Istanbul is a fascinating place for sightseers to visit with its ancient buildings, immense shopping centers, delicious food, and fantastic views. Also unique to the city is the fact that it’s split into two sides: European and Anatolian, or Asian. Check out the following attractions.

Early Morning: Breakfast

Breakfast in Turkey is nothing like what you’re used to in North America, so don’t skip this experience. Most places serve traditional Turkish breakfast fare, which includes a spread of olives, honey, sausages, and locally made cheese.

Sade is a popular restaurant in the Rumelihisari neighborhood; if you go here, try the bal-kaymak (honey and clotted cream). If you’re in or near the Bebek district, check out Mangerie. This eatery offers both traditional and continental breakfast options, including menemen, which is Turkish scrambled eggs with peppers and tomatoes.

basilica cistern
The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.

Morning: Take in the Sights

The architecture in Istanbul reflects the culture of both the Byzantium and Ottoman Empires. How cool is that? Even if you’re not a history buff, you can still appreciate the buildings’ towering turrets on the outside and the intricate artwork on the inside.

Go to the Sultanahmet neighborhood first and make sure you see Topkapi Palace. Built in 1478, it’s the oldest and largest surviving palace in the world. It served as the residence of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th century. You should also visit the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Basilica Cistern; all three attractions are in the same area.

Lunchtime: Sit Down for a Meal

You won’t have trouble finding a place to eat while you’re in Sultanahmet. If you’re looking for a place that serves great kebabs, check out Hamdi Restaurant. The top floor has a great view of the city, and the menu has 17 types of kebabs to choose from. For something familiar, try the chicken shish kebab. If you’d rather try something different, try the Birecik Kebab — spicy: It combines lamb and veal with sweet chili pepper.

Want to eat a bit closer to your next destination? Aslan Restaurant is just steps away from the Grand Bazaar. It’s an authentic esnaf (tradesman’s) eatery with a menu that changes daily. Look for the traditional Turkish desserts that are usually on the menu, such as kunefe, a sweet cheese pastry.

grand bazaar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Afternoon: Shop ‘Til You Drop

Even if you’re not big on shopping, you need to at least visit the Grand Bazaar; it’s the largest and oldest covered market in the world! It’s walking distance from the Blue Mosque. Just follow the tram line until you’ve passed two tram stations, or hop on the tram and get off at Beyazit stop.

The Grand Bazaar is famous for its leather, carpets, gold jewelry, and fabrics. Some may say it’s a tourist trap, but you can score some good deals if you know how to bargain. You’ll need at least a couple of hours to explore the shops — there are about 4,000 of them. If you have time, you can also check out the nearby Spice Bazaar. The merchants sell not only spices, but also dried fruits, nuts, honeycomb, and hard Turkish cheese.

chora museum
The Chora Museum in Istanbul.

Dinnertime: View the Bosphorus

Istanbul is known for its proximity to the Bosphorus, a narrow strait that separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey. What better time to admire the Bosphorus than during dinner? Several restaurants offer breathtaking views of this important waterway.

Borsa, located in the Kandilli district, is one such restaurant. Get a table on the rooftop and fill up on some good food; the artichoke cooked in olive oil is one of its best dishes. Topaz is also worth checking out. Located in the Beykoz district, this elegant restaurant offers Ottoman, International, and Mediterranean cuisine. If you like seafood, try the grilled octopus “babakale.”

The Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul.

Late Night: Have Some Drinks

If you want to stay on the Asian side after dinner, you have several options. Monks is the best place to go dancing in this part of the city. If you’re not into bars, you may enjoy the Viktor Levi Sarap Evi restaurant, which has 12 types of house wine and a full bar menu. You can share a bottle of wine or grab a cocktail and talk into the wee hours of the morning.

The European side of Istanbul is probably more exciting for partiers. Babylon is the most popular nightclub, offering live music of different genres along with (of course) a dance floor. Want something different from the clubbing scene? Try the Nargilem Cafe, a casual and comfortable place where you can smoke Turkish water pipes.

Whether you’re staying in the city for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, you’ll always have something exciting to do. Plan and book your stay with GoDoTrip to get the most out of your time in Istanbul.