Istanbul Atatürk Airport is Europe’s fourth busiest airport, and one of the top 40 international airports in the world. The airport is located 15 miles west of Istanbul’s city center, which makes it an accessible destination for those stuck on long layovers. It’s a common layover spot for people taking flights all over Europe and even flights that go into Asia or Africa. Istanbul is the most populous city in Turkey and is the main focal point of the country historically, culturally and economically. If you get the chance to have a long layover in Istanbul, you should feel lucky because you’ll have the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world and some of its great historical treasures. Here are some things to do during your layover in Istanbul.
Enjoy These Things To Do On Your Istanbul Layover
1. In the airport
We’ll start with some things you can do inside the airport if your layover isn’t very long or if it is overnight. There are many services and amenities found inside the Atatürk airport including kid’s playrooms, hairdressers, photography services, shoe shiners, food and beverages, news stands, groceries, florists, and lounges to relax in. There’s also an 85-room hotel inside the airport called International Airport Hotel, which offers great rooms (and showers!) as well as hourly accommodations. You can also store your bags inside the airport whether you’re staying in the airport or going out at baggage custody services located on the arrivals floor of both the international and domestic terminals. If you want to get out of the airport and head into downtown areas of Istanbul, you can get there via taxi services, car hires, a rail that begins in the Esenler Terminal, or the Havas bus service. Next, we’ll get into some of the things you can see in Istanbul after you leave the airport.
2. The Blue Mosque
One of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, this mosque got its name from the color of the tiles inside The Blue Mosque, with many domes and minarets, was built in order to compete with the Hagia Sophia just across the street. The Blue Mosque is definitely a must-visit.
3. The Hagia Sophia
Right across the street from the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sophia, one of Istanbul’s biggest landmarks, similar to The Blue Mosque. Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, then it was an imperial mosque, and now it’s a stunning museum that showcases architecture from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and their cultures.
4. Grand Bazaar
If you want to pick up some gifts or keepsakes during your Istanbul layover, definitely go to the Grand Bazaar to shop. At what is said to be over 4,000 shops, bargaining is standard practice here, in the largest covered market in Turkey. You can buy anything from pottery and spices to leather.
5. Topkapi Palace
This palace is a historic area of Istanbul and was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853. It’s very picturesque and an interesting place to learn about Istanbul’s rich history.
6. Galata Tower
Built in 500 A.D., Galata Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Istanbul and offers great panoramic views of the city. Originally named the Tower of Christ, it was a watchtower, but now on the upper floors it has a restaurant which offers stunning views of the city and also a nightclub.
7. Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred cisterns that are under Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century under the famed Byzantine Emperor Justinian. This is a great place to visit to learn about Istanbul’s history and a place where you can take stunning photographs. It is located just southwest of Hagia Sophia.
This is a more unique option, but visiting a Turkish bath during your long layover can be a great way to relax and unwind during your travels. The Turkish baths offer soaking, steaming, and tons of different types of massages. Some of the best Turkish baths in Istanbul include the Cemberlitas Bath near the Grand Bazaar and the Cagaloglu Bath near Hagia Sophia.
9. Take a guided tour of Istanbul
If you’re a visitor that is worried about finding your way around and want something more structured, there are many tours available in Istanbul, based on your interest and the length of your layover. There are bus and walking tours, boat rides, nighttime tours for those on overnight layovers, and more. Be sure to check online if there are tours that suit your needs and your interests.
This article was written by Cameron Lafontaine.