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Things to do in

Istanbul

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

Our most recommended things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

1. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

Meet your guide in front of the exit gate of the Basilica Cistern, skip the long lines and visit the ancient water cistern built in 336. Admire the stunning architecture of this marvel of engineering on a guided highlights tour. After your tour, you can stay inside as long as you want and discover the Basilica Cistern at your own pace.

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

2. 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

3. 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 Strait Catamaran Cruise with Dinner

4. Istanbul: Bosphorus Strait Catamaran Cruise with Dinner

Enjoy Turkish food and entertainment with the mesmerizing Istanbul views at night on an unforgettable dinner cruise. While enjoying very delicious dishes on board, you will come across some of the best city views of the Bosphorus Strait at night. Feast on amazing foods with unlimited alcoholic drinks while cruising along the European and Asian continents and enjoying traditional Turkish dances and shows. Start with pickup from the European side of Istanbul or arrive at the meeting point by yourself, depending on the option chosen. First of all is the Whirling Dervishes Show (Sema), a spiritual ritual performed by the followers of famous mystic Rumi. Then, watch Zeybek, an Aegean folk dance giving some epic, heroic vibes. Start with some Latin and Halay which is an energetic traditional celebration dance from Central Anatolia. There will also be some Turkish classic Belly Dancing. It is time to heat up the place some more with some Roman dance, which is a very rhythmic and exhilarant performance. Moving on to the Caucasian legacy, watch jaw-dropping Kafkas dance performance with traditional Caucasian music and costumes. Last but not least, visit the Black Sea region to witness their traditional dance Horon and set a high note before ending the night. The main dishes are served at 10:00 PM. The delicious food of fish or mixed grilled meat plate will be accompanied by unlimited soft drinks as well as alcoholic drinks. After dinner, a live DJ performance starts to make this magical night even more unforgettable before heading back to the port.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide

5. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide

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.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

6. 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.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht

7. 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: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

8. 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. 

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: Vialand Theme Park Entry Ticket w/ Package Options

10. Istanbul: Vialand Theme Park Entry Ticket w/ Package Options

Enter the most exciting theme park in Turkey home to the first shopping center that combines shopping and exhibition centers, entertainment, and lifestyle complex. Vialand (formerly known as Isfanbul) offers its guests world-class fun with its park filled with rides. Feel the adrenaline on Nefeskesen, the 4th biggest rollercoaster in the world which exceeds speeds of 110 kph in 3 seconds. Then, experience the 15 m sudden drop on the Viking water ride before heading to the 360-degree entertainment station which is suitable for all ages.  See all of Istanbul under your feet at the Tower of Justice viewing platform which is 50 m high. Finally, swing on the Saray Salincagi ride, with a 40-person capacity and 20 m diameter cycle. End your day at the outdoor concert and event stage which features the biggest outdoor screen in Turkey and seats a capacity of 10,000 people. Watch a range of special shows and concerts by famous artists at this never-ending festival environment. Choose between the All-Inclusive VIP, Diamond, or Gold Packages that offer food menus, drink options, and bonus attractions depending on your choice. Take a thrilling ride down the Zipline and Up-Side House and try ice cream, hookah, and coffee at Bloom Hookah Cafe.

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul

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What are the best day trips and excursions from Istanbul?

The best day trips and excursions from Istanbul are:

Izmir

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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

Ali, our guide was a charismaric Istanbulite, who has an immense knowledge of the city of Istanbul and it's forebear, Constantinople. Great tour to get a real feel for the history and culture of the city.

The tours were great and Stoneland travel did a great job setting up it all, being available for any questions at all times on WhatsApp and helping with extra travel arrangements while we were in town.

Abaolute worth doing ad you skip all the lengthy queues for the sites. Our guide Hal was amazing and very interesting to listen to. A pricier way of skipping the queues.

The experience was amazing I would definitely recommend this. The tour guides were really friendly and helpful. The hotel was absolutely beautiful.

Great service, friendly staff and good value for money.