Things to see in Istanbul in 2 days

Wondering what to see in Istanbul besides the Hagia Sophia?

When it comes to tourist destinations, the Turkish city of Istanbul is a gem as far as tourist attractions and historic sights is concerned! You can easily spend 6-7 days there and still not get to see everything Istanbul has to offer.

Sure enough, you could join an organized tour of Istanbul to maximize time but since most of the main visitor attractions are located within the Old Quarter of Istanbul (Sultanahmet district), you won’t really need the use of a private tour. To give you an idea of what not to miss, I’ve put together a list of all the places in Istanbul you must see during your 2 day stay in the city:

Topkapi Palace

There isn’t a better introduction to Istanbul than visiting the outstanding Topkapi Palace, which is second only to the Hagia Sophia in terms of historical importance. The Topkapi Palace houses none other than the cloak of the prophet Muhammad, the swords of the first four Caliphs and the Staff of Moses.

Best thing about Topkapi Palace is that it’s pretty much “all-access areas” and you’re allowed to explore the throne room, the beautiful courtyards, the ceremonial room, the treasury room, the stables, the royal baths and the private quarters (Harem) of the Sultan Dynasty, as well as climb to the top of the Tower of Justice for lovely views over Istanbul and the Bosphorus Strait.

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi)

If you remember the "cistern scene" from the old James Bond movie “From Russia with Love”, you’ll find that the Basilica Cistern is the place where the scene was filmed. The Basilica Cistern is the largest and oldest water cistern in Istanbul and if you’ve never had the chance to see an ancient cistern before you’ll surely be blown away by it!
Things to see in Istanbul in 2 days

The Basilica Cistern's most impressive feature are the stunning stone carvings of Medusa’s head that serve as a fantastic photo opportunity. The overall experience of being underground is amazing while the buskers add an even more surreal experience in the cistern.

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

The Blue Mosque is along the Hagia Sophia, one of the most internationally recognized landmarks in Turkey and it’s truly one of the top 10 places to see in the world.

Architecturally speaking, the Blue Mosque is truly impressive inside and out. From the outside you can see the beautiful corner domes and impressive turrets; while the interior design is certainly fit for a king! The minute you step inside the Blue Mosque, you can really tell that no expense and effort was spared when designing the interior decor consisting of thousands of blue ceramic tiles made by hand, spectacular stained-glass windows, gold lamps, and engraved walls with versus of the Qu’ran.

Be sure to visit the Blue Mosque during the day and at sunset to catch the most amazing views of the mosque from the courtyard!

Istanbul Archaeology Museums (Istanbul Arkeoloji Muzeleri)

If you’re a history buff or are interested in seeing pre-Islamic relics, you should certainly make time to visit Istanbul museum complex. Istanbul museum complex is located in the Eminonu district (near Gulhane Park) and consists of three museums, one of which is a gorgeous pavilion (Tiled Kiosk) that has a beautiful collection of Islamic art on display such as ceramic panels, paintings, Persian carpets and wall tiles.

The other two museums house the famous Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty (the oldest surviving treaty in the world), and the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

The Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Strait is without a doubt, one of the top things to see in Istanbul in 2 days just to see what the narrowest strait in the world looks like! You can get nice views of the Bosphorus from the Galata Tower and the Tower of Justice in Topkapi Palace, though the best way to see the strait is by hopping on a public ferry.

The beauty about taking the ferry along the strait is that you’ll get a nice opportunity to take in the lovely views of the waterfront mansions, the Rumelihisari fortress, and Istanbul’s two suspension bridges (Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge).

Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)

The Galata Tower is located in the Galata district and it’s another impressive landmark dotting the skyline of Istanbul. This tower is over 220 ft tall and offers a fantastic photo opportunity from the ground base that you cannot miss taking!

Besides that, the climb to the top of the tower is another reason to visit the Galata Tower because it offers wonderful panoramic views of the Bosphorus and Istanbul's famous landmarks such as Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque is yet another mosque that also deserves a couple of hours of your time. Suleymaniye is somewhat overshadow by the Blue Mosque but you must visit it because it’s the biggest and most serene mosques you can visit in Istanbul.

Everything about this mosque is large including the courtyard which boasts huge columns and four beautiful minarets. The interior décor of the Suleymaniye Mosque is certainly more low-key and subtle than Blue Mosque’s but Suleymaniye grandeur really makes up for it!

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