How to Spend 4 Days in Istanbul

Planning a trip to Turkey? You must plan to spend at least 4 days in Istanbul to experience the charm of the beautiful city.

Istanbul is a vibrant city located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. It is the largest city in Turkey and serves as the country’s cultural and historical hub. Istanbul is a smooth blend of rich heritage with a bustling modern atmosphere, making it one of the most captivating cities in the world.

Our goal at Wander Smartly is to make your travels smarter and help you have the best experience on your trips. From my own experience of visiting Turkey and spending four magical days in Istanbul, I spill the beans on how to enjoy the best of this city in 4 days.

Things to Do in 4 Days in Istanbul

Day 1: Explore the Iconic Monuments  – Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque & Grand Bazaar

Originally known as Constantinople, Istanbul boasts a captivating and rich history, having been inhabited for thousands of years and governed by various empires and civilizations. Eventually, it fell under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, who renamed the city Istanbul. Today, Istanbul stands as one of the world’s largest and most vibrant cities, having undergone significant transformations over the centuries.

To make the most of your first day in Istanbul, get to know the city by exploring the iconic historical sites of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. It is advisable to take a guided tour to fully appreciate the fascinating stories behind these architectural marvels. Among the two mosques, the Hagia Sophia is particularly intriguing due to its unique blend of Christian and Islamic influences coexisting harmoniously.

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, Istanbul

No visit to Istanbul would be complete without experiencing the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 15th century and served as a hub for Mediterranean trade. The bazaar’s architecture has remained remarkably unchanged over the years, withstanding numerous natural disasters. Here, you can find a wide array of traditional Turkish items, including ceramics, jewelry, and delicious food.

When planning your visit, keep in mind that the Blue Mosque is closed on Friday mornings, and the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly to ensure you don’t miss out on these attractions.

Wander Smartly Tip: See our detailed 10 Day Turkey Itinerary to know about all the must-see places and experiences in Turkey.

Day 2: Visit the Topkapi Palace and Take a Day Cruise Over the Bosphorus

Start your second day in Istanbul with a guided tour of the Topkapi Palace Museum, a remarkable historical site that once served as the administrative center and residence of the Ottoman Sultan during the 15th Century. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is highly regarded as one of the top attractions in Istanbul. Prepare to be captivated by the exquisite artwork, treasury, and beautiful courtyards that depict the grandeur of the country’s history. Book a guided tour to the palace museum to immerse yourself in its grand history.

Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul
Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul

Next, embark on a memorable day cruise along the Bosphorus, making a stopover on the Asian Side of the city. As you sail, you’ll pass under the impressive suspended Bosphorus bridges that link Europe and Asia, providing a unique perspective of the city. Marvel at the imposing walls of the medieval Rumeli Fortress and enjoy the sight of historic landmarks such as the Galata Tower and Dolmabahçe Palace along the way. Take some time to explore Kanlica, a district on the Asian side that has retained its timeless charm, offering a glimpse into the past.

The Bosphorus Sea
The Bosphorus Sea

Day 3: Visit Taksim Square, Istiklal Street & Galata Tower, & Watch the Whirling Dervishes Show

Istiklal Street, Taksim Square, and Galata Tower are three iconic and vibrant landmarks located in the heart of Istanbul. Istiklal Street is a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare and one of the most famous streets in the city. Stretching approximately 1.4 kilometers (0.9 miles) from Taksim Square to Galata Tower, Istiklal Street is lined with historic buildings, shops, cafes, and vibrant street performers. It is a lively hub of activity and offers a fantastic atmosphere for strolling, shopping, and enjoying the diverse range of culinary delights Istanbul has to offer.

Istiklal Street, Istanbul
Istiklal Street, Istanbul

Taksim Square is a central square located at the northern end of Istiklal Street. It is considered a symbolic gathering point and a significant landmark in Istanbul. Taksim Square has historically been a site for political demonstrations, cultural events, and public celebrations. The square also serves as a major transportation hub with access to various forms of public transportation, including the Istanbul Metro and numerous bus lines.

Galata Tower is an ancient medieval stone tower situated near the southern end of Istiklal Street. It is one of Istanbul’s most recognizable landmarks and offers panoramic views of the city. Built in the 14th century by the Genoese, the tower has served various purposes throughout its history, including as a watchtower and a prison. Today, it stands as a popular tourist attraction, allowing you to ascend to the top and enjoy breathtaking views of Istanbul’s skyline, including the Golden Horn, Bosphorus Strait, and the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

In the evening, head out to watch the Whirling Dervishes show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center. It is a meditation practice performed by Sufi groups using dance and music as their offering to God. This is a one-hour show and a must-do experience in Istanbul. Ensure you book tickets in advance as they’re likely to sell out and not be available at the last minute.

Whirling Dervishes
Whirling Dervishes

Day 4: Experience the Hammam, Visit the Spice Bazaar and Take a Night Cruise Over the Bosphorus

To conclude your final day in Istanbul, consider unwinding and rejuvenating by indulging in the traditional Turkish Hammam experience, which involves body scrubbing, washing, and massage. For an exceptional Hammam experience, visit the Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hammam, a historic establishment dating back to the 16th century. Conveniently situated between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Museum, this Hammam offers an authentic and memorable experience.

After the Hammam, take a short detour to the Spice Bazaar, a vibrant and lively attraction that dates back to the 17th century. Known for its vibrant colors and bustling atmosphere, the Spice Bazaar is a must-visit destination in Istanbul. It remains open until 7 pm every day, allowing you to explore its enchanting stalls and discover a wide variety of aromatic spices, teas, and other delightful Turkish delights.

Indulge in a captivating dinner cruise in the evening, where you can immerse yourself in the mesmerizing beauty of Istanbul as you sail along the Bosphorus, this time at night. This unforgettable experience takes place aboard a magnificent mega yacht, offering a luxurious setting for your journey. While onboard, you’ll be treated to an engaging show featuring traditional Turkish folk dancing, adding a touch of cultural flair to the evening.

As you delight in the entertainment, feast on a delectable array of authentic Turkish cuisine, savoring the flavors and aromas of the local culinary traditions. And don’t forget to complete your dining experience with a sip of the renowned Turkish coffee, a delightful and traditional beverage that embodies the country’s rich coffee culture.

Best Time to Travel

The beauty of Istanbul can be experienced at any time of the year. You can avoid June to October as crowds are at its peak during this season.

How to Reach

Istanbul Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, very well connected to all major cities across the world.

Where to Stay

For the best experience in Istanbul, stay in the old part of town, Sultanahmet in the Fatih District in the historical heart of the city. Lalahan Hotel is great value for money and has the major attractions within walking distance.

For a more detailed guide to the best areas and hotels in Istanbul, see our article on Where to Stay in Istanbul.

With a rich history and countless stories to tell, Istanbul is one of the most interesting cities in the world. Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it offers the best of both worlds to its visitors. The city is home to several world-famous architectural marvels, is known for its bustling markets and vibrant street life and to top that, is also blessed with natural beauty. Book your tickets now to experience its charm.

Check our detailed 10 Day Turkey Itinerary to plan your trip with all the useful information you will need.

Drop a comment below to let us know your thoughts. Visit our destinations page for detailed travel guides on places worth visiting.


Is 4 days enough in Istanbul?

4 days is just the right amount of time to see all the must-visit places in the charming city of Istanbul.

How to plan 4 days in Istanbul?

Day 1: Explore the Iconic Monuments – Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque & Grand Bazaar
Day 2: Visit the Topkapi Palace and Take a Day Cruise Over the Bosphorus
Day 3: Visit Taksim Square, Istiklal Street & Galata Tower, & Watch the Whirling Dervishes Show
Day 4: Experience the Hammam, Visit the Spice Bazaar and Take a Night Cruise Over the Bosphorus

How many days in Istanbul are needed?

You need 4 days to properly explore the charming city of Istanbul.

Photo of author


Shreya Kejriwal is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at She is an avid traveler and her passion has led her to vividly explore the world while maintaining a regular life and career.

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