Things to do in
Istanbul

East meets West, Byzantine meets Ottoman, bustling meets leafy — Istanbul is full of eclectic surprises.

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Our most recommended things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

1. 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.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

2. Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

Join a sightseeing dinner cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and dine with live entertainment. Pass some of Istanbul's most famous monuments, including Dolmabahçe Palace. Cruise between Europe and Asia and pass under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, including Dolmabahçe Palace and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle, and marvel at the mansions that line both coastlines. Watch live folk dances from the regions of Turkey, be seduced by a belly dancer, and relax to international music played by the on-board DJ.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht

3. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht

Take a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus Strait to see the European as well as Asian half of Istanbul. Jump aboard a luxury yacht from Kabatas and keep your cameras ready as you cross mosques, palaces, and seafront villas. Learn about the city’s centuries-long history through your guide. Start the tour at Kabatas Pier aboard an elegant yacht, drinking traditional Turkish drinks, and nibbling on canapés and fruit from tastefully arranged platters. Glide by palaces and minarets as you sail along the Bosphorus.  When dusk sets in, feel the soothing breeze from the Sea of Marmara on your skin as the sky puts on a colorful show, tinted with shades of orange and rose. Few places in the world are as mesmerizing as Istanbul in the setting sun. Hear the muezzin's call from a towering minaret. Cruise past majestic palaces and villas along the strait’s banks. Breathe in the legacy of ancient Byzantium, Constantinople, and the mighty Ottoman Empire with each breath of fresh salty air. Kick back and ride gentle waves in the comfort of a yacht. Watch the city and its iconic landmarks pass by, which is the perfect way to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing. End the experience at Karakoy Pier.

Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

4. Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

Get tickets to the Turkish Dance Show at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center for an entertainment-filled evening in Istanbul. Watch a lively performance with traditional dances, folk music, colorful costumes, and video projections in a former hammam built in the 15th century. Be enticed by Turkish folklore dances from different regions of Anatolia performed by professional dancers, blended with modern choreography, stunning costumes, and live music. Enjoy the intimate and authentic atmosphere of this evening show inside the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre, situated within the ancient construction of the Hodjapasha Hamam, a restored 550-year-old Ottoman bath. Admire the original architecture of the building and discover the Dervish exhibition, presented in the foyer area.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

5. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

A Bosphorus cruise is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Get on the boat and start discovering the long waterway which separates Europe and Asia. Discover Istanbul’s main attractions, including magnificent palaces, ancient castles and famous hills and parks, as well as spectacular seaside residences from different centuries while passing under famous bridges. You will start your tour from the Old City in Eminönü and cruise along the European side until the 2nd Bosphorus bridge and return back along the Asian coast. You will pass by Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Bosphorus Bridge, Rumeli Fortress and Beylerbeyi Palace. You will aslo get to see some historical landmarks from a distance such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden Tower, and Galata Tower. 

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 with an expert guide. 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: Official Museum Pass

7. Istanbul: Official Museum Pass

Travel around İstanbul and see some of its wonderful landmarks. Save money with the official Istanbul Museum Pass and visit the museums within 5 days of activation. During your stay, choose to visit any of these great attractions, Topkapi Palace with the Harem Section, Hagia Irene, Galata Tower Museum, Istanbul Archaeological Museums, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, The Great Palace Mosaics Museum, Turbes Museum, Rumeli Hisari Fortress Museum, Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam, and Galata Museum of Culture and Whirling Dervishes. After booking, receive the museum pass in your email and use it to enter each landmark one time within 5 days from first-pass activation. Show your MuseumPass QR Kod, and get your Audio Guide Device in Topkapı Place from the Audio Guide Box Office.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

8. 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.

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

9. 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, and now a museum at the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia has always been a precious building. 

Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

10. Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

Explore Dolmabahçe Palace - the biggest royal residence of the sultans and the imperial family of the Ottoman Empire. Meet your licensed English-speaking guide outside the monument and enter with your skip-the-line admission ticket. Begin a guided tour of the stunning interiors. Learn about how the palace was built by the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid I and opened in 1856. Admire the greatest collection of Baccarat and Bohemian chandeliers on the planet, including the biggest Bohemian chandelier ever. Marvel at the vast collection of gold inside, specifically on the ornate ceilings.  As you continue the tour, learn about the distinct differences between the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Topkapı Palace - for example, the architectural style and the way that the furniture was used. Find out how the Dolmabahçe Palace was the last headquarters of the empire and was served until 1922. At the end of your tour, you can explore Imperial Harem on your own freely, without a guide.

Other Sightseeing Options in Istanbul

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 14,472 reviews

We had an absolutely amazing day with Gamze our tour guide. We visited so many places, both foodie destinations and tourist attractions. Gamze is so passionate and knowledgeable about Istanbul and Turkey overall and was very friendly and warm. We tried so many different foods - Turkish coffee, profiteroles, desserts, salads, wraps, sesame bagels, tea, and of course many types of Turkish delight. Such a wonderful tour, a real highlight of our trip.

Great experience overall. Vehicle arrived on time and looked like the image described. Driver was very prompt, friendly and professional - he picked us up and dropped us off on time. Communication was clear throughout. Would highly recommend this service.

pick up from the hotel, super driver! Very big ship, elegant, good music, super waiters and delicious food! Immediate return to the hotel!

We had a private tour, a wonderful experience due to the good selection of the objectives and our guide's professionalism.

Our guide Ekeh was amazing and so knowledgeable. Really enjoyed her tour.