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What to see in Istanbul in five days? For Free!

Photographic Travel Postcard from Istanbul

In November, I finally visited Istanbul. In spite of a short notice I still prepared to meet this city. I read the advice of experienced travelers, studied everything that is written about Istanbul and watched two dozen videos on YouTube.

Photo of Hagia Sophia, Istanbu
Hagia Sophia, Istanbu
Photo of Sinan Pasha Madrasah, Istanbul
Sinan Pasha Madrasah, Istanbul

The first travel day


I think it’s worth starting with the most “delicious”. Let’s go to Sultanahmet Square to the pearl of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia .

Do not rush and immediately go inside. Walk around, look at the fountains, listen to the multilingual crowd, sit on a bench overlooking Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. Feed the cats that are sure to come to you.

Photo of The Fountain close to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul - travel Turkey
The Fountain close to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

And then go to the most beautiful church of Byzantium! Now a mosque, Hagia Sophia. Don’t forget that women need a headscarf. You will have to take off your shoes and leave them in a box at the entrance.

The huge space of the mosque is simply stunning. It is hard to imagine how people without modern technology could build this grandiose structure. Just think – Hagia Sophia was built almost one and a half thousand years ago, in 537.

It is worth allocating at least an hour for a visit. First, go around the entire mosque in a circle, and then carefully consider all the most interesting. And be sure to just sit on the green carpet and look around.

When exiting, look to the right so as not to miss the huge baptismal font. And in the courtyard, look at the columns and decorative elements found during excavations.

After Hagia Sophia, you can go to the Blue Mosque . It is just opposite. There is a restoration going on now and almost nothing is visible.

The mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed I is a must-see. There are 34 tombs of members of the Ottoman dynasty here. The main place is occupied by the sarcophagi of Sultan Ahmed I himself and his beloved wife Kösem Sultan.

Inside photo of Mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed I, Syambul
Mausoleum of Sultan Ahmed I, Syambul

Second day


I propose to look at the “European” Istanbul on the second day of this visit. Let’s go to Istiklal street . This area has long been chosen by immigrants from Europe. They built houses and opened shops here. If it weren’t for Turkish paraphernalia, it would be quite possible to imagine that this is one of the streets of a European city.

Istiklal street, Istanbul - photo
Istiklal street, Istanbul
Travel to Istanbul - tourist tram
Tourist tram, Istanbul

If you are not tired, pass to the other side along the Galaat bridge. Look at the passing ferries and boats, at the flying seagulls and at the fishermen standing in rows along the railing.
You can eat right here. There are many cafes on the second tier of the bridge.

Then go to the Egyptian market. I think it is even more picturesque than the Grand Bazaar. They say that sweets here are the cheapest in town. But I’m not sure.

Photo of Egyptian Market, Istanbul
Egyptian Market, Istanbul

Day three of travel to Istanbul


Boat trip and excursion to the Princes’ Islands .

If you come to Istanbul during the warm season, take your swimsuit with you. These islands have the best beaches in Istanbul. But at other times of the year there is always something to see.

Departure from the pier to Eminonu. It takes about an hour and a half to sail to Buyukada, the largest among the Princes’ Islands. You can pay for the fare with istanbulkart.

Princes' Islands - Turkey - photo travel
Princes’ Islands

Day four


Asian part of Istanbul.

From Eminonu take a ferry to Kodikoy pier. Pay with istanbulkart. After about 20 minutes, you have traveled from Europe to Asia.

Pay attention to the building of the railway station. This is one of the attractions of this part of the city. Alas, now this building is under reconstruction. You will see it when your ferry passes by.

I recommend walking along the streets of this area, looking at gorgeous graffiti, taking a photo with a local bronze bull. He, of course, is smaller than that on Broadway, but also good.

Local shops and small cafes are very colorful. And bright houses just ask for a photo for Instagram.

Bronze Bull, Istanbul

And then, after lunch, you can walk along the embankment, sit on warm stones, looking at the Bosphorus and passing ferries, watch the local fishermen. And then go to the lighthouse and feed the seals.

Day five


Boat trip along the Golden Horn Bay and return to Eminonu on foot with sightseeing along the way.

Leave from Karakoy pier on a ferry to Eyup.

Eyup Sultan Mosque - travel photo
Eyup Sultan Mosque

What to see: the Eyüp Sultan Mosque – the first mosque in Istanbul, the shrine of Muslims – the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the standard-bearer of the Prophet Muhammad, the fortress, the Greek monastery, the cast-iron Bulgarian church and the temple of St. George, where part of the flagellation pillar is kept.

These are places that everyone visiting Istanbul should see. At least in my opinion. I can only recommend visiting Istanbul at least once in your lifetyle. You will not regret it.

I know several travelers who share my passion for Istanbul. You can read some of their posts here

What if I tell you...

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