Where else can you be in two different continents at once but Istanbul? It isn’t enough to spend 48 hours in Istanbul. This city lived the rise and fall of famous empires and seen the world flourish around it as the central point between Europe and Asia.
If you’re going to Istanbul on a time limit, make the best of your time. The second I landed in Istanbul, I instantly squeezed every ounce of time to make sure I saw all the “best attractions”. My biggest regret was not slowing down and embracing the city as is–with no itinerary and no plans.
What you shouldn’t miss during your 48 hours in Istanbul
Make sure to pick a hostel that allows you central access to the rest of the city. I stayed at Cheers Hostel. Situated in The Old City, the hostel had comfy beds, great breakfast, and has a beautiful night view of the Hagia Sophia from their upstairs.
If you’ve seen a picture of Istanbul, you’ve probably seen the Hagia Sophia. It’s a remarkable work of architecture originally used as a cathedral in Constantinople with the interior inlayed with marble, stone, and gold.
Visit the palace is a must for history buffs. It was the residence for sultans during the Ottoman empire. There’s tons to explore. The most interesting part for me was the harem rooms and the Jewelry collection. Warning: the rooms get pretty crowded.
Weave through the crowds and explore the Grand Bazaar– a space full of secret treasures and surprising items (like rows of mannequins). I bought amazing jewelry for less than five dollars. Beware of scams by browsing before you buy. Look for the best deals before deciding to purchase something and haggle!!!
The second largest market in Istanbul features Turkish Delight, Turkish coffee, spices of every kind, and more! Taste the Rose flavored Turkish Delight, which you can vacuum sealed to bring home.
Eat street food
Seek out fish sandwiches (Balik-ekmek) by the Galata Bridge on the west side of the bridge called the Golden Horn. With so many competing for customers’ attention, make sure to weed out the posers from the real gems. My other favorites were Dürüms and Tantuni (deliciously spiced beef wrapped in a tortilla).
Visit a mosque
The two I enjoyed most were the famous Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque) and the Süleymaniye (the Magnificent). Check out The Magnificent’s grand courtyard and views of the Golden Horn.
Sunset at Galata Konak Cafe
Instead of going up the Galata Tower head over to the rooftop this cafe during your 48 hours in Istanbul. You’ll get the same gorgeous views AND a coffee or tea.
Hamam- Traditional Turkish Baths
There’s nothing like the experience of a traditional Turkish bath. Save this for the end of your trip as a way to relax (or maybe have a little bit of anxiety, and then relax). I wasn’t ready to bare it all… as in stripping down to my birthday suit to allow a lady to scrub me down on a marble slab surrounded by other naked women. Do it for the story.
I can’t wait to go back to see more of Istanbul and instead of only seeing attractions, I would love to explore the streets and stores of the city. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore the Asia side of the city.
What were some of your favorite spots in Istanbul? How do you want to spend 48 hours in Istanbul?