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How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul

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How to Spend 3 Days in Istanbul
With three days in Istanbul, there’s time to check off all the must-see sights and to venture a little farther afield. Cruise along the Bosphorus, delve into Turkey’s ancient history, see magnificent monuments, savor the city’s delicious cuisine, shop at the bazaars, and experience local culture. Here’s how to maximize 72 hours in Istanbul.

Day 1: Mosques and Museums
Start day one getting your bearings, perhaps with a full-day guided tour for a comprehensive overview of the city or a private tour to take in the sights at your own pace. For independent travelers, a hop-on hop-off bus tour or Istanbul Sightseeing Pass is a great way to get around, offering the convenience of a guided tour while leaving you free to decide where to go and how to long to stay at each stop. 

No matter your method, begin today visiting Istanbul’s headline acts, including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya). In the afternoon, hop over to the Asian side to explore the Kadikoy neighborhood, then set sail along the Bosphorus for a scenic dinner cruise.

Day 2: Sites of Ancient Turkey 
Many of Turkey’s top attractions can be visited on a day trip from Istanbul either by bus or by plane. (Prepare for a long day as some tours can last up to 14 hours, and for the best value look for a tour that includes hotel pickup, entrance fees, and lunch.) Perhaps visit the UNESCO World Heritage–listed archaeological site of Troy and discover the legend of that ancient city, or tour the WWI battlefields at Gallipoli and follow in the footsteps of the Allied and Turkish troops. You can even fly out to central Anatolia to discover the ancient ruins of Ephesus, another UNESCO-recognized site, or marvel at the fairy chimneys on an epic day trip to Cappadocia. 

If you prefer to stay closer to home, you could also spend a full day cruising along the Bosphorus, stopping at the beach resorts and coastal towns along the Black Sea coast. 

Day 3: Bites and Bazaars
Spend your final morning in Istanbul shopping for souvenirs. Visit Taksim Square and stroll down the shopping street of Istiklal Avenue, then continue to the famous Grand Bazaar. Practice your haggling skills as you shop for everything from handicrafts to clothing to carpets, then head to the nearby Egyptian Spice Bazaar to marvel at the rainbow of spices, nuts, dried fruits, and lokum (Turkish Delight).

In the afternoon, set out on a mission to sample as much of Turkey’s delicious cuisine as you can. A food-tasting tour is a brilliant way to discover the many types of kebabs and mezes on offer, sample street-food specialties such as simit, and learn how to make traditional Turkish coffee. You could even opt to enjoy dinner in a local family home and experience the renowned Turkish hospitality for yourself.
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Istanbul Tours & Activities (14)
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Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided TourFull-day Tours

Best of Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private Guided Tour

star-5
Prepare to be awed by Istanbul’s magnificent architecture, rich history, and eclectic bazaars as you discover the unmissable highlights of the Old City on this 1-, 2-, or 3-day private tour. Marvel over the glorious Hagia Sophia, learn how the Blue Mosque earned its famous nickname, and see the ancient Basilica Cistern. Tour Topkapi Palace to gain an insight into the lavish lifestyles of the Ottoman sultans and their harem, and browse the legendary Grand Bazaar, where you find everything from carpets to Turkish delight.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$125.00 
per group
From  
US$125.00 
per group
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures

Gallipoli Day Trip from IstanbulDay Trips

Gallipoli Day Trip from Istanbul

star-4.5
Experience somber battlefields and historic World War I memorial sites during this guided day trip to Gallipoli from Istanbul. With an expert guide, visit heartbreaking sites on the Gallipoli peninsula where Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers lost their lives during a merciless WWI campaign. Hear rare stories about the fallen troops at famous sites including Lone Pine, ANZAC Cove, Ari Burnu Cemetery and the Nek.
...  More
  • 14 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$102.09 
From  
US$102.09 
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  • 14 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures

Cappadocia In One Day Small-Group Tour from Istanbul: Rose Valley, Ortahisar, Kaymakli Underground City and Pigeon ValleyDay Trips

Cappadocia In One Day Small-Group Tour from Istanbul: Rose Valley, Ortahisar, Kaymakli Underground City and Pigeon Valley

star-4
Journey to Cappadocia for a comprehensive one day small group tour of Rose Valley, Ortahisar, Kaymakli Underground City and Pigeon Valley. With plenty of attention from your local guide discover this otherworldly UNESCO World Heritage region famous for its mushroom topped pinnacles, subsurface cities and cave carved ‘fairy chimneys.’ During this tour, stroll the verdant Rose Valley, visit the deserted village of Çavuşin, marvel at Ortahisar Castle, explore Kaymakli Underground City and admire stunning volcanic monoliths at Pigeon Valley. 
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  • 15 hours
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$360.00 
From  
US$360.00 
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  • 15 hours
  • Taking safety measures

Bosphorus Strait and Black Sea Day Cruise from IstanbulDay Cruises

Bosphorus Strait and Black Sea Day Cruise from Istanbul

star-4.5
Sail between two continents and into the Black Sea on this full-day cruise along the Bosphorus Strait from Istanbul, with an onboard guide, plus a delicious included lunch on deck. Gaze over the shores of Europe and Asia as you cruise along the Istanbul Bosphorus; stop to visit the city’s pretty Ortaköy neighborhood; and enjoy guided tours of the ornate Küçüksu Palace and Rumeli Fortress. Lastly, moor at the picturesque Black Sea village of Poyrazköy with time to swim in the sea; or explore the medieval castle of Anadolu Kavağı.
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  • 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$90.62 
From  
US$90.62 
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  • 10 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Afternoon Bosphorus Tour including Cruise, Golden Horn Coach Tour and Cable Car RideDay Cruises

Afternoon Bosphorus Tour including Cruise, Golden Horn Coach Tour and Cable Car Ride

star-3
See Istanbul from three different vantage points on this tour, including a sightseeing cruise, panoramic tour and cable car ride. Take a scenic cruise on the Bosphorus and admire top Istanbul attractions such as the Bosphorus Bridge and Rumeli Fortress from the water. Then, take a coach drive around the Golden Horn districts to see the former Jewish quarter, old city walls, iron-built St Stephens and other lesser-known treasures. Lastly, catch the cable car up Pierre Loti Hill to witness the stellar city views from its hilltop cafe.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$40.15 
From  
US$40.15 
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Eat Like a Local: Istanbul Food and Culture Tour with Dinner at Local Family HomeDining Experiences

Eat Like a Local: Istanbul Food and Culture Tour with Dinner at Local Family Home

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For the true essence of Turkish heritage, eat like a local and explore the streets of Sultanahmet during this guided small-group Istanbul food and culture tour. Step inside a local’s home to meet the family and enjoy an evening experience of Turkish hospitality. The 4-hour night begins with a 3-course dinner of traditional dishes and concludes with an expedition into the backstreets of Istanbul. You’ll witness a backgammon or football game along the way and even have a chance to take a puff from the shisha pipe. People are limited to 12 on this tour, so you can receive more personalized attention from your guide.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
From  
US$54.53 
From  
US$54.53 
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes

Turkish Coffee Tour and Coffee-Making ClassCity Packages

Turkish Coffee Tour and Coffee-Making Class

star-4.5
Discover traditional techniques to making a perfect cup of Turkish coffee during this small-group coffee tour and coffee-making class in Istanbul. Alongside your professional guide, enjoy learning the craft of coffee production at a shop, plus sip delicious coffee at a few local establishments. Continue your java journey at a spice bazaar, where you will uncover the Ottoman secrets to store coffee and visit several of Istanbul's favorite coffee joints. Numbers are limited to 15 coffee connoisseurs, to maintain a more intimate experience with your guide. 
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  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$57.35 
From  
US$57.35 
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  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Whirling Dervishes at HodjapashaCity Packages

Whirling Dervishes at Hodjapasha

star-3.5
Uncover the sacred practice of the mystical Sufis at an authentic Mevlevi Sema Ceremony held at Istanbul’s Hodjapasha, and witness the 800-year-old tradition that has been preserved on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Be mesmerized by the bizarre yet beautiful sight of the Whirling Dervishes as they perform their unique spiritual rituals during an hour-long show, including a live orchestra and 360-video projections.
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$50.00 
From  
US$50.00 
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  • 1 hour
  • Free Cancellation

Day Tour - Troy Tour from IstanbulDay Trips

Day Tour - Troy Tour from Istanbul

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Uncover ancient Greek mythology and the history of the Trojan War during this guided day trip to Troy from Istanbul. During a walking tour, learn about the famous archaeological site of Troy and see a replica statue of the Trojan Horse. Then, delve into the interesting era’s of Troy and discover how this settlement transformed over time. Plus, enjoy a visit to the small coastal town of Eceabat for lunch.
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$113.56 
From  
US$113.56 
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  • 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures

Small-Group: Ephesus and The House of Virgin Mary Day Trip from IstanbulDay Trips

Small-Group: Ephesus and The House of Virgin Mary Day Trip from Istanbul

star-4
Travel back in time nearly two millennia and discover the House of Virgin Mary and Ephesus during this guided day trip from Istanbul. With round-trip flights to Izmir included, you'll fly to the best preserved ancient city in the eastern Mediterranean for an epic trip. Stroll along roads once roamed by toga-clothed Romans; enjoy visits to the Library of Celsus, the stunning Great Theatre; gaze at temples and walk along shop-lined streets. You'll then explore the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, have lunch, and highlight your day with a tour of the stone home where it’s believed the Virgin Mary spent her final days. Numbers limited to 14 on this small-group tour.
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  • 15 hours
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$360.00 
From  
US$360.00 
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  • 15 hours
  • Taking safety measures

Istanbul Bosphorus Cruise with Dinner and Belly-Dancing ShowDay Cruises

Istanbul Bosphorus Cruise with Dinner and Belly-Dancing Show

star-3.5
Enjoy a night on the Bosphorus Strait filled with belly dancing and Anatolian folk music during this 3.5-hour dinner cruise from Istanbul. This Bosphorus dinner cruise traverses over the strait’s beautiful evening waters and passes Istanbul’s best sights. See the illuminated Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge and Blue Mosque as you watch a traditional performance and savor great food and drinks.
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$91.77 
From  
US$91.77 
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  • 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation

Top Sites Of Istanbul: Half Day or Full Day Private Walking TourCity Packages

Top Sites Of Istanbul: Half Day or Full Day Private Walking Tour

star-5
Get an in-depth exploration of Istanbul on this full-day or half-day private tour. Enjoy personalized attention from your guide and stroll through the Sultanahmet neighborhood. Visit the Hippodrome, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar. Choose to add Topkapi Palace to a full-day itinerary.
...  More
  • 5 to 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From  
US$114.71 
Price varies by group size
From  
US$114.71 
Price varies by group size
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  • 5 to 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation

Private Tour: Ottoman Istanbul Full-Day TourFull-day Tours

Private Tour: Ottoman Istanbul Full-Day Tour

star-4.5
Witness the must-see wonders of Ottoman Istanbul on this full-day private tour. With your own expert guide, explore top Istanbul attractions including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar, and visit the glorious Hagia Sophia, the 6th-century basilica turned into an Ottoman mosque in 1453. Learn about Istanbul’s fascinating history from your guide, and stop midway for a delicious included lunch at a local restaurant. Upgrade to make your visit to the Hagia Sophia in the early morning or evening, so you can enjoy its treasures without the crowds.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$65.00 
From  
US$65.00 
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures

Istanbul Super Saver: Full-Day Istanbul Sightseeing and 2-Day Troy and Gallipoli plus ANZAC Battlefields TourMulti-day Tours

Istanbul Super Saver: Full-Day Istanbul Sightseeing and 2-Day Troy and Gallipoli plus ANZAC Battlefields Tour

star-3.5
Discover three of Turkey’s wonders on this thrilling 3-day tour of Troy, Gallipoli and Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood. This experience merges a 2-day tour of Troy and the Gallipoli First World War battlefields with a full-day tour of Istanbul’s most historic neighborhood. This Super Savor tour provides a fun and convenient way to experience these three destinations, hassle free.  Overnight accommodation is included in Çanakkale on Day 1.
...  More
  • 3 days
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From  
US$300.00 
From  
US$300.00 
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  • 3 days
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures


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