As one of the most populous cities in Turkey, Istanbul can be an overwhelming destination for unsuspecting tourists. When you come to Istanbul, you probably want to get a grasp of the history and unique culture of the city. Istanbul is truly a melting pot, with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, and the different cultures have collided in ways that make this destination unique.
Because this city is so sprawling and diverse, one of the best ways to understand its history, culture and other fascinating features is through a guided tour. These are five tours you won’t want to miss.
1. Full Day Classic Tour
This tour is one of the best ways to get a comprehensive look at the city. This tour will truly take all day, and you’ll visit the most stunning historic spots in the city. From the Hippodrome Square and Blue Mosques to the Hagia Sophia, you’ll get a huge amount of enjoyment in just a single day!
Along with the guided tour, you’ll also be sure to get the stories of each spot. The tour will end with a visit to the Grand Bazaar where you can enjoy local merchants and pick up souvenirs for your trip. This is a great tour to take if you’ve never been to Istanbul and want to see many of its most iconic sites in a single day.
2. Bazaars of Istanbul
If you enjoy shopping until you drop, you will love a tour of the open air markets on the Bazaars of Istanbul tour. Even if you don’t enjoy shopping, you’ll get a great view of the local artisans and see how the local people both shop and sell their wares. While you’re on this tour, you’ll also enjoy lunch at a local Turkish restaurant. There’s much more than just shopping to do here, but the tour is often passed over for this misconception. Take note of the historic spots and squares that you pass through, and the variety of cultures that take part in these events.
3. Tour Vialand and Jurassic Land
Although there are many public tours available, private tours in Istanbul are often more enjoyable, especially for families and those traveling with a group. If you’re traveling with younger kids, then let them loose for a day and take a tour of the two theme parks, Jurassic Land and Vialand. They’re both filled with family fun, featuring thrilling roller coasters for older kids and carousel type rides for younger ones.
The kids will especially enjoy Jurassic Land, which is an entire world of dinosaurs displayed in an innovative and fun environment. See skeletons, reliefs, eggs, and an amazing 4D cinema flick with special effects. Take this tour when the kids need something that’s a little outside of the ordinary.
4. Set Sail with Bosphorus Sightseeing
This boat ride tour takes place along the Bosphorus Strait, and you’ll get great views of three of the best sites. On the tour, you’ll stop at the Dolmabahce Palace for an additional guided tour. You’ll pass by the Spice Bazaar and then hop back on the boat. You’ll then watch as the boat passes by the Bosphorus Bridge that connects Europe and Asia. The tour actually stops in Asia for an amazing lunch at a scenic restaurant, then you’ll continue to Camlica Hill for a birds eye view of Istanbul. This tour simply can’t be beat, so kick back and relax with this low-stress option.
5. Galata Pera Cukurcuma Tour
The reason why this tour finishes out the list is that it’s a guided walk that takes you to places you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. Here, you’ll get a view of the exciting young areas of the city as well as the back street antique shops. The highlights of this tour include Istiklal Avenue, the bohemian Cihangir neighborhood, and the street of Turkish designers where you can see local artisans at work. This is great when you want an insider’s view of the city and the chance to get off the main avenues.
There are countless tours available to visitors in Istanbul, but the five above are some of the most comprehensive and unique, showing you the most popular sites as well as those that often fall under the radar. Although everyone has their own preferences when traveling, you can learn much more about the culture and lifestyle of Istanbul when traveling with a local, experienced tour guide. There’s no better way to experience that city that spreads across two continents.
Photo by Daniel Burka