Istanbul Itinerary: The PERFECT 5 Days in Turkey

LOOKING FOR A MAGICAL ISTANBUL ITINERARY FOR 5 DAYS IN TURKEY?

We’ve got the full guide for the perfect Istanbul itinerary for a 5 day trip to Turkey. Istanbul, where East meets West, is a captivating blend of cultures, colors, and cuisines, all waiting to be explored.

In the next five days, we will embark on an enchanting journey that will take you through the narrow, cobblestone streets of the Old City, the vibrant bazaars brimming with spices and textiles, the awe-inspiring architecture of ancient mosques, and the picturesque shores of the Bosphorus Strait.

So put on your walking shoes, charge your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable Istanbul itinerary.

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Istanbul Itinerary: 5 Days Overview

Our 5-day Istanbul itinerary is designed to showcase the city’s fascinating history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking beauty. We’ll explore iconic landmarks, discover hidden gems, and savor the delightful flavors of Turkish cuisine, creating an immersive experience you won’t forget.

➡️ Day 1: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome & Basilica Cistern

Today, you’ll explore the famous Sultan Ahmet district in Istanbul. Prepare to be enchanted by the stunning Hagia Sophia, with its grand dome and intricate mosaics telling tales of its Byzantine and Ottoman past.

Don’t miss the equally impressive Blue Mosque, an architectural masterpiece famed for its six minarets and beautiful blue Iznik tiles, a journey through time that’s an integral part of your Istanbul itinerary.

➡️ Day 2: Topkapi Palace, Spice Market & Bosphorus Cruise

On the second day of our Istanbul itinerary, you’ll visit Topkapi Palace, the grand residence of Ottoman sultans. Then, explore the aromatic Spice Market, filled with exotic spices and traditional Turkish treats. Finally, a memorable sunset Bosphorus cruise, witnessing the vibrant colors of the city’s skyline.

➡️ Day 3: Balat District – Colorful Neighborhoods & Historic Churches Synagogues and Mosques

Day three of your Istanbul itinerary will lead you to the historic Balat district, a vibrant neighborhood renowned for its colorful houses and rich history. Here, you’ll get to witness a harmony of cultures with historic churches, synagogues, and mosques coexisting side by side, making it a true gem of Istanbul’s diverse heritage.

➡️ Day 4: Grand Bazaar & Kadikoy Food Tour

Get ready to haggle and explore the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise with over 4,000 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry. Then, bring your appetite for a culinary adventure in Kadikoy, where you can sample mouth-watering Turkish street food and authentic local cuisine.

➡️ Day 5: Dolmabahce Palace & Yildiz Palace, Ortakoy District

On the final day of your 5 day Istanbul itinerary, visit the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace. This opulent symbol of the fading Ottoman Empire is famous for its lavish interior and stunning views of the Bosphorus.

After that, explore the historic Yildiz Palace before concluding your journey in the charming Ortaköy district. Enjoy its picturesque waterfront, lively café culture, and the impressive Ortaköy Mosque.

Next, we’ll review the detailed Istanbul itinerary for five days of exploring Turkey.

interior of the historic haghis sophia church and mosque

✅ Istanbul Itinerary Day One: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome & Basilica Cistern

Your Istanbul adventure starts on a high note, taking you right into the heart of the city’s history, to the Sultanahmet District.

Morning

Begin your day at the Seven Hills Restaurant for Turkish Breakfast overlooking the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

Next, visit the Hagia Sophia, an astonishing testament to Byzantine architecture and one of the world’s most significant heritage sites. You’ll marvel at the glittering mosaics and the impressive dome that has been an iconic part of Istanbul’s skyline for centuries.

Next, you’ll visit the Blue Mosque, an epitome of the Ottoman Empire’s architectural prowess. Adorned with over 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, its mesmerizing interior bathed in ethereal blue light will leave you spellbound.

the underground basilica cistern with yellow lighting shining on the columns

Afternoon

After a tasty local lunch at Garden Restaurant, you’ll immerse yourself in the ancient history of the Hippodrome, where chariot races and social gatherings once took place.

Finally, you’ll finish your day by exploring the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul’s largest surviving Byzantine cistern, an underground marvel that will transport you back in time.

Evening

We suggest Las Tapas Restaurant to try the best of traditional Turkish food and desserts for dinner. As the day draws to a close, take a moment to reflect on your fantastic journey through Istanbul’s rich history before retiring to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

✅ Istanbul Itinerary Day Two: Topkapi Palace, Spice Market & Bosphorus Cruise

Today, we will capture the sights and tastes of the Ottomans as you explore Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market. Then, you’ll take a sunset cruise along the luxurious shores of the Bosphorus Strait.

Morning

Start your second day in Istanbul bright and early. Take a short walk to your first destination, the magnificent Topkapi Palace and harem. This iconic landmark was the residence of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years.

Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of artifacts and royal relics that offer a glimpse into the opulent past of the empire. Explore the lavishly decorated rooms and hidden chambers of the Imperial Harem to learn about the luxurious lives of the sultans and their families.

Afternoon

Stop for lunch at Pandeli Restaurant, a Michelin-star restaurant with views of the Spice Market & the Bosphorus. After lunch, you’ll head off to the vibrant Spice Market, the Egyptian Bazaar.

A feast for the senses, the Spice Market is a riot of colors, smells, and sounds. From spices and herbs to dried fruits, nuts, and Turkish delight, the market offers an array of delectable treats. Remember to sample some of the local delicacies and pick up souvenirs!

Evening

As the day winds down, a sunset dinner and boat tour of the stunning Bosphorus Strait is on the agenda. Enjoy the cool breeze and the mesmerizing views as you glide past palaces, fortresses, and ornate Ottoman villas.

To cap off an eventful day, sip on a cup of the finest Turkish coffee at a cozy café, taking a moment to soak in the beauty and charm of Istanbul.

istanbul turkey skyline with buildings and the galata tower in the background

✅ Istanbul Itinerary Day Three: Taksim Square, Istiklal Street & Galata Tower

Welcome to day three of your Istanbul itinerary! Today, you’ll explore the vibrant Beyoglu & Galata districts. Spend the morning and afternoon walking the streets of Istanbul, exploring shops, cafes, ancient architecture, and passageways.

Morning

Taksim Square is always energetic, offering insight into Istanbul’s contemporary side. From the historic Ataturk Cultural Center to the Monument of the Republic, there’s plenty to see in this busy square.

Continue walking down Istiklal Street, the heart of modern Istanbul. This bustling pedestrian street is lined with countless shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The famous red, nostalgic tram runs the length of Istiklal Caddesi.

As you stroll along, savor the delicious street food, and remember to peek into some of the stunning passages that branch off from the main street.

Afternoon

Try one of Istanbul’s favorite street foods – the durum at Durumzade on your way from Taksim to the culturally rich neighborhood of Galata. Start your visit with the iconic Galata Tower. This medieval stone tower offers a panoramic view of Istanbul and is perfect for taking photos.

As you walk, explore the charming streets filled with chic boutiques, music stores, and cozy cafés. Don’t miss the local art centers and museums in the area.

Evening

As the evening approaches, you can find a cozy spot at one of the rooftop bars or restaurants in Galata to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city at sunset. Galata offers a wide range of culinary delights, so whether you prefer a fancy dinner or simple street food, you will find something delicious to end your day on a high note.

Afterward, you can take a stroll back to your hotel through the softly lit streets and experience the enchantment of Istanbul at night.

✅ Istanbul Itinerary Day Four: Grand Bazaar & Kadikoy Food Tour

Welcome to day Four of your enchanting Istanbul itinerary! Today’s journey is all about the captivating sights, sounds, and tastes of Istanbul. It will take you from the mysterious and fascinating Grand Bazaar labyrinth to Kadikoy’s lively atmosphere.

Gear up to experience an unforgettable day of exploration, shopping, and delicious food!

Morning

Your Day Four in Istanbul begins with a visit to the mysterious Grand Bazaar. Lose yourself in its intriguing maze of streets and passages, boasting over 4,000 shops and eighteen entrances. This vibrant marketplace, brimming with various goods, is the perfect place for you to haggle your way to a souvenir or two.

fish sandwiches on white plates from the Istanbul eminonu district famous fish restaurants

Afternoon

In the afternoon take the Taste of Two Continents Food Tour to explore the best of Europe and Asian Turkish cuisine in Istanbul. Join a walking tour in the bustling Balikpazari, where you can indulge in a wide array of local street foods and immerse yourself in the lively culture.

Evening

Wrap up the day by unwinding at a local café, reminiscing the day’s adventures over a cup of traditional Turkish tea before returning to your hotel. This concludes your fourth day exploring Istanbul, filled with delightful culinary experiences.

Dolmabahce palace on the shore of the Bosphorus strait with a seagull flying through the air

✅ Istanbul Itinerary Day Five: Dolmabahce Palace & Yildiz Palace, Ortakoy District

Welcome to the final day of your 5-day Istanbul itinerary. Today, you’ll enter the grandeur of Istanbul’s royal history with visits to the splendid Dolmabahçe and Yıldız Palaces.

Then, we’ll head to the charming Ortaköy District, where a picturesque mosque, vibrant street food scene, and delightful people-watching opportunities await.

Morning

Your last day in Istanbul starts at Dolmabahçe Palace, a 19th-century gem on the Bosphorus. Built during the final stages of the Ottoman Empire, this palace showcases their power and extravagance. Explore its fascinating interiors and be captivated by its stunning location.

After lunch, head to Yıldız Palace. Once the hunting grounds of Sultans, it now stands in the heart of the city’s upscale commercial district. Despite its central location, the palace offers peace, tranquility, and breathtaking views of the Bosphorus from its hillside setting.

Afternoon

Enjoy lunch at Konyali Ferdi Usta restaurant before taking a walking tour of Ortakoy in the afternoon. Visit Ortaköy Mosque, one of Istanbul’s most beautiful mosques by the seaside. Ortaköy is also renowned for its street food and bustling atmosphere, perfect for people-watching.

Evening

This is where your 5-day journey ends, immersing in local vibes, mouth-watering delicacies, and reflecting on the unforgettable experiences of Istanbul. We suggest dinner at Hanzade Terrace Restaurant with views overlooking the Marmara in the later afternoon or evening to close out a fantastic trip in Istanbul.

Istanbul skyline with the blue mosque in the background. Ferry boats sail and transport passengers on the Bosphorus Strait.

Where To Stay In Istanbul

Choosing the right hotel can significantly amplify your Istanbul experience. The city is home to many remarkable hotels, each bursting with its unique charm, located in key areas that provide easy access to major attractions.

From luxurious suites with breathtaking Bosphorus views to quaint boutique hotels in historic districts, Istanbul offers a broad spectrum of accommodations to fit all budgets.

📍Budget Option: Walnut Shell Hotel Sultanahmet

Nestled in the heart of Istanbul’s historic district, the Walnut Shell Hotel Sultanahmet is an excellent budget-friendly choice for travelers.

Its proximity to major attractions like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar, along with its 24-hour front desk service, ensures a comfortable and convenient stay for exploring the city.

📍Mid-Range Option: Hotel Sultanhan

Located in the heart of Istanbul’s historic district, Hotel Sultanhan is a stone’s throw away from historic attractions like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.

This hotel charms with its skyline views, especially from the Sultanhan Terrace Restaurant, where you can start your day with a breakfast overlooking the iconic cityscape of Istanbul.

📍Luxury Option: Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul

Perched on the edge of the Bosphorus, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is more than just a lavish hotel—a symbol of opulence and grandeur with a rich Ottoman heritage.

Guests are treated to an exquisite blend of a resort atmosphere in the city, offering unrivaled luxury, spectacular palace suites, and an unforgettable culinary journey.

Cherry blossoms on a tree in Spring in Istanbul with the Blue mosque in the background

Getting Around Istanbul

Istanbul boasts an extensive and efficient public transportation system, making it easy for visitors to navigate the city. The Istanbul Metro system comprises six lines that span most of Istanbul’s major attractions, ensuring you can easily reach your destinations. The Metro operates from 6 a.m. to midnight, with an increased frequency during peak hours. For shorter distances, consider taking a tram.

Istanbul’s tram system is a faster alternative to buses, albeit with a more limited network. Key tram lines that interest tourists include the T1 line, which connects Sultanahmet and Beyoğlu, and the T4 line, which serves the northern and western suburbs.

If you’re looking for a more scenic route, Istanbul’s ferries are an excellent choice. They provide a unique city perspective while transporting you across the Bosphorus or to the Princes’ Islands.

You can also use minibusses (dolmuş), shared taxis operating on specific routes, typically running until late at night, and they’re an excellent way to get around after the Metro has closed for the night.

Remember to have an Istanbulkart, a reloadable smart card used to pay for public transport in Istanbul, which can be purchased and topped up at kiosks throughout the city.

grand entrance to the Blue Mosque courtyard in Istanbul, turkey

Visiting Istanbul: FAQs

This section will address frequently asked questions (FAQs) about visiting Istanbul. Ranging from travel tips, cultural nuances, and popular attractions to local cuisine, these questions provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what to expect when visiting this enchanting city.

Is 5 days enough to see Istanbul?

Yes! A 5-day itinerary is a great way to explore Istanbul’s rich history, vibrant culture, and mouth-watering cuisine. 5 days allows you to visit iconic landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar.

You can also wander off the beaten path through the charming streets of the Balat & Ortakoy Districts, visit the royal palaces, and take a relaxing Bosphorus cruise.

Do you tip in Istanbul?

Tipping is not a standard practice in Istanbul, particularly outside of tourist areas. However, if you’ve received good service and wish to express your appreciation, a tip of around 10% is usually considered generous.

Make sure to check your bills, as some establishments add a service charge, in which case an additional tip is unnecessary.

Can you drink tap water in Istanbul?

While locals may drink tap water in Istanbul, it’s recommended that tourists stick to bottled water. The tap water is treated and safe for consumption.

Still, the difference in water purification processes compared to what your system might be used to can sometimes cause discomfort.

Which side of Istanbul is better for tourists?

Both sides of Istanbul offer unique experiences, making it hard to decide which is better for tourists. The European side, with its historic landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Grand Bazaar, is generally favored by first-time visitors keen on immersing themselves in the city’s rich history and culture.

On the other hand, the Asian side, particularly Kadikoy, provides an off-the-beaten-path experience with its local markets, vibrant nightlife, delicious street food, and potentially cheaper prices. It’s ideal for travelers who wish to experience Istanbul like a local.

Therefore, your itinerary for 5 days in Istanbul could be tailored to include both sides, providing a balanced perspective of what the city has to offer.

Conclusion: Istanbul 5 Day Itinerary

Istanbul, where east meets west, offers an unforgettable experience filled with rich history, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. An Istanbul 5-day itinerary gives you ample time to explore the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar, while also allowing you to wander off the beaten path to discover local markets and neighborhoods.

Whether you stay in a luxurious suite with a Bosphorus view or a budget-friendly hotel in the historic district, you will surely have an unforgettable journey in this magical city.

Some links on this page are affiliate links—that means that at no extra cost to you, we earn a small commission if you book through these links, and that helps keep this blog running.