7 Days Program in Istanbul.
Istanbul is not like other cities, as this city has not, since its foundation, carried the name Istanbul, but it has had many names throughout the ages: Constantinople, New Rome, Byzantium, Queen of Cities, and the city of sultans, and many names. This indicates something that shows us the historical importance of Istanbul and that it Its greatness and historical importance has been recorded over all ages, as no era has been without mention of Istanbul and the interest in it. For more than two millennia, Istanbul has stood at the center of events that shaped the history of the West. It was a seat of wealth and power, a den of intrigue and betrayal, and a place of brisk trade and steadfast faith. Istanbul is often seen as a “Middle Eastern” city, yet in all respects it is the daughter of the West, born Greek, raised Roman, and converted to Islam in her middle age. For centuries it was the largest and most powerful city in the Christian world before it was transformed in the sixteenth century into the capital of the Islamic East. Still a city in both worlds, perched at the far end of Europe and staring at the shores of Asia. In this article, I will present to you a 7-day program. If you intend to travel to Istanbul, all you have to do is follow this program to spend an unforgettable holiday in Istanbul.
Getting to Istanbul:
Once you arrive at the airport, the first thing you have to do is buy an IstanbulKart. This card is accepted on all public transport and makes traveling around the city cheaper. Use public transportation to get into the heart of the city and you will see all kinds of people. Traveling with locals will also tell you about the city.
How to get an IstanbulKart:
There are kiosks selling Istanbulkart on the arrivals floor, all you have to do is follow the signs. Alternatively you can buy one at Havaist payment points or at contracted exchange offices. There are also many places in the city that sell Istanbul Kart including buffets, groceries, etc. most of which are located near bus stops.
The price of the card is 13 Turkish liras, or only $1, and it does not come with credit, so you have to pay 20 Turkish liras, which is approximately $2 or more when purchasing from the device. You can load more balances to the card through the same device (or any other device).
There are three (3) other types of Istanbul Card but they are not sold to you unless:
. You are studying at a Turkish university (indirimli card)
. If you are a citizen of Turkey (monthly card abonnement / Mavi kart)
. If you are a citizen of Turkey for more than 65 years (Free Pass / ücretsiz card)
Note: You will need to make a prepayment after receiving your Istanbulkart, you can do this wherever you buy your card.
How to activate this card:
You need to match the Istanbul Card with the HES code to activate the Istanbul Card and activate this card. It was easy before. All you had to do was to buy one Istanbul Card and start using it directly, but during the epidemic period the government decided to control the risks in public transportation in Istanbul And I decided to do it with a system called HES. People can enter the closed areas of Istanbul only with the HES code assigned by the HES app. It was difficult for the station staff to verify the HES code of millions of people on their phones before they entered the stations so they decided to match the HES code with the Istanbul cards. The Istanbul Card activation process started in this way. If you are already in Turkey, you can get a new HES code for yourself by following SMS method on how to get hes code for foreigners If you are planning to travel to Turkey you need to fill out the entry form and the Turkey entry form will allocate you the HES code.
How to check your balance:
You can check your Istanbulkart balance on kiosk machines at stations and there is a way to check your Istanbulkart balance online by downloading the Istanbulkart app to do so.
Depending on when you arrive you may want to spend the day relaxing but want to de-clutter your first day and be ready to start exploring the next morning? All you have to do is follow this program:
Day one (1):
. Start your trip on your first day by visiting the Great Blue Mosque at 10:30 am. You can see 20,000 wonderful handmade tiles inside the mosque and contemplate the mosque’s wonderful decorations, in addition to many decorated walls, as it is truly an architectural masterpiece. Women must cover their heads with a headscarf when entering the mosque, and no one is allowed to enter the mosque in short pants or similar short clothes out of respect for the sanctity of the mosque.
(The mosque opens its doors to visitors at all times of every day of the week, but you have to remember that there are 5 prayers, so you must respect their times, also the duration of the visit should not exceed 45 minutes)
. Directly from the Blue Mosque, head to the Hagia Sophia (the distance from the mosque to the church is 10 minutes by car, 6 minutes by train, 4 minutes on foot). This magnificent architectural structure was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianus in the year 532 as a church. After Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453, Hagia Sophia was transformed from a church into a mosque. Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque again in 2020 by presidential decree on July 24, 2020 and Friday prayers were re-established again after 86 years. Visitors would like to see Hagia Sophia and can enter without entry fees from now on but please keep in mind that there are five prayer times per day and you may want to visit Hagia Sophia along with these times. Don’t forget to know that it is a mosque so women and men have to dress according to Islamic law. For men and women, the legs and arms should be covered and no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight and women should cover their heads.
(It opens its doors every day of the week except Mondays from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm in summer, but in winter it closes at 5:00 pm, and it also closes on the first day of Ramadan and opens on Eid only half a day. The visit duration is approximately one hour because It contains many attractions that tourists must discover.The cost of entry is 15 Turkish lira for people over 15 years old, which is about $1 and free for children under 12 years old).
. After finishing the Aya Sophia it is time to have a delicious Turkish meal and if you are not hungry yet you can enjoy some snacks. If you are never hungry, you can buy bread, chestnuts or corn from the vendors. If you feel hungry, all you have to do is eat a delicious kebab on your first day in Istanbul, Turgut Kebap (the distance from Aya Sofia to this restaurant by car takes 8 minutes, by train takes 6 minutes, and on foot takes only 4 minutes) this restaurant is very suitable for you. You can eat meat or kebabs at Turgut Kebap, which serves Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. If you are a coffee lover, you can drink Turkish coffee and shisha after eating kebabs at Café Serpetan which is a great place for good Turkish coffee and shisha if you want to try it. After these visits and after you have eaten, it is time to relax with a massage, so you should go to the “Hagia Sophia Sultan” bath, you will bathe in the Sultans’ Bath and you will be like the Sultans, then you can have dinner in the “Mehr” garden and then return to the hotel to take a rest so that you are ready for the next day.
Day two (2):
. Start your next day with a visit to Topkapi Palace at 9:00 am. Visiting the palace can take up to two hours. There are many parts of the palace that you will want to see: the harem, the Department of Sacred Treasures, the important palace collections, the Spoonmaker’s diamond weighing 86 carats. Take all your time to explore it because it is truly worth exploring every corner of it
(The palace is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 am until 6:45 pm in summer time, and until 4:45 in winter time. As for the entrance cost is 30 Turkish liras, which is approximately $2 per person)
. After completing the Topkapi Palace, head to the Pavilion Pavilion, which is located near the outer walls of the Topkapi Palace and is located in the Archeology Museum in Istanbul. In this museum, you will find tiles made in many cities in Turkey. The palace includes many important museums, the most important of which is the Museum of Islamic Science and Technology. In the early times of Islam, science and discovery were very important, so you can visit the museum to see exhibits of replicas of scientific tools from the ninth and sixteenth centuries used by Muslim scholars. The two-storey museum contains 570 pieces and displays TV show. In addition to the Istanbul Archeology Museum, this is a museum that suits history and archeology lovers, as there are civilizations that lived in Anatolia for hundreds of years and left traces of great importance for understanding history and art, and this collection has more than a million works (the museum opens its doors from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm The duration of the visit should not exceed 1:30, i.e. an hour and a half. As for the entry ticket, it is 15 Turkish liras, or $1 for adults. For children under the age of 12, entry is free. There are many concerts in Hagia Irene in the first courtyard of Topkapi Palace, which have great acoustics, especially in winter. Built in 324 on the site of a former temple to Aphrodite, Hagia Irene was once the largest church in Byzantium and served as a cathedral until 360 when the first Hagia Sophia was completed. After it was destroyed by an earthquake in 532, it was restored during the iconoclasm period, which explains its very solemn decoration. It was converted into a mosque in 1453 and then turned into a museum during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730). Since 1972 it has been used as a concert hall due to its extraordinary acoustics.
. Don’t miss visiting the Basilica “Cistern” (the distance from the museum to the Basilica Cistern takes 3 minutes by car, 7 minutes by train and about 38 minutes on foot) to see the overturned head of Medusa, the weeping column and hundreds of years of history waiting for you there, as the reservoir was built between 527 and 565 It is full of visual wonders. Do not forget to take your camera with you to take pictures of the beautiful church so that you keep its details with you and whenever you see the pictures you remember its charming sights (entrance cost is 15 Turkish lira and the Museum Pass is not used here and you will have to pay the entrance fee).
. After completing the visit, you can go to Eminönü on foot, and it takes about 20 minutes, or a third of an hour. This is a great opportunity to walk the streets of old Istanbul and explore different and beautiful places. There are also shops in Eminönü where you can buy original products. After reaching Ankara Street, you can cross the Great Post Office Street and visit the Great Post Office Museum and enter the museum for free.
. You may not want to shop but just savor the Istanbul experience instead as you can always come back to the store later. First time is good to walk around however you should take note of what you want to buy here. At the end of your 7-day Istanbul itinerary you might want to buy something and take it home with you. If you love Turkish coffee, here is the shop where Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi sells fresh coffee. When you smell fresh coffee beans, you are now close to the shop. You can also get gifts like backgammon and coffee sets for your loved ones. (Note: souvenirs in the Grand Bazaar are more expensive than those sold on the street so be sure to browse through them before buying) As for the special handmade collections try to haggle before paying. There are 66 streets in the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in the world, and there are 4000 shops inside. Don’t complain about the crowded market because there are half a million people but don’t miss out on visiting the store where you can find interesting new products like nuts, sweets and plants that you have never seen before in addition to buying antiques, jewelry and special design things that are handmade that you will not find in any other place.
After these wonderful and elegant visits, it is now time for lunch, so head to Hamdi Restaurant, which is one of the best restaurants in the area. It includes kebab dishes in particular, which are very tasty and the view of Istanbul from the top floor is amazing there. And if you are a hamma lover, then head to the seller “Ali Al-Osta” who is known almost all over Turkey. He is an energetic, friendly and street vendor, and when you buy the intentional kofta sticks, he offers you things so incredibly delicious that you think you are in a restaurant.
Third day: (3)
It’s time to leave old Istanbul and get ready to go to Taksim for a new experience of discovery. The shortest way to Taksim is the T1 tram, take the tram from Sultanahmet to Kabatas and get off after 4 stops. After this 14-minute ride, you will pass through the tunnel and go to Taksim Square using the funicular. If you like walking, you can walk the square again to Karaköy. You can also reach without using the tunnel, which is to start at Galata Tower and walk to Taksim Square. This way you will see all the historical sites and other sites along the 1.4 km street and either way walk in the middle of the street to dinner. The first thing you can visit here is the Yapi Kredi Museum. The museum is located next to the Galata school, and inside you can see numismatic and ethnographic works, which are objects from the heritage of Ottoman and Turkish culture, and you can visit the special “Ataturk” section. You can also visit the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, which is the largest Catholic church in Istanbul. The magnificent architectural structure and the mysterious atmosphere inside will amaze you. It is very suitable for lovers of history and exploration.
. If you are a fan of culture, you should visit Salt Beyoğlu (the distance from Taksim to the institution is about half a mile) which is a multidisciplinary cultural institution and a place not only to see exhibitions but also to talk about exhibitions and participate in workshops and research. If you are a fan of mystery and illusions, you can visit the Museum of Illusions in Istanbul. The museum also offers optical illusions and a lot of fun. Do not miss seeing the “Galata” Tower, as you can go up to the top floor of this wonderful building that has existed since the fifth century, and there is a restaurant at the top There is a 360-degree balcony where you can see the entire city from this height and the 67-meter-high Byzantine tower is one of the most famous symbols of Istanbul.
You don’t have to leave Turkey unless you visit Karakoy. The restaurant is located a 10-minute walk from Galata Tower. This classic restaurant is famous for its delicious hunkar begendi cheese. Order fava (bean purée) as an appetizer with your raki for your main meal and then order grilled fish or octopus. Complete the night with a pleasant conversation and a beautiful view accompanied by light Turkish music. Turkish music helps you calm down and relax. When you find a big crowd in Taksim Square late at night that crowd is of course at Islak Burger, also known as wet burger from Kızılkayala. Don’t forget to drink yogurt while eating this delicious burger and now you can go back to your hotel and sleep like a little kid when you come home tired from school.
Fourth day: (4)
. On this day you should be ready to take part in a long tour of the Bosphorus. Every day at half past ten you can travel to Istanbul with the City Lines ferry that departs from Eminönü Pier. You will travel by ferry over the waters of the Bosphorus and see the most magnificent architectural palaces in the Bosphorus, which is truly a visual feast. At 12:30 you will reach the other end of the Bosphorus Strait of Anatolia. There you will have a three-hour break in the charming and quiet small Anatolian town of Poplar. Fresh fish is cooked in this city where fish and raki are incredibly popular. After the break, you will take the return trip on the same ferry and return to Eminönü at 4:30, which is 4:30 in the afternoon. Then participate in the short “Bosphorus” tour, as the ferry departs from Eminönü Pier at 2:30 and passes the coast of Uskudar, Ortakoy and Cubuklu back from Istinye. The duration of this tour is 2 hours and then you will return to Eminönü Pier at 4:30. If you have purchased a long round trip ticket, you can get off at any pier where the ferry stops and then return to Eminönü by the same ferry again. For the best views of the Bosphorus, choose the aft deck or upper deck balcony but remember that in winter the deck and balcony cool off.
. After these tours, head to the Sulaymaniyah Mosque. This mosque was built by the famous architect “Mimar Sinan” by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and is one of the best examples of Ottoman architecture. Mimar Sinan worked hard on the acoustics of the mosque, turning the main dome into 65 large cubes. These cubes were used to increase the acoustics so that a conversation could easily be heard on one side of the mosque on the other side. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the soot from burning candles in the mosque was collected in a special room and turned into ink. Architect Sinan placed ostrich eggs among the chandeliers to avoid the spider web of oil lamps in the mosque’s chandeliers. Of the 300 eggs laid 400 years ago, 30 are still hanging in the middle of the mosque’s chandeliers and have now turned brown.
Fifth day: (5)
. On this day you will go to Asia and visit Kadikoy and the best way to travel to Kadikoy is to travel by ferry. From Eminönü you can reach the Asian continent by boat or city ferry. Start your day with a visit to Haydarpaşa train station as you have a chance to see the interior through the festivals but there is a restaurant inside and you can see the wonderful architectural interior design while you dine. If you are a fan of art and music, visit Süreyya, which is an opera house and is a place where you can listen to wonderful opera performances from time to time. Very interesting and this statue is now about 150 years old. In the nineteenth century there was an area that could not be shared between France and Germany. It’s called Alsa-Loren When the French took over the area in 1860 this “bull” statue was built as a sign of strength. However, the same area was captured by the Germans 10 years later and the bull statue was taken by the Germans. In 1917, the German Emperor presented this bull statue to his friend Enver Pasha and it is located in the garden of Enver Pasha Palace, but Pasha settled outside and forgot the statue. After standing there quietly for 50 years, he was spotted and taken to the garden of the Hilton.
. Now you have to discover the “Virgin” tower, so go to Uskudar, where you can use the minibuses that run from Kadikoy to Uskudar. You can reach Uskudar in 20 minutes by minibus. If you want to use İstanbulKart, you can go to Ayrılık Fountain by taking the M4 line from Kadikoy metro station and transfer to “Marmaray” and get off at Uskudar station. Then walk from Uskudar along the coast to Salacak. There are so many cafes on the beaches of Salakac that everyone wants to watch the sunset from Uskudar. If you are a fan of shops, you should visit Baghdad Street because it is full of luxury shops, and here you can see the latest designs of many world-famous brands.
. Go from Kadikoy to Moda, where the cute streets, cats are very peaceful and the people are friendly. When you arrive in Moda, relax in Moda Park, as it is calm and serene, so Moda is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Istanbul. Then head to Fenerbahce Park, as you will see many people doing sports, and of course you will ask yourself why I will relax in this garden if I am in a garden? The answer here is that in this park there is a small restaurant standing in the middle of the park. The tourists said that its food is very delicious, especially breakfast, and there is another option for food, which is Al Kadif Street. You can eat fish and drink raki or pizza and your favorite drink in Kadikoy Bar, which is located on Kadif Street. Then you have to visit Arkuda, which is one of the most famous places in Kadikoy. Even the people who live in “Moda” put their pajamas on after a certain hour as everyone gathers and talks, the environment is very friendly.
After this beautiful day, end your day in Zur, which is the right place for entertainment and it is located in an apartment as the interior decoration is completely antique, so dance a little to disguise yourself, all you have to do is go inside and let the movement begin.
Sixth day: (6)
. This day will be dedicated to the quiet and beautiful neighborhoods “Balat” and “Fener” are two places where Jews and Greeks lived throughout history. When you walk around in these neighborhoods, you feel like you are in Istanbul, but you are not from Istanbul, as there are original houses, antique shops, auctions, people and cats living in peace and the first thing to do is You have to visit here is the iron church and this church made entirely of iron is the only example in the world and the weight of the iron used in building the church is 500 tons. Then go to explore the house of Chora as the world famous mosaics and frescoes were found in this mosque and you will be fascinated by this mosque which was once a church where you can see Eastern Roman art. Chora Museum became a mosque again after 75 years in 2020 by presidential decree and just like Hagia Sophia. The museum, whose restoration work is continuing, will open to worship as a mosque after the works are completed. Visitors would like to see Chora Mosque (they can enter without entry fees from now on) but keep in mind that there are five prayer times a day you may want to visit Chora Mosque along with these times And do not forget that it is a mosque, so women and men must dress according to Islamic law, as for men and women, legs and arms must be covered and not wear shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight and women should cover their heads even if they are not veiled.
. After completing the visit to the mosque, he discovered the historical “Balat” houses. The Palat houses located on Kuban Fountain Street were restored within the scope of UNESCO’s cultural heritage preservation. Don’t forget to take pictures in front of the colorful Balat houses (entry to the house is free). Then head to Fener Mahalsi Square, where you can see the boutique restaurants and cafes of Fener between Yildirim Street and Vodina Street, which are decorated in an original way and serve delicious food. End your day with a visit to the “Agora Mehanezi” restaurant, which is one of the most beautiful places in the Agora Palace, where you can crown your day with classical Turkish music, delicious appetizers and raki.
Seventh day: (7) and the last
. Your last day in Istanbul, you can take a last tour and let it be a shopping tour, so head to the “Grand Bazaar” at 9:30 am (entry to it is free of course, but you will pay for the items you buy) which is a large covered market (the market opens every day of the week from 900 am until 7pm except Sunday) where you can shop for just about anything. The market contains nearly 4,000 shops, restaurants, cafés, and service stores spread across 61 covered streets. The market is located in the Fatih district between the Beyazit Mosque and Nur Osmaniye. The market was first established in 1455 after the Ottoman conquest of the city. There are a number of gates that will lead you to the rows of stores. The portals have interesting names like Jewelers’ Portal, Skullcap Sellers Portal, and Used Booksellers Portal. Visitors enjoy visiting the bazaar as it is where the locals do their shopping too so you are sure to get a slice of authenticity and some good deals. The Grand Bazaar is visited by approximately 250,000 tourists every year.
. In addition to shopping, visitors can enjoy historic architecture, marble drinking fountains, 17th century kiosks, and some beautiful tile work. There are many suggested ways for tourists to take through the market to maximize the sights they see but you can also take an organized tour of the market or just wander around. Here’s one possible walk: If you walk down Handkerchief Street (walk north to south through the market) and exit the bazaar at the Oruculer Kapisi gate and continue north down a short, narrow, winding street, don’t miss out on the shopping opportunity.
. Don’t forget to buy souvenirs for yourself and gifts for family and friends. You can also buy carpets or rugs from carpet shops in Sultanahmet and don’t forget to negotiate and bargain. During your 7 days holiday trip in Istanbul you have seen many places but there are still many places to visit in this wonderful city. Next time you arrive get ready to visit the Princess Islands, Beykoz, Kanlica, Fatih Mosque, Eyup, Bebek, Besiktas, and Ortakoy.
The end does not make your goal of travel only for fun and exploration, but learn through your travel, take wisdom from the things that you discovered in your travels, travel is morals and a school before it is exploration and a journey, so have good manners and learn from whatever happens with you. The places I showed you to visit in this table are not all places, of course, but you have to realize that you only have 7 days, you cannot discover all of Istanbul in only 7 days, but I showed you the most beautiful places according to tourists, so I hope the article is useful and you benefited from it.
Translated By: Nasser Al Turk