If you have limited time in Istanbul, this day tour is the perfect way to take in the most important sights. Enjoy express entry at Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern, lunch at a great restaurant, stunning views over the city, and a Bosphorus cruise!
What to Expect
Your full-day tour starts early at the Blue Mosque, where you’ll meet up with others in your small group (maximum of 15 participants) and your expert local guide (a fluent English-speaker).
Before the mosque opens, your guide will tell you about the history and architecture of the building and the rituals that take place inside. Arriving early you’ll beat the worst of the crowds to explore the incredible interior.
Continue on to the historic Hagia Sophia, once a Greek Orthodox basilica, then a mosque, and now a museum. Marvel at the stunning golden interior as you enjoy a guided tour of the building and have all your questions answered.
Afterwards you’ll head to the Basilica Cistern. Built in the 6th century this huge ancient cistern is most noted for the carved Medusa columns, but its very size will take your breath away.
The morning part of your tour also includes a walk past Topkapi Palace, where your guide will provide an introduction to the palace and its harem, from the outside.
Then it’s off to lunch! The tour operator has made a reservation at a favorite local Turkish restaurant, where you’ll enjoy a huge spread of kebab meats (chicken, lamb, and beef), sauces, hummus, rice, salad, and borek pastries.
After lunch you’ll take a short walk to the Grand Bazaar, the incredible shopping hub of Istanbul. Your guide will show you around one of the largest covered markets in the world, featuring 60 streets and 5,000 shops. You’ll hear about Turkey’s famous jewelry, ceramics, carpets, fashions, and quirks and learn you how to get the best bang for your buck if you decide to come back to shop later on.
Walk through the local shopping street, lined with stores selling beautiful hijabs and local Western-style fashions. Your group will take a quick detour up a flight of stairs to a special viewing point along the way, where you’ll marvel at the views over the Bosphorus and the city on both sides of it.
Then it’s on to the Spice Bazaar to learn about Turkish flavors and how Istanbul’s varied spices are actually an indicator of its long history. Following this is a private Bosphorus cruise, sure to be a highlight of the tour.
Finish your tour on the other side of the bridge, with a walk through the local fish market before making your way uphill to the Galata Tower. Rather than climbing the tower, which can be quite crowded, you’ll find the same views nearby at a private café. Relax and treat yourself to a Turkish coffee or a beer while admiring the view.
- All admission tickets and reservations (including Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern)
- Bosphorus cruise on a private boat (no more than 30 passengers)
- Traditional Turkish tasting menu
- Access to a special rooftop near the bazaar
- Expert guide
What's Not Included
- Hotel pick-up and drop off
- Drinks or snacks at the last café stop
You'll meet in the Sultanahmet area, at the Blue Mosque entrance gate located on the side of Hippodrome Square, next to the Grand Vezir Restaurant & Cafe. You will find this entrance near the serpent, or twisted column, which is in the center of Hippodrome Square.
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Know Before You Go
• Women should bring a scarf to cover their head inside the Blue Mosque. All visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering. The tour operator is not responsible for guests denied entry due to inappropriate dress
• As this tour includes lunch the operator requires notification, immediately after booking, of any food allergies or dietary requirements. Please remind your guide of this at the start of the tour as well
• As a religious site, the Blue Mosque is subject to unforeseen closures. If the mosque is closed the tour operator will make every effort to contact you in advance and will extend your visit at other sites
• Unfortunately the tour operator is unable to accommodate wheelchair users and anyone with walking disabilities on this tour. The tour operator is also unable to accommodate strollers
• It is recommended that you wear comfortable shoes for this walking tour
• This is a small group tour with a maximum of 12 participants