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: Bosphorus Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Dinner Show

2. 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.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Skip the Line Ticket & Audioguide

3. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Skip the Line Ticket & Audioguide

After you meet your local guide, you will skip the ticket lines and get inside the fastest way. Once inside the Topkapi Palace, you can discover the three courtyards, terraces with astonishing views, as well as precious collections at your own pace and enjoy the highlights of this stunning. Starting from the square and fountain in front of the Topkapi Palace, you can see explore each of the famous gates while listening to interesting stories and surprising details about legendary figures from history.

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

4. 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: Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Tour

5. Istanbul: Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern & Hagia Sophia Tour

Enjoy stress-free sightseeing and total flexibility with this combination tour of Istanbul. Decide the best time for you to visit each attraction across 2 days, skip the long lines at the Basilica Cistern, and learn about the fascinating history of the Blue Mosque. Visit the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia by choosing from multiple daily departure times. Meet your guide in the heart of the Old City and start your tour at the best time for you. 60-Minute Blue Mosque Tour: Daily except Tuesdays at 11:00 A.M. or 1:45 P.M. (Fridays only at 2:30 P.M.) Journey back in time in the courtyards ot the Blue Mosque. Then, step inside and admire the architecture and the famous blue Iznik tiles. As you explore, learn about Byzantine and Ottoman heritage, Islam, and Istanbul's rich history from your guide. After the tour, you can stay as long as you want. 30-Minute Basilica Cistern Tour: Daily tours at 10:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M., 12:00 P.M., 1:00 P.M., 2:00 P.M., 3:00 P.M., 4:00 P.M., and 5:00 P.M. Skip the long ticket lines with your guide and discover the Basilica Cistern beneath the streets of Istanbul. Wander through the ancient cistern and admire the architecture and Medusa heads from Greek mythology. Stay inside as long as you wish after the tour finishes. 60-Minute Hagia Sophia Tour: Daily except Tuesdays at 10:00 A.M., 2:00 P.M., and 3:15 P.M (Fridays only at 2:00 P.M. and 3:15 P.M.) Discover fascinating facts about this 1,500-year-old landmark as you explore with your guide. Get a closer look at the massive dome, beautiful mosaics, and the wishing column. After your tour, stay as long as you want to test the wishing column. Important Information: During high season the security check waiting time for Hagia Sophia is around 60 minutes and at Blue Mosque 45 minutes.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

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

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

Welcome aboard our yacht! We are embarking on a two-hour sunset or daytime 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, Rumeli Hisar Fortress, 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 16 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: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket

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

Discover the Topkapi Palace on a guided tour with skip-the-line tickets. Learn about Ottoman history in the Palace and the life of Sultan's family in the harem. 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. Immerse yourself in the heart of the great Ottoman Empire. Stroll through the palace, and imagine the ruling Sultans who lived in its hundreds of rooms with their vast families and countless servants. 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. Take a moment to spot the cupboard doors inlaid with mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell. Walk through the Harem is also the only way to see the very early, exceptionally-crafted Iznik tiles decorated with floral designs and verses from the Quran. The tour ends with a visit to the holy relics and the imperial kitchens.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

10. 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. 

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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:


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.

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