On our way home from our Egypt trip, we had a 21 hour layover in Istanbul. We wanted to make the most of it.
What to do with a 21 hour Layover in Istanbul
Getting to Sultanahmet from the airport
Sultanahmet is the part of Istanbul with most of the famous sites.
We took the Metro M1a in the direction of Yenikapi and got off at the Zeytinburnu stop. We then took the tram T1 tram in the direction of Kabataş and got off at the Sultanahmet stop right in the heart of the old town. From this stop you are walking distance to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome. The entire trip cost only 4 turkish lira (less than $1 USD). In early 2020, $1 USD is almost 6 Turkish lira.
It was already after 2:00 so we dropped our bags the the Hotel Sultan Hill, around the corner from the Blue Mosque. For only $46 USD, including breakfast, we thought it was a great location. Knowing our time was very limited, we wanted to stay as close to the Sultanahmet area as possible.
A little sightseeing
We turned left out of our hotel and walked to the end of the street and within a minute we were walking in the Hippodrome.
On the right as you walk through the Hippodrome is the Blue Mosque (you can see the minarets on the right side of the picture above). Entrance to this and all mosques is free. Be sure to be respectful of other cultures and respect their customs (like taking your shoes off before going inside).
Across the Hippodrome from the Blue Mosque is Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is now a museum with an entrance fee of 72 Turkish lira. Since we had limited time, we only admired it from the outside.
As you pass to the right of Hagia Sophia look for a narrow alley on the left which is the entrance to some royal tombs. Entrance is free and you can see them all in about 10 minutes.
Around the back side of Hagia Sophia is Topkapi Palace. We were able to walk the grounds (which is free), but we did not go inside any of the palace, again due to our limited time. Entrance to the palace is 72 lira, and an additional 42 lira if you want to go into the Harem.
Less than 10 minutes walk in the opposite direction is the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with over 4,000 shops.
With limited time, I wanted quick and cheap food and stopped at this shop.
Delicious, cheap and quick!
If you need some bread, look for this guy. Yes, hands free.
I went back out after dinner to get some night shots before heading to sleep.
End of Layover in Istanbul – Back to Airport
We had to leave early the next morning and just reversed directions on public transport. We took the Tram T1 the opposite direction out of town, and transferred to the M1a Metro at Zeytinburnu.