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How to Spend a 24-hour Turkish Airlines Layover in Istanbul

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Turkish Airlines are huge fans of having 1 long-haul flight to particular destinations per day. For instance, we flew in from Naples and spent 24-hours in Istanbul to wait for our connecting flight home to Los Angeles. Not only was the flight affordable, but we also had the opportunity to see a bit of the beautiful city of Istanbul before we took off. So what do you do? Where do you go? Where do you stay? We’ve got you covered on how to spend a 24-hour Istanbul Layover.

Istanbul Layover

To be exact, we had about 20 hours in Istanbul after we got through customs and before we needed to be back at the airport.

Where to stay on a 24-hour layover in Istanbul

Obviously, we needed a hotel. Hotels in Istanbul are both opulent and incredibly affordable. Typically we lean toward Airbnb when we travel internationally, but considering how cheap hotels are in Turkey, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel.

We stayed at the Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, as we are SPG Gold members. We used something like 5K SPG miles and got a complimentary upgrade to the penthouse suite, welcome drinks/snacks, and free access to the spa.

To mitigate having to spend too much money on taxis, you’ll probably want to stay near the places you want to see. As such, we recommend staying in one of the following areas:

  • Near the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)
  • Taksim Square
  • Bosphorus 
  • Near the airport, if you’re looking to make life super easy 

What to do on a 24-hour layover in Istanbul

Obviously, you won’t be able to do it all. We realized that we had time to check-in to our hotel, eat a nice local dinner, sleep, and see about 2 – 3 sights before we had to head back to the airport (to go through about 10 different security checkpoints).

Luckily for you, 2 of the things we suggest to do are quite close to one another:

  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
  • Grand Bazaar 

You can either take a quick tram 2 stops between the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, or you can walk about 10 minutes. We are avid walkers while we travel, so we chose the later.

The Blue Mosque opens at 08:30, but will often be closed for prayers in the morning. If this is the case, you can at least enjoy the beautiful architecture of the exterior. The Grand Bazaar opens at 09:00. It was lovely getting there that early for 2 reasons: 1) It wasn’t awfully crowded and 2) The salespeople were more likely to make deals to get their first sales of the day executed.

Where to eat in Istanbul

Saray Muhallebicisi is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. It is located near Taksim Square and came highly recommended by our friend Selin who is a local from Istanbul.


Leave extra time at the airport before your flight. To be candid, you’ll want about 3-hours. Due to the attack at the Istanbul airport last year and the potential security threats, their security has become quite stringent. We arrived 2 hours before our flight and felt incredibly rushed. We literally went through about 10 different security checks.

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