Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert Help

Last Updated on September 26, 2020

If you have found yourself with a layover at New Istanbul Airport (IST), you will definitely be wondering what to do with your time except sleeping on the seats. The larger of the two major Istanbul airports, IST is a very busy airport covering a huge airport layout that can get the best of even the most seasoned travelers.

While the duration of your layover and the terminal you are stuck in, there are several on-site airport facilities suited for layover passengers. For passengers and families with kids, there is a Kid’s Playground located at the air-side of departures.

Note that there are not any things to do and places to see near New Istanbul Airport (IST). Istanbul city center is located about 40-45 km. from the airport, within 1,5-2 hours transportation time.

Here you may find a list of 8 things to do at New Istanbul Airport (IST), to help you plan your stay.

1. Enjoy a Meal

New Istanbul Airport has variety of nice bakeries, patisseries, cafes, bars, restaurants, popular coffee chains, fast food restaurants and Grab-and-Go buffets that are serving assorted tastes to the passengers.

You can easily find something for your taste in the many cafes and restaurants located at the International Terminal – Airside, Domestic Terminal – Air-side and Land-side. In addition to many quality ones, of course, Starbucks, Gloria Jean’s Coffees, Popeyes and Burger King may be just what you’re looking for.

2. Make Shopping

You may find many shops to browse at the New Istanbul Airport (IST), and you may even find a good deal or two. Duty Free area consists of 9 sections housing different concepts, that include; Fashion Garden, Family Palace, High Lux Hills, Style Beach. Each section welcomes passengers with concept-related selective brands. The Duty Free shops offer decent discounts on many brands, especially for scents and perfumes.

You can also find plenty of fancy local and international fashion brand stores to browse, and offering accessories, jewelry and watches, kids wear and toys, home textile, electronics and more.

3. Visit Airport Art Galleries

There are 2 exhibition areas at the New Istanbul Airport (IST), located on the air-side of the Domestic Terminal, Departures Floor. You may stroll around the galleries and enjoy the art you can spot.

  • Ara Güler / Istanbul Exhibition: The photo exhibition of Ara Güler, the iconic Turkish photographer and journalist who recently died.
  • A Victory Monument Exhibition: The photo exhibition showing the 42-months construction story of New Istanbul Airport.

4. Relax in a Lounge

Airport lounges can be the best way to spend your layover by paying a flat fee and get unlimited food, drinks and WiFi Internet, all in a very relaxing environment. There are currently three lounges at the airport that include; the IGA Lounge, the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, the Turkish Miles & Smiles Lounge and the Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge.

The IGA Lounge is located at the international departure floor and you should get IGA Pass to take the advantage of its wide range of services.

The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is located near Gate E1 and open to all Turkish Airlines business class & Star Alliance business class passengers. No guests allowed. The Turkish Miles & Smiles Lounge is located near Gate C1 and open to Miles & Smiles Elite & Elite Plus customers, and all Star Alliance Gold members. One guest is allowed per person. The Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge can be accessed after crossing the terminal main vehicle security point and following the road and direction on the right.

5. Go Sightseeing in Istanbul

If you’ve got a lot of time with your next flights, you can go out of the New Istanbul Airport(IST) and make a sightseeing visito to the Istanbul city center. But it takes about 1,5-2 hours to reach the city center, so we only recommend leaving the airport if you’ve got a layover of at least 10–12 hours between flights.

Also make sure to leave enough time to get back to the airport, pick up your bags, and process through Security before your next flight. For more tips and suggestions, see our Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport page.

You should focus on the one or two things you really care to see. Our recommendation is to focus on;

First Option:

Visit Sultanahmet (45 km.) and see one of the below most popular sights.

  • Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome, 20 mins),
  • Topkapi Palace (one hour),
  • Hagia Sophia Museum (one hour),
  • Archaeology Museums (2 hrs),
  • Blue Mosque (45 mins),
  • Basilica Cistern (30 mins),
  • Grand Bazaar (one hour).

Plus a quick lunch or dinner somewhere you find attractive. You probably won’t have enough time to see all the sights at once, so you’ll need to visit Istanbul again to see them all.

See our complete Sultanahmet guide page.

Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert Help

Second Option:

Visit Taksim (40 km.) and stroll along the famous pedestrian Istiklal Street, see Madam Tussauds Wax Museum (30 mins), Anthony of Padua Church (30 mins) or Pera Museum (30 mins), have rest in one of the cafes and restaurants in Asmalimescit, Flower Passage, or make some shopping boutiques and shops along the Istiklal Street.

See our complete Taksim guide page.

Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert Help

Insider Advice:

Here, we only suggest the proven ways and top rated ones with travelers’ comments. And the tickets with the best value for money.

Sultanahmet Layover

* Take the HAVAIST Airport Shuttle to Sultanahmet (100 minutes) (Buy HAVAIST Shuttle Online Ticket (QR Code, fastest way) or IstanbulKart for public transportation)

* Buy fast track entry ticket and visit Hagia Sophia (closed on Mondays, if so, than visit Topkapi Palace) (1 hour)

* Have a snack/dinner (1 hour)

* Head for Eminonu (by 5 minutes tram or 15 minutes downhill walk)

* Take a 1,5 hours Bosphorus Cruise from Eminonu Pier

* Take the HAVAIST Airport Shuttle from Eminonu back to New Istanbul Airport

Taksim Layover

* Take the HAVAIST Airport Shuttle to Taksim (100 minutes) (Buy HAVAIST Shuttle Online Ticket (QR Code, fastest way) or IstanbulKart for public transportation)

* Stroll along the Taksim Square and Istiklal Street (1 to 2 hours)

* Have a snack/dinner (1 hour)

* Take the HAVAIST Airport Shuttle from Taksim back to New Istanbul Airport

New Istanbul Airport Layover Tours

This is good option that all the arrangements will be made via travel agent. A handpicked, local, English speaking professional guide with transport by private vehicle. You will receive refreshments, and your driver will point out the sights you won’t want to miss seeing. And you can be sure that you will arrive on time to transfer on to your next destination.

VIP Layover Tour from New Istanbul Airport

This is one of the best ones offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert HelpHighlights
  • All sites in 6 hours
  • Enjoy a private transfer
  • Skip the lines at the museums
  • See the most famous landmarks in Istanbul
  • Get first hand information from historian guide
Tour Itinerary

You’ll be picked up and taken to the Hagia Sophia, and meet your historian guide. You’ll visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Harem with an historian guide and get first hand information of the most significant historical sights of the city.

Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert Help

You’ll have free time to visit close by attractions such as Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern or Grand Bazaar. And if you would like, you can also make a FREE 90 minute Bosphorus cruise.

Guides will meet you again in front of the Hagia Sophia afterwards, and bring you back to New Istanbul Airport.

Important Notice: This package is suitable if you arrive in Istanbul before 08:00 am. and will have a layover time of 6 to 9 hours.

  • Private Round-trip Transfers
  • Tours by Historian Guide
  • Fast Track Entry to Hagia Sophia
  • Fast Track Entry to Topkapi Palace
  • Fast Track Entry to Harem
  • Bosphorus Cruise
  • Public Transportation
Not Included

Basilica Cistern

Available days and hours: Daily except Mondays and Tuesdays at 09:00
Tour duration: 6-9 hours

Meeting point: Meet your driver after the luggage claim area. The driver will bring you to your tour guide waiting for you at the Hagia Sophia.

Ticket price: €149

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Book Your New IST VIP Layover Tour

Alternative Tours

We highly recommend you to take Layover Tours from the New Istanbul Airport (IST) with a handpicked, local, English speaking professional guide with transport by private vehicle. It is a very good option if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making all the arrangements by yourself, including the tickets, waiting at the queue and 2-ways transportation.

You will receive refreshments, and your driver will point out the sights you won’t want to miss seeing. And you can be sure that you will arrive on time to transfer on to your next destination. You can pre-book your guided New Istanbul airport layover tours below.

There are also a number of alternative transport options to the city center such as taxis, private or airport shuttles, but if you don’t have much time, we don’t recommend them for a good organized sightseeing tour to the city center for layovers.

You can read all the transportation options from our Travelling to and from New Istanbul Airport (Insider Tips, Buses, Shuttles, Taxis) page.

6. Get Connected

You can stay connected in between your friends or family, use your social media accounts or surf the internet during your layover at the airport. There are many WiFi spots at the airport for your needs.

7. Take a Shower

You can freshen up between flights by taking a shower during your layover at the New Istanbul Airport. There are several lounges (IGA Airport Lounge, Turkish Airlines Lounge Business and Turkish Airlines Lounge Miles&Smiles) offer shower facilities, as well as the YOTEL Istanbul Airport Hotel.

8. Sleep

As for sleeping on a seat within the airport, New Istanbul Airport is a fairly easy place to get some sleep between flights, especially while you’re inside Security. The Airport staff typically tolerant of sleepers as this is quite a common practice. The chairs are usually fitted with armrests and also note that the lights can sometimes be very strong. Therefore, you might want to bring an eye mask and earplugs for a less interrupted rest.

Airport Hotels

Passengers en route to or from flights can rent day rooms or overnight stays at the YOTEL Istanbul airport hotel sleep cabins. YOTEL serves in two separate parts of the New Istanbul Airport (IST), YOTEL Istanbul Airport (Landside) and YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport (Airside), with total 451 rooms (also known as cabins).

Top 8 Things to Do at the New Istanbul Airport (IST) + Local Expert Help
YOTEL İstanbul Airport

You can take the advantage of comfortable luxury bedding, rejuvenating rain showers, relaxing mood lights, numerous charging points and smart TVs there. You are able to make hourly bookings as well. Note that there is a high demand on the rooms, so book in advance to guarantee your room.

YOTEL Istanbul Booking & Price Information

For those who prefer a hotel near the airport, there are only few hotels located within 14 km. (the closest one) and 30 km. from the airport and it takes about 30 minutes to reach from and to the airport.

See our Hotels near New Istanbul Airport (IST) page for details and locations.

Sleeping Pods/Cabins at New Istanbul Airport

New Istanbul Airport (IST) (2020 Master Guide with Insider Advice, Tips)
image source – IGA

New Istanbul Airport (IST) recently introduced a series of sleep cabins called “IGA Sleepod”, at the International Flights, Departure Terminal. Passengers can rent these sleeping capsules on an hourly basis. The fare is €9.

A very good service for airport sleepers to have a relax and peaceful sleep, and a budget alternative to airport hotels. Continue reading…


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