Istanbul, without doubt, draws a huge number of tourists every year, regardless of the season. Known for its mosques and museums as much as its kebaps, Istanbul is a city that never sleeps. Plenty of hidden gems in this city, but if you are here for 24 hours, stick to the main attractions to get a feel of this ancient city.
No matter which side of the city you are at, these highlights will help you get the best out of this city.
Before you set out, make sure you have euros in small change – handy if you are going to use the tram (thatis an experience in itself)
8 am: Start with a traditional Turkish breakfast, menemen followed by refreshing Turkish tea to get you started for the day.
9 am: Head towards Galata Tower – the views of the city from here are fantastic. This also helps you get a rough idea of where you are and where you should head to. (There is a small fee to go up the tower – so alternatively you could simply visit the Konak cafe and enjoy the views from there while sipping some fine Turkish coffee). Walk across the bridge to another continent (no passport needed here) and feel as though you have stepped back in time. Say hello to the eager anglers trying their luck with fishing (they always manage to catch something for sure). At the end of the bridge stop by to admire the incredible New Mosque (Yeni Cami).
11 am: Hop on the tram and head to Sultanahmet, from where you will begin the tour of cultural and historic side of Istanbul. Begin with a visit to the Blue Mosque (free) before heading to Hagia Sophia followed by a tour of Topkapi Palace (home to Ottoman rulers) and Basilica Cistern.
2.30 pm: Grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area – you will be spoiled for choice – Istanbul is famous for its cuisine, blending flavours of the East and the West to serve up some fabulous gastronomic delights – if you like a little heat in your meat, ask for Adana kebap or Ezme that goes with bland dish. Vegetarians have plentiful choices, including dolma, grilled or friend egg plants, artichokes, soups and salads. Down it all with fresh Ayran.
3.pm: Round off your afternoon with a stroll through the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, Istanbul’s must visit bazaar and also one of the world’s largest. This is your one-stop for everything touristy and non-touristy, although you will have to bargain, no matter which category you fall under. From leather to spices and everything in between, this is where you will find it.
5 pm: Go on a sunset cruise and see the city rising up from the Bosphorus, a truly magnificent sight, cruising past Ottoman palaces and castles nudging the waters edge.
8 pm: Dine at Pera Palace, the favourite haunt of crime writer Agatha Christie. This is where she is believed to have penned her famous Murder On Orient Express.
10 pm: Enjoy the nightlife Istanbul is famous for. Bars and clubs remain open late in this city. Shake a leg at one of the many clubs along the waterfront.