Disclaimer: I did not do Istanbul in one day, I did it in 7 days or 10 days including travel. However, my first day was a great overall tour of the city, if you are on a tight schedule. What I am trying to say is that I legit did this in one day, no bs. I was staying with a friend in Levent so all my directions will be from that POV, the city is super walkable and pretty easy to navigate.
11:45am – Arrive at the Sishane Metro stop and take the Istiklal exit. Start heading downhill towards the Galata Bridge. Along your walk pass Galata tower.
12pm – Take in the city. Walking across the Galata Bridge you see the classic fisherman and perhaps get holla’d at if you are blonde. You also see the Yeni Cami (New Mosque) and the Golden Horn, it will be amazing.
12:30pm – Steps away is the Spice Bazaar. Don’t miss it but make sure to haggle down the prices, you find the same things for a lot cheaper off the tourist path.
12:45pm – Skip the metro and walk through the streets to Gulhane Park.
1:30pm – If you are there during the off season and have the time then check out the Basilica Cistern. It was cool to see at least once
2:07pm – You need to eat eventually, grab a doner and fresh squeezed juice.
2:35pm – Start heading into the labyrinth that is the Grand Bazaar, expect to be quickly overwhelmed and then figure out it is a total tourist trap.
3:3opm – Start to head back to the Sultanahmet area but stop for a çay (pronounced chai) with a friend. Add some sugar if you can’t handle the bitter taste.
4:12pm – The Blue Mosque, a more in-depth look to come later. Take the time to go inside and marvel at the architecture.
5pm – Take in the Hagia Sofia, if you have the time go in or do what I did and save it for another day.
5:30pm – Çemberlitaş Hamamı, since 1584 this Hamam has been scrubbing people down. It’s an incredible experience, I wish I had gone back every day on my trip.
7:30pm – Go to the uber hip Karakoy, specifically try finding Kılıç Ali Paşa Mescidi Sk. and Denizciler Sk. It is a super cool street but almost impossible to find without a guide who knows the area.
Finish the night with a bite in the area, pictured here is a sub-par burger from Baltazar. Wish I had tried the burger at Heisenberg, a Breaking Bad themed restaurant around the corner.