City Break Istanbul – Ce sa faci in Istanbul 3 zile

Istanbul is the only city in the world spread over two continents, Europe and Asia, which makes the city on the Bosphorus a special tourist destination, where you can have unique experiences. Istanbul is a city that welcomes its tourists with open arms, and everywhere you go you will feel the typical Turkish warm welcome.

We will present you our itinerary for the trip in Istanbul, a 3-days program in which we wanted to discover the main tourist attractions of the city.

About Istanbul

Istanbul is the most visited city in Turkey, and it is also the main financial, economic and cultural center of the country. It is the only city in the world whose surface is divided between two continents: Europe to the west, Asia to the east. The delimitation is made through the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea, to the north, and the Marmara Sea, to the south.


With a history of over two millennia, Istanbul had several names: Byzantium in Greek antiquity, then Constantinople, as the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and after 1923, when Turkey became a republic, the city received its current name. Also then, in 1923, Istanbul lost the status of the country's capital, in favor of the city of Ankara.

Istanbul continued to remain the economic capital of the country, with a metropolitan area whose population exceeds 15 million inhabitants.

The official currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira, where, at the time of writing this article, 1 euro = 21.27 TL (1 RON = 4.31 TL).

Review, March 2024: 1 euro = 34.5 TL.

How to get to Istanbul

Istanbul has two airports, located in different areas of the city:

  • Istanbul Airport, located in the European part, in the northwest of the city, approximately 50 km: all Turkish Airline flights land here
  • Sabiha Gökçen Airport, located on the Asian side, 50 km away, where lands Pegasus, the Turkish low cost company

To get from the airport to the city center, you can take the bus, taxi or book the transfer directly from the hotel.


How do you get around in Istanbul

Istanbul has a very well developed public transport system, starting from metros, trams or buses. Traffic through the city is quite difficult during the day, with frequent traffic jams, that's why I recommend using public transport and leaving the car in the parking lot, you will arrive much faster and more relaxed at the tourist attractions you want to visit.

Istanbul Kart

Istanbulkart is the travel card that I recommend you to use on public transport. You can buy the card from the machines in the stations, and its purchase costs 50 TL. You can load the card with the amount of money needed for travel, and when you get on the means of transport, you must validate the card.

It should be mentioned that this card is not nominal, so you can travel with several people with a single card. You can use the card on any local means of transport: metro, tram, bus, ferry, etc., and a ticket costs approximately 10 TL.

Tourist attractions in Istanbul - What to see in Istanbul

When it comes to city breaks, we always like to have a well-established schedule, on days, so that we can check as many of the desired attractions as possible. And Istanbul is a city that requires a little prior organization, because it has a lot to offer, and it deserves to be seen in its entirety.

Thus, on the first day we started with the European side, visiting the old city, the historical center Sultanahmet and the Taksim market area, the second day we focused on the Asian side, and on the third day we spent time visiting Topkapi Palace and we did a short shopping session through the Turkish bazaars.

Day 1 - Sultanahmet, Taksim

As in other trips in cities with a rich history and an interesting culture, we choose to dedicate the first part of the first day to a guided tour of the city. So we started the day with a Free Walking Tour, so we could get into the atmosphere of this city. The guide briefly told us the history of Turkey and Istanbul, took us among the most famous tourist attractions in the historic center (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Gulhane Park), gave us recommendations on what we can do, what we can visit in the city or where can we eat and introduced us to the fascinating world of Istanbul. 

After lunch we cruised on the Bosphorus for 2 hours, and then we returned to the European side and visited the commercial center of the city, the Taksim market area and Istiklal street.

Some of the places seen on the first day will be described below.

  • Walking Tour - historic center - Fatih area, Sultanahmet
    • Hagia Sophia
    • The Blue Mosque
    • Gulhane Park
  • Bosphorus cruise
    • Maiden's Tower
  • Shopping center - Beyoglu area
    • Taksim Square
    • Istiklal Street
    • Galata Tower & Galata Bridge

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is a mosque of cultural and historical importance for Muslims and Christians alike. It was initially built as an Christian church, in the 6th century, and then transformed into a mosque in 1453. 

The mosque was also included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage monuments in 1934, the year in which it was transformed into a museum. In 2020, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, so the entrance is now free. Attention ladies and gentlemen, it is mandatory to have your head covered when entering a mosque. Also, all visitors are requested to take off their shoes when entering a mosque, they are encouraged to leave their shoes at the entrance, in special lockers.

Review, March 2024: starting with January 2024, the mosque can be visited only on the basis of an entrance ticket, worth 25 euros, with the possibility to visit only the upper level.

The Blue Mosque


In front of the Hagia Sophia mosque is The Blue Mosque, officially known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It was built in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmet I, who wanted to build a rival mosque to the Christian church transformed into a mosque, Hagia Sophia. The Blue Mosque is famous because it is the only mosque in Turkey with 6 minarets (towers). 

At the moment, this mosque is in the process of restoration, so it cannot be seen in its entirety. But it is possible to visit it inside, the entrance being free.

Gulhane Park

Gulhane Park

Gulhane Park is the oldest park in Istanbul and is located near the Topkapi Palace.

Bosphorus cruise

Bosphorus cruise

After lunch, we took a cruise on the Bosphorus. We went on the cruise recommended by the guide from Walking tour, but there are many options for cruises, online, or with tickets bought directly on the spot. Most boats of this kind depart from the southern shore of the Golden Horn, from the Eminonu area. The cruise lasted around 2 hours, and cost 15 euros per person.

Maiden's Tower


Maiden's Tower is one of the symbols of Istanbul, a building that you can recognize from many representative images of the city.

The tower is on a small island located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus and is best seen from the Bosphorus cruise, so pay attention when you pass by it. The Maiden's Tower was used as a lighthouse, but has now been transformed into a cafe.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is located in the Beyoglu district and is one of the representative and lively places of the city. It is recognized as the meeting place for demonstrations of the locals.

Istiklal Street


From Taksim square we went down Istiklal Street, the most famous and popular street in Istanbul. It is a pedestrian street, full of shops, being the most energetic street of the city, with activity until late at night.

The red tram, also known as the nostalgic tram, which has become a symbol of Istanbul, also runs here.


Galata Tower

At the other end of Istiklat street is the Galata Tower. It was built in the 14th century as an observation tower, and now its role is a tourist one, it offers visitors the opportunity to climb it to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.

We had dinner at a restaurant at the base of the Galata tower, in a superb setting, where we were delighted once again with Turkish delicacies.

Galata Bridge

From the tower, we crossed the Galata bridge to get back to the Fatih area, where we had accomodation. The Galata Bridge stretches over the Golden Horn, and is a place that attracts tourists and locals alike, thanks to the many restaurants that can be found on the bridge.


Day 2 - The Asian side

The places visited the next day were the following:

  • Balat
  • Asian Istanbul
    • Camlika Tower
    • Uskudar


The next day we started by visiting the Balat district in Istanbul, the neighborhood well-known for the cheerful colors of the houses, colors that bring joy to any passerby. We explored the area a little, drank a coffee at one of the chic terraces in the neighborhood and enjoyed the well-being feeling that all those colorful houses gave us.

From the old center, from the Eminonu area, we arrived quickly and easily in Balat, by bus. There are several buses that travel in this direction (39, 336, 36, 37, etc.).

Camlica TV Tower

After Balat, we wanted to visit the Asian side of the city, to also experience the city from the other continent. First we went to the television tower in Istanbul, from where we could admire the splendid panorama of the city from the Asian side. The television tower was recently built, being located on one of the highest hills of the city, and is expected to become a tourist attraction, thanks to the view it offers.

Because it was quite difficult to reach the television tower with public transport (we had to change several buses, so the time for traveling would have been quite long), we chose to go there by taxi. Thus, we were able to enjoy crossing the Bosphorus bridge, the famous bridge that connects the two continents. Attention, if you drive your car over this bridge, you need to pay a toll.


From the TV tower, we took a taxi to the Uskudar area, which is the commercial center of the Asian city. 

Passing into Asia, we noticed the difference between the two halves of the city. If in the European part we saw a modern, touristic, effervescent city, crossing the Bosphorus we found a more traditional, quiet, maybe even a little more conservative city. It should be mentioned that the people we interacted with here did not speak English, unlike the locals met in the European Istanbul.

Bosphorus Bridge

From Uskudar we returned to the European side with the Marmaray subway, the underground subway that connects east and west, between Asia and Europe, and which runs through a tunnel directly under the Bosphorus Strait.

In the evening we had dinner again at a specific Turkish restaurant, with kebabs, Turkish delicacies and Turkish music in the background.

Day 3

The tourist attractions visited on the third day were the following:

  • Topkapi Palace
  • The Grand Bazaar
  • Pierre Loti

Topkapi Palace

We started the third day by visiting the Topkapi Palace museum. We decided to go in the early hours of the morning, to avoid the congestion during peak hours. We bought the tickets at the entrance, and since we arrived among the first, there was no need to wait in line. An entrance ticket costs 48 euros, and it can also be bought online (

Topkapi Palace is the former residence of the Ottoman sultans for about four centuries, now turned into a museum. It is one of the important tourist attractions of the city, being the most visited museum in the country. The palace is built in the form of an architectural ensemble, made up of gardens and courtyards, being surrounded by several small buildings, which used to fulfill different functions. Currently, various representative exhibits for the history of Turkey are displayed in the museum. But there are also objects of interest for other peoples, such as for us, the Romanians, considering that the original sword of Stephen the Great (Stefan cel Mare) is displayed at this museum. For those who want to look for it, it can be found in the Hall of Arms.


The Grand Bazaar

Another symbol of Turkey are bazaars, and The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is, as its name suggests, the country's largest bazaar. It is well known that Turkey, namely Istanbul, represented a commercial destination for Romanians after the 90s, when you could find in the Romanian markets a lot of clothes brought directly from the Istanbul bazaars. Even if maybe, for us Romanians, the Grand Bazaar no longer has the same importance it had in the 90s, it is still one of the important tourist attractions of the city, being one of the most visited markets in the world.

In the Grand Bazaar you can find a wide range of products, from carpets to gold, clothes, silks, spices and other handicrafts. Our recommendation is to pay attention to the prices, because you can find the same products cheaper in other places. Or, why not, to negotiate with the sellers.

Pierre Loti – the panoramic view of the city

In the afternoon we wanted to see the panorama of the city from the European side, so we climbed Pierre Loti, a hill from which you can admire the city and the Golden Horn. From the historical center, from Eminomu, you can take a bus to the bottom of the hill, and from there you can go up by cable car or on foot. But be aware that going up/down the hill on foot is through a cemetery, so this experience may not be the happiest for some people.

What to eat in Istanbul

Turkey is known for its cuisine and tasty dishes, and Istanbul has a lot of restaurants where you can eat very well, and I could say quite cheap. Many of these restaurants are located on the top floor of the buildings, and offer spectacular views of the city.

Kebabs, stuffed peppers, baklava, Turkish delights, kunefe, Turkish coffee are just some of the famous delicacies of Turkey, which must be tried when you visit these wonderful lands.

Where to stay in Istanbul

The most suitable accommodation locations for tourists are those in Fatih, in the historic center, or in the Taksim - Galata area, the shopping and nightlife area of Istanbul. My recommendation is to look for accommodation directly on, you can find nice accommodation at quite good prices. If you come by car, make sure that the hotel also has parking spaces.

We chose the following hotel in the historic center, close to the two mosques (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque):


This was our experience in this wonderful city, a 3-days trip that we would do it again anytime, and that we recommend to you as well. The sights we visited are some of the most important in Istanbul, but not the only ones. Depending on time and preferences, you can choose to visit also other locations, where we unfortunately could not get there, due to lack of time or because they were under restoration. Some of these objectives would be the Cistern basilica, Dolmabahce palace, Camlica park.

Istanbul is a wonderful city and it is the right choice for all travel enthusiasts and lovers of history, culture or gastronomy.

Palatul Dolmabahce
Dolmabahce Palace - seen from the Bosphorus