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Channeling the words of Napoleon, “If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”, this tour explores the Ottoman and Byzantine sites of the city, including the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, and Basilica Cistern. View these grandiose structures by boat by cruising along the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara, stopping on the island of Buyukada for a peek into the posh life of the 19th century. Peruse the Spice Market, explore the hip neighborhood of Beyoğlu, and climb the Galata Tower for amazing views of the city.
Istanbul International Airport
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Welcome to Turkey and the vibrant city of Istanbul!
Upon arriving at Istanbul International Airport, you’ll be privately transferred to your centrally-located hotel. Settle into your accommodation and meet your guide for a quick preview of the city. You have two options on where to focus your walking tour, depending on the location of your hotel.
Option A: Beyoglu District
Settled on the European side of Istanbul, the district of Beyoglu showcases posh, early-eighteenth-century buildings, embassies, and boutiques. You’ll find many of these grandiose structures along Grande Rue de Péra, which is now known as İstiklal Caddesi. Some of the noteworthy places you’ll visit include consulates, Christian churches, the Flower Passage, and the bustling markets filled with produce and fish.
Option B: Sultanahmet District
The Sultanahmet district sits in the heart of historic Old Istanbul, and is home to many of the city’s most famous buildings. Your walking tour will take you to the sites of Topkapı Palace, Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), the Byzantine Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray), and the Istanbul Archeological Museums.
After getting a better feel for the city, find a restaurant for dinner and enjoy some of the cuisine of Istanbul.
Awake on your first morning in Istanbul with breakfast at your hotel, then begin your full day of exploring the city. You’ll start at Topkapi Palace, the former residence of the Ottoman sultans in the 15th century. Today it houses a beautiful museum. Next you’ll visit the Spice Market, which is one of the longest bazaars in the city. It’s also a wonderful place to buy local gifts such as nuts, coffee, teas, and Turkish delight, a traditional confection.
After some free time for lunch, you’ll enjoy a boat cruise through the Bosphorus Strait, admiring the shores of both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Seeing the city by boat offers an entirely different perspective, allowing you to truly see the size of the city and why it’s played such an important geographic role for centuries.
Later on, your journey will take you back into the beating heart of Istanbul, starting in the Pera/Beyoglu district. Important landmarks along the way include: several consulates, St. Antoine’s Catholic Church, the Galata Whirling Dervish Hall, the Tunel District, and Neve Shalom Synagogue. You can’t miss the Galata Tower, which was built by the Genovese as an observation tower, allowing you to enjoy the views of Beyoglu, the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus, and the historic peninsula.
After a long day of sightseeing, head back to your hotel for a little relaxation before venturing out again for another dinner in Istanbul.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, then meet your host for another day exploring the streets of Istanbul. Today’s focus will be the old town district, which hosts nearly all of the city’s most important buildings and sites. This includes the Byzantine-era Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern.
One of the city’s most famous sites is the Blue Mosque, which was built in the 17th century and earns its name due to the blue tiles that line its interior. You can easily combine your visit with the Hippodrome, which sits on the west side of the mosque. The other famous site is, of course, the Hagia Sophia, which was built prior to the Middle Ages in the year 537 CE, making it the largest building in the world during that time. It’s difficult to fully understand the massiveness of the building until you go inside and marvel at its interior.
In the afternoon, your host will take you to the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. You’ll have your pick of 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops.
Head back to your hotel before enjoying dinner in one of the neighborhoods you explored earlier.
After breakfast, you’ll enjoy another boat tour of Istanbul. This time, you’ll cruise across the Sea of Marmara, passing landmarks such as the Maiden’s Tower, Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower, and Haydarpasa Train Station. Your destination for today is the island of Buyukada, set off the coast of Istanbul’s Asian side.
Once used as the exile land for the Byzantine princes, the 19th century brought new life to Buyukada as a popular summer residence, mainly for the wealthy, non-muslim Ottoman minority. This tour is a perfect opportunity to feel the glamorous days of the past, visiting monuments and eating seafood by the sea.
It’s possible to discover the island on foot, or, if you’d rather, by horse-drawn carriage. The highlights of the day include visits to Aya Yorgi Monastery, Hotel Splendid Palace, Anadolu Kulübü (formerly Prinkipio Yacht Club), Prinkipo Greek-Orthodox Orphanage, and Leon Trotsky’s House. Please note that the tour will not include the interior of all the buildings. Many of them, however, are just as impressive from the outside.
You’ll return to Istanbul in the early evening. Freshen up at your hotel before heading out into the city for your final night.
Enjoy one final breakfast in Istanbul. A private driver will transfer you to Istanbul International Airport to catch your flight.