Don’t Take Cabs
Istanbul is notorious for bad traffic and you should avoid it on all costs especially on a layover. Luckily their public transportation system is incredibly easy. There were a few places I had enough time to see on my layover and I planned accordingly. You’ll want to star on the bottom left (airport station) and take it 6 stops to Zeytinburnu. There you transfer to the blue line and take it to the Grand Bazaar (bottom right). The total travel time is about 35-40 minutes above ground so you get to see a big part of the city life. The cost is 4 Turkish Lira’s which is right about $1.50.
The Grand Bazaar
This is one of the largest markets in the entire world with over 5,000 shops of all sizes. The Grand Bazaar is an absolute must when in Istanbul. I came early in the day when there were not that many people there – a typical day there can have up to 400,000 people! All the merchants will try to sell you on something so be prepared to get pulled into every direction. Keep your belongings in sight at all times and don’t have any expensive things out because you become attractive to sellers. As a solo female traveler at the Grand Bazaar, I felt harassed by shopkeepers so much so that some even grabbed my arm to pull me in to their stores. It was incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to avoid!