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When you have only one day in Istanbul...

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Visit Istanbul Turkiye Turkey nothing to lose and a world to see min

What do you do when you’ve never been to Turkey? Especially if you only have one day in Istanbul? I created our own packed itinerary. 

Our arrival at the hotel was around the late afternoon. We had one full day (until late afternoon the next day) to ourselves before we took a connecting flight to Hungary. This is what we did. Likewise, I recommend you do the same as it turns out to be a winner.

DIY Travel is easy if you have all the credible and trustworthy booking tools to your availability.

PS: I’ll be sharing a summary of the itinerary at the end of this article. 

Where to stay in Istanbul?

Grand Hotel Gülsoy

Travel-and-Home hotel review

We chose to stay in Eminönü (the hub of ancient Constantinople) which is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Istanbul smack in the center of the Old Istanbul City area. The hotel is about ten minutes’ walk from the Grand Bazaar (one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world) and the Suleymaniye Mosque. If you feel like a brisk walk to get your exercise in for the day, you can walk the 2.5 km to the Topkapi Palace and absorb old Istanbul the old-fashioned way. We opted for the train, which took the same amount of time as the walk would have taken us – around 30 minutes, with all the stop points.

The room was spacious and comfortable, and the hotel’s service was excellent.

Situated in the center of old Istanbul the hotel is surrounded by many restaurants, and plentiful shopping opportunities for house and home, friends, and family, and don’t forget… you! Some restaurants put their meals on display to passers-by!

Istanbul Airport is 52 km away. Allow traffic congestion time when you plan your trip to and from the airport.

Travel Tip(s)

Look for free cancellation options: Some hotels offer free cancellation up until a certain date. Booking accommodations with free cancellation can provide flexibility in case your plans change.

Check the map view: has a map view feature that shows the location of hotels. This can help you identify accommodations in areas that are both desirable and affordable.

What are the things to do in Istanbul when you only have 1 day?

Souvenir shopping Istanbul Turkey visit Turkiye min

Pop in at the Grand Bazaar

Forget about unpacking in your hotel room. Instead, get yourself to the Grand Bazaar. This is where you can do quick souvenir shopping but also get to experience the aromas and flavors of Turkey.

Dine at Hamdi Restaurant

Travel-and-Home restaurant review

Reserve a dinner table at the world-famous Hamdi Restaurant, recommended to me by a South African friend. I will be forever grateful to Marietjie for this recommendation.

The restaurant goes back to the 1960s when it started as a street-food vendor. Today it is one of the best-loved restaurants in Turkey and is known across the world. 

The food was beyond my expectations and the service of the best in Turkey. 

Address: Rüstem Paşa Mah Tahmis Caddesi, Kalçin Sk. No:11

Travel Tip(s)

When you book, ask for a table at the window on the upper floor. It just adds to the experience.

where to eat in istanbul hamdi restaurant traditional turkish food cuisine min

Get some steps in

Afterward, we walked back to the hotel. The walk was longer than I anticipated but worth every moment because we were amid it all. People walking everywhere, chatting, shopping, dining… the perfect opportunity to blend in and absorb the Turkish culture, mannerisms, street fashion, and plenty more. Coupled with a general sense of safety we thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to Istanbul.

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visit explore istanbul sightseeing walking streets Sehzade Mosque turkiye turkey min

Go on a boat cruise

We chose a lunch cruise with an ASIA side stopover which would take us to Bosphorus and the Black Sea. From the boat, we saw Rumeli Fortress and The Maiden’s Tower dating back to 1110 (built by Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus).

Another thrill was that the cruise included a stopover at Anadolu Kavagi, the northern tip of Bosphorus on the Asian side, and the intersection of the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. It used to be a small fishing village that transformed into a popular tourist destination. A highlight of the cruise was the chance to swim off the boat where the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea meet. 

By the way, there are many beautiful sights to photograph from the Bosphorus and the architecture is impressive. So, make sure your camera is fully charged.

Furthermore, another benefit of the boat cruise is that you get a glimpse of what to see the next time you visit Istanbul.

Generally, hotel pickups are included. That sure helped a great deal with our time management!

Istanbul lunch cruise Dolmabahce Palace Rumelihisari Fortress Beylerbeyi Palace Summer Palace of the Sultans min
Istanbul lunch cruise sightseeing House of the Sultans Son in Law Maidens Tower Buyuk Mecidiye Mosque Ortakoy Mosque min

Topkapi Palace Museum

The palace was a hit. We bought tickets for the palace as well as the harem.

I have only one regret. Namely, that we did not have more time to do a proper guided tour. Leaving the palace I felt we did not get to appreciate all of its heritage. Therefore, I recommend that you book a half-day guided tour. When you pre-book a guided tour, you also get to skip the line, which is pretty awesome. Our line was quite long before we got to buy tickets. And then the language barrier when you buy the tickets… that was a challenge. Topkapi Palace Museum is well worth a visit. Consequently, I am going back for sure. However, on a guided tour instead so I can hear all about its vibrant history and fascinating anecdotes of the sultans!

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Airport Shopping

Since we’re on the subject of the airport. If you run out of time and need some shopping done, this is the time to buy Turkish Delight.

I had a sincere and pure dislike of Turkish Delight (since my childhood) until I tasted the real product. My, oh my!! Instead of souvenirs, I bought Turkish Delight for our friends and family. They loved it! There is a wide range of different delights. The photos are some of my personal favorite delights!

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