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Next month I have two 1-day layovers at Istanbul. First is on July from 5am to 7pm and the second is on September from 10am to 7am (next day). I would like to take the opportunity to visit a bit of Istanbul.

For the first layover I've thought of taking the metro from Ataturk to Aksaray and from there go walking to the Blue Mosque and then head to the Taksim square through the Galata Bridge. From Taksim will take a direct bus to the terminal. Does it make sense?

The problem is the second layover. I would like to make a similar walk, but I find the other touristic attractions are dispersed for the time I have. What could be a good walking in Istanbul taking into account that I'll arrive at 10am and have to return to the airport at night?

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There is so much to do and to see in the area you describe. You can without any problem spend two days there. You can use the first round for exploration and the second one for visits. Or split the whole into two parts. As an alternative you may consider a trip to Asia, e.g. Kadiköy. There is a quay called "Eminönü" next to the Galata bridge and next to the homonymous tram station. From there you can take a sea bus to Asia. Crossing the Bosporus is impressive.

For the return trip, I would try to end the day in Beyoglu. There are plenty of restaurants and bars. Somewhere in the evening or the night you can then proceed to Taksim and take the airport shuttle.

I suggest you have a look at Turkey Travel Planner to prepare your trip.

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I would recommend splitting the two transits as follows:

1) Sultanahmet for the longer transit. Heritage-wise, no area tops Sultanahmet in Istanbul. Do some serious sight-seeing. The blue mosque (Sultanahmet mosque), the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofia), the Basilica Cistern, the Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, the Sulemanye mosque...these are all within walking distance. I would say, literally within a km radius of each other.

2) Spend the second transit near Taksim square. Maybe do some shopping on Istiklal street, or if you prefer dining, then as suggested above, try Beyoglu, Eminonu or surprise yourself and take a taxi early evening to Ortakoy, and dig into some amazing Kumpir by the sea.

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