What do you know of Istanbul? I bet many of you think it is the capital city of Turkey, and you’d be wrong! There are many misconceptions about Istanbul, so the best advice? See it for yourself and decide.

Put simply, Istanbul is huge, busy, bustling, but stunningly beautiful, and it is also the only city in the world to straddle two continents, with one half in Asia, and the other half in Europe. Fancy visiting two continents in one day? Easily done here!

Because of the sheer size of the place, you need to plan your time, to make sure you get the most out of your visit. A bit of research before you leave should sort you out, but having visited this massive city on several occasions, let me give you a few ideas on what you should do during your few days in this Turkish city.

Day 1

Finding your bearings is perhaps the most important first step when you arrive in Istanbul. It obviously all depends on which part of the city you’re staying in, but usually visitors will stay in either Taksim or Sultanahmet. If you’re staying in Sultanahmet, then you’re perfectly placed for day one’s activities. If you’re staying in Taksim, jump on the Metro, which is easy to use, although be warned it is rather busy!

The iconic Blue Mosque is our first suggestion, standing opposite the equally beautiful Hagia Sofia. Now, from the outside you would be totally magnetised towards Blue Mosque, because its exterior is stunning, however don’t let that put you off visiting Hagia Sofia because the interior of this former church, where Christianity and Islam come together, is something to take your breath away. There is a small admission cost for Hagia Sofia, but it is more than worth it.

You will probably spend much of your day visiting these two iconic landmarks, so it will be time to grab some food afterwards. There are many small kebab shops around this part of Sultanahmet, so grab a traditional wrap and enjoy, before moving onto the Grand Bazaar for a spot of shopping, haggling, and probably getting very lost in the maze-like lanes.

Day 2

Your busy first day doesn’t stop there! Taksim should be your next stop, which is the more modern side of the city. Having said that, iconic and historic Istiklal Street is famous, so you have to head there and jump on the red tourist tram, which runs the length of the street – a word of warning, hang on tight, it has a habit of stopping without warning!

Taksim is where the main nightlife is in Istanbul, so once you’ve done shopping, wandering around and looking at the large buildings, and of course eating some delicious traditional Turkish meal for your dinner (do not miss this step!), then grab your gladrags and party until the small hours at one of the many different bars and clubs. Each plays a different kind of music, so take your pick!

Day 3

Your final day is time for a little further exploration. A ferry across the Bosphorus is a must do, as well as feeding the seagulls as you go, although beware that they come in droves! Once you cross the Bosphorus, checking out the bridge across the continents as you go, you will be in Asia. Now, the Asian side of Istanbul is often overlooked for the more attraction-packed European side, however this is a shame, because the Asian side has much to offer. Kadikoy is a popular part of Istanbul to visit, and offers a different viewpoint of the city. Kadikoy market is a great place to head for foodies, so if you love your street food, especially baklava, then make this your first stop.

Next, head to Beylerbeyi Palace, the former summer residence of rich and opulent sultans, for some jaw-dropping photos and a spot of history; if you love architecture this is a great choice.

After the ferry back over to the European side, it’s time to finish your Istanbul trip with a slap up Turkish meal.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in Istanbul, so I guarantee it won’t be your first and only visit.

Photo Credit: Alexxx Malev under Creative Commons license.