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15 Flawless Ways To Enjoy A 24-Hour Layover In Istanbul

A handy lil' guide to a day in the most magical city in Eurasia! Live it up in Istanbul, the only city from which you can fly to 113 countries directly with Turkish Airlines.

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1. 8 a.m.: Breakfast!

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Seriously the best (and most Instagram-worthy) way to start your day. Traditional Turkish breakfasts — aka "kahvalti" — are found all over Istanbul, including many hole-in-the-wall joints. A standard Turkish breakfast includes breads, cheeses, olives, eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, jam, honey, and maybe the world's tastiest clotted cream. You can expect to be full for a loooong time. (But that shouldn't stop you from eating more of Turkey's amazing delicacies.)

2. 9 a.m.: the Galata District


Galata is the lovely neighborhood that's home to the iconic Galata Tower. (Tip: the tower is tall and distinctive enough to act as your compass if you ever get lost around Istanbul.) The area's narrow and charming streets are lined with shops and cafés, and many expats call the neighborhood home. Perfect place for a morning stroll!

4. 10 a.m.: Çukurcuma, the Antiques District

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Continue your morning stroll in Çukurcuma, the nearby antiques district. Tons of whimsical antique shops and vintage boutiques line the winding streets in this area. If old-timey things are your thing, you could spend hours here. Either way, you're bound to find one-of-a-kind items to take home.

5. 11 a.m.: the Blue Mosque

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Make your way to the historic Sultan Ahmet Mosque — known more popularly as the Blue Mosque due to its unique blue-tiled interior — located in Old Istanbul. The mosque is free to enter, and head coverings are available at the entrance for female visitors.

6. 11:30 a.m.: Ayasofya (aka Hagia Sophia)

Literally next door to the Blue Mosque is the Ayasofya, an incredible 6th-century structure (now museum) that's served as both a Christian church as well as a mosque. The museum is known for its incredible Byzantine mosaics, and the entire structure is an art history enthusiast's dream.

7. 12:30 p.m.: the Basilica Cistern

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The ancient Basilica Cistern, which once provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinople, is located right across the street from the Ayasofya. Visitors can descend into the 6th century and walk along a path in the cistern, ending at a pair of carved Medusa heads.

8. 1 p.m.: Mantı!

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Stop for a lunch of mantı, a traditional Turkish dish of little steamed meat dumplings (often lamb) that are served with a spice-infused tomato sauce and a garlicky yogurt sauce. The dish is offered at various eateries around the city, and it's so, so delicious.

9. 1:30 p.m.: Little Hagia Sophia and Hüseyin Ağa Medresesi


A short walk south of the area is the Little Hagia Sophia, one of the finest mosques in Istanbul. Like the Ayasofya, the Little Hagia Sophia also served as a Greek Orthodox church before being converted to a mosque. Nearby, check out Hüseyin Ağa Medresesi — former classrooms that are now filled with craftworks for sale, from ceramics and glass art to traditional Turkish paintings.

10. 2:30 p.m.: Cruisin' on the Bosphorus

After lunch, kick back on the Bosphorus! The shorter river cruises are typically two hours and offer amazing views of both sides of Istanbul. If you're super pressed for time, having a cup of tea at a cafe next to the water is equally soothing.

11. 4:30 p.m.: the Grand Bazaar

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Just when you're starting to worry about buying souvenirs, it's time to hit up the Grand Bazaar, where you can find basically every Turkish token your heart desires, from jewelry, to textiles, to soap, and spices. The bazaar dates back to the 15th century, so needless to say, it's an unparalleled shopping experience.

12. 6 p.m.: Turkish Bath Time

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There are a number of historic Turkish baths (aka hamams) in the Old Istanbul area to choose from, and some hotels offer interpretations of the experience as well. Relax and steam away all your travel stress before the next leg of your journey!

13. 7:30 p.m.: KEBAB

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No one should ever leave Istanbul without trying some authentic kebab, which can be experienced in both casual dives and high end kebab houses. Whatever kind of experience you opt for, make sure you eat the meat and veggies fresh off the grill and with Turkish flatbread to soak up the juices!

14. 9 p.m. and onward: İstiklal Avenue

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After dinner is the perfect time to head to İstiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district. The Ottoman architecture–lined pedestrian street is one of the most famous in Istanbul and the heart of the city's nightlife. (If you're still hungry after all that kebab, you can also find amazing desserts here.)

15. End Your Stay With Something Sweet: Traditional Turkish Delights (Plus Some Turkish Coffee to Keep You Awake on Your Trip Back to the Airport)

There are plenty of purveyors of authentic Turkish delights on İstiklal Avenue, and many of them offer samples. They're also typically sold by weight, so you can try a ton of different flavors. Don't forget to energize yourself for the next leg of your vacation with a cup of thick Turkish coffee!

Layovers are basically just mini-vacations on your journey. Book a flight with Turkish Airlines and enjoy a playover in Istanbul — all on your way to somewhere else.

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And don't forget to treat yourself to a break in Turkish Airlines' luxurious CIP lounge.