While planning my 4 days in Istanbul, I was faced with comments like “not enough days”, “what will you do only for 4 days” etc.
To that I say, HA! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Earlier in November of 2017, I took a mother-daughter trip to Istanbul. This was the first time I had booked and planned a whole trip all by myself without my family’s help (adult life 😢). It was exhilarating and worth it. If you’d like the itinerary, scroll below to get a pdf! You’re Welcome! 🙂
I travelled in November, so weather was between 10 – 14 degrees celsius, a great escape from the 30 degree weather in the UAE. However a regular hoodie worked just fine for me while my bud carried a winter coat to keep herself warm, so pack wisely for your chilly needs.
Visa: If you’re already holding valid visa or a residence permit from one of the Schengen Countries, USA, UK or Ireland, GOOD NEWS! you can simply apply online, submit your documents and VOILA! pay for your visa and download it. The e-visa roughly costs AED 180 per visa.
If you’re still confused you can click here, submit your nationality details and you’ll get a list of prerequisites for the e-visa.
If you aren’t eligible for the e-visa then you will have to apply through VFS who is appointed partner by the embassy of Turkey. This process is of course time-consuming and costlier.
I booked my trip using Holiday Factory, again the first time using a deal package. I am super impressed with how well-organised everything was. We got a great package for 4 nights at a 5-star hotel, low-cost flight, airport transfer (in Istanbul) and travel insurance for AED 1700
We flew to Istanbul with fly Dubai and stayed at the Wyndham Istanbul Old City (Courtesy Holiday Factory). The hotel was centrally located and was between 5 to 13 mins tram ride away from all the tourist spots making life so much easier!
On day one we explored the area around our hotel and headed down to Eminonou – A port area where all the ferries arrived and departed from. The area around the port is beautiful with restaurants, food carts, fishermen and fantastic views everywhere.
From Eminonou, only a 5 minute walk was the Spice Bazaar. At this point I’d like to point out that the hospitality at Istanbul is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Every shopkeeper will call you to have tea, turkish delight and a fun conversation. Hecklers – almost none. The spice Bazaar is gushing and buzzing with not only spices and teas but also coffee, jewellery, rugs, shawls and everything else you wouldn’t imagine a spice bazaar to have for sale.
On day two we hopped on a ferry from Eminonou and sailed to the Heybeliada, one of the 9 princess islands in Istanbul. The Ferries are comfortable and are equipped with a restroom and a snack bar. To prepare for your trip you can check your timings in advance but I would also recommend re-checking them when you arrive at Istanbul. In the 90 minute ferry ride, our eyes were delighted with European style scenic views on all four corners.
Heybeliada is just like any other princess island that has a no-car policy. The entire town functions on bikes and horse carts. There’s not much to do on the island except take a horse cart tour around the island. But if you’re up for a hike you can walk all the way up and enjoy the scenic views. You can check out the ferry timings here.
On day three we explored the arena of culture – Sultanahmet. With a few minutes walk away from the tram station stands the home of grace, the Blue Mosque. Apart from intricate architecture, you will be able to witness peace inside the mosque. While visiting the mosque be sure to take note of the prayer timings – the mosque closes 30 minutes before the prayer time.
A 5 minute walk from the Blue Mosque is the Topkapi Palace. Tickets to the palace costs 40 TL and is worth every penny. The palace was built-in 1478 and was turned into a museum in 1924. The palace has various courts you can visit, each one is used for a different purpose. Its rich with Ottoman as well as Islamic history. In the palace lies remains of the Prophets and their acquaintances which is a sight for the sore eyes. Outside of the palace will be many freelance tour guides that will try to engage you into hiring them but our suggestion would be to just buy the audio guide for 20TL. One of the highlights of the palace is the “Iftar Pavillion” where the Sultans would typically break their fast in the month of Ramadan. It has a breathtaking view of the city.
We also went aboard the amazing Bosphorus cruise. We took a short cruise for which tickets go for 20-25 TL per person and you can buy your ticket from either Eminonou or Sultanahmet. We just took our tour from Sultanahmet right by Topkapi Palace. You wont find any trouble buying one as there are sales people walking all around the city offering cruises. The cruise takes you around to both the European and the Asian side of Istanbul for about 2 hours. Although you can’t get off the ferry, you will be able to witness some beautiful sights including the Galata Bridge.
On day 4 We did nothing but shopped till we dropped (Rather till it was time for us to leave for our flight) and also ate. We went back to Spice Bazaar and moved on Taksimand the much talked about Grand Bazaar. Mark your entry and your exit points at this Bazaar. I MEAN IT! There are over 4000 shops spread across 61 streets getting lost is a piece of cake. And talking about cake, my biggest advise will be not to go Istanbul while on a diet. There are tons of places to eat, dessert places in particular. Give your tummy the yummy it deserves, people! Theres Turkish Delight & Baklava everywhere and apart from that there’s the kababs, the ice cream and so much more.
Although our four-day trip to the Istanbul only covers the bare minimum, it’s great for a long weekend or a quick getaway from the hassles of life and explore culture. Last couple of tips, keep your belongings safe and don’t take any tours from the hotel concierge as they’re 10x more expensive.
Comment below if you found this post useful or if you actually used this to take a trip to Istanbul.
Happy Journey! 🙂