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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. 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: • Mushroom beef stragozate • 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 or fruity chocolate cake • Unlimited local and non-alcoholic beverages

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

2. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

Discover the Basilica Cistern under the streets of Istanbul on a guided tour. Be amazed by the stunning architecture of the cistern during the tour and gaze at the Medusa Heads. Skip-the-line and avoid the long queue, as you follow your guide through history. Meet your guide in front of the exit gate of the Basilica Cistern and enter together. Skip the long lines and enjoy a highlights tour and learn interesting facts about the water cistern with an audio guide. Marvel at the engineering of the cistern while hearing the history with a downloadable audio guide. After your guided tour, stay and explore the building at your own pace. 

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

3. 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.

From Istanbul: Princes' Islands Cruise with Lunch & Transfer

4. From Istanbul: Princes' Islands Cruise with Lunch & Transfer

Cruise across the deep-blue waters of the Marmara Sea on a boat tour departing from Istanbul. Experience two of the nearby Princes's Islands, Büyükada and Kınalıada, with free time to explore each. Enjoy a hotel transfer and a delicious buffet lunch on board. Get picked up from your hotel in Istanbul, then head to the port to board your boat. Set sail into the mesmerizing ocean surrounding the city and navigate to Kınalıada. Take a short walking tour with your guide and learn about the island along the way. Hop back on the boat and eat a buffet lunch to recharge your energy before traveling to your next destination. Make a stop at Büyükada, the largest of the nine islands, and have plenty of free time to discover at your own pace. Relax on the quiet beaches and go for a refreshing swim. Alternatively, rent an electric bike or scooter, as cars aren't allowed on the island. Ride conveniently among the glorious mansions with their characteristic balconies. Finally, get back on the boa for your return trip to Istanbul, then sit back on the ride 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.

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

6. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

Travel back in time to experience the story of the ancient Hagia Sophia on a guided tour in Istanbul. Trace how this iconic site has transformed over time with a local guide. Uncover stunning details as you explore this architectural gem. 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, the Hagia Sophia has always been a precious building for the locals.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise with Drinks and Canapés

7. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise with Drinks and Canapés

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.

Dolmabahce Palace Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket and Audio

8. Dolmabahce Palace Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket and Audio

Meet your guide at the main entrance of the Dolmbahce Palace, skip the long ticket lines and enter the world's most luxurious Palace the shortest way. Save up to 2 hours by not standing in the famous ticket lines. Follow your guide through a 10-minute tour inside the garden of Dolmbahce Palace. Learn about the highlights inside the Dolmabahce Palace and its famous Harem and find out where the best spots are to capture the most amazing pictures. Afterward, receive your audio guide so you can explore the inside of the Palace, Harem, and Painting Museum at your own pace. Spend the whole day inside or just have a quick glance at its impressive beauty. Gaze in awe at the palace's beautiful location on the Bosphorus and its more than $1.5 billion worth of luxury decoration.

Istanbul: Sunset Bosphorus Yacht Cruise with Guide & Snacks

9. Istanbul: Sunset Bosphorus Yacht Cruise with Guide & Snacks

Along a 2.5 hour evening sunset cruise, enjoy unique views, comfort and a relaxing environment on board with Luxury yacht. Aboard the glass-encased luxury yacht, enjoy the Istanbul’s main attractions at dusk, including the Maiden’s Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, Rumeli Fortress, Ortakoy Mosque Bosphorus Bridge and much more… Savor a delicious traditional Turkish drink such as demirhindi and canapés as you cruise the strait and delight in the magic of Istanbul’s urban shoreline as night falls.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

10. 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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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:

Büyükada

Other Sightseeing Options in Istanbul

Want to discover all there is to do in Istanbul? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 14,472 reviews

We met our knowledgeable and friendly tour guide Ilke Nur at the entrance to Topkapi Palace and after a short queue for security walked through the Topkapi Palace Gardens with views of the Bosphorus. Ilke spoke to us about the Hagia Irene and the palace on the way. Ilke collected our museum entrance tickets and explained that we can visit all of the three museums with this ticket, the archeological, the Asian or the tile. Ilke then spent a generous amount of time explaining the highlights of the museum at each particular exhibit focusing on the ground floor. She also mentioned that the ticket price includes the beautiful park opposite the museums. This is a great tour to find out more about the ancient history of Turkey and the museums and parks are in themselves beautiful places to visit.

Highly recommended to take the full package, including all the drinks and hotel transfers. Food and entertainment is very good and the tour is well organised.

Very knowledgeable guide and overall a nice experience. Ride was comfortable and the meal enjoyable.

Nice experience! The food was relatively ok. The view worth all the money. I recommend it!

A very nice experience. It was a surprise for my parents and they love it