Istanbul
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Istanbul Culture & History

The Whirling Dervishes Show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center

1. The Whirling Dervishes Show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center

Watch a magnificent 1-hour show of the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and witness the miracle of the whirling dances and dervishes. Dating back 800 years, the show represents in thrilling fashion the idea that everything in the universe, from atoms, to the solar system, to the blood that circulates in the body, revolves. Sema is a spiritual journey that the soul makes to God as it becomes mature and attains unity. After the journey, it returns to its life and to serve humankind again. This thrilling program begins with a classical Turkish music concert, followed by the Sema ceremony, comprised of 7 parts. Watch in wonder as the whirling dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, a drum voice is heard and all 7 parts unfold, - the ceremony climaxes when the extraordinary whirling dervishes revolve to represent 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. Chosen as the best authentic local event in 2010 by the Federation of Tourist Guides in Turkey, this fantastic show takes place in the fantastic HodjaPasha Culture Center, which is a restored 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci.

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Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise with Entertainment

2. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise with Entertainment

Climb aboard a pleasure boat for a luxurious cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, while dining from a 3-course menu of Turkish meze and local drinks. Sail past some of Istanbul's greatest monuments, while watching traditional entertainment along the way. Following a pick-up from your hotel, transfer to the yacht for the start of your journey. Get a welcome cocktail on deck as you begin to sail as far as the Black Sea. Cruise between Europe and Asia, passing under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, such as Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace, and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the grand Ottoman fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle. Soak up some of Istanbul’s legendary nightlife as you pass famous nightclubs, such as Reina and Sortie. Marvel at the waterside mansions and villas that line the European and Asian coasts. As you feast on a meal of typical meze dishes and mains, watch live folk dances from different regions of Turkey. Be seduced by the sensual moves of a belly dancer, and relax to international music by the on-board DJ. Back on dry land, enjoy a free shuttle transfer back to your hotel.

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Istanbul: Turkish Entertainment Bosphorus Dinner Cruise

3. Istanbul: Turkish Entertainment Bosphorus Dinner Cruise

Climb aboard a pleasure boat for a luxury cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Get a welcome cocktail on arrival and then set sail for the Black Sea passing some of Istanbul's most famous monuments along the way. Cruise between Europe and Asia and pass under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, including Dolmabahçe Palace and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle, and marvel at the mansions that line both coastlines. Watch live folk dances from the regions of Turkey, be seduced by a belly dancer and relax to international music played by the on-board DJ.

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Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

4. Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

Explore Dolmabahçe Palace - the biggest royal residence of the sultans and the imperial family of the Ottoman Empire. Meet your licensed English-speaking 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 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 - for example, the architectural style and the way that the furniture was used. Find out about how the Dolmabahçe Palace was the last headquarter of the empire and was served until 1922.

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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

5. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

Skip the line and visit the most important museum of Turkey and the Balkan Peninsula. Discover how the Topkapi Palace was built between 1466 - 1478 and served for over 400 years as the residency and administrative headquarter of the Ottoman Sultans. The guide will explain to you the entire story of the Palace during a one hour tour. Marvel at the great architectural beauty of this important monument of the Ottoman Empire.

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Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

6. Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

You will start at the old Hippodrome of Constantinople which was the sports and social center of the old city. Discover major works of art including the Obelisk from Egypt, the Serpentine Column from Delphi, and the fountain of Willhelm II, constructed by the Germans. From there, continue to the Blue Mosque, whose six minarets are a key fixture of Istanbul’s skyline. Next, head for the Topkapi Palace, which was home to the Ottoman emperors between the 15th and 19th centuries. Marvel at the jewel-stuffed treasury and priceless displays of Oriental porcelain. Move on to the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Behold the dome and stunning Byzantine mosaics of this architectural gem as your guide recounts its turbulent history. Then visit the Grand Bazaar with over 3,000 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry to ceramics and leather goods. Also stroll around the Spice Bazaar with its incredible smell from almost every spice imaginable, as well as dried fruits and nuts, sweets and the ubiquitous Turkish Delight.

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Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

7. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

Meet with your professional local guide in front of Hagia Sophia. Hear a short history of the Old City then start the Hagia Sophia Tour.  Your guide will explain the mystery of the magnificent Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum at the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia has always been a precious building. 

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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi & Basilica Combo Ticket

8. Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Topkapi & Basilica Combo Ticket

After signing up for this experience, your name will be on the list for each of the monuments for 3 days. Be free to visit at the available times, gathering at the meeting points in front of the museums to skip the line with an authorized host. You can choose to visit all 3 museums in 1 day, or the three of them separately on different days. Once inside the museums, get tips on how to discover the museums in the best way. Afterward, you can stroll through the museums at your own pace as you listen to your audio guide app and explore for as long as you like. If you have any questions about the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace, the Cisterna Basilica, or Istanbul in general, please do not hesitate to ask your host.

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From Istanbul: Gobeklitepe Day Tour

9. From Istanbul: Gobeklitepe Day Tour

Visit the fascinating archeological site of Gobekli Tepe on a full-day private tour from Istanbul. Explore this 11,500-year-old hilltop sanctuary, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start your day with an early morning pickup at your hotel. Transfer to the airport for a 2-hour-long flight to Sanliurfa, formerly known as Edessa. Edessa was is noted as one of the most important holy places in the world. Upon arrival at the airport in Sanliurfa, you will meet your guide that will lead to Gobekli Tepe. The discovery of Gobekli Tepe and its architecture has changed the entire known history of advanced civilizations. Archeologists believe it is the oldest religious site in the world. Explore its Neolithic collection of stone circles in this prehistoric site of worship. Learn how people built this structure 12,000 years ago using stone-age tools. Take a walk at the site of the excavation and find out recent findings. Give your feet a well-earned break by going to Sanliurfa and take some time for yourself for lunch at a local restaurant. Savor the delicious flavors of southeast Turkey. You can also spend some time shopping in the local market. After making the most of your free time, transfer to Sanliurfa airport to take a flight back to Istanbul. Be met with a representative upon landing to transfer back to your hotel.

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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Skip-the-Line Ticket & Audio Guide

10. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Skip-the-Line Ticket & Audio Guide

Take the shortest way into the glorious Topkapi Palace of Istanbul. Choose the time that suits you best, meet your host in front of the museum, and go directly to the entrance. You can save up to 2 or 3 hours by not standing in the famous lines. Following security checks, receive a brief introduction as to what to see inside, including the council hall, arms and armory section, or holy relics. Afterward, enjoy the palace at your own pace. You can enjoy a long coffee break in-between looking over a spectacular view of the Bosphorus. It is possible to see all of the palace within one hour, or you can choose to stay inside for several hours at your leisure. After your 30 minute-tour with your guide, you can stay inside the museum as long as you would like.

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 3,125 reviews

Excellent Tour! Mehmet our guide was very knowledgeable and very patient. We were a small group of 7 and this made the Tour more intimate and enjoyable. I would highly recommend this Tour when in Istanbul! 5 star rating!

Very knowledgeable and patient guide. Highly recommend. Some other guides were charging 50£ plus topkapi entrance fee for the experience and with gyg I got for 20£

We had an amazing walking tour in Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque, our tour guide was really friendly and knowledgeable

Hagia sofia and blue mosque are so amazing and we went to bazaar too.it was great over all.i love it

Beautiful sites and very knowledgeable tour guide Amet