48 Hours in Istanbul

Istanbul; ‘a transcontinental city’

Istanbul is a huge cosmopolitan, populated and a transcontinental city in Turkey, separating Europe and Asia. It’s historical and commercial centre lies on the European side, whereas, a third of it’s population lives on the Asian side. It is ranked as the 7th largest city by population and known as the largest city in the Europe. It is a favourite tourist city-escape that 12.56 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2015, making it the 5th most visited tourist destinations around the globe. It is also known as one of the fastest growing mega cities in the world.

48 Hours in Istanbul

If you’ve chosen Istanbul for your next city escape or you’re travelling with Turkish Airlines and have a long stopover in this beautiful city, below are my top favourites that you should definitely visit on your next trip to Istanbul: –

1: Blue Mosque Istanbul

I started my 2 days stopover with Turkish Airlines by first visiting the Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Known as the iconic image of Istanbul, this beautiful mosque is the most visited tourist attraction in the city. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed 1 (the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire). This antique structure is decorated using the hand-painted blue tiles in the interior walls that reflects the beautiful architecture of the Ottoman Empire. It is comprised of six minarets, eight secondary domes and five main domes and located next to another famous tourist attraction in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia.

Blue mosque is considered as the last great mosque of the classical period. Sedefkar Mehmed Age (the architect) synthesised the ideas of his mentor Sinan, aiming for overwhelming size, splednour and majesty.

A visit to this architectural beauty is considered compulsory if you’re visiting Istanbul. It’s jaw defining architecture, historical importance and the structural presence depicts the time of the Ottoman Empire. It iss promised that you’ll leave with an aspiring image of this sight on your mind.

Find out more about the Blue mosque here: –


2: Hagia Sophia

After admiring the beauty of the Blue Mosque, I had visited the Hagia Sophia (or Aya-Sofya), which means ‘Holy Wisdom’. It was a Greek Orthodox Basilica, which later transformed into an imperial mosque and is now a renowned Islamic Museum in Istanbul. This historical architecture has significant importance in Turkey and is known to be one of the greatest landmarks of the Ottoman Empire. Constructed in 537 AD and until 1452, this was the Roman Empire’s first Christian Cathedral. It then served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral with the exception of the period between 1204 and 1261, when it was transformed into a Roman Catholic Cathedral under the Latin Empire. It was later converted into an Ottoman Mosque from 1453 until 1931. After secularism, it was reopened as a museum on the 1st of February, 1935. This beautiful piece of architecture has known to have changed the history of architecture, mainly renowned for its central dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine Architecture.

Until the Seville Cathedral was opened in 1520, Hagia Sophia has remained the world’s largest cathedral. It was the key mosque in Istanbul until the Blue Mosque was completed in 1616. Until today, the Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sophia serves as a great inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques in Istanbul.

One of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture is Hagia Sophia. Decorated with marble pillars and mosaics; architectural beauty of this museum is a jaw-defining piece of art.  A visit to Istanbul would be incomplete without paying a visit to this historic museum. 

Find out more information about the Hagia Sophia here: –


3: Ortakoy

After enjoying the two iconic sights of Istanbul on the first day, I headed for Ortakoy on the second day. Ortakoy (or Agios Fokas in Greek) was a small village which has now transformed into a beautiful neighbourhood in Istanbul. It is located in the middle of the European side of the Bosphorus and is known for its iconic mosque and the bridge. It was a little cosmopolitan area during the Ottoman Empire with multi-racial communities, hosting various religious structures. Even until today, several different nationalities lives happily in this neighbourhood.

Renowned for it’s cafes, bars, restaurants and lively night-life, this town provides a unique ambiance for the visitors that will surely put a smile on your face.

The renowned Bosphorus Bridge is one of the two famous bridges that connects the Asian and the European banks of İstanbul, is also located in this neighbourhood. This is a perfect setting to enjoy turkish tea with a view.

Find out more about this place here: –


4: Grand Bazaar Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar (or Kapali Carsi) means ‘Covered Market’ or ‘Grand Market’ is the most renowned, largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It is comprised of 61 covered streets and over 4000 shops that attracts 250k to 400k daily visitors. In 2014, it was listed as the top most visited tourist attractions with 91.25m annual visitors. It is also regarded as one of the first shopping malls around the globe.

The Grand Bazaar is easily accessible by foot from the Blue Mosque or you can take the tram from the Blue Mosque and get off after 2 stops. This market is ideal for buying turkish souvenirs, arts and crafts, jewellery, carpets, furniture, leather goods and casual clothes. You can shop till you drop all days a week except Sundays and Bank Holidays from 09:00 until 19:00.

Find out more information about the Grand Bazaar here: –


5: Taksim Square Istanbul

Once I have purchased souvenirs from the Grand Bazaar, my next stop was to explore the Taksim Square. Taksim, which means ‘division’ or ‘distribution’, is a famous square in the European side of of Istanbul, known for its famous restaurants, shops and hotels. It is regarded as the heart of modern Istanbul, featuring the Monument of the Republic. The square is named from the Ottoman Era Stone Reservoir, which is located in this area. It is also a main transportation hub and a renowned tourist destination in Istanbul. Taksim Square is also a favourite spot for hosting public events, social gatherings and New Year celebrations.

I always wanted to meet the Turkish Ice-Cream guy who entertains his visitors in return for purchasing a cone ice-cream. It was such a fun thing to do. I had never experienced such an entertainment before. All you have to do is to ask for a CONE.

Make sure you enjoy Turkish Cone Ice-Cream on your visit to Istanbul. It cost only 15 Lira or more, but it’s totally worth the fun.

Important Tip:

As you all know how much I love photo tours when I travel. It is a great way to browse the hidden gems of the city with a local tour guide. Unlike a traditional walking tour where you browse the city and take your own photos, I prefer a photo tour when a professional photographer show you around and take the best pictures along the way. My journey in Istanbul was made hassle free by Mohammad Mekhamer. He is an exceptional Instagram famous photographer with an extensive experience in photography. You can contact him here: – http://www.istanbulgrapher.com

That was all from my 48 hours stay in Istanbul. I hope you’ll have a great time in this magical city and you’ll definitely plan to come back here soon.

Don’t forget to share your travel pictures on my Instagram, use hashtag #LAVOYAGE

See you at other destinations around the world!


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