3 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Istanbul Layover

istanbul layover

Libby Ryan

Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is a common stop on long flights from the U.S. or Europe to Asia. And if you’re buying budget, you might end up with a less than ideal length of layover. The airport isn’t the best in the world, although it isn’t the worst. But here are three ways to make the most out of your time in Ataturk.

Guided Tour With Turkish Airlines

Lucky passengers flying on Turkish Airlines flights can take advantage of free tours through Istanbul run by Touristanbul. You have to have a layover longer than 6 hours and your layover has to match one of their pre-scheduled tours. There are various tours every day, including stops at:

  • Galata Bridge
  • Galata Tower
  • Dolmabahçe Palace
  • Taksim Square
  • Blue Mosque
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Hagia Sofia

Not every tour stops at every place, but you’ll see more of the city than if you went alone. However, you don’t get to go inside many of the major attractions. For example, you’ll get to see the outside of the Blue Mosque but don’t get to enter the exquisite religious space.

Get A Hotel From Turkish Airlines

If you have a layover longer than 10 hours, Turkish Airlines will give you a hotel room to chill in until your flight leaves. There is some fine print: If there is a flight option that has a shorter layover and you choose not to book it, you can’t get the hotel room.

Create Your Own Adventure

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If you’re not flying with Turkish Airlines, then sadly, you can’t go on the free guided tour or get a free hotel room. Bummer for you. However, if you have more than six hours in the airport, you can still get out and see the city.

Honestly, if you’re a free spirit who is flying with Turkish Airlines, you still might want to create your own tour of Istanbul. From the Ataturk Airport, it’s an easy metro ride to the Sultanahmet District, where you’ll find many of the big tourist destinations. The Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace are all within an easy walking distance of each other.

If it’s a nice day, you can even wander all the way to Galata Bridge, over the Bosphorus River towards the charming Beyoglu neighborhood. (On a less weather agreeable day, it’s an easy metro ride.) However, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the admittedly touristy bottom level of the Galata Bridge is worth a stop for a coffee or simply a stroll for the views.


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