Istanbul in one day: the best route


This guide of what to see in Istanbul in one day It will help you prepare the best route for your first or only day in the city, optimizing the maximum time.
Although we are aware that 24 hours is very little time to visit a city with so many experiences and places to visit that Istanbul offers, we believe that if you have an optimized itinerary you can have a first vision of the city despite having very little time, since either by having a scale or by other circumstances.
In this city, difficult to label as it is a combination of cultures from the East and the West, you will enjoy the great atmosphere that forms in bazaars, you will see some of the most impressive mosques in the world and you will contemplate a spectacular sunset on a Bosphorus cruise, between Many other things.

Based on the 4 days we spent in the city, in which we wrote this guide to travel to Turkey, we have made this route to get to know the best of Istanbul in one day. We start!

How to get from Istanbul airport to hotel or downtown

Istanbul has two international airports the New Istanbul Airport located 35 kilometers from the city and the Sabiha Gökçen 50 kilometers.
The best means of transport to transfer from the two airports to the center or to your hotel are:

  • Subway: at the beginning of 2020 the M11 subway line will start operating at the New Airport that will connect to the center.
  • Bus: From the New Airport you have lines 19 and 20 that will leave you in the center (Taksim and Sultanahmet) in about 80 minutes for 3 euros. Havabüs will take you from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Taksim Square in 90 minutes for 2.5 euros.
  • Private transport: It is the most comfortable option when you wait for a driver in the terminal with a sign with your name and take you directly to your hotel in an hour. You can book this service here.
  • Cab: The price of a yellow taxi to the center from the New Airport is 30 euros and from Sabiha Gökçen 25 euros.

For more information about the transfer you can consult this post on how to go from the Istanbul airport to the center.

Recommended hotel

Our recommended hotel to make a route through Istanbul in one day It is the Adamar Hotel with fantastic views of the city from its terrace or The Million Stone Hotel, both located a few meters from the Blue Mosque, the Basilica of Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. In addition to its perfect location and good connection to the city's two airports, both hotels offer good breakfasts, 24-hour reception, new facilities, friendly staff and one of the best quality / price ratios in the city.

Tips for traveling to Istanbul

Following this list of recommendations can help you have a good first contact with the city:

  • To avoid a bad experience with taxis it is advisable to take the official yellow vehicles that have the sign Taksi, indicate the destination to the driver well and follow the route with a mobile GPS like the application. It is not too much to control the taximeter, be very attentive to the change that returns you and if you can, you better ask for the taxi at the hotel or restaurant before taking it on the street.
  • The security in Istanbul is quite high, similar to the big European cities although in the tourist areas and the subway you have to be careful with the pickpockets.
  • If you are a group it can be very interesting to book this private city tour with a guide in Spanish to learn about its history and not miss anything important or this free tour of Istanbul. Free!
  • If in addition to seeing Istanbul you have extra days to make a route through the country, we recommend you complete this list of places to visit in Turkey essential
  • Friday is a day of prayer and there are restrictions to access the interior of the mosques.
  • To use all the means of public transport in the city you have to buy the Istanbulkart rechargeable card.
  • In case of any misunderstanding or possible scam with a vendor or taxi driver, mentioning that you are going to call the police is usually resolved, even if you do not worry, it is not something that usually happens.
  • Use the N26 card to pay and the BNEXT card to get money from the ATMs, you will have the current exchange and will not be charged commission. You have much more information in the post The best cards to travel without commissions.
  • Take the best possible travel insurance to solve any medical setbacks in the city's quality hospitals. We always travel insured with Mondo And he has always been the best travel companion.

You can look for more recommendations in this post of tips to travel to Istanbul essential.

What to see in Istanbul in one day

The route of what to see in Istanbul in one day It starts early in the morning with a visit to Topkapi Palace, center of the former Ottoman Empire. To this huge complex overlooking the Bosphorus, we recommend arriving before 9 to avoid having long queues and enjoy the interior of the palace where there are numerous rooms among which the Treasury stands out, with valuable pieces such as the Diamond of the Spoon and the Topkapi Dagger. Another of the most famous rooms is the Harem, where the Sultan and his family lived, in the company of more than 500 women.

Map of the route through Istanbul in one day