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:
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
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!
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.
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.
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:
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!
5. Boutique Hotels in Istanbul
Booking.com 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.
Or you could look at Renting a Car.
Enjoyed my Istanbul Travel Guide and travelling to Turkey? Why not read some of my other posts on Turkey:
If you are looking for Tours of Istanbul check out my favourite site Get Your Guide – Check out tours of Istanbul and prices here
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