Are you looking for a handful of really cool things to do over 4 or 5 days in the captivating city of Istanbul? Well we have an itinerary planned and mapped out for you – 4 days in Istanbul that is sure to impress! No more scrolling or guide books necessary, because we cover all the must see and do sights for you right here.
We LOVED Istanbul so much that we went back a second time round for a full month road trip! We don’t often revisit countries, but for Turkey we made an exception. Istanbul is actually one of our favourite cities. Both times we spent 4 full days in Istanbul and so we have selected our top favourite things to do and places to visit, in this amazing city.
Let’s start by saying that it’s a big city so it’s a good idea to have a bit of a plan. So below we recommend the Istanbul highlights, broken down into a perfect 4 day itinerary that we think you should see them.
Get yourself to the old town and new town in the European side of Istanbul on Day 1 and 2, then grab a ferry over to the markets on the Asian side for Day 3. Finish up with a traditional Istanbul hammam or a self-guided walking tour on Day 4.
Choose from our recommended places to stay, eat baklava and drink Turkish coffee, walk the top sights, shop for spices in the spice market, or quality carpets in the Grand Bazaar and MORE!
We have also shared some super helpful tips, like how best to get around Istanbul in 4 days. Or how to get your bargaining game ready for the streets. I promise, you are in for a treat!
Istanbul at a Glance
Population – 15.46 million give or take
Currency – Turkish Lira (TRY)
Best District/Place to Stay – Sultanahmet (Fatih) & Taksim (Beyoğlu). But if you want my opinion Sultanahmet has the BEST vibe, with loads of nearby street restaurants with the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Tokapi Palace right on your doorstep. See our recommendations below on where to book.
Language Spoken – Turkish
Religion – Islam
Airports – Istanbul International Airport (IST) & Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW). Getting to and from these airports can be done via the Havaist bus (IST) and Havabus (SAW). They were very straight forward, departed every 30 minutes and came in at a fraction of the price of a taxi. Transport to Taksim or Kadikoy districts are possible with Havabus. And Taksim (Bus number HVIST-16) and Beyazit near Sultanahmet (Bus number HVIST-12).
Best SIM Card – We always recommend getting a local SIM card to keep our data prices down. Even with a 4 day trip to Istanbul, you’ll save on extortionate roaming charges.
Our provider of choice for this trip was Vodafone. The tourist bundle cost us just over 400 Turkish Lira at the Airport with 20 GB, loads of chat time, with free WhatsApp and Instagram. You can pick a SIM card up much cheaper outside the airport, but we were happy to pay and grab it on arrival.
Best Place to Stay in Istanbul for 4 Days
We always prefer to stay in smaller hotels rather than large busy ones, so if boutique is your thing too, then you’ll love our recommendations. These hotels are suitable for both couples and families.
I have to give a shout out to Hotel Peninsula where we stayed in Istanbul. This falls within the budget travel category, or just over. We followed a recommendation from the Lonely Planet and were glad we did. The hotel had a delicious breakfast, great rooftop views and is in the BEST location.
If you are looking for options in the mid-range category of accommodation look at the new and beautiful Henna Hotel Istanbul. This is straight up gorgeous and it’s also in the Fatih district. You’ll love the rooftop terrace with traditional Turkish carpets and views of the Hagia Sophia.
If you want to stay in the new town, you’ll love the Room Mate Emir Hotel. This place exudes comfort and class, and it’s near Istiklal Ave and Taksim Square. Check it out, you’ll love the design and attention to detail!
Day 1 – The Old Town of Istanbul – Sultanahmet
So let’s get to it shall we? 4 days in Istanbul, here we go… time to get you finding some stellar spots.
If you’ve taken our advice and have chosen to stay in Sultanahmet, then it makes sense to start here. Because there is a huge amount to see and do here in the old town in terms of history and sightseeing, chances are you may not get through it all in one day. Certainly not between all the turkish coffee and baklava stops you’ll likely be taking! But that is fine, because on Day 4 you’ll have a chance to catch the places you missed.
So get through what you can on Day 1, but don’t stress if you need to come back to this part of Istanbul on Day 4.
The Basilica Cistern is one of my favourite places in Istanbul city. Unfortunately, when visiting the second time it was closed for renovation. However, they have again reopened to the public, and open seven days a week from 9am to 7pm. Entrance costs 190 TL per person.
You may also like to visit the Cistern of Philoxenos or Şerefiye Cistern which I have mentioned below. In my opinion they are not quite as spectacular but they come a close second.
The Basilica Cistern was constructed between 527 and 565. It is a large water reservoir, 140m by 70m where the city’s water was once held. It is in fact, the largest underground cistern in Istanbul and sits to the southwest of the Hagia Sofia.
This is an incredible space to see as there are 12 rows of 28 giant marble columns lining the cistern. But my favourite would have to be the two carved heads of Medusa. Yes… Medusa. You know, from Greek myth and legend, her hair is alive with snakes and a look from her turns her victim to stone. There is no definitive answer why Medusa lies upside down here in the cistern, but it’s thought that she might have symbolised protection.
As you wander through the yellow lights of the cistern, the illuminated columns create a moody space. I wonder how it will look when renovated, my hope is that the changes made will not impact on the charm of the Basilica Cistern.
Cistern of Philoxenos & Şerefiye Cistern
We jumped in to have a look around the Cistern of Philoxenos. A local Istanbul resident recommended this cistern as his favourite. There was an art exhibition on at the same time and I’m glad we took the time to visit. It is the second largest cistern in Istanbul and nicknamed Cistern of a Thousand and One Columns. Though I’m quite sure the exact number of columns didn’t come close to the thousands.
The Şerefiye Cistern puts on a great 10 minute light show every hour, so if you are travelling with children this is probably a good choice.
Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque
Another stunning mosque, that used to be a cathedral. It was built in 537 during the Byzantine period of Constantinople. Then when Constantinople was overthrown by the Ottoman Empire in 1934, the church was converted into a mosque.
Open every day of the week, the Hagia Sophia is free to enter. The gates are open at 9.00am until 6.30pm and there is a security check point to go through before entering inside.
There are definite tell-tale signs inside that allude to it’s former presence as a church. Rennovation works over the years have uncovered some christian elements such as mosaics. When you stand in the centre of the mosque, look up to the central dome and spot the large paintings that resemble the shape of winged angels. One face peeks through, uncovered during a recent restoration in 2009.
Don’t leave the grounds of the Hagia Sophia before making a quick visit to the seperate tombs of the Sultans. These small mosque-like buildings of ornate decorations, pay tribute to the Sultans and their extended family.
It is important to note that when visiting the mosque you need to dress modestly. Men need to wear long trousers and ladies must cover their legs, arms and hair. If you don’t have a scarf to put on over your head, you can pick one up at the entrance for a small fee.
Tips for Visiting the Hagia Sophia
It pays to get there early in the morning as there is often a long queue stretching back from the gate. Don’t be disheartened if you arrive early in the morning to find a long line snaked back through the park. When the gate opens the line moves quickly. Monday is probably the best day to visit in terms of fewer crowds, and Sunday is one of the busiest days. This is likely due to the fact, that the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sunday, and tourists are looking for other things to do on this day.
The Sultanahmet Mosque or ‘Blue Mosque’
Built between 1609 and 1616 this is the newer of the two mosques that sit almost side by side. The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and the Sultanahmet Mosque are surprisingly close to each other, seperated only by a park.
The Blue Mosque as it is more commonly referred to, gets its name from the blue handmade tiles seen throughout the mosque. The carpet is beautiful and the stunning architecture of domes and minarets are one of my favourite sights of the Istanbul skyline. One of my favourite times of the day to see it from the outside in the large Sultan Ahmet Park is at dusk.
Entry is free, and the mosque is open every day given that it is a place of worship. However it is closed for prayers so check their website here for the prayer times. Note that the dress-code is similar to that of the Hagia Sophia mosque, so read above for how to cover respectively for your visit.
The Tokapi Palace began construction in 1459 and was home to the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It is now a museum and from the outer walls you have a beautiful view over the Bosphorus.
Now a busy museum, Tokapi Palace beautifully showcases the opulent decorations and finishings of Ottoman architecture. The library, harem, circumcision room, pavilions and courtyards are all places you can visit within the palace. As you walk around admiring the ceilings, walls and floors it gives you an insight into what life must have been like for the Sultans and their families, during Ottoman rule.
As with the mosques, a respectable dress-code is required.
The archaeological museums are in fact three seperate museums combined. Located very near the Tokapi Palace this a beautiful place to visit if you love marble sculpture! The three sections here include the Archeology Museum, The Tiled Kiosk Museum and The Museum of Ancient Orient. One of the most notable pieces is an ornate marble sarcophagus said to be carved for Alexander the Great.
But let’s be honest, this probably isn’t one the kids will love. So if you are travelling without children, and you have a love for history and culture, then this is for you.
Chora Church / Kariye Mosque
This was one of my favourite places to visit the first time we went to Istanbul. But the second time it was closed. I’ll update when it reopens – so should it be closed when you visit then this photo will need to suffice.
Chora Church has an incredible collection of mosaic tiles and was closed in 2020 to begin transformation into Kariye Mosque. I’ll keep you posted on the process!
The Grand Bazaar
The size of the Grand Bazaar is nothing but impressive. You could probably spend days getting lost inside. And actually this is probably the best advice I could give for the bazaar… simply get lost! There are 21 entrances and good luck trying to find your way out the same way you came in. I tried to follow Google maps inside and even that couldn’t keep up. In the end, we decided to throw caution to the wind and get lost.
From what I can gather there really isn’t any rhyme or reason to the place. And you’ll walk past one vendor selling trinkets and you’ll swear you saw them already. The reality is, there is a lot of rubbish in there, but there are also some gems.
Look out for Erol selling his carpets in his shop the Galeri Sirvan. This guy is the real deal. Sadly, many carpets are now mass produced by machine in China and you don’t want to come all the way to Turkey and buy rubbish. Read the section below on shopping for my tips and advice on carpet buying.
When you need a juice, coffee or piece of cake head to Cinili Cafe. Sit inside and take a breather from the chaos of the Grand Bazaar. But take a minute to admire the mix match of ornaments overlapping in what can only be described as an eclectic combination of treasures.
Tip for Visiting the Grand Bazaar
Note that the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays.
Also, check your travel dates don’t coincide with a public holiday. We missed the Grand Bazaar on our first 4 day visit to Istanbul, because we landed at the start of quite a long bank holiday. The long holidays to avoid in Istanbul include Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The Arasta Bazaar
This small bazaar is a little touristy, but I think it might actually be one of my favourite places to shop in Istanbul. There are a couple of lanes of shops and boutique type vendors, but the shopping vibe is a little more chilled. I like to find unique pieces from my travels, such as jewellery, and I found the shops in the Arasta bazaar slightly more intriguing. A better selection perhaps, more open and therefore less intimidating than the Grand Bazaar.
Because it is in the Sultanahmet district and close to the restuarants and hotels it is a nice place to stroll in the evening. Grab a bite to eat at the Meşale Restaurant & Cafe, have a shisha, listen to live music, admire the whirling dervish dance if there, then wander through the Arasta Bazaar and see if any treasures take your fancy.
The Spice Market – Mısır Çarşısı
This is another bustling chaotic market. If you like people and atmosphere head there for a Saturday afternoon and the place is BUSY! We bought a few things to nibble on, then sat and people watched at the small square of Eminönü Meydanı.
I’m sure you’ve seen the photos… piles of spices tiered neatly in front of vendors’ stalls and as you walk past they’ll call and shout to encourage you in. This is also a great place to buy things like tea, nuts and seeds, and Turkish sweets.
The Spice Market juts off in several directions, so follow your nose and see where you end up. Note that there is a security gate to enter through, so don’t bring a pocket knife in your bag or you may loose it.
Guided Walking Tours
We love a good guided walking tour when visiting a new place. Walking on foot with a local means you find some great hidden gems. Here are a couple of popular options, for a full day or half day to choose from.
Day 2 – The New Town of Istanbul – Taksim
From Sultanahmet, there are a couple of ways to get to explore the new town and Taksim Square. You can walk across the Galata Köprüsü Bridge or catch the metro to Beyoğlu and walk up through Istiklal Avenue to Taksim Square, or you could take the old red tram up.
You could also catch the metro to the end of the line to Kabataş and take the Funicular up to Taksim square and walk back down through Istiklal. Either are great options, so read on for what there is to see in new town.
Catch a Tram on Pedestrian Istiklal Avenue
This is the old red tram that rides from one end of Istiklal to the other. You’ll see kids hitching a free ride on the back and the tram struggling to get through hoards of pedestrians. This is a busy street with a lot of energy during the right time of the day.
Groups of buskers perform loudly to passersby. Beautiful sweet shop windows will tempt you into entering. Turkish ice cream stall holders will shout for your attention and then tease an ice cream right out of your hands. Istiklal is also full of large chain stores encouraging many serious shoppers to this part of Istanbul.
Along Istiklal there are some points of interest that may take your fancy. A visit to Madame Tussauds Istanbul or the beautiful Çiçek Pasajı is a good place to walk through and grab a coffee. Also, the Museum of Illusions is good if you are visiting Istanbul with kids or the Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum if you’d like to know more about the whirling dervishes.
It is just over 2km to walk from the Galata Köprüsü Bridge to Taksim Square via Istiklal Ave and it is up hill. So if you have kids it may be better to start at Taksim and make your way down rather than go up.
Towards the end of Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district, is the 67m tall Galata Tower. Galata Tower Museum, constructed in 1348, is an iconic building in Istanbul. It was built initially as a watchtower, but has had other uses over the years and more recently has undergone renovations due to significant internal damage.
You can enter and go to the top for a 3600 view over the city, or you can simply admire it from below.
Vintage Shopping in Beyoğlu
Not far from here you might like to head in the direction of Serdar-ı Ekrem street to do a little vintage shopping. There is a rustic quality to this street and side alleys and I enjoyed the atmosphere! Also if you like photography, then there are some funky little places to snap a pic or two here.
At the top of Istiklal Avenue you arrive at the large Taksim Square. In the middle of this plaza is the Republic Monument with prominent leader and figure in Turkish history, Atatürk. On one side he stands in military uniform and on the other side he stands with others as a member of state.
We recommend grabbing a bite to eat at the street kebab stalls on the corner of Istiklal Ave, opposite the Republic Monument. We grabbed ours from the Kızılkayalar Taksim restaurant. Side by side they rapidly take orders and create tasty takeaway kebabs. If you ask me, this is fast food at it’s best… and tastiest.
In all honesty, there isn’t a lot more to see and do at Taksim, so when you’re ready head back by foot, tram, or funicular and metro.
Fish Market and Restaurants
This might be a little random so I add it towards the end. But it was an area that we visited both times in Istanbul. As you walk across the Galata Köprüsü Bridge towards Karaköy you’ll see men fishing from the road side into the Golden Horn. And if you go beneath the bridge to the platform below the road, many seafood restaurants serve fresh fish to locals and tourists wanting a fishy feast.
Carry on over the bridge and you’ll find the Karaköy Bazaar fish market. You might even find men cooking fish right outside over a small grill. Fish street food – it’s cheap, it’s fresh and it’s oh soooo tasty!
Day 3 – The Bosphorus River & Asian Side of Istanbul
In case you didn’t know Istanbul is divided into two continents. There is the European side which includes the new and old towns I have mentioned above. On the opposite of the Bosphorus is the Asian side. This is also a great, slightly less touristy place to visit in Istanbul.
So Day 3 on our itinerary, has you exploring the Bosphorus by boat and possibly even checking out Kadıköy. This is a must do, as you get to see so much of the city from a completely different perspective.
One of the great things with a boat cruise in Istanbul, is that you have so many options. Choose from either the public ferry, or the many private tours on offer. Thus giving you options for all budgets, timeframes, group sizes and any other requirements you may have. There are even various dining experiences if you so wish.
Taking the Public Ferry
We explored the Bosphorus via the public ferry, the Sehir Hatlari. Check their link for times, costs and options. The domestic system runs direct trips from numerous ports up, down and across the Bosphorus, all of which you can access with the Istanbulkart. (See our tips below for getting around in Istanbul.)
If you are staying in Fatih and you want to explore the Kadıköy district then take the ferry from Eminönü to Kadıköy.
Note that these ferries can be very busy as they are a main mode of transport by locals. But if you know where you want to go, it can be a great way to get around, particularly to the Asian side of Istanbul.
Bosphorus Tour Options
Shehir Hatlari also operate Bosphorus tours. Options include a full day tour of around seven hours, and a short tour of two hours. At certain times a moonlight tour is also available.
For the full tour, the boat leaves Eminönü Station at 10:30, with several stops along the way letting people on and off, before arriving at Anadolu Kavağı at midday. This is at the northern end of the Bosphorus at the mouth of the Black Sea.
Here you have a 2½ hour stop, but don’t worry there is plenty to keep you occupied. The entire waterfront is dotted with various restaurants, predominantly sea food, so enjoy lunch or something sweet with a tea or coffee. Alternatively, go shopping, or take a walk up to Yoros Castle for some great views. The ferry departs at 3pm, bound for Eminönü, arriving back just before 5pm.
On the trip you may be fortunate enough to see dolphins. However you can definitely expect to see Galata Bridge, Maiden’s Tower, Dolmabahçe Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Sait Halim Pasha Mansion, Rumeli Fortress, Anatolian Fortress, Beylerbeyi Palace, Kuleli Sahil and so many more. The architecture and history visible from the Bosphorus is impressive to say the least!
If you’re travelling to Istanbul for a 4 day getaway and it’s a special occasion then grab something like this private tour. It’s a little bit more unique and great value for money with exceptional reviews.
Kadıköy District & Moda
Kadıköy is a funky up and coming kind of district. There is a bit of an art scene, if you wander the streets you’ll find plenty of street murals to photograph. And this is the best place to find second hand shops selling little treasures.
When you hop off the ferry at the Kadıköy station veer right towards the Moda district. This is where it’s all happening. Ride the old tram, try some Turkish ice-cream, explore the Kadıköy Bazaar. There is a fabulous atmosphere on this side of the river and plenty of good food to try. Read this post on the best places to eat in Kadıköy by the Timeout.
Day 4 – Walking Tour or Traditional Istanbul Hammam
On Day 4 of your itinerary of Istanbul, you will either be hungry for more or exhausted from the endless days of walking. So here I’m going to suggest one of two options.
After selecting one of these options, you’ll probably have a few unfinished sights from Day 1 at Sultanahmet district. In which case, jump back to the top of this post and go visit the ones you have missed. Then finish up with our recommended whirling dervish show below at the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre.
Option 1 – For those of you who want more, something a bit unique and off the beaten track perhaps, then you might consider walking the old city walls of Constantinople.
Option 2 – If you’re feet are aching and screaming for a break then we recommend a hammam… you know what they say. When in Turkey right!
Read on below for more details…
Walking Tour – The Walls of Constantinople
This was a totally unexpected activity for us… we had friends in town and they suggested walking the Walls of Constantinople. It ended up taking us most of the day, with lots of coffee breaks in between. We meandered from one end of the wall at the Ayvansaray bus stop… and followed it all the way along.
If like me you have little idea on the history of Turkey then you might like to know a little more about what makes this wall special. My husband had great pleasure in telling me all about it…
These defensive walls surrounded the entire city of Constantinople and were originally built by Constantine the Great, when he moved the Roman Empires Capital city here to the east.
Later, further alterations were made as the city grew including the addition of the Theodosian Walls. These were built by Emperor Theodosius II and span from the Golden Horn across land to the Marama sea. These extensions included a moat that could be flooded when required, an initial low wall beside the moat and an outer wall which included ramparts and towers. And then the original existing and larger inner wall.
So ultimately, there are three tiered levels of wall. It’s quite the complex defence wall actually when you see it and explore it for yourself.
Navigating the Wall of Constantinople
We recommend open up Google Maps and head to the Ayvansaray bus stop. Then follow your nose keeping the wall on your right side. Sometimes you’ll veer away from it, but keep an eye on your map and you’ll find small roads that bring you back.
There really is no right or wrong way to explore the wall. But it might help to know that there are sections of the wall that you can get onto. They are not marked or sign posted you just have to keep trying, but these sections are towards the second half of the walk. So don’t be disappointed if you find on the first half that you are having no luck at finding a place to scale up for a view. Just push on and keep your eyes peeled.
One of our favourite parts of the wall was the Mevlanakapi Gate. Community gardens and ruined portions of the layered wall were an interesting place to explore and get lost.
There are places to stop for a coffee and there is even the Tefkur Sarayi Museum towards the start. We opted out on this one, as our mission was to walk the wall!
Now word of warning… this can be a culture shock. If you are not okay with nudity then maybe sit it out. But if you laugh in the face of bared skin and love to get down with the cultural experiences, then DO it! Men and women are separated so no need to worry about baring your bits to the opposite sex.
Not far from the Hagia Sophia is the Cağaloğlu Hammam, built in 1741 and it comes highly recommended. It is a more modern version of a hamman. Prices start at 50 Euros for a 45 minute hammam and they go up from there.
If you want to visit the oldest hammam in Istanbul then you’ll want to book at the Galatasaray Hammam. Built in 1481, they have been in service for over 500 years! Prices for a basic hammam start at 35 Euros.
Basically what you can expect, is a damn good scrub down and soap on a heated hexagon shaped marble slab. Keep your underwear on and get your sweat on, then go for a lie down on the marble for some scrubbing, some slapping and a whole lot of cleaning. If you want to know more about what to expect read this post here by Intrepid Travel.
You’ll leave feeling a million dollars!
Hodjapasha – Whirling Dervishes Show
To finish a fabulous 4 days in Istanbul take in some culture at the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre and watch their Whirling Dervishes Show. This is near the Galata bridge and is held in a 500+ year old restored Turkish Bath.
There is nothing more spiritual and traditional in Turkish culture than the whirling dervishes. This show provides a great educational insight into the importance and significance of this dance of worship. If like me you love dance and culture then I thoroughly recommend it!
Tips for Visiting Istanbul
A couple of helpful points to get you making the most out of your 4 days in Istanbul. After all, time is short and we want you to hit the ground running!
We 100% love the public transport system in Istanbul, and with the 4 day itinerary we put together there is no better way of getting around.. It is super easy to get around with the numerous options available – bus, ferry, funicular and trams. And these are all covered with a Istanbulkart card which you can pick up from the Biletmatik kiosk machine.
Watch for scammers at the Biletmatik machines trying to sell you a card for double what they actually cost. The machines are a little confusing, so take your time to navigate it and buy one for yourself then load it with credit… as much as you like.
One card works for the whole family. Just load it up and away you go on any of the above mentioned modes of transport. If like us, there are more than one of you boarding, you simply scan the card multiple times. Children under six ride for free.
Google Maps app is great for navigating the public transport system in Istanbul. Simply put your destination in, hit the public transport tab and follow the step by step directions. It will tell you exactly what bus number to catch, where your connections are and what you’ll be riding to get there.
And hey if you make a mistake, no stress, just turn around and go back the other way.
Foods to Try
Turkish Coffee and Baklava – My all time favourite combination in Turkey is turkish coffee and baklava. Find a backstreet cafe… sit, drink and enjoy the sweet crispy and syrupy notes of baklava. They make the perfect duo. If you are unfamiliar with turkish coffee, it comes black, short and normally sweet. BUT don’t drink to the end! The moment you get the first hint of coffee grit, it’s done.
Gözleme – This is one of my favourite Turkish foods, but to be honest is probably not so common in Istanbul. Thin layers of bread are stuffed with assorted fillings and cooked on a grill, over an open fire. They are delish… if you get the chance try one!
Pide – Boat shaped flat breads, filled with cheese, meat, spinach, potato and grilled… yum!
Potato Kumpir – These are a meal! It’s basically a baked potato, stuffed with your choice of filling and vigorously stirred right before your eyes. Yummo!
Kebab – If you haven’t heard of kebab, then you haven’t lived. For the BEST kebab in Istanbul, read above under Taksim Square. This is the location to grab yourself a traditional kebab.
Simit – A local ring of bread baked with sesame seeds. Usually sold from small carts on the side of the road in Istanbul – great for a snack.
Or better still… take a walking food tour of Istanbul. Drooling yet?
When to Visit
We had 4 days in Istanbul in winter and then 4 days in summer. So take it from someone who has had the luxury of visiting in both seasons… it really doesn’t matter!
There are ofcourse pros and cons to both. The obvious is that in summer (June to September) you can expect more people and higher prices. While in winter (December to February) you have less predictable weather conditions.
The best time for mid season temperatures and mid season crowds is March to May and September to November.
Shopping and Bargaining
Now listen, I don’t want to brag or anything but I have a little experience in this department. Living in the Middle East for 15 years means I have become somewhat a master at carpet shopping. I can spot a machine made carpet a mile away and I can hunt out quality carpets like a needle in a haystack.
Here are my tips for carpet shopping and bargaining in destinations such as Istanbul.
Buying a Quality Turkish Carpet or Kilim
Head to Erol in the Grand Bazaar, as I mentioned above he is the real deal. He is a carpet dealer and not a swindler. So many shops in Istanbul now sell mass factory produced carpets.
In Turkey you will find carpets made of wool, silk and a blend of cotton and wool and they are dyed with natural pigments. Silk are obviously going to be more expensive. Ask to see a few of each and get a feel for what type of carpet you prefer. Wool kilims are my absolute favourite.
Then you want to look for a carpet with imperfections. Handmade quality carpets aren’t perfectly shaped. They have tiny errors in the knots because afterall all, they are human made.
And here are my tips for how to bargain –
- Don’t act too keen! This is the most important rule of them all. Seem interested but aloof.
- Don’t buy a carpet/ornament at the first shop you enter… you want to do a bit of homework first. Get some ideas on what they cost.
- Have the tea or coffee they offer you… it doesn’t mean you have to purchase a carpet. It’s just all part of the fun of carpet shopping.
- Ask early on for a price and insist on getting an answer. Shop vendors hate to share a price and will often ask you what you’d like to pay. Don’t answer that… yet.
- Walk away! The vendor will then start to ask you what you’ll pay, still seem disinterested and aloof and give a price at about a quarter or less of what they have said.
- It sounds brutal, but they are testing your budget by throwing out a high figure.
- If it is something you are really keen on, keep your aloof, foot halfway out the door behaviour going and let the bargaining game begin.
- At the end of it all… never feel rushed or pushed. Go with your gut and walk away if it doesn’t feel right. And as we always say, if you finally do agree on a price… it is never too much if ultimately you felt it was fair and is a piece that you will love and treasure.
4 Day Itinerary Map for Istanbul
As promised here is the map and guide to your perfect 4 days in Istanbul. This is an interactive map, tap the numbers to find the location.
I honestly love the city and would go back in a heartbeat. I know you’ll love it too, as I’ve never met a person who said otherwise!
I’d love to hear from you, have you been to Istanbul, what would you add to this list?
More on Turkey
If you loved our 4 day itinerary for Istanbul, and you are travelling further in Turkey then you’ll love our other posts in this series –
- Guide on How to Visit Anzac Cove and Gallipoli
- 17 Magical Things to do in Cappadocia
- One Month Road Tripping Guide to Turkey
- Planning the Perfect Visit to the White Terraces of Pamukkale
- 16 Awesome Things to Do in Kas
- Hot Air Balloons Over Cappadocia – An Honest Review
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