Istanbul has a long and magnificent history, and the city is full of interesting sites and places to visit. You’ll be wise to plan your days in advance. Remember that during the winter the days are shorter and most of the museums close around 16:30-17:00. Mosques are open until the evening, except during praying hours, when the tourists are asked to exit. Most of the popular site are closed one day of the week, so don’t forget to check which day it is before leaving the hotel.
You can buy a ticket for 72 TL (around 40$) which includes a pass to most of the important site, such as Hagia Sophia (Ayasofia), Topkapi palace, Topkapi harem (different entrance), the museum of archeology, the mosaic museum, the Turkish and Islamic arts museum and the church of Chora museum. The ticket is valid for 72 hours, and you can enter each site only one time. It doesn’t include audio guides, which cost an extra 10-15 TL, depending on the site. You won’t find any maps or printed guides on most of the places, so you might like to get yourself a guide (like EyeWitness) if you don’t want to miss the important features of the big and crowded sites.
Inside Hagia Sophia
The Siloam inscription in the Archaeology museum
On a clear day with blue sky you might like to take a boat tour on the Bosphorus, a cruise which gives another splendid view of Istanbul. There are 2 main options: you can take a cruise for the entire day from the city to the black sea (6 hours for the round trip), and see some very nice spots along the way, both in the European bank of the river and in the Asian one. The trip cost 25 TL with a company called IDO, and it departure from the pier near the south-east part of Galata bridge. There are 3 daily cruises, and if you take the early one you could get off the boat twice along the way and continue with the boats of the next tours. On the second cruise you could get off once, and in the last time you’ll have to stay on the boat through the entire cruise.
The other option is to take a shorter cruise along the banks of the Bosphorus – up until Rumelihisarı (Rumelian Castle) on the north and back. This cruise is about an hour and a half, it costs 12 TL with a Turyol company, and it departures every hour on the hour for a pier located south-west of Galata bridge. Besides these 2 companies – IDO and Turyol – you can find a lot of ticket scalpers south of the bridge who will offer you private cruises, but I don’t recommend using their services. In the summer there are more option, the cruises are more frequent and you can also take an evening cruise.
A view of Bosphorus strait