If you've ever looked up a flight to Europe, Africa, or Asia, it is likely that Turkish Airlines appeared to be a viable option for your route. With 331 destinations worldwide, Turkish Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world. Almost every Turkish Airlines flight connects to the newly-built Istanbul Airport (IGA), and if you're going to step foot into the vivid country of Turkey, you might as well get out and see some of it. Turkish Airlines offers a long layover program where you can extend your flight at no extra cost, giving you ample time to explore Istanbul, one of the world's most fascinating cities. If you choose to take advantage of this opportunity, here are 10 things you can do to fill your time there.
10 Cross Continents From Europe To Asia
One of the coolest things about the city of Istanbul is that it’s uniquely split between two continents. Take a cruise down the Bosphorous Strait and feel yourself continent-hop in a split second, from Europe to Asia, or vice versa. Another way to cross is to drive over the Bosphorous Bridge, known officially as the 15 July Martyrs Bridge. Transcontinental cities are extremely rare, and Istanbul is one of the only five in the world to have this trait.
9 Eat Everything
Turkish food is full of flavor, boasting grilled meats, vegetables, and ingredients rich in the region, such as pomegranates, figs, tomatoes, and more. Istanbul is a great city to situate yourself in to try dishes from döner to izgara balik to the infamous pide. Not only is the food itself enjoyable, but it's often served in an aesthetically pleasing way. Plates, utensils, and cups in Istanbul are often gold-plated, full of intricate designs, largely inspired by the Ottoman Empire. Street food is plentiful, affordable, and offers a large variety of quick meals on the go. For dessert, try some famous Turkish ice cream and baklava. Spend your 24 hours in this culinary haven wisely, and eat everything.
8 Visit The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is a large, running mosque in the heart of the bustling neighborhood of Sultanahmet. Believed to have been built sometime between 1609 and 1616 by architect Mehmet Ağa, instructed by Sultan Ahmed I. The mosque takes its inspiration from a combination of the Ottoman Empire and Byzantine Empire and incorporates traditional Islamic architecture. It is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. There is no fee for tourists to visit; however, it is closed at prayer time.
7 Visit Hagia Sophia
Right across the street from The Blue Mosque is yet another stunning mosque, Hagia Sophia. Interestingly enough, Hagia Sophia was originally built as a Christian church. It translates ot Holy Wisdom. It has since been turned into a mosque and a museum. When Hagia Sophia was transformed from a church to a mosque, many of Christian mosaics were plastered over it. In 1985, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dome atop Hagia Sophia is the second largest in the world, after the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. If viewing from the ground, get ready to stretch your neck upward in an attempt to take it all in. It's huge.
6 Drink Turkish Coffee
Are you a caffeine aficionado? Then you’re going to absolutely love the coffee in Turkey! Turkish coffee has a thicker texture than traditional coffee, which keeps us afloat in our everyday lives. It is incredibly strong, served in a curved cup only slightly larger than an Italian espresso cup. It is unfiltered, giving it a bitter, bold flavor. Add some extra sugar and enjoy this delicious drink that will surely keep you jolted awake for your singular day in Istanbul.
5 Drink Turkish Tea
Is Turkish coffee too intense for you? Try some Turkish tea! Often served in a clear glass with a dark pink hue, Turkish tea is not only enjoyed as an after-dinner or mid-afternoon sip but has been used as herbal medicine in both Turkey and other parts of the world. Tourists swear by the healing properties of rose hip tea, apple tea, and linden flower tea. Healing powers or not, Turkish tea will be offered at nearly every shop and restaurant you visit. Choose from an array of flavors, and take in the never-ending rows of colorful herbs and teas at one of Istanbul's many tea shops. Vacuum-packed tea also makes for a great souvenir to take home to friends and family or, of course, to keep for yourself.
4 Shop At The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest markets in the entire world. Open Monday through Sunday from 10 AM-6 PM; the Grand Bazaar makes for great daytime activity. Shop 'til you drop and get your bargaining skills ready. It's nearly a requirement to haggle at The Grand Bazaar. Don't be shy, and never take a vendor's first price. Istanbul is overall an affordable city, but it's customary to negotiate with local vendors. Purchase some Turkish Blue Evil Eye Amulets, rugs and carpets, Turkish lamps, spices, coffee, tea, and whatever else catches your eye at this grandiose market.
3 Enjoy Panoramic Views With A Rooftop Cocktail
Istanbul is a beautiful city from the ground, so imagine how stunning it is from above. Head to one of the many rooftop bars to enjoy panoramic views of the city with a cocktail or cup of tea in hand. Try Vogue Restaurant & Bar, perched on the 13th floor, offering molecular gastronomy and high-end boozy drinks. If the weather calls for it, try the rooftop at The Ritz-Carlton, offering an infinity pool while you look over this vibrant city. Spago Istanbul offers views right over the Bosphorous in one of the most elegant settings in the city. There are several rooftop bars spattered throughout, and no matter which one you choose, you're guaranteed some stellar views.
2 Explore One Of The Many Museums
Istanbul is home to more than 80 museums. If you've got 24 hours, you might as well visit at least one. Many of the city's most popular museums are in the same neighborhood as The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, making your limited time in the city easier to navigate. Head to the Istanbul Archeological Museum and check out an extensive collection of Ottoman and Byzantine pieces. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art displays illuminated Qurans and antique carpets. If contemporary art is more up your alley, head to The Great Palace Mosaics Museum, displaying several art pieces, a photo gallery, and even a restaurant. There's a museum for everyone in Istanbul.
1 Take In The City's Street Art
Istanbul is full of murals by local artists. Walk around the hip neighborhood of Balat and take in street art in all its glory. Balat is only notoriously famous for its rows of colorful houses. Istanbul street art goes as far as to make political statements, with a current plethora of Ukrainian flags lined along particular neighborhoods. Not only does the fascinating street art make for great Instagram photos, but it makes for great oo-ing and awing at its sheer admirability.