Straddling Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Turkey is a colourful confluence of culture, history and arts. From the hauntingly beautiful Hagia Sophia Museum to the seductively barren Cappadocia, Turkey is full of astonishing contrasts. Even though Ankara is the capital city, it is Istanbul that has been drawing travellers from all over the world. So let us tell you how to spend 24 hours in Istanbul and have the time of your life!
A Cup of Coffee=40 Years of Friendship!
An old Turkish saying goes that a cup of coffee commits you to 40 years of friendship! Start your day with a robust cup of Turkish coffee at one of the many charming cafes at Galata Tower. You never know when you might find a friend for life!
Walk Around Galata Bridge
Istanbul is a pocket-friendly European destination. Enjoy a seaside walk or wander around the famous Spice Bazaar in Sultanahmet minus the exorbitant prices! The Galata Bridge is lined with fisher-boats and takes you back in time with its architecture. At one end of the bridge, you will be afforded with spell-binding views of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami).
Prowl for Pashmina
Watch the fables of djinns come alive in the alleys of Grand Bazaar. One of the most photographed places in the world, the bazaar is a microcosm, reminding one of the Arabian Nights. Shop for exquisite rugs, lamps, spices and pashminas. The shopkeepers will be chatty, inviting you in for cup of apple tea and biscuits. With over 3,000 shops, the market is the biggest mall in the world. Brush up your bargaining skills!
Lunch in the Roman Wall Towers
By the time you are done with these activities, it will be time for lunch. Head to the old Roman and Byzantine quarters of Erten Konak. Designed like a traditional Ottoman residence, this hotel lies in the heart of Istanbul’s historical structure. The Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Topkapi Palace are in close proximity of this hotel. The Basilica Cistern is an enigmatic place, even though it was built as a water filtration system in 6 CE.
Post Lunch Walk
Since you are in the heart of history and culture, a post lunch walk to Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Turkistan Asevi will be a good idea. The colourful, miniature houses of Turkistan Asevi are charming to say the least. Istanbul is full of such hidden gems which are best explored on foot or the iconic red trams!
Learn the Crafts
Visit the Caferaga Medresseh, which is just 5 minutes away from Hagia Sophia. The centre for Turkish arts, handicrafts, ceramics, marbling and jewellery, Caferaga Medresseh is where you can learn, make and buy these crafts. From here, you can take a cruise tour on the Bosphorous Strait to reach the Beylerbeyi Palace. Explore the summer residence of the Sultans with beautiful views of the sea.
Mind your Steps!
Located between Taksim Square and Kabatas, Cihangir used to be a forested hunting ground. Now, it is a chic neighbourhood with cafes and parks. Once, a local painted some dull grey steps in rainbow colours. The trend, started as a happy gesture in Beyoglu, caught on and now you can see rainbow steps all over Turkey!
Time for Tea..and Sheesha!
Beyoglu’s streets will draw you in with their fruity aroma of sheeshas! Lined with trendy cafes, the place is ideal for a cup of hot çay served in traditional Turkish cups. Katmerler is one such cafe with comfy bean bags, a wide screen television and exotic melon flavoured sheesha.
After spending a leisurely time in the city, it’s time to head back to your hotel room, energise and get dressed to explore the city’s happening nightlife. There are many budget as well as luxury hotels in Istanbul that cater to all kinds of travellers. The Neorion Hotel is very close to Taksim Square and is a good stay option. For a more lavish experience, you can book a stay at the Four Seasons!
Dine on the Bosphorous
Seafood, wine and unending views of the sparkling water–no one can say no to this deal! Dine at the Rumelihisari Iskele restaurant. Set in an Ottoman era boat dock in the lap of a medieval fortress in Sariyer, the restaurant is frequented by traditionalists and tourists alike. You can also choose to explore other restaurants in Istanbul to experience the city’s gastronomic culture.
Dance the Night Away
While it may not look like it on the surface, Istanbul has a buzzing nightlife. From the neon lit alleyways of Nevizade, to the clubs along the Bosphorous, the city has plenty to offer in terms of a good night of partying. If you plan a visit around July, do make sure to be part of the Istanbul Jazz Festival. For a quieter time, you can to any of the meyhanes (taverns) and enjoy the traditional fasil music. You can also find out more things to do in Istanbul to have a more personalised experience!
At the end of it all, you wouldn’t even realise that your 24 hours in Istanbul are over! The irresistible pull of history and the confluence of the eastern and western worlds make Istanbul more than a destination.
About the Author:
A wordologist, Etti Bali loves playing around with words, creating a world of absurd. In an ideal world, she would never wake up as she thinks slumber is the answer to all world problems.