Istanbul
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Istanbul Culture & History

The Whirling Dervishes Show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center

1. The Whirling Dervishes Show at the HodjaPasha Culture Center

Enjoy the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and witness the miracle of the whirling dances and dervishes. Dating back 800 years, the show represents in thrilling fashion the idea that everything in the universe, from atoms to the solar system, to the blood that circulates in the body, revolves. Sema is a spiritual journey that the soul makes to God as it becomes mature and attains unity. After the journey, it returns to its life and serves humankind again. This thrilling program begins with a classical Turkish music concert, followed by the Sema ceremony, comprised of 7 parts. Watch in wonder as the whirling dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, a drum voice is heard and all 7 parts unfold, - the ceremony climaxes when the extraordinary whirling dervishes revolve to represent 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. Chosen as the best authentic local event in 2010 by the Federation of Tourist Guides in Turkey, this fantastic show takes place in the fantastic HodjaPasha Culture Center, which is a restored 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci.

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.

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

3. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

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: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

4. 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: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

5. 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 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 about how the Dolmabahçe Palace was the last headquarter of the empire and was served until 1922. At the end of your one hour tour, you can explore Imperial Harem on your own freely, without a guide.

Istanbul: 1-Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour with Commentary

6. Istanbul: 1-Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour with Commentary

Explore the beautiful city of Istanbul at your own pace with this hop-on-hop-off bus ticket including audio commentary in 8 languages. Your ticket is valid for 1 day and will let you spend more time discovering the highlights that most interest you. Jump aboard your double decker bus and enjoy a tour designed for those who want flexibility during their sightseeing exploration of Istanbul. With additional commentary from your audioguide, you will learn interesting facts about key sights whilst savoring delicious complimentary snacks on board. During the route you can stop at locations like Sultanahmet Square, Eminönü, Karaköy, Galataport, Dolmabahçe Palace, Naval Museum, Beylerbeyi Palace, Taksim Square, Beşiktaş Bazaar, Şişhane, and Egyptian Spice Bazaar.

Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

7. Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

You will start at the old Hippodrome of Constantinople which was the sports and social center of the old city. Discover major works of art including the Obelisk from Egypt, the Serpentine Column from Delphi, and the fountain of Willhelm II, constructed by the Germans. From there, continue to the Blue Mosque, whose six minarets are a key fixture of Istanbul’s skyline. Next, head for the Topkapi Palace, which was home to the Ottoman emperors between the 15th and 19th centuries. Marvel at the jewel-stuffed treasury and priceless displays of Oriental porcelain. Move on to the Hagia Sophia Mosque. Behold the dome and stunning Byzantine mosaics of this architectural gem as your guide recounts its turbulent history. Then visit the Grand Bazaar with over 3,000 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry to ceramics and leather goods. Also stroll around the Spice Bazaar with its incredible smell from almost every spice imaginable, as well as dried fruits and nuts, sweets and the ubiquitous Turkish Delight.

Turkish Dance Tickets at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

8. Turkish Dance Tickets at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

Delve into the oriental night as you watch this Turkish dance performance. 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: Dinner Cruise & Entertainment with Private Table

9. Istanbul: Dinner Cruise & Entertainment with Private Table

Climb aboard a pleasure boat for a luxurious cruise along the Bosphorus Strait, while dining from a 3-course menu of Turkish meze and local drinks. Sail past some of Istanbul's greatest monuments, while watching traditional entertainment along the way. Following a pick-up from your hotel, transfer to the yacht for the start of your journey. Get a welcome cocktail on deck as you begin to sail as far as the Black Sea. Cruise between Europe and Asia, passing under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, such as Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace, and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the grand Ottoman fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle. Soak up some of Istanbul’s legendary nightlife as you pass famous nightclubs, such as Reina and Sortie. Marvel at the waterside mansions and villas that line the European and Asian coasts. As you feast on a meal of typical meze dishes and mains, watch live folk dances from different regions of Turkey. Be seduced by the sensual moves of a belly dancer, and relax to international music by the on-board DJ. Back on dry land, enjoy a free shuttle transfer back to your hotel.

From Istanbul: Best of Turkey 8 Days, 7 Nights Guided Tour

10. From Istanbul: Best of Turkey 8 Days, 7 Nights Guided Tour

Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul Be picked up from the arrivals terminal at Istanbul or Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Be transferred to your accommodation and enjoy some time to relax in the city after your journey.  Day 2: Full-Day Istanbul Tour (Breakfast) Start with pickup from your accommodation and discover the highlights of Istanbul on a guided tour. Visit the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome, where chariot races and the Byzantine riots took place. Visit the Grand Bazaar for some shopping and bargain hunting. Be returned to your hotel at the end of the day and spend a second night in Istanbul. Day 3: Istanbul to Cappadocia by flight – Cappadocia Tour (Breakfast – Dinner) Begin the third day with an early-morning pickup and transfer to Istanbul airport for your flight to the Cappadocia region. Upon arrival in Cappadocia, your tour guide will meet you at the airport. Start by visiting the Three Sisters Fairy Chimneys in Urgup which are the iconic symbol for the region. Descend into the Kaymakli underground city, which is one of the largest and the deepest of its kind in the region. After the tour, be transferred to your hotel for the night. Day 4: Full-Day Cappadocia Tour (Breakfast – Dinner) Discover the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia with spectacular rock formations in the Devrent Valley. Enjoy lunch in Avanos, a center of terracotta artwork since 3000 BC. Watch a demonstration in a traditional pottery workshop. In the afternoon, visit the Goreme Open Air Museum and Uchisar Rock Castle to get a panoramic view of the valleys of Cappadocia. After the tour, be returned to your hotel. Day 5: Cappadocia – Konya – Pamukkale (Breakfast – Dinner) Begin the journey to Pamukkale early in the morning. On the way, visit the Seljukian masterpiece of Sultanhan Caravanserai, built in the 13th century. Arrive in Konya and visit the Mausoleum of Mevlana, the world-famous mystic. Continue the journey to Pamukkale and enjoy an overnight stay in a Thermal Hotel. Enjoy a swim in the hotel's rejuvenating thermal pools. Day 6: Pamukkale – Kusadasi (Breakfast – Dinner) In the morning, visit the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis known for its Theater, Apollo Temple, and magnificent Necropolis. Travel onwards to Kusadasi for an overnight stay. Day 7: Kusadasi – Ephesus – Istanbul by flight (Breakfast) Depart from Kusadasi and visit the Artemis Temple which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Continue to the famous Grand Theater of Ephesus. After Ephesus, visit the Catholic shrine of the House of the Virgin Mary. Located on the Aladag Mountains 5 miles from Ephesus, it is said that the Virgin Mary lived here for the remainder of her life after Christ's Ascension into heaven. Then drive to Izmir airport for your flight back to Istanbul. Upon your return to Istanbul, meet a representative of the local partner and be transferred to your hotel for the night.  Day 8: Departure from Istanbul (Breakfast) After breakfast, check out from your hotel and enjoy a private transfer to Istanbul airport for your flight back home to complete the 8-day excursion.

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 3,125 reviews

Our guide was great! Such extensive knowledge about the Anzac wars and perfect stopping points to see key landmarks. For a day trip, it is a loooong day because Gallipoli is about 4-5 hours out of Istanbul. If you don’t mind the long travel, this is such a great trip!!

Great tour with a chance to try lots of food not in the 'typical' Turkish menus on the European side. Our guide also gave us a lot if history alongside the foods we were eating. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a good food tour while in Istanbul.

I recommend that you get to the Center earlier than 15 minutes prior to the show. It began to get really crowded. The Center is not that big. However, it was very smooth getting our tickets via Get Your Guide, and we had front row seating!

Excellent experience . Shows were great. Great views of the Bosporus. Pick up and drop service was smooth . Highly recommended

Was a wonderful tour! Very informative and the guide was fantastic!