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Istanbul Rainy-day activities

Our most recommended Istanbul Rainy-day activities

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

1. 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.

Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

2. Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

Discover Istanbul's most iconic sights on a van tour. Listen to your guide recount tales of the city's colorful past as you pass by landmarks such as the Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome. Round off the experience with a visit to the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world. Start your tour at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which was the sports and social center of the old city. Discover major artworks including the Obelisk from Egypt, the Serpentine Column from Delphi, and the fountain of Willhelm II. Then, continue to the Blue Mosque, whose 6 minarets adorn Istanbul’s skyline. Next up is the Topkapi Palace, which was home to Ottoman emperors between the 15th and 19th centuries. Marvel at the jewel-stuffed treasury, the Ottoman Empire's imperial collections, and priceless displays of Oriental porcelain. If the Topkapi Palace is closed on your trip date, you'll visit the Nakkas Cistern instead. Continue to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, a monument of equal significance to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Behold the dome and stunning mosaics of this architectural gem as your guide recounts its turbulent history. Then, enter the Grand Bazaar with over 3,000 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry to ceramics and leather goods. Take a stroll around the Spice Bazaar and soak in the aroma of different spices, dried fruits, nuts, sweets, and lokum (Turkish Delights).

İstanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide

3. İstanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Historian Guide

Learn all about Istanbul’s Ottoman heritage, and visit one of the city’s top landmarks, on this small-group tour of the Topkapi Palace and the Harem chambers. Avoid the queues with fast track entry and explore the sprawling 15th Century palace and its expansive museum with an expert guide. Explore the extensive complex that winds down towards the Bosphorus. The palace itself is a balance of huge courtyards, cavernous council chambers and winding secret passageways, which were built to ensure the Ottoman sultans and their families could enjoy maximum privacy and discretion. A highlight of the tour is the Imperial Harem, comprising over 400 chambers in one of the sultan’s private apartments. The rooms are characterized by colorful mosaic floors and stained glass windows, and provide incredible insight into the private world of the Ottoman court.

From Istanbul: 2-Day All-Inclusive Cappadocia Guided Trip

4. From Istanbul: 2-Day All-Inclusive Cappadocia Guided Trip

Get an insider’s view of Cappadocia’s most iconic spots on an all-inclusive trip from Istanbul. Float above volcanic spires and honeycombed hills on a hot air balloon. Be accompanied by a guide to Goreme Open Air Museum, Avanos, Pasabag, Uchisar, and Kaymakli Underground City, and more. Day 1 Depart from your hotel in an air-conditioned minivan and make your way to Istanbul airport. Catch your domestic flight to Cappadocia. Upon your arrival to Cappadocia, meet your guide and begin your tour of North Cappadocia. Walk in the land of fairy chimneys. Visit Goreme Open Air Museum, Red River, Devrent Valley, and Pasabag. Make your way to Avanos Village for a traditional lunch and pottery demonstration. Get to the top of the Uchisar Castle, the highest point of the region, a perfect vantage point for a panoramic view of the stunning Cappadocian landscape. After sightseeing, be driven to your hotel. Spend the night in Cappadocia. Day 2 You can opt to join a balloon flight in the morning. Your day tour will be organized according to the balloon flight hours. After breakfast at the hotel, embark on a full-day tour of South Cappadocia. Go off the beaten path to visit Cavusin. See its famous rock churches. Head to Goreme Panorama for views of fairy chimneys. Hike in the Red Valley. Visit Old Greek Love Valley, Kaymakli Underground City, and Pigeon Valley. Walk through a picturesque maze of rock formations. Witness an onyx demonstration by local experts. Savor a typical Turkish lunch. Conclude the day tour by 5 PM. Then, be driven to Kayseri Airport for your domestic flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your driver and taken to your hotel.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

5. Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

Discover the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome on a private or shared guided walking tour in Istanbul. Admire the historic architecture and unique views of the city. Get an insider perspective of these must-see sights. Meet your guide in the Sultanahmet neighborhood at an easy spot and check out Istanbul's greatest monuments on a walking tour. Start with the Blue Mosque, the most visited monument in Istanbul famous for its stunning blue tiles. Marvel at this imperial Ottoman Mosque, commissioned by Sultan Ahmet. Witness the evocative power and splendor of its past as you enjoy a comprehensive guided tour of the Blue Mosque. Afterward, enjoy the courtyard for breathtaking views of modern Istanbulites and take a stroll around the neighborhood. Walk through the Hippodrome, the social and political center of the city, and learn about the significance of the famous obelisks. Visit the Hagia Sophia and witness the most significant site of the Greek Orthodox religion in Istanbul and learn how it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Explore the stunning monument with elements of a mosque and a church standing next to each other. Admire the basilica’s stunning dome and minarets, and countless mosaics, paintings, and Roman columns. Learn how the impressive İznik tiles were added over time in the Mosque, how the stunning Virgin Mary mosaic was made, and why the Ottomans chose to bury their sultans in the courtyard. Explore the Arasta Bazaar nestled right under the shadow of the Blue Mosque to understand 17th Century architecture of public buildings. It is a well-known but modest open-air market in the heart of Sultanahmet. Enjoy a last-minute tea break and hunt for gifts to take home. End your tour in Sultanahmet Square with enough information and hints to help you be independent for the rest of your time in Istanbul.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket

6. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket

Discover the Topkapi Palace on a guided tour. Learn about Ottoman history in the Palace and the life of the Sultan's family in the harem.  Meet your dedicated guide at a hot spot for traditional Turkish delicacies, where there are restroom facilities and you can purchase water or snacks. Then let your guide take you to Topkapi Palace. Explore the splendor of Topkapi Palace, the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Discover how the complex of buildings, pavilions, and courtyards was a self-contained city, which most inhabitants rarely left. Explore the outer-terraced gardens and admire the view over the Golden Horn. Visit the harem, ruled by the Queen Mother who wielded domestic and political power. The harem housed hundreds of women and family members as well as hundreds of eunuchs, who performed a wide range of duties. Admire cupboard doors inlaid with mother of pearl and tortoiseshell and stunning Iznik tiles with verses from the Quran. The tour ends with a visit to the holy relics and the imperial kitchens.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Ticket, Tour & Audio Guide

7. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Ticket, Tour & Audio Guide

Get skip-the-line entry to the glorious Topkapi Palace of Istanbul. Explore the museum with a guide, then take the time to discover the treasures at your own pace with an audio guide. Learn all about the palace's opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury, and sprawling Harem. Meet your guide in front of the museum and go directly to the entrance. Save 2 to 3 hours by skipping the line. Following security checks, discover the council hall, arms and armory section, and holy relics with your guide. Learn about the palace's colorful history. Then, enjoy the palace at your own pace with an audio guide. Take a long coffee break while enjoying a spectacular view of the Bosphorus. You can see all of the palace in an hour, or you can choose to stay inside for several hours to explore fully at your leisure.

Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour (English Guide)

8. Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Combo Tour (English Guide)

See two of Istanbul's most famous sites with this combo guided tour of the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sofia. Enjoy a guided tour inside both sites and save valuable time to see more of the city. Experience the freedom to visit both sites in one day or over two days. Skip-the-line at the Basilica Cistern and meet your guide at the entrance and avoid waiting in two lines to gain entry. Descend into the mysterious sixth-century water reservoir, and see a new side of Istanbul that you haven't seen before. Enjoy a 30-minute orientation tour of the museum, and then enjoy free time to stay as long as you like to explore the museum and learn more about the Cistern's history in Istanbul. Meet your guide for the Hagia Sofia at specific times in front of the world-famous structure. Enter with your knowledgeable guide and listen as they give a 30-minute tour of the museum before taking your time exploring the rest of the museum. Discover the Unesco heritage site at your own pace and enjoy an included audio app with more information about the site.

Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

9. Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

Explore Dolmabahçe Palace, the biggest royal residence of the Ottoman sultans and the imperial family. Check out incredible architecture and interior design as you learn about the palace's history from your guide. Meet your guide outside the monument and enter with your skip-the-line admission ticket. Begin a guided tour of the stunning interiors. Learn about how the palace was built by the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid I and opened in 1856. Admire the greatest collection of Baccarat and Bohemian chandeliers on the planet, including the biggest Bohemian chandelier ever. Marvel at the vast collection of gold inside, specifically on the ornate ceilings.  As you continue the tour, learn about the distinct differences between the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Topkapı Palace, from their architectural style to the use of furniture. Find out how the Dolmabahçe Palace was the last headquarters of the empire and was served until 1922. At the end of your tour, spend some time going around the Imperial Harem on your own.

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque Skip-the-Line Tour

10. Istanbul: Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque Skip-the-Line Tour

Discover the classic monuments of Istanbul on a half-day guided tour of the city center, including skip-the-line entry to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Visit the colorful and lively Grand Bazaar to shop unique local products. Start your trip with pickup directly from your chosen hotel or pickup point, and then make your way by air-conditioned vehicle to Sultan Ahmet Square. Skip the long lines to Hagia Sophia, built on the site of an earlier church under the orders of Emperor Justinian I. Learn how it became the largest cathedral in the world and was later converted to a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. Continue to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque, and see the blue Iznik tiles and minarets of the city's most iconic attraction. Learn more about the former arena of the Byzantine Empire at the ruins of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Round off your trip at the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 60 streets and 5000 shops. Stop into an authentic oriental atmosphere and see all kinds of gifts, leather clothing, rugs, antiques, jewelry, hand-woven fabrics, and more.

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Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

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What are the best day trips and excursions from Istanbul?

The best day trips and excursions from Istanbul are:

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Other Sightseeing Options in Istanbul

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 2,448 reviews

This experience is one of a kind and highly recommend for all. The people you meet and see while on the tour represent all walks of life. It's true that Istanbul is the meeting place of the world. Many thanks to the host of the trip who brought along blue plastic bags to carry our shoes while inside the Hagia Sophia Mosque and mentioned the mosaic of The Son of Mary that was near exit. You have my deepest thanks and appreciation. Apologies that I forgot your name brother.

It was extremely interesting because it was a formal and authentic religious activity and not a presentation for tourists, as you cannot speak, photograph or applaud. I was extremely involved with the quality of the musicians, prayers and dances. I recommend this tour and I can say that it was one of the nicest tours I've ever taken in my life.

Very well-organized tour. Started on time. Staff were quite polite and the tour guide very knowledgeable about the history and details about the palace. The palace is worth the visit: majestic, impressive. It is a trip back in time!

The guide we had was amazing! He was knowledgeable, gave us thorough historical information, was very friendly. He was exceptionally considerate to my mother who had difficulty walking. Hakan is the best guide I’ve ever had!

The guide (Ali) was very competent and spoke very good English which everyone can understand.