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Things to do in
Istanbul

East meets West, Byzantine meets Ottoman, bustling meets leafy — Istanbul is full of eclectic surprises.

Our most recommended things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

1. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

Enjoy magical views of Istanbul from the Bosphorus on this dinner cruise. Sail on a yacht and watch a show with traditional Turkish folk dancing. Enjoy dinner and drinks while seeing sights like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata Tower, and the Bosphorus Bridge.  Choose from a cruise with hotel pickup and drop-off from Istanbul via an air-conditioned van or meet directly at the port. Enjoy drinks like Turkish coffee, tea, unlimited soft drinks, and unlimited alcoholic drinks (depending on option selected). Pick between a standard meal or a VIP option. Savor an appetizer plate with options like a seasonal salad or hot starters. Choose a main course like mixed grilled meat, seasonal fish, or a vegetarian menu. Finish your meal with a sweet dessert.  Dine on your tasty food while watching live entertainment like Turkish folk dancing, Latin flamenco dancing, and a DJ. Gaze out the window at the imposing Galata Tower and Maiden's Tower, which has stood since the medieval Byzantine period. Enjoy shows such as live music, Dervishes, Turkish dances, Latin dance, flamenco, Sirtaki, and belly dance in the middle of the Bosphorus. During the tour, you can learn details about the places you're curious about through the mobile audio guide app. On the day of the tour, contact your tour provider to find out more about using the audio guide. Capture pictures of the Baroque Revival architecture of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Ortaköy Mosque. Admire the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges which span the Bosphorus strait. Take in the waterside Ottoman architecture of the Beylerbeyi Palace. Vip Menu Starters: • 10 types of mixed Turkish appetizers or mixed seafood appetizers • Vegetable pastrami pie • Fish pastry • Shrimp stew • Fish meatballs • Grilled squid Main Dishes:(1 Type of main corse) • Beef medallion • Mixed grill plate (meatballs, lamb skewers, steak, chops) • Vegetarian vegetable casserole • Seasonal seafood grill • Italian pasta types • Salad • Mediterranean Turkish salad Desert and Fruit: • Mixed Special Turkish desert and Fruit • Unlimited local and non-alcoholic beverages

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Turkish Night Show

2. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Turkish Night Show

The Bosphorus night tour with dinner and "Turkish Night Show" is a luxurious and entertaining way to experience Istanbul's beauty and culture. This tour combines a relaxing cruise along the Bosphorus Strait with a delicious dinner and a vibrant cultural performance. The tour typically starts from the pier where the boat awaits. You'll board a comfortable and modern vessel equipped with indoor and outdoor seating areas, as well as a bar serving refreshing drinks and snacks. As the boat sets sail, you'll be treated to a stunning view of Istanbul's iconic landmarks, such as the Bosphorus Bridge, Dolmabahce Palace, and Maiden's Tower, all illuminated by the city lights. You'll also see the European and Asian sides of the city, which are divided by the Bosphorus Strait. The highlight of this tour is the delicious dinner that will be served on board, featuring a variety of Turkish specialties. The dinner is accompanied by a selection of local wines and soft drinks, creating a true feast for your senses. After dinner, you'll be entertained by a "Turkish Night Show", featuring traditional music, dance, and costume performances. The show includes belly dancers, folk dancers, cultural dances and live music, all of which showcase the vibrant and colorful culture of Turkey. You'll be invited to join in the fun and dance along to the music, creating a memorable and interactive experience. The tour usually lasts for around three hours, and once it's over. The Bosphorus night tour with dinner and "Turkish Night Show" is a fantastic way to experience Istanbul's beauty, culture, and cuisine all in one unforgettable evening. It's perfect for couples, families, and groups of friends who want to enjoy a special night out in Istanbul. ~ MENU ~ • TURKISH STARTER PLATE Spicy Paste, Fava, Muhammara, American Salad, Feta Chese, Cheddar Cheese, Haydari, Tomato, Cucumber • GREENS SALAD • PAÇANGA PASTRY • MAIN COURSE Grilled Meatballs, Spicy Chicken Skewers, Baked Seasonal Fish (Vegetarian Menu: Grilled Vegetables with Rice or Pasta) • TURKISH DESERT OR FRUITE PLATE • UNLIMITED LOCAL ALCOHOLIC & SOFT DRINKS Beer, Raki, Vodka, Red and White Wine, Gin and Soft Drinks NOTE: Imported alcoholic drinks are extra charged. There are 50 kinds of imported alcoholic beverages on board.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Cruise w/Audio Guide and Sunset Option

3. Istanbul: Bosphorus Cruise w/Audio Guide and Sunset Option

Hop on a sightseeing cruise to tour the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Get a fresh look at Istanbul on this boat tour with an audio guide to tell you all the top tales as you glide by Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden's Tower, and Galata Tower. Sail as far south to see the Bosphorus Bridge. Meet your host on the other side of Hagia Sophia and walk down to the pier behind the grand mosque. Jump on board to discover the Golden Horn, considered to be the world’s largest natural harbor. Sail through the magnificent Bosphorus strait forming the continental boundary between Asia and Europe. On your way, come across cultural and historical emblems of Istanbul like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden's Tower, and Galata Tower. Learn about the city’s rich heritage with an audio guide. Admire the Bosphorus coastline on the European side from the cruise, and see a string of villages, each with its own individual character and attractions. Glide past Dolmabahçe Palace, Ciragan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, and the Bosphorus Bridge, among others. Be sure to keep an eye out for ancient castles, famous parks, and spectacular seaside residences from different centuries. Capture stunning pictures of the vibrant city of Istanbul along the water on this scenic cruise.

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

4. Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

Witness the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and see the whirling dances and dervishes. Enjoy complimentary drinks during the show. Step inside a 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci and take your place. Learn more about the Mevlevi Sema from the provided booklet. Marvel at this cultural dance that dates back 800 years. The program begins with a classical Turkish music concert. See the dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, hear the drum voice as the dervishes perform the seven-part Sema ceremony which represents the birth of humanity. The Sema ends with a Fâtiha for the souls of all prophets, martyrs, and believers, and a prayer for the salvation of the country.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Guided Tour w/ Tickets

5. Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Guided Tour w/ Tickets

Join a small group guided tour through Istanbul's rich history and iconic landmarks. Benefit from all included priority admission tickets to visit the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque efficiently. Begin your adventure in the vibrant Sultanahmet neighborhood, where you'll meet your expert guide at a convenient meeting point. First stop is the renowned Blue Mosque, adorned with its mesmerizing blue tiles. Commissioned by Sultan Ahmet, this imperial Ottoman Mosque is a true marvel of architecture. Delve into its storied past as your guide leads you through a comprehensive tour, immersing you in its evocative ambiance. Take a moment to soak in the breathtaking views of modern Istanbul from the mosque's courtyard before wandering through the historic streets. Explore the Hippodrome, once the bustling social and political hub of the city, and unravel the significance of its iconic obelisks. Next, journey to the Hagia Sophia with pre-reserved tickets in hand. Discover the fascinating transition of this site from Greek Orthodox cathedral to mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Marvel at the seamless blend of mosque and church architecture, adorned with magnificent domes, minarets, and intricate mosaics. Your exploration continues as you delve into the secrets of the Hagia Sophia, learning about its intricate İznik tiles, remarkable Virgin Mary mosaic, and the intriguing tradition of burying sultans in its courtyard. Concluding in Sultanahmet Square, our tour leaves you equipped with ample knowledge and insights to navigate the enchanting streets of Istanbul independently. Join us for an unforgettable journey through the heart of this historic city.

Istanbul: Sunset or Daytime Yacht Tour w/AudioGuide & Snacks

6. Istanbul: Sunset or Daytime Yacht Tour w/AudioGuide & Snacks

Welcome aboard our yacht! We are embarking on a two-hour sunset or daytime small group (15 people) yacht cruise along the Bosphorus, where you will experience Istanbul from a completely different perspective. Istanbul is a city situated across two continents, with the Bosphorus Strait serving as a defining feature. This strait is one of the main attractions, and no visit to Istanbul is complete without a boat trip along its waters. From the deck of our snow white yacht, you will have the opportunity to behold nearly all of Istanbul's major landmarks: Dolmabahce Palace, Topkapi and Chiragan Palaces, Sultan Suleiman Mosque, the city's main bridge—the Bosphorus Bridge—and, of course, the famous Maiden Tower. We are delighted to accommodate your group of up to 15 people on our 20 metres yacht. Prepare to immerse yourself in unforgettable experiences and savor the unique views of Istanbul that unfold before you along the Bosphorus. Onboard our yacht, not only will you enjoy the stunning sights of Istanbul, but we also have a treat in store for you. As you take in the beauty of the Bosphorus, our attentive staff will serve you with light snacks and seasonal fruits. Indulge in a delectable selection of appetizers as you cruise along, complemented by the freshest fruits of the season.

Istanbul: Private Airport Transfer with Meet and Greet

7. Istanbul: Private Airport Transfer with Meet and Greet

Take advantage of a comfortable and economical private airport transfer to or from Istanbul city. Do not lose any time finding taxis or navigating public transport in a new city to make it to your flight on time. Get picked up from the airport and be greeted by a professional host to reach your hotel or address in comfort. For transfers from the hotel, get picked up from your Istanbul accommodation on time to reach the airport and catch your flight conveniently. Leave all worries behind with a pro fleet and team that will monitor any flight delays to assist you.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Entry & Audio Guide

8. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Entry & Audio Guide

Explore the striking Basilica Cistern during your visit to Istanbul. Journey beneath the earth's surface and admire the distinctive architecture while listening to an audio guide that will give you insights into the history of this place. Journey back in time and discover the ancient Byzantine Empire. Make your way down the stairs and discover the Basilica Cistern beneath the streets of Istanbul. Wander through the ancient structure and admire the architecture and ornamentation including Medusa heads from Greek mythology. As you listen to the audio guide, learn more about the Basilica Cistern's fascinating history. Stay inside for as long as you want and take some great photos of one of the top attractions in Istanbul.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Yacht with Live Guide

9. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on Yacht with Live Guide

The Sunset cruise starts from Kabatas Pier with a nice, decorated luxury yacht, sail up to second bridge of the Bosphorus from European part of Bosphorus Strait. While you are having your drinks with snacks enjoy the panoramic views that you wouldn’t see otherwise, and access excellent photo opportunities of Dolmabahce Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, the Rumeli Fortress, and many more local landmarks. After reaching to second bridge sail up from opposite direction to the Asian part of Bosphorus Strait. Watch the views of wooden houses and have information about all beautiful spots of Bosphorus by our legendary guide. You are now at Maidens Tower in the middle of the sea one of the best iconic point of Marmara Sea. With this beautiful tower you will have the opportunity of shooting some pictures of sunset on Bosphorus. Get ready to glide through the depths of history in the Bosphorus, the most beautiful place in Istanbul. You will forget all the tiredness of the day with the friendly service we will give you on our boat, which is one of the most beautiful yachts of the Bosphorus. Get your cameras ready while you get interesting information about history from our experienced and friendly guide. Because you will want to take a picture of all the beauties of the Bosphorus. We will end up our Sunset Cruise with some picture opportunity of old city at Kabatas pier where we start.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Dinner Show

10. Istanbul: Bosphorus Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Dinner Show

Enjoy Turkish food and entertainment on a scenic cruise with the mesmerizing city of Istanbul as the backdrop. Come across sites such as the Dolmabahce Palace, Bosphorus Bridge, and Anatolian Fortress as you watch a vibrant dance show and listen to live DJ music. Get picked up from the European side of Istanbul or arrive at the meeting point by yourself, depending on the option chosen. Begin your experience with the Whirling Dervishes show, a spiritual ritual performed by the followers of famous mystic Rumi. Be captivated by the Zeybek, an Aegean folk dance with heroic vibes. Admire the energetic celebration dance of Latin and Halay from Central Anatolia. Witness Turkish belly dancing and some fast-paced Roman dancing. Move on to the jaw-dropping Kafka dance performed with Caucasian music. End the experience on a high note with a demonstration of the Black Sea's Horon dance before dinner. Taste a delicious meal of fish or grilled meat, accompanied by unlimited soft drinks. After dinner, a live DJ performance will make your night even more magical as you head back to the port.

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Planning your trip to Istanbul

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

What top attractions are a must-see in Istanbul?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Istanbul?

The best day trips and excursions from Istanbul are:

Cappadocia

Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Istanbul

Soumya is a history and culture-enthusiast with a passion for traveling the world. She has lived on 4 continents and traveled to 30+ countries, while immersing herself in local culture in each one of them. She loves writing about her experiences on her travel blog, Stories by Soumya, and also contributes to leading publications such as BBC Travel and Architectural Digest.

What should I do on my first trip to Istanbul?

When in Istanbul, do not miss Hagia Sophia, one of the world's most impressive and contested religious monuments. Once an Eastern Roman Church, later a museum, and now a mosque, Hagia Sophia has a storied history. Hagia Sophia's collection of Byzantine mosaics is breathtaking. Another unmissable Istanbul landmark is the Galata Tower, an iconic watchtower whose origins date to the early 6th century. Today, Galata Tower is a symbol of Istanbul and the best place to get panoramic views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

What are some hidden gems to see in Istanbul?

The colorful and historical neighborhoods of Fener and Balat are hidden gems in Istanbul waiting to be discovered. Filled with cobbled streets, pastel-colored buildings, and gorgeous religious buildings, both Fener and Balat are a sight for sore eyes. Another secret place in Istanbul that will appeal to both history and art lovers is the Great Palace Mosaics Museum (closed for restoration at the moment). Located right around the corner from the Sultanahmet Park, the Mosaics Museum is the only remaining part of the Great Palace of Constantinople and is home to stunning floor mosaics from the Roman era.

How much time should I spend in Istanbul?

3 days are ideal to see the highlights of Istanbul.

On Day 1, explore the historic center, also called Sultanahmet. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, and the Archeological Museums are all located in this area. The Grand Bazaar is not very far away either.

On Day 2, take a stroll around Beyoglu and wander into its many museums, enjoy the vibes of Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, and head to the Galata Tower for a beautiful sunset.

Day 3 can be all about exploring the majestic Topkapi Palace, taking a cruise on the Bosphorus, and visiting some hidden gems such as the Ortakoy Mosque and Beylerbei Palace. If you'd like to escape the humdrum of city life, take a ferry to the Princes Islands and enjoy a day in nature.

What food is Istanbul known for?

If there's just one dish you have to taste in Istanbul, then that has to be doner kebap. Made with shaved meat skewered and grilled on a vertical spit, the doner is one of Turkey's most iconic dishes. Doner kebap can be served in different ways - with rice and potatoes, as a sandwich, or wrapped in lavas. Doner kebap originated in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century but has spread all over the world ever since and is known by several names now, some of the wellknown ones being Arab Shawarmas, Greek Gyros, and Mexican Tacos Al Pastor. Other delicious dishes that you should definitely try in Istanbul are simit, dolma, balik ekmek, kokorec, dondurma, baklava, and Turkish tea and coffee.

What is the best way to get around Istanbul?

The Historic Center of Istanbul or the Sultanahmet area is extremely walkable and can be easily covered on feet. If you wish to rest your legs a bit, take a ride on Tram T1 which connects all tourist attractions in the historic district. For all attractions outside the historic center, take a taxi or ride in a dolmus, shared vans that offer cheap rides throughout the city.

What are the best months to visit Istanbul?

The best months to visit Istanbul are April - May (spring) and September - October (fall). Temperatures hover in the late 60s - early 70s, there's plenty of sunshine, and the weather is just perfect to be out and about. Istanbul also plays host to a number of festivals during these months. The most beautiful festivals include the International Tulip Festival (April), Istanbul International Film Festival (April), Istanbul Coffee Festival (October), and Akbank Jazz Festival (September - October).

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul?

Beyoglu is one of the best neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul. It is home to the famous Galata Tower, Taksim Square, and boasts of numerous art galleries and cultural centers. PERA Museum, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, SALT Art Gallery are a couple of famous ones. The happening Istiklal Street, that runs through the center of Beyoglu, is chock full of classic Art Nouveau buildings, shops, restaurants, & bars. In short, Beyoglu is Istanbul's throbbing cultural heart that attracts art connoisseurs, history lovers, foodies, and partygoers alike.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Kadikoy, on the Asian side, is one of Istanbul's trendiest neighborhoods and the best place for good food. Full of high-quality restaurants and trendy cafes, Kadikoy offers a wide variety of Turkish food including doner kebaps, Iskender kebaps, stuffed mussels, kokorec, refreshing juices, tea, and coffee. The best way to explore Kadikoy is on this food tour (https://www.getyourguide.com/istanbul-l56/istanbul-taste-of-two-continents-food-tour-t187992/) that let's you taste the best that Kadikoy has to offer.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Istanbul is home to several medieval markets dating to the Ottoman era, the most popular one being the Grand Bazaar. Dating to the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar is home to over 4000 shops and the best place to buy Turkish souvenirs. Be sure to check out the Iznik tiles, evil eye charms, glittering mosaic lamps, and handmade carpets at Grand Bazaar. If you're planning to luxury shop, check out the chic neighborhood of Nişantaşı that's full of high-end department stores, boutiques, cafes, and fine dining restaurants.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit x?

Sultanahmet is the best neighborhood to stay in Istanbul because it is one of the safest areas in Istanbul and is home to all major attractions including Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace. If you're visiting Istanbul for the first time, Sultanahmet is your best bet. However, if you'd like to venture out of the historic district, then I highly recommend staying in Besiktas, an upscale neighborhood that is home to luxurious hotels and quaint BnBs, all of which provide stunning views of the Bosphorus.

What's are 4 best tips for a person traveling to Istanbul?

1) Buy an Istanbul Museum Pass which covers many museums and palaces in the city including the pricey Topkapi Palace and Harem. The pass is valid for 5 days and will save you some precious dollars. Check the list of museums covered on the official website here: Museums

2) Stay in the Sultanahmet area if it is your first time in Istanbul. You'll be right in the middle of the historic center and within walking distance from all unmissable Istanbul attractions.

3) Istanbul traffic is crazy especially during rush hours. Avoid taking a car. Use the metro and tram instead.

4) Booking.com is blocked in Turkey. Be sure to complete your bookings before you enter Turkey or use a VPN.

What should people avoid doing in Istanbul?

Avoid taking a taxi during peak office hours because the roads can get crazy busy and you'll be stuck for hours. Take the metro or tram instead. Avoid getting drinks or going to the bar with strangers. You may fall prey to the "Let's Have a Drink" scam where you end up paying thousands of dollars for other people's drinks.

What are your top 4 favourite GetYourGuide experiences in Istanbul?

1) Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

2) Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

3) Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

4) Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

What is one thing that surprised you about Istanbul?

While, I am not a vegetarian, I always love to indulge in veg and vegan food when traveling. I always thought that it would be difficult to find vegetarian food in Istanbul. But I was so wrong. Istanbul not only has a wide variety of vegetarian delicacies but also a number of good veg/vegan restaurants.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Istanbul?

One of the best family-friendly places to visit in Istanbul is the Miniaturk Museum in Beyoglu district. Miniaturk is an open air museum that houses more than 100 miniature models of Turkish historical monuments and landmarks. Spread over more than 600,000 sq ft, Miniaturk is one of the world's largest miniature parks that attracts both kids and adults and provides a wonderful learning opportunity for all. There are several food stalls and cafes to fill you up during the tour.

What is the best thing to do in Istanbul for couples?

Istanbul is one of the most beautiful places in the world and that makes it an exceedingly romantic destination. It goes without saying that there are a ton of romantic things to do in Istanbul with the most popular ones being taking a private cruise on the Bosphorus and trying a couple's bath in one of Istanbul's historic hammams. Couple hammams are intimate experiences and best enjoyed with your significant other.

What are the best annual events in Istanbul?

One of the best festivals to attend in Istanbul is the International Tulip Festival that is held every year in spring (usually the month of April) when tulips are in full bloom across all Istanbul parks and public spaces. Millions of tulips bloom across the city making Istanbul even more prettier. There's usually a huge flower carpet in the Sultanahmet area in front of the Blue Mosque. Tulips have long been an integral part of Ottoman life and culture with tulips forming an important embellishment in Turkish tiles and ceramics. It is the National Flower of Turkey and is a symbol of spring, growth and prosperity. Experiencing the Tulip Festival in Istanbul is almost like immersing yourself in a bit of Turkish history and culture.

What are the best things to do around Istanbul?

If you'd like to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in Istanbul and head to somewhere serene and peaceful, then hop on a ferry and head to one of Istanbul's four Princes Islands. These islands are full of lush green forests, charming wooden mansions, and pretty beaches and alcoves. The best part about these islands is that they are car-free. You can walk, hike, or rent a bicycle for the day. The hike up to the Aya Yorgi Monastery in Buyukada, the largest Princes Island, is well-marked, pretty and dotted with stunning views of the Sea of Marmara.

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 14,472 reviews

We are really lucky to have booked a tour with Mr. Timur. Timur gave us great information about Istanbul and Cappadocia tours and listed the most beautiful and suitable places for shopping. If you come to Istanbul, be sure to visit Mr. Timur.

Definitely worth the price. The activities were not included in the price but were great. is described.

We felt pampered from the hotel pick up to the entire dinner on the cruise!! Everyone is very kind..

Just awesome! No regrets ! Thank you to all the team for a great time with you!

We had a very nice night. I definitely recommend it.