its original name was the Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque, speaks volumes about the place it holds in the hearts of Istanbulites. Beyond its historical importance, it is above all its immaculate facades that set it apart from other mosques in the city. At dawn and dusk, as its walls are adorned with the hues of the sky, it offers a special spectacle.

In neo-Baroque style, it was built by Armenian architect Garabet Balyan and his son, Nikogos Balyan, on the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid. Its exterior, which features two minarets, was inspired by the Opéra Garnier in Paris where Nikogos Balyan studied. Inside, admire its dome covered in pink mosaics and let yourself be absorbed by the play of light reflecting on its chandeliers.

Address: Mecidiye, Mecidiye Köprüsü Sk. No:1 D:1, Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday (visitors not allowed on Friday).

Dolmabahçe Palace with its clock tower

Dolmabahçe Palace

Grandiose: this is perhaps the first word to come to mind when visiting Dolmabahçe Palace. It is said to be the largest in Turkey. Built between 1843 and 1856 under the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid, this palace has dizzying figures: a 278-meter-long white marble façade, a surface area of ​​45,000 m2, 43 rooms, 285 rooms…

But the beauty of the palace lies elsewhere than in these exploits: it is found in the mixture of styles composing its architecture. Sometimes baroque, sometimes rococo, sometimes neoclassical, it offers a real spectacle to history lovers. Many treasures are also hidden within its walls, such as Baccarat vases or a bearskin rug – a gift from the Russian Tsar Nicholas II himself.

Outside the palace, a major curiosity awaits you: the Clock Tower. The clocks nested in this neo-Baroque Ottoman-style structure, erected between 1890 and 1895, were made by the French watchmaking house Jean-Paul Garnier.

Address: Dolmabahçe Caddesi, Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 9am to 4pm.

Lunch at Banyan

Banyan Restaurant Istanbul

For lunch, we invite you to discover Banyan. The restaurant, open on three sides, offers panoramic views of the Bosphorus Bridge and the Ortakoy Mosque, and it offers a menu of modern Asian dishes with a focus on fish. With sushi, ceviche, and dishes such as Banyan’s signature orange beef with its condiments, there is no better place to take a break. The restaurant also offers cocktails made with seasonal fruits.

Address: Muallim Naci Cad. Salhane Sok. No:3, Ortaköy Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: 12:00 – 02:00 daily, 15:00 – 02:00 Tuesday.

Bosphorus Cruise

Bosphorus Cruise

The Bosphorus Strait has accompanied the rise of Istanbul and has earned it its status as a strategic landmark for millennia. Connecting the Black Sea to the north and the Sea of ​​Marmara to the south, it has indeed allowed the city to take advantage of the transport of goods to become a major hub for trade throughout the ages.

Board a boat for a cruise on its calm waters and discover the city with a perspective that only accentuates its charms. Lulled by the sea spray, accompanied by the song of the storks and the call to prayer of the muezzin, you will have the pleasure of admiring all the monuments that are the pride of Istanbul, and in particular its iconic palaces. Let your gaze wander from Asia to Europe, from one bank of the city to the other. You will feel overwhelmed by a very special emotion: that of being (really) at the crossroads, right at the junction of two neighboring and yet so different continents.

Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi Palace

Continue your day exploring the Asian side of Istanbul, and head to Beylerbeyi Palace. Its opulent architecture and exotic gardens, filled with fruit trees, fountains, and kiosks, make this palace a pure Ottoman marvel.

Built in 1829 during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, it was first ravaged by fire in 1851. Sultan Abdul Aziz subsequently oversaw its reconstruction and, from 1865, it became the summer residence of various sultans. This is where it got its name: beylerbeyi meaning “Lord of lords”.

Its remarkable collection of sculptures, carpets from Egypt, crystal chandeliers, and oriental porcelain will give you a true glimpse of the grandeur of Istanbul and its sultans over the centuries and will leave you with a lasting memory.

Address: Beylerbeyi, Abdullahağa Cd., 34676 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday – 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Dinner at Gallada at the Peninsula Istanbul

 Gallada At The Peninsula Istanbul

Inspired by Turkey and Asia, Gallada restaurant celebrates the Silk Road with a contemporary, cutting-edge menu. From its rooftop terrace overlooking the banks of the Bosphorus and the gardens of the Peninsula Istanbul, enjoy dishes that evoke the history of this vast region over the millennia. Inspired by this heritage as well as by his Turkish roots and his travels in Asia, Michelin-starred chef Fatih Tutak makes creativity his signature to take his guests to the four corners of Asia.

Address: Kemankeş Caddesi No:34, Istanbul 34425, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 6pm to 1:30am (2am on weekends).

Day 2 in Istanbul

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

It is one of the most emblematic monuments in Turkey. An Ottoman building from the 15th century, the Topkapi Palace is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the historic district of the city, Sultanahmet. A symbol of the Ottoman Empire, it served as a residence for the sultans for nearly 500 years before being converted into a museum. With its paintings, precious ornaments, and vast courtyards, it is a tribute to the glory of the country and its culture.

The palace gardens are full of charm. With their fountains and mosaics, and of course their view of the Bosphorus, they invite you to enjoy a quiet break in a day of discoveries through the city.

But to discover the palace’s real treasures, head inside. Its treasure room is full of precious furniture and objects – thrones encrusted with mother-of-pearl, a collection of diamonds, and weapons adorned with precious stones, such as the fascinating emerald dagger for which the palace is famous.

His harem, meanwhile, has nearly 400 rooms spread over 15,000 m2. This is where the Sultan’s wives and concubines, as well as his mother, once lived. Only the Sultan and his inner circle were allowed to enter this section of the palace – surrounding it with a veil of mystery.

Address: Cankurtaran, Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday (except Tuesday) – 10am to 4pm.

Lunch at Matbah

 Matbah Istanbul

Before continuing your discovery of Istanbul, the Matbah restaurant invites you to a visit to history. The specialties from Turkish gastronomy that it offers are an invitation to travel back in time, to the court of the Ottoman sultans. Matbah welcomes you to its open-air summer garden or its winter garden which offers a front-row view of the Hagia Sophia mosque.

Address: Caferiye Sokak No:6/1, Sultanahmet, Fatih/Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 9am to 10:30pm.

Hagia Sophia Mosque

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In turn a basilica, a mosque, then a museum, before returning to the status of mosque that defines it today, Hagia Sophia occupies a special place in the hearts of Istanbulites. The one whose name is dedicated to Hagia Sophia, divine wisdom, was built between 532 and 548. It is the fruit of the historical and spiritual heritage of the city and represents one of the only religious places in the world where the traces of two religions have coexisted for centuries.

Address: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydanı No:1, Fatih/Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday .

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern

Impressive both for its proportions and for the clever play of light that enhances its volumes, the Basilica Cistern is an ancient reservoir that, at the time when Istanbul was still called Constantinople, supplied the water needs of its population. Built in 542 under the reign of Emperor Justinian I, it is to this day an unmissable historical site of the city.

To go down there is to plunge with shivers into History. In the cool of this underground cistern of imposing dimensions (138 meters long and 65 meters wide), one is captivated by the spectacle created by the recent sound and light adjustments made to the space. Revealing the immensity of the place, they also give the pleasure of admiring the terrifying heads of Medusa that adorn two of its corner pillars – it is said that they were sculpted upside down so that the visitor who looks at them would not be transformed into stone, according to the legend of the Odyssey.

Address: Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, Fatih/Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 9am to 7pm.

Dinner at Alaf

Alaf Istanbul

With its whitewashed wooden rooftop terrace overlooking the waters of the Bosphorus, Alaf is one of Istanbul’s most sought-after cocktail bars. While chef Deniz Temel and his team prepare bistro cuisine with Anatolian influences, round off your second day in Istanbul with a Semizotu with a privileged view of the Bosphorus waters.

Alaf’s nomadic cuisine is sure to captivate. Deniz Temel trained in some of the world’s best kitchens, including Noma in Copenhagen and DOM in São Paulo, before settling in Istanbul, making modern Turkish cuisine his signature. Expect colorful plates, full of flavor and personality.

Address: Arnavutköy, Kuruçeşme Caddesi No:19, Beşiktaş/Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 6pm to midnight.

Day 3 in Istanbul

Stroll through the colorful Jewish quarter of Balat

 The Colorful Jewish Quarter Of Balat Istanbul

Despite the charm of its colorful alleys, its historical appeal, and its panoramas on the horizon, Balat remains to this day unknown to tourists. And it is regrettable: venturing there allows getting off the beaten track while meeting the authentic Turkish soul. This is why we recommend that you stroll there to start this third day in Istanbul.

Located on the slopes of the Golden Horn, Balat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its rich history is felt as you happily lose yourself in its cobbled streets that climb and descend. Lined with religious buildings and colorful houses with Ottoman architecture, these streets where laundry hangs from the windows and children play freely in the open air have a special, timeless charm that illustrates a completely different side of Istanbul.

The Spice Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar

With origins dating back to 1663, it is one of the oldest markets in Istanbul. Spice Bazaar is also called the “Egyptian Bazaar”, about times when Istanbul was the last stop on the Silk Road, and the epicenter of trade for all of Europe, beyond Venice. Here you will find typical products: sweets, spices, nuts…

Address: Rüstem Paşa, 34116 Fatih/Istanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 8am to 7:30pm.

Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque

It is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in Istanbul. And for good reason: its architect, Mimar Sinan, had the ambition to surpass the builders of Hagia Sophia… Was his gamble successful? With its minarets and cascading dome dominating the city, it certainly sits majestically above the Golden Horn. Built in 1550, the story goes that Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who commissioned it, had a treasure of precious stones donated by the Shah of Iran as a contribution to its construction buried at the foot of the mosque.

Address: Süleymaniye, Prof. Sıddık Sami Onar Cd. No:1, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 08:30 to 16:45 (Friday at 01:30) .

Lunch at Pandeli

Pandeli Restaurant Spize Bazaar Istanbul

On the first floor of a small building overlooking the Egyptian bazaar, Pandeli deserves its reputation. Which makes it an ideal place for a lunch break that is as exotic as it is tasty. Its typically Turkish azure decor gives it a historical cachet and impresses as much as it amazes. On the plate, the best of traditional Turkish cuisine is served to you: its grilled eggplant salad, its spicy chicken cooked over a wood fire and its roast lamb are must-haves that elevate this address to the rank of a favorite.

Address: Rüstempaşa Mahallesi, Balık Market Kapısı Sokağı No:1/2, Mısır Çarşısı İçi 1 D:2, Eminönü/Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday – 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The National Painting Museum

The National Painting Museum Istanbul

With 200 works directly from the collection of Dolmabahçe Palace, this museum, recently installed in the apartments of the Crown Prince (the Veliaht Dairesi), delights art lovers. It presents the work of both international painters of the 19th century and Turkish artists such as Şeker Ahmed Pasha, Osman Hamdi Bey, Hüseyin Zekai Pasha, and Hodja Ali Rıza… A stroll through it for an afternoon is a pleasure.

Address: Vişnezade, Dolmabahçe Sarayı, Dolmabahçe Cd., 34357 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday – 9am to 6pm.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

Day or night, the Galata Tower is a dream come true. And for good reason: with its captivating allure, this architectural gem proudly dominates Istanbul. A symbol of the city’s prosperity during the Byzantine era – and more particularly of the Galata district, which was then a major trading center in the city – it is also the source of many myths and legends. Passionate love stories, tales of chivalry, and mystical anecdotes that have been passed down from generation to generation make it a beloved monument among locals.

Address: Bereketzade, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 08:30 to 22:00.

Dinner at Neolokal

Dinner At Neolokal Istanbul

Combining respect for tradition and creativity: this is the signature of Neolokal, an atypical and attractive meeting place for gourmets in the Galata district. Its chef Maksut Aşkar and his team are committed to promoting the country’s culinary heritage while bringing it a touch of modernity. The result: a captivating gastronomic experience.

The restaurant’s other strength is its emphasis on sustainability: in addition to a vegetarian menu, Neolokal sources as much carefully selected local produce as possible, from vegetables to wines.

Subtlety, originality, and passion are the keywords to describe this authentic, atypical, and tasty address. And if you still need convincing, its fabulous terrace and its panoramas over the rooftops of Istanbul and its mosques should undoubtedly do the trick.

Address: Arap Camii Mahallesi, Bankalar Caddesi No:11/1, Beyoğlu, Istanbul, 34420, Türkiye

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday – 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Day 4 in Istanbul

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

To start the last day of this itinerary, head to the Eminönü district – and more specifically to its archaeological museum. It is one of the most important in the world. Founded by the famous painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi in 1891, it is also the first museum in Turkey and is a must-see for lovers of antiquities.

It is organized into three thematic areas, each offering its share of unique pieces and discoveries.

Address: Cankurtaran, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – 9am to 7pm.

Gülhane Park

Gülhane Park Istanbul

These gardens once belonged to the Topkapi Palace. Reserved for the royal court, they offered a refreshing break in the heart of a soothing nature. Today, Gülhane Park is open to all. In the heart of the historic center of the city, it is the epicenter of the daily life of the inhabitants of Istanbul. But if it is as popular as it is frequented, it remains nonetheless the ideal place to take a break, or why not a picnic made of gözlemes (crepe stuffed with minced meat and vegetables) or a simit (sesame seed bread) to share, in the heart of a day of discoveries.

Its name, Gülhane, is the result of a sweet anecdote: in spring and summer, no fewer than 80,000 roses bloom in the heart of its gardens… earning it the name “house of roses”! Its flowerbeds are filled with thousands of tulips in the same season. In winter, the park is covered with forget-me-nots.

Address: Cankurtaran, Kennedy Cad., 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Lunch at Deraliye

Deraliye Istanbul

In the heart of the historic Sultanahmet district, Deraliye, a traditional restaurant offers generous dishes including its delicious goose, lamb, or duck skewers accompanied by spicy rice cooked in a traditional tandoori oven. It has an opulent decor punctuated by red and gold but above all has a roof terrace that reveals a magnificent panorama of Hagia Sophia.

Address: Divanyolu Caddesi, Alemdar Mahallesi, Ticarethane Sokak No:10, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, 34110, Turkey

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday – noon to midnight.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque

Nuruosmaniye Mosque

It calls itself the “Light of Osman.” The Nuruosmaniye Mosque, located in the Beyazit district near the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, was completed in 1756, making it the first Ottoman Baroque-style mosque to be built in the city. A bridge between classical Ottoman architecture and Western Baroque architecture, its style stands in stark contrast to that of older mosques – making it a fascinating visit for architecture enthusiasts. The size of its prayer hall will surely catch your attention.

Address: Mollafenari, Vezirhan Cd. No:4, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday .

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar Of Istanbul

Jewelry, carpets, textiles, mosaics, porcelain, silverware… With nearly 4,000 shops and just as many hidden treasures, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul lives up to its name. Surrounding a vast vaulted room, the Bedesten – a sort of flea market where the curious and lovers of antiques find their happiness among relics, ornaments, coins, and ancient weapons – is a must on any visit to Istanbul to fully soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the city.

Its stalls, its scents, its colors, and its accents from all over the world make it a journey within a journey. Here, the old and the modern intersect, and the fake competes in creativity against real pieces. Arm yourself with patience and sharpen your eye to detect the unique piece to bring back in your suitcases, for an authentic souvenir of Istanbul. And if you leave empty-handed, your head will be full of beautiful memories: the joyful atmosphere and the friendly attitude of the shopkeepers are worth a visit in themselves.

Address: Beyazıt, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday – 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Dinner at Lokanta 1741

Dinner At Lokanta 1741 Istanbul

An address synonymous with escape. By entering this historic building that once housed the Istanbul Museum of Art and Sculpture, you will immerse yourself in the three-hundred-year-old history and culture of the famous Cagaloglu Hammam. Perched on a rooftop terrace with a romantic atmosphere and refined decoration, Lokanta 1741 concocts a gastronomic experience worthy of the name: combining know-how and creativity, its colorful and minimalist plates invite you to discover the best of traditional Turkish cuisine, from one region to another. A pleasure for the senses.

Address: Alemdar Mahallesi, Profesör Kazım İsmail Gürkan Caddesi No:34, Cağaloğlu Hamamı, Fatih, Istanbul, 34110, Turkey

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday – 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Stay at Peninsula Istanbul

Peninsula Istanbul Hotel

No hotel in the city will bring you closer to the water than the Peninsula Istanbul. Set on the banks of the Bosphorus, facing the chromatic waters of the Golden Horn, the Peninsula Istanbul is located in the heart of the historic Karaköy district, a stone’s throw from the Galata Tower and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, and is an ode to the grandeur of the city and the splendor of the Ottoman Empire. Its eclectic architecture consists of four buildings that blend charm and elegance: two date from the early 20th century while a third, inspired by the Bauhaus movement, dates from the 1930s. Guests can reach it by land or sea.

After being welcomed in what was once the passport office of the port of Istanbul, head to your room. The hotel has 177 rooms and suites. All are sophisticated settings and most of them offer you superb views of the Bosphorus via their bay window, balcony, or private terrace. All the rooms are decorated in bright and soothing cream and gold tones, surrounded by lacquered black. They feature furniture specifically designed for the hotel, and their decoration reinterprets Turkish design through mother-of-pearl wood marquetry, and kilim-style carpets (woven wool oriental carpets). To ensure your comfort at every moment of your stay, each room also has the Peninsula’s e-concierge service, Penchat.

The Peninsula Istanbul offers you two gastronomic addresses:

The Peninsula Istanbul spa is worth a visit. Clad in marble, it offers eight treatment rooms, a pearly white hammam, a 25-meter-long underground pool, and another outdoor pool along the Bosphorus. Opulent and refined, like Istanbul and its royal palaces, it will be your haven of peace for a stay rich in discoveries and pleasures of the senses. Concerned about the well-being of its guests, the hotel offers, like all the hotels of the brand, the holistic program “Life Lived Best”. This allows them to achieve goals of physical, mental, and nutritional well-being.

The Peninsula Istanbul

Address: Kemankeş Caddesi No:34, Istanbul 34425, Türkiye

Transfer: 50 minutes drive from Istanbul Airport (IST) on the European side, and 1 hour and 15 minutes from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) on the Asian side.

Opening period: All year round.

Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling to Istanbul

What is the best way to get around Istanbul?

Getting around Istanbul is much easier than this gigantic city might suggest at first glance. It is easy to get around thanks to its public transport network – all you need to do is buy an Istanbulkart pass at the station. This will give you access to its buses, trams, and metro to get from one end of the city to the other while soaking up the local atmosphere. For more comfort, taxis and VTCs are numerous in the city. However, remember to ask for the meter to be activated to avoid any pitfalls or unpleasant surprises on arrival! Finally, the ferry is also an option to go from one bank to the other while enjoying a pleasant panorama of Istanbul.

What day of the week is everything closed in Istanbul?

In Turkey, the official day of rest is Sunday. It is therefore not uncommon to see restaurants and shops closed on this day of the week. The opening hours of shops and services are relatively similar to those in Europe. Finally, it should be noted that most museums in Istanbul are open every day except Monday. Some also opt for a closing time between noon and 1 p.m. for the lunch break.

What is the best month to go to Istanbul?

The recommended time to visit Istanbul is from March to October. Its Mediterranean climate means that its summers are hot and dry, sometimes also windy – which makes them very pleasant. Expect temperatures around 28°C in July. Spring and autumn are also two popular seasons to discover Istanbul: the climate is mild and, despite occasional rain, it is perfect for exploring the city. Winter, on the other hand, is quite cold: ice is frequent and snow is occasional and, although the average temperature in January is 8°C, this period is not the most recommended to capture all the beauty of Istanbul.