To see the sights of a popular travel destination like Istanbul in a day, and that too on foot, requires some doing. Luckily, most of the top tourist attractions are located all around the Sultanahmet Square and the Hippodrome region, making it actually possible to see them all in one day only.
Istanbul, Turkey, is in itself a large city. So at first to plan a perfect self guided walking one day tour may seem daunting, but is a reality. Apart from the unmissable sights, even others are all within easy walking distance of each other. So assuming you arrive in the city in the morning and plan to depart at the end of the day, the itinerary here will endear you to this striking city.
Keep just one thing in mind that entries to popular spots can mean long waiting time in queues. Purchase your tickets beforehand to save considerable time. In addition, if you opt for an Istanbul Tourist Pass, you will save a lot of money on ticket costs as well.
Morning ( 9 to 11 am): Topkapi Palace
Finish breakfast, don your walking shoes and head to the Topkapi Palace first of all, to reach there preferably by 9 am. This is one of the most visited museum of the city and remains crowded most of the time. Head straight to the Harem section, which at this time will have less visitors.You will need to spend at least two hours here to explore this place which showcases the history of the Ottoman era. (Timings 9 to 5. Tuesday closed)
Morning (11am to 1130 am): Blue Mosque
Roughly a short ten minute walk will bring you to the Blue Mosque, which is an important addition of Istanbul during the Ottoman reign. It got the name Blue from the blue colour of thousands of Iznik tiles that adorn the walls of the mosque. Admission to the building is free and thirty minutes are enough to roam around this building.
Morning (1130 am to 1230 pm): Hagia Sophia
It is said that one visit to Hagia Sophia is a must in a lifetime. This UNESCO world heritage site is a top draw on any city tour. It lies just eight minutes walk from the Blue Mosque, and is said to be one of the most marvelous piece of architecture ever built. (Timings 9 to 4. Monday closed.)
Lunch (1230 pm to 1 pm): Sultanahmet Square
It is time for a well deserved lunch and rest. There are many places to eat in Divan You, but the nearby Hocapasa area has good value for money.
Afternoon (1 pm to 130 pm): Hippodrome
After a hearty meal head to the nearby Hippodrome Square and view the historic Serpentine Column, Egyptian Obelisk and the German Fountain.
Afternoon (130 to 2 pm): Basilica Cistern
A five minute walk and you will reach the stunning Basilica Cistern. This water depot can be visited in half an hour. The sound of the water drops here gives quite a soothing feeling.
Afternoon (2 to 4 pm): Grand Bazaar
The noise and colour of the largest covered bazaar in the world, Grand Bazaar, is a twelve minutes stroll from the Basilica Cistern. Prepare to spend at least a couple of hours here. Apart from a variety of things ranging from jewellery, leather, clothes,spices and their smell are enough to keep you enthralled.
Afternoon (4pm to 5pm): Sultanahmet District
The Sultanahmet district is the heart of the old city of Istanbul and has most of the top sights. There are some lesser, but equally good sights still to be discovered. So pay a visit to the Great Palace Mosaic Museum and the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
Evening ( 5pm to 7pm): Turkish Bath
This is an interesting and we’ll worth the visit option after a long day of walking and touring. A couple of hours of Hamam pampering with massage and a soak in hot water will serve as a tonic for your weary body. In recent years, this facility has been updated to provide a better experience, especially for foreigners.
So you have managed to see the best Istanbul has to offer in a day, but there are plenty of other innovative and offbeat places which can be visited in a short time. These include Suleymaniye Mosque, Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, City Walls etc. These tours need hiring a vehicle,as they are less visited and difficult to access otherwise.