Istanbul is a major city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait.
Its Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
11:30am1:30pm : Green Tomb
1:30pm-4:00pm : Ulu Cami
View one of the most extensive collections of Islamic calligraphy in the world at Ulu Cami, the largest mosque in the area and a landmark of early Ottoman architecture. Built in the Seljuk style by renowned architect Ali Neccar between 1396 and 1399, the large rectangular building has two minarets and 20 domes in four rows of five, supported by 12 columns. Visit the fountain inside the mosque, where worshippers perform a ritual cleansing of the hands before prayer. The dome over the fountain features a skylight that illuminates the fountain and its surroundings. Admire the 192 monumental inscriptions on the walls, columns, and plates, written by famous Ottoman calligraphers. Be sure to remain considerate to those praying, given that services regularly occur, even though the mosque is open to the public. Note also that women should cover their heads with a scarf when entering any mosque.
10:00am-12:00pm : Miniaturk
Walk between the trimmed lawns of Miniaturk dotted with more than 100 miniature models of Turkey's great buildings, such as Hagia Sophia, the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and the Atatürk international airport. As one of the world's largest miniature parks, this open-air site features architectural structures from Istanbul, Anatolia, and even from the Ottoman territories that are no longer part of Turkey. See the ancient city of Ephesus, the bridge over the Bosporus, the Suleymaniye mosque, fairy chimneys, and Mount Nemrut, all scaled down to 1/25 of their original size. A miniature train passes through the paths. Amenities include a cafe, a shop, and a cinema showing a 3-D film about Istanbul.
12:30pm2:00pm : Rahmi M. Koc Museum
Board a 1944 U.S. naval submarine or enter the cabin of a propeller-driven aircraft at Rahmi M. Koc Museum, dedicated to Turkey's industrial past and the history of transport and communications. The museum displays an eclectic collection belonging to its founder Rahmi M. Koç, member of the wealthiest Turkish dynasty. Exhibits include topics like racing, sports, classic automobiles, an amphibious car, lifeboats and ferryboats, aircraft, and an olive oil factory, as well as items like a Thomas Edison telegraph patent model. Don't miss the selection of 19th- and early 20th-century vehicles featuring a sultan's carriage, a steam engine locomotive, and an Istanbul tram.
12:30pm4:00pm : Halic
Serving as a commercial center for the past two millennia, Halic occupies an estuary that separates the old city in the south from the more European north. Owing to its strategic location, the site witnessed a number of memorable historic occurrences and its sparkling beauty has been immortalized in paintings and poems throughout the centuries. Observe the ships and busy locals at this lively spot and walk along the bridge that connects the two sides. Take a break at one of the quaint cafes in the area.
5:00am-5:30pm : Rustem Pasha Mosque
Rustem Pasha Mosque showcases exquisite works of Ottoman art and architecture. Known foremost for the stunning Iznik tiles that create floral and geometric patterns across the porch, walls, and columns throughout the building, the mosque has been the source of the popularity of Iznik pottery. The chandeliers help to light up the spectacular art, carvings, and carpets that furnish this spiritual place. As a tourist, you may not visit the mosque during prayer time (during or around sunset and sunrise), and it is considered impolite to visit during group prayers or sermons. You must wear modest clothing and remove shoes before you enter. Ask your accommodation about how to get to the mosque and for prayer schedules.
10:00am-12:30am : Istanbul Archaeological Museum
See the vast and impressive collection of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine works at Istanbul Archaeological Museum, one of the world's largest museums, featuring over one million pieces. This also happens to be the oldest in Turkey, as it opened to the public in 1891. The artifacts are housed in three different buildings that make up the complex: the main building, or Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and Museum of Islamic Art. Consider combining your visit with other nearby sites, like the Topkapi Palace.
12:30pm-2:30pm : Gulhane Park, Istanbul
Once an outer garden of TopkapÄ± Palace, Gulhane Park at one time was opened only to the sultan and his harem. Today you, too, can picnic under the shade of trees that date back to the 1800s. Visit a hillside teahouse at the far end of a verdant avenue for views of the bay. On the western edge of the park, the former stable houses the Museum of the History of Science and Technology. Look for the Goths Column, dating from Roman times, which honors a Roman victory over the Goths. Amenities include a big, renovated pool and many kiosks selling snacks, drinks, and ice cream.
3:00pm-3:30pm : Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam
Indulge in a deluxe traditional bathing experience at Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, which was built for the wife of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. The chief Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan designed the building in the mid-16th century in place of the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus, just across from Hagia Sophia. The hammam offers basic and upscale bath services including a scrub and soap massage, aromatherapy massages, mud masks, and a bubble wash, all in meditative surroundings. The entrance vestibules surrounded by wooden cubicles lead into separate baths for women and men. Taste some of the Turkish cuisine at a restaurant on the outdoor terrace. Come prepared with a change of clothes
4:00pm-6:00pm : Gali Ali Bag
A genuine Turkish experience in and of itself, Arasta Bazaar sits right in the city's historical center. Adjacent to the Blue Mosque, the bazaar dates back to the 17th century, when the revenues paid by shop owners were used to finance the upkeep of the mosque. Today it's one of the city's main tourist attractions, drawing visitors from all over the world who seek authentic Turkish goods and atmosphere. Shop for handmade kilims, jewelry, artwork, spices, and other local products. Stop by a traditional coffeehouse and immerse yourself in traditional tastes and aromas. While at the bazaar, you can also visit the Mosaic Museum, which displays mosaics from the Byzantine Great Palace, which once stood here.
10:00-10:30 : Ahi Ahmet Celebi Cami
11:00am1:00pm : Eminonu Pier
Visit Eminonu Pier to experience traditional fish sandwiches prepared on the restaurant boats docked here--they're known nationwide. Sit on a bench as you eat, and take in the views of the ferries coming and going and the nearby mosque. The pier is walking distance from many attractions in the old city, but is also accessible by tram or taxi. Use it as a starting point for exploring the Galata Bridge or for touring the areas of the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar.
1:30pm-3:30pm : Eminonu Square
4:00pm-6:00pm : Beyoglu
At Beyoglu Europe and Asia are closer than anywhere else in the city. Located on the Golden Horn bay, on the European side of the city, the neighborhood has a long history of multiculturalism, as is clearly visible in its various architectural styles. From the Genoese and Venetian merchants of the Middle Ages to the European diplomats and artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to local Jews and Greeks, many different communities have left their mark on the area. Catch a ride on a historical tram or browse a selection of shops. While here, you can also visit the city's largest synagogue and Catholic cathedral, and see numerous museums, art galleries, and theaters. Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and cafes range from traditionally Turkish to distinctly European here.
10:00am-11:30am : Chora Museum
See one of the best examples of Byzantine design in the region with a trip to Chora Museum, whose interior is entirely covered in fine mosaics and frescoes. Originally built by Constantine the Great, this church has been reconstructed five times. Most significantly, Ottoman rulers converted the structure into a mosque in the 16th century. A bit off the beaten path, you have to travel to Istanbul's Western ErdinekapÄ± neighborhood to find this building, which opened as a secular museum in 1948. However, the masterful and aesthetically stunning interior makes this trip worthwhile.
12:00pm-12:30pm : Eyüp Sultan Mosque
Eyüp Sultan Mosque represents an extremely sacred site for Muslims worldwide, ranking fourth in importance. The mosque stands next to the supposed grave of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a friend of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Al-Ansari was killed while carrying the banner of Islam during the Arab assault on Istanbul from 674 to 678 CE. The mosque was built in 1458 and served as the location for coronation ceremonies for new sultans. Marvel at the painted domes and the intricate prayer niche inside. Outside, pay your respects at the mausoleum of Al-Ansari. Dress appropriately when visiting, as the mosque attracts crowds of Muslims making the pilgrimage to visit the holy site.
1:00pm-3:00am : Bosphorus Bridge
Board a ferry or a cruise ship and sail under Bosphorus Bridge for the best views of the bridge, the first to connect the continents of Europe and Asia. This suspension bridge with steel cables was completed in 1973. The only way to access the bridge today is by car.
3:30pm-6:00pm : Ortakoy
An artsy neighborhood under the first Bosporus bridge, Ortakoy offers trendy boutiques, seaside nightclubs, cafes, restaurants, and many historical monuments. This small fishing village literally "in the middle" of the European Bosporus became a cosmopolitan area during the reign of the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The communities of Turks, Greeks, Armenians, and Jews all left their mark on the neighborhood, which features historical baths, palaces, mansions, mosques, a church, and a synagogue. Stop for refreshment at one of the tea terraces overlooking the strait. Do not miss the Ortaköy Mosque, a late example of Istanbul's imperial mosques, and the ÇÄ±raÄŸan Palace, which houses one of the most luxurious hotels in the city.
10:00am-12:00pm : Emirgan Park
Walk through Emirgan Park, one of the largest public parks in the city, or stop for a traditional Ottoman meal. Nestled in an urban setting, this oasis stretches over hills and among sparkling lakes. Its collection of plants includes more than 120 species, such as Himalayan cedar, Norway spruce, and Colorado white fir. Its lengthy jogging tracks and picnic tables make it a popular destination among the locals and it hosts annual international tulip festivals. Here you'll also see a traditional Ottoman house, a 19th-century wooden mansion, and a neoclassical-style restaurant.
12:30pm-1:00pm : Istiklal Caddesi
One of the most famous streets in the city, Istiklal Caddesi crosses several distinct districts and encompasses many sights of historical significance. Running from the medieval Genoese neighborhood surrounding Galata Tower to Taksim Square, the cosmopolitan street passes historical buildings such as the world's second-oldest subway station, Turkey's second-oldest secondary school, the flower passage, and the fish market. Many religious buildings, including mosques, synagogues, Roman Catholic churches, and a Greek Orthodox church also line the street. Stroll down the street to take in the Ottoman architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries.
1:30pm-3:00pm : Istanbul Modern
Take some time to discover local and foreign painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, photographers, and creative videographers at Istanbul Modern. As Turkey's first modern art museum, its permanent collection strongly features contemporary art by Turkish painters. Art by non-Turkish painters and videographers is also displayed but is not as prominent. The museum has several temporary exhibits and hosts international art events throughout the year. Check the website for updated information on current exhibits and events.
3:30pm-6:00pm : Fatih Mosque and Complex
Fatih Mosque and Complex serves as a solid example of Turkish-Islamic architecture that led to the development of the classic Turkish style. Dating back to 1463, the mosque went through a course of destructions and repairs caused by earthquakes. It was finally rebuilt in 1771, featuring both ancient and Baroque elements. Tour the complex that once housed a school, library, and a hospital and visit the 26 m (85 ft) tall mosque with a 26 m (85 ft) diameter dome. Look for the cemetery in the yard, which preserves the tomb of Sultan Mehmet II and his wife. Don't miss seeing the caravanserai at the site--a recreated traditional inn for dervishes.
10:00am-11:00am : KIz Kulesi
KIz Kulesi represents a place shrouded in history and legend. The most popular story says that the tower at the southern entrance of the Bosporus was built by an emperor as a sanctuary for his daughter, whose death was prophesized by an oracle. In fact, the original structure dates back to the 12th century, when it was built to house one side of the famous chain system used by the Byzantines to close off the entrance to the strait. Today it houses a cafe and restaurant, and is a well-known landmark that has appeared on everything from the Turkish banknotes to James Bond movies. Small boats that take you to the tower regularly depart from the city's Asian coast.
11:30am-12:00pm : Milion Stone
12:30pm-1:00pm : Sultanahmet Square
1:30pm-3:00pm : Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (Turk ve Islam Eserleri Muzesi)
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum (Turk ve Islam Eserleri Muzesi) showcases Islamic art including textiles, tiles, and ethnographic dioramas, spanning from the 8th to the 20th centuries. Its striking stone building dates back to 1524; over the course of its history it has served as a house, prison, and clothing factory. Here you'll see one of the greatest collections of carpets in the world. Tour the exhibits to find vivid frescoes and mosaics, carved and inlaid wood pieces, and colorful porcelain objects. Learn how Turks have lived from numerous ethnological dioramas, from the time of nomads to the present day. The museum also has an unmatched overlook of the Blue Mosque and its surroundings.
3:30pm-5:30pm : Pierre Loti Tepesi
Take a break from busy sightseeing with a visit to Pierre Loti Tepesi, the place where the locals go to relax and soak in a magnificent view of the city. The hill overlooking the Golden Horn is named after a French novelist and naval officer, the author of the semi-autobiographical novel "Aziyade" in which he described the city. On the hilltop, in addition to the scenic views and peaceful surroundings for walking, you can also find a good selection of coffeehouses and restaurants, many of which offer the authentic atmosphere of old Istanbul. If you're not driving, use the cable car to reach the viewpoint; it operates from the foot of the hill.
3:00pm-5:00pm : Al Mansur Mall
One of the largest in Baghdad, Al Mansur Mall offers a large number of stores, food courts, and places to relax and have fun. The mall is divided into several sections--such as shoes, clothes, electronics, and food--with every section containing a range of stores offering various brands, both international and local. Don’t miss the food courts, where you can take a break and enjoy a delicious snack. The mall also features a 5D cinema, as well as a large play area for children.
6:30pm-8:30pm : Erbil