Welcome to Istanbul


Living History

İstanbul's strategic location has attracted many marauding armies over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans and Venetians took turns ruling before the Ottomans stormed into town and decided to stay – physical reminders of their various tenures are found across the city. The fact that the city straddles two continents wasn't its only drawcard – it was the final stage on the legendary Silk Road linking Asia with Europe, and many merchants who came here liked it so much that they, too, decided to stay. In so doing, they gave the city a cultural diversity that it retains to this day.

Art & Architecture

The conquering armies of ancient times tended to ransack the city rather than endow it with artistic treasures, but all that changed with the Byzantines, who adorned their churches and palaces with mosaics and frescoes. Miraculously, many of these remain. Their successors, the Ottomans, were quick to launch an ambitious building program and the magnificently decorated imperial mosques that resulted are architectural triumphs that together form one of the world's great skylines. In recent years, local banks and business dynasties have reprised the Ottomans' grand ambitions and endowed an impressive array of galleries, museums and festivals for all to enjoy.

Culinary Heritage

'But what about the food?' we hear you say. We're happy to report that the city's cuisine is as diverse as its heritage, and delicious to boot. Locals take their eating and drinking seriously – the restaurants here are the best in the country. You can eat aromatic Asian dishes or Italian classics if you so choose, but most visitors prefer to sample the succulent kebaps, flavoursome mezes and freshly caught fish that are the city's signature dishes, washing them down with the national drink, rakı (aniseed brandy), or a glass or two of locally produced wine.

Local Life

Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments, but İstanbul factors a lot more into the equation. Chief among its manifold attractions are the locals, who have an infectious love of life and generosity of spirit. This vibrant, inclusive and expanding community is full of people who work and party hard, treasure family and friendships, and have no problem melding tradition and modernity in their everyday lives. Joining them in their favourite haunts – çay bahçesis (tea gardens), kahvehans (coffeehouses), meyhanes (Turkish taverns) and kebapçıs (kebap restaurants) – will be a highlight of your visit.


Top experiences in Istanbul

Amazing hotels and hostels

We've pre-picked the best hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

Recent articles

Travel guides

Starting at $18.19

Image for Image for

Istanbul activities

$76.50 Tours & Sightseeing

Istanbul Day Tour of Sultanahmet: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia

Start your day with a pickup from your European-side hotel or alternatively, meet your guide at a central meeting point. Before departing by coach, listen to a brief breakdown of your day. The sequence of your itinerary is subject to change, so certain attractions (as detailed below) may be visited in a different order. Lunch at a traditional restaurant is included halfway through the day; see the Itinerary for a sample menu.Head to the Blue Mosque to marvel at its six minarets and the thousands of Iznik tiles that cascade a sea of blue over the building’s interior. One of the finest examples of classical Ottoman architecture, the mosque was built at the bequest of Sultan Ahmet I who demanded a mosque to rival the grandeur of the Hagia Sophia.Both a church and a mosque in its past life, Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya) is now a UNESCO-listed museum that showcases Ottoman- and Byzantine-era artifacts. Browse the interior’s architecture and historical exhibits with your guide, and then continue to Topkapi Palace. Like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace now exists as one of Istanbul’s premier museums, home to a collection of ornamentation that once belonged to the city’s 15th-century sultans and harems.Continue through Istanbul Hippodrome, seeing the granite Egyptian obelisk that was gifted to the city, and hear how the site once represented the hub of the city’s sporting and political life. After stopping for photos, visit Basilica Cistern — Istanbul’s ‘sunken palace’ — a site that famously featured in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love. The site is one of the largest of the city's ancient cisterns that lie beneath the ground.The final attraction included in your tour is the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s most famous souks. Comprising nearly 60 streets and thousands more shops, the bazaar can be overwhelming. Let your guide introduce you to its colorful (if chaotic) highlights, and shop for jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and more.Your tour finishes with a drop-off at your European-side hotel or in central Istanbul.Please note: The Grand Bazaar will be closed on Sundays and Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays. If your tour falls on any of these days, an alternate attraction (such as Chora Museum or another market) may be visited instead, Topkapi Palace (Closed on Tuesdays; will be replaced with Istanbul Archaeology Museum). You may visit the Basilica Cistern or Nakkas Cistern.

$10 Transfers & Ground Transport

Istanbul Airport Private Arrival Transfer

Travel from Istanbul Ataturk or Sabiha Gokcen Airport to your Istanbul City Hotel. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.When making a booking, you will need to advise your flight details and your Istanbul Hotel details. Your transfer will be confirmed instantaneously and you will be provided with a travel voucher to present to the driver.It's that easy!Price is per person, based on 6 adults per car/vehicle.

$10 Transfers & Ground Transport

Istanbul Airport Private Departure Transfer

Travel from your Istanbul City Hotel to the Istanbul Ataturk or Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Transfer services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.When making a booking, you will need to advise your flight details and your Istanbul Hotel details. Your transfer will be confirmed instantaneously and you will be provided with a travel voucher to present to the driver. 24-48 hours prior to your transfer, you will be required to call the supplier directly (the contact number will be provided on your travel voucher) to reconfirm exact pick up times and places.It's that easy!Price is per person, based on 6 adults per car/vehicle.

$85 Shore Excursions

Istanbul Shore Excursion: Istanbul in One Day Sightseeing Tour

Formally called Constantinople, Istanbul was the capital of the Roman Empire and Europe's wealthiest metropolis, and is now the largest city in Turkey.Blue Mosque:One of the most famous monuments in both the Turkish and Islamic worlds, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style. The mosque has six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.Hagia Sophia:Now a museum, Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, and was one of the largest basilicas in the Christian world. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted to a mosque and is today one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics. (closed on Mondays from October 20, 2015)Topkapi Palace:The largest and oldest palace in the world, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience. (closed on Tuesday)Grand Bazaar:In operation since the 14th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world's largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. The bazaar is specially known for its jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. (closed on Sunday additional time will be spent at the other locations)Worry-free Shore Excursion: We will ensure your timely return to the Istanbul port for this activity. In the rare event your ship has departed, we will arrange for transportation to the next port-of-call. If your ship is delayed and you are unable to attend this activity, your money will be refunded. See our terms and conditions for full details.

$100 Private & Custom Tours

Best of Istanbul: 1, 2, or 3-Day Private Guided Tour

Day - 1Meet your tour guide at your hotel or port and start the tour with the highlights of Istanbul;Hagia Sophia; Built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian, played a very important role in the Christian and Islamic World. After the Ottoman conquest the bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over to convert the church into a mosque. Hippodrome; where the chariot races were held in the Roman Empire times. Basilica Cistern is a subterranean wonder and one of the greatest of Istanbul’s surviving Byzantine sites, in fact a former water storage chamber. Blue Mosque; Built in the early 1600s for Sultan Ahmet I, Blue Mosque is truly a magnificent masterpiece of architecture with amazingly delicate proportions for a building of such massive scale. Grand Bazaar; One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world with over 4,000 shops. Topkapı Palace; More than just an Imperial Residence of Ottoman Sultans, it was the seat of the Supreme Executive and Judiciary Council for almost 400 years long.Day - 2Spice Market is a colorful indoor bazaar and has lots of shops offering a variety of spices, purses, flavored teas, Turkish delight, nuts, as well as ceramics and small souvenirs. Take the public ferry for Bosphorus Cruise to see both Istanbul’s European and Asian sides, Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, the Rumelian Fortress, old Ottoman villas, Bosphorus bridges, mosques. Dolmabahce Palace; Elegance and beauty with the most luxury decoration,chandeliers,rugs,crystals,ceramic fireplaces. Beautiful palace, right on the Bosphorus with gorgeous furnishings, paintings, porcelains. Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, Galata Tower; A great place defining modern Turkey. Have very good, cafes, shops, bars, night clubs around.Day - 3 Suleymaniye Mosque is the largest mosque in Istanbul and is as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside. Its terrace offers lovely views of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus. Chora Church; considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. With its glorious mosaics and frescoes about the scenes of the Holy Bible she holds an important place. Fener District; Explore Istanbul’s rich religious history with a stop at the Church of St. George. Since the 1600s, the church has been the location of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and is recognized as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Religion. Balat District; lines of drying laundry stretch across steep, winding streets. Century-old Ottoman houses lean against each other in a combination of reds,blues,greens. And art galleries and design shops dot the area along the water. Pierre Loti Hill and Cable Car is one of the most popular sights to visit since it offers great views for the visitors. Take the cable car to reach to the top and enjoy the beautiful scenery while sipping your Turkish coffee or tea.

$101.41 Private & Custom Tours

Istanbul 1-Day Private Tour: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia

On this tour you will visit the following historic sites: Blue Mosque:Just across from the Hippodrome, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque) is a superb creation in the classical Ottoman style. The mosque has six towering minarets and 260 windows illuminating its vast main chamber, which is decorated with more than 20,000 Iznik tiles.Hagia Sophia:One of the finest and largest architectural works of art in the world, this former basilica and mosque is now the Saint Sophia Museum. Many historians have nominated it as the 8th wonder of the world. Take a moment to linger here to admire the fine Byzantine mosaics. Underground Cistern or Nakkas Cistern:The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayı), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern, located 500 feet (150m) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Topkapi Palace:The largest and oldest palace in the world, Topkapi is the crown jewel of the Ottoman Empire. With its treasury and exotic buildings overlooking the Golden Horn, your visit to Topkapi promises to be a truly fascinating experience. (Closed on Tuesdays; will be replaced with Istanbul Archaeology Museum) Hippodrome and Obelisk: The Hippodrome was once the heart of Constantinople’s political and sporting life, and the scene of games and riots through 500 years of Ottoman history. Today it is a city park called the Horse Grounds (At Meydanı) because of its function in Ottoman times. The Hippodrome includes the 3500-year-old Egyptian granite Obelisk, brought to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius in 390 AD.Grand Bazaar:In operation since the 14th century, the Grand Bazaar is one of the world's largest covered markets, with 58 streets and over 4,000 shops. The bazaar is specially known for its jewelry, leather, pottery, spices and carpets. (Closed on Sundays; additional time will be spent at the other locations.) *On Mondays from (October 20, 2015) when Hagia Sophia is closed, this visit will be replaced with a similar museum.