Layover in Istanbul: What to do in 24 hours

what to do in istanbul activities attractions

Well overall I had just under 48 hours in Istanbul but I spent a whack of those on a day trip to Gallipoli so it kind of worked out being 24 hours! Following my trip I headed to the stunning area Cappadocia– you can read my full itinerary here. But here is what to do in with a layover in Istanbul that lasts 24 hours:

24 hours in istanbul
Sunset on the Bosphorus
  1. Layover in Istanbul – Stay at Hotel Empress Zoe

This is a lovely little boutique hotel in the heart of the historic district of Sultanahmet in Istanbul. So there are several reasons to stay here. First is the fabulous location. When it comes to what to do in Istanbul they are all an easy walk from Hotel Empress Zoe –  the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and the Grand Bazaar. Second is it is a lovely stylish boutique hotel at a very reasonable price. The third is the incredibly lovely staff. And fourth is the breakfast! Yum! Fabulous fresh treats and make sure you’re there when the warm savoury pastries come out! Finally, it is also fantastic value with rooms starting at just 60 pounds!  Click here for prices and more information 

colourful throws at the grand bazaar istanbul
Stunning throws at the Grand Bazaar
layover in istanbul
MMM Turkish Delight
  1. Layover in Istanbul – Eat Seafood

Seafood didn’t really pop into my mind when I thought of what to do in Istanbul. I was so wrong!!! There is fabulous seafood galore here and so many restaurants! If you’re in Sultanahmet then there is an entire area of seafood restaurants. If you can’t be bothered hoping in a cab then just ask the hotel as I did and walked about 3 minutes up the road for a delicious and reasonably priced seafood extravaganza!

what to do in istanbul layover
Salted Fish on fire
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Istanbul Tiles
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So beautiful
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A fountain at Topkapi Palace
what to do in istanbul layover
The level of detail in Istanbul is stunning

3. Layover in Istanbul – Focussed shopping Grand Bazaar

Stop one is the Grand Bazaar. Ok so, of course, you don’t have to be focused – if you have never been to a souq or bazaar type set up then of course wander and photograph and check it all out. I’m assuming you don’t have much time for this trip to Istanbul – as I didn’t – but us boutique adventurers always love a stylish souvenir! So I have 2 suggestions for you. The first is softly coloured and soft feeling hammam towels. The place to go at the moment is Jennifer’s Hamam.

Fes cafe grand bazaar
Cafe at the Grand Bazaar

The second is a leather jacket – or some type of leather purchase. There is a leather area with several stores clustered together. The biggest issue is finding a nice style. They obviously have a rather broad range of designs! I ended up buying from Koc. I actually think this is the same place I went 10 years ago where I bought a brown leather classic cut jacket that I have worn and worn. This time I went with a tan leather parka style with a hood and a fur trim.

For more information on shopping in Istanbul check out this post on What To Buy In Turkey.

hotel empress zoe istanbul
Shopping in the Grand Bazaar

So maybe your focus isn’t leather and hammam towels. In which case I would recommend doing some googling before you go around what you’re after and using some of the local expat’s blogs to find some good stores. Just google say best perfume shopping Istanbul and you’ll find one of the local expat blogs and this is a great place to find some interesting shops which are more likely to feature styles you might like. Here are some good local blogs about Istanbul that I found:

  1. Layover in Istanbul – Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya

These two amazing Istanbul sights are located so conveniently very close together! Both are must-sees. And they are SO photogenic. Try capturing the ceilings of both of them – particularly on an angle. And they are also fabulous to photograph in silhouette style so hop up on a roof terrace with a view of the sunsets. I’m not going to bother writing more about these as so much has been written but if you have 24 hours these are your must do tourist activities!

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The interior of the Blue Mosque
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Wide shot of the Blue Mosque
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The Blue Mosque
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Shopping outside Aya Sofya
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Mosaics inside Aya Sofya

5. Boutique Hotels in Istanbul is my favourite website for booking hotels. There is a great range with fab prices. Once you have made 5 bookings over 2 years you will gain genius status which opens up more deals. And perhaps best of all you can cancel most bookings up to 24 hours out which is super handy. Here are my picks for boutique hotels Istanbul in addition to Empress Zoe:

-Another lovely boutique option in Sultanahmet is Hotel Ibrahim Pasha. This small hotel has only 24 rooms and features a great balcony with a view of the Blue Mosque. Prices from 100 pounds a night. Click here for the latest prices and more details.

-If Sultanahmet is too touristy for you hop on a boat and 35 minutes later you will read Kanlica and the minimalist Hotel  Ajia . This gorgeous hotel has a fantastic outdoor eating area right on the Bosphorus and 5 of the rooms have balconies on the river. Rooms start from 170 pounds a night. Check out latest prices and more details here.

-One of the most exciting boutique hotel openings in Istanbul in the last couple of years was Soho House. Located in the Beyoglu district it has all the brilliant design for which Soho House is known as well as a stunning pool and great restaurants. Prices start from about 140 pounds. Check out latest prices and more details.

-For one of the ultimate boutique hotel experiences, you can’t go past the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. The hotel was previously a prison. There are only 65 rooms and alas no swimming pool but there is all the amazing service for which the Four Seasons is deservedly famous. Prices start at around 340 pounds a night. Check out latest prices and deals.

Getting to Istanbul and Getting Around

For cheap flights to Istanbul Click here for prices and deals. Or check out my favorite Middle Eastern airlines – particularly if you’re flying Business Class – I am a big fan of Qatar Airways – prices and details and Etihad –   prices and details – business class to Istanbul.

If you’re travelling outside of Istanbul there are plenty of internal flight options with Turkish Airlines. Or you could explore Turkey by Train? 

Or you could look at Renting a Car.

Further Reading:

Enjoyed my Istanbul Travel Guide and travelling to Turkey? Why not read some of my other posts on Turkey:

Best Things to do in Cappadocia

Turkey Itinerary

Gallipoli Tours Travel Guide

Turkey Tours

If you are looking for Tours of Istanbul check out my favourite site Get Your Guide – Check out tours of Istanbul and prices here

If you are traveling solo and looking to venture beyond Istanbul why not take a group tour? Some good companies to check out are Just You Turkey, Exodus Turkey, Explore Turkey  or  G Adventures Turkey

Click here for deals on travel insurance and Click here for Deals on Travel Money.

Click here for my Pinterest Board on Turkey

If you liked this post Please do Pin It!

Got a layover in Istanbul? Here is what to do in Istanbul if you have a layover - the best activities and attractions including the Blue Mosque and staying at Hotel Empress Zoe #istanbul#layoverinistanbul#turkey#24hoursinistanbul#istanbullayover#bluemosque#ayasofya#grandbazaar

If you click through on the links that appear on my blog posts around flights, accommodation, tours, travel insurance etc I get a small commission if you end up buying on these sites. Just wanted to let you know!

Layover in Istsanbul: How to make the most of 24 hours
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Layover in Istsanbul: How to make the most of 24 hours
Got a layover in Istanbul? Here is what to do in Istanbul if you have just one day - the best activities and attractions including the Blue Mosque
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The Boutique Adventurer
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15 thoughts on “Layover in Istanbul: What to do in 24 hours

  1. Jing says:

    I love Istanbul. Spending 24 hours will keep you wanting for more but I would agree with your top list of things to do.

  2. carolcolborn says:

    It is precious you even got 48 hours in a place that has been rocked by terrorists. And you got the best of the city anyway.

  3. Punita Malhotra says:

    I have heard of fascinating things about the Underground Cisterns/Aqueduct. Did you go there? When we go to Istanbul, I am definitely going to see those. I believe they even hold concerts there.

  4. Ashlea says:

    I have never heard of Istanbul until this post. It looks like a beautiful place to visit.

  5. Vicki Garside says:

    Great suggestions for a short stay in Istanbul. We were there for 4 days in July last year and didn’t see any seafood (apart from the fish sandwiches at the bridge) – we must have been looking in the wrong places!

  6. Venkat Ganesh says:

    Istanbul is such a great city and I’ve always wanted to visit this place which is the meeting point of the Asia and Europe. And not just Istanbul, but I think Turkey is overall a great destination. Personally, I’d like to sample the cuisine the first and then head out to the markers to just walk around. And yes sitting along with the locals in a corner and sipping coffee

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