Istanbul
Religious & Spiritual Activities

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Our most recommended Istanbul Religious & Spiritual Activities

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.

Best of Istanbul in 1 Day

2. 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.

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar Tour

3. Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar Tour

Like most visitors to Istanbul, especially first-time visitors; you will want to see and photograph the Blue Mosque. Complete with its 6 minarets and ornate glass windows, this site is a must when visiting Istanbul. Following that, you will travel next door to the Hagia Sophia Museum. A magnificent Byzantine Church, it is one of the finest and largest architectural works of art in the world.  After the Hagia, you'll find your way to the entrance of the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest covered markets in the world. In addition to its historical importance, it's a bazaar that will tempt even those without an interest in shopping with its rich collection of precious handmade carpets, jewellery, leather, and souvenirs.

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

4. Istanbul: 1, 2 or 3-Day Private City Guided Tour

Discover the best of Istanbul on this 1, 2, or 3-day private tour that covers the major attractions, such as the Hagia Sophia Museum, the iconic Blue Mosque, the bustling maze of the Grand Bazaar, and the obelisk of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. A few of the possible attraction you'll visit on your tour include: The Hagia Sophia, a great architectural beauty and an important monument during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. For many centuries, this was the largest church in the world, and it still boasts the 4th largest dome after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome, and the Duomo in Florence. Dedicated to the Hagia Sophia or 'divine wisdom', it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. The Blue Mosque, more officially known as the "Sultanahmet" Mosque has striking blue tiles give it its more common name and make it one of Istanbul’s most iconic attractions. Located close to Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque was considered the Supreme Imperial Mosque in Istanbul. Topkapi Palace, a relic of the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire. The former palace boasted a population of about 4,000 people at its peak and was home to 25 sultans over a period of 400 years. Located on a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn, it sits in tranquil gardens that provide shade from the blazing heat of the summer. Pop in to the museum to see the gorgeous Iznik tiles and the ornate stateroom of the harem, among other attractions. The Hippodrome is the former circus built in 203 AD by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus. Three monuments from the original building remain, including the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, and the Constantine Column. Pause to look at the German Fountain of Wilhelm II, made from 8 marble columns. The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With hundreds of small handcraft shops selling everything from handmade carpets to Turkish coffee, the atmosphere is electric, and it's a great place to try out your bargaining skills. The spice bazaar is located in Fatih. It's known as the Egyptian Market because during the Ottoman period, Egyptian exports were sold there. The Bosphorus is a narrow, navigable strait between Europe and Asia that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Rumeli and Anadolu Fortresses are located at the narrowest point of Bosphorus. There are also magnificent Ottoman palaces and mosques along the Bosphorus. Keep an eye out for them. Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahce Palace was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and housed some of the last Ottoman Sultans. The palace site was created by filling in the small bay on the Bosphorus. This gave rise to its name — in Turkish, Dolma means "filled" or "stuffed," and bahce means "garden". Istiklal Street is brimming with life. There, you'll find a plethora of shops, restaurants, and bars, and from there, it's an interesting and scenic 2-kilometer walk down to the Tunel Galata Tower area. See this and more depending on which length tour option you select. Possible Itinerary for each day of the tour: Day 1: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Hippodrome Day 2: Spice Market, Bosphorus Cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square, Istiklal, Galata Tower Day 3: Suleymaniye Mosque, Chora Church, Fener/Balat Districts, Pierre Loti Hill

Istanbul Combo: Classic City Tour & Bosphorus Cruise

5. Istanbul Combo: Classic City Tour & Bosphorus Cruise

Meet your guide at your hotel or port and start the tour with the highlights of Istanbul. See the beautiful Hagia Sophia, admire the great blend of Christian and Islamic influences with beautiful interior of mosaics and significant history. Marvel at the Blue Mosque, a great monument of oriental architecture which houses 27,000 pieces of handmade blue tiles. The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market are two colorful indoor bazaars and have lots of shops offering a variety of spices, rugs, purses, flavored teas, jackets, Turkish delight, nuts, as well as ceramics and small souvenirs. At the end of your tour, why not opt to take a cruise along the Bosphorus to see both Istanbul’s European and Asian sides, Galata Tower, Dolmabahce Palace, the Rumelian Fortress, old Ottoman villas, Bosphorus bridges, and mosques. Tickets can be bought on the spot and the cruise will take place in a public ferry (unless you book the Private Yacht option).

Istanbul: Best of the City Private Full-Day Walking Tour

6. Istanbul: Best of the City Private Full-Day Walking Tour

This private experience is the perfect introduction to Istanbul for first-time visitors. Enjoy a guided full-day tour to discover the best of the city. The tour can be fully customized to suit your needs, simply tell your guide what interests you the most.  Visit the historic Hippodrome, the exquisite Blue Mosque and the iconic Hagia Sophia. Experience the lavish lifestyles of the Ottoman Sultans with a tour of Topkapi Palace, or browse the colorful stalls of the Grand Bazaar. The choice is yours. Benefit from pickup and drop-off at your centrally-located hotel. With your private guide you’ll enjoy priority entrance to all the sights, so standing you won’t waste time standing in queues.

Highlights of Istanbul: 1 or 2-Day Private Guided Tour

7. Highlights of Istanbul: 1 or 2-Day Private Guided Tour

Day 1 – Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hipporome, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar Explore the highlights of Istanbul on this private full-day walking tour that covers the major attractions, from the Hagia Sophia Museum, to the iconic Blue Mosque, to the bustling maze of the Grand Bazaar, to the obelisk of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. The 8-hour excursion starts with a pick-up from your Istanbul hotel and a walk through the lively streets of Turkey’s largest city to visit the dramatic former basilica of the Hagia Sophia, a great architectural beauty and an important monument during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. For many centuries, this was the largest church in the world, and it still boasts the 4th largest dome after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome and the Duomo in Florence. Dedicated to the Hagia Sophia  or 'divine wisdom', it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Move on to the Blue Mosque, more officially known as the Sultanahmet Mosque. The mosque’s striking blue tiles give it its more common name and make it one of Istanbul’s most iconic attractions. Located close to Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque was considered the Supreme Imperial Mosque in Istanbul. Continue to Topkapi Palace, a relic of the glory days of the great Ottoman Empire. The former palace boasted a population of about 4,000 people at its peak and was home to 25 sultans over a period of 400 years. Located on a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn, it sits in tranquil gardens that provide shade from the blazing heat of the summer. Pop in to the museum to see the gorgeous Iznik tiles and the ornate stateroom of the harem, among other attractions. You will also visit the Hippodrome, the former circus built in 203 AD by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus. Three monuments from the original building remain, including the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, and the Constantine Column. You will also pause to look at the German Fountain of Wilhelm II, made from 8 marble columns. Your day won’t be complete, however, without a visit to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. With hundreds of small handcraft shops selling everything from handmade carpets to Turkish coffee, the atmosphere is electric, and it's a great place to try out your bargaining skills. Day 2 – Spice Bazaar, Bosphorus cruise, Dolmabahce Palace, Istiklal Street, Taksim The spice bazaar is located in Fatih. It's known as the Egyptian Market because, during the Ottoman period, Egyptian exports were sold there. The Bosphorus is a narrow, navigable strait between Europe and Asia that connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Rumeli and Anadolu Fortresses are located at the narrowest point of Bosphorus. There are also magnificent Ottoman palaces and mosques along the Bosphorus. Keep an eye out for them! Built in the 19th century, Dolmabahce Palace was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and housed some of the last Ottoman Sultans. The palace site was created by filling in the small bay on the Bosphorus. This gave rise to its name, in Turkish, Dolma means 'filled' or 'stuffed,' and bahce means 'garden'. Istiklal Street is brimming with life. There, you'll find a plethora of shops, restaurants, and bars. From there, it is a 2-kilometer walk down to the Tunel Galata Tower area.

Hagia Sophia: Guided History Tour

8. Hagia Sophia: Guided History Tour

Enjoy a guided tour of this beautiful building, which was once a church, then a mosque, and now a museum. Meet your local local tour guide and take a detailed look at the architecture, events, characters, and decoration from the past and today that tell the story of the Hagia Sophia. During the tour, you will learn about the history in the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. Then take a look at the construction of the building and the Imperial dome, the traces of the centuries on the building's striking details. The tour ends on the first floor and you can discover the mosaics and masterpieces in the upper galleries at your own pace.

From Istanbul: Private Cappadocia Day-Tour Including Flight

9. From Istanbul: Private Cappadocia Day-Tour Including Flight

Your full-day tour programme starts with a pick-up from your Hotel in Istanbul, followed by a flight to Cappadocia for a full-day tour with lunch, before boarding a return flight back to Istanbul. Itinerary: • 3:30 AM: Get picked up from your hotel in Istanbul and board your transfer service to the airport • 6:00 AM: Board your flight from Istanbul to Kayseri Airport • 7:30 AM: Arrive at Kayseri and get transferred to Cappadocia for the tour During your tour of Cappadocia, you will get to visit a number of popular landmarks, ensuring your experience in this unique city is fun and informative. Take a trip to the Goreme Open Air Museum, a structure that resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. See the Ortahisar Castle, a central building among the Cappadocian town of Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar and Nevsehir, and only a few kilometers from the Goreme Open Air Museum. Marvel at Uchisar Castle, a troglodyte town situated right in the middle of Cappadocia. It is named after the enormous piece of rock in the center of the town, which was once used as a castle. This extraordinary rock is the highest peak of the area with the view of the whole of Cappadocia and Erciyes (Argeus) Mountain. You'll also get to see the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys in Pasabag Valley, formerly known as "The Monks Valley". This place is located on the right of the Goreme-Avanos road. Witness the landscape which is dotted with peculiar fairy chimneys. Stop by Devrent Valley, also known as Imaginary Valley and Pink Valley. The churches in this location are like none other in the valleys of Cappadocia. Here you will see many different rock formations, only a 10-minute drive from Goreme.  Throughout the day you'll also get the chance to see a Pottery demonstration in Avanos and a carpet demonstration. Your tour will end around 4:30 to 5:00 PM, at which point you will be transferred back to the airport for a flight to Istanbul. 

Istanbul: Guided Sightseeing Tour

10. Istanbul: Guided Sightseeing Tour

Take part in a guided morning tour and see the most famous sites in Istanbul. To begin, head to Hagia Sophia, an ancient basilica that was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century. Take some time to admire the beautiful architecture of this historic site. Continue on to the Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque, a building that was constructed in the 16th century and is known as the Blue Mosque because of its fascinating interior decor of blue Iznik tiles. Next, visit the Hippodrome, a monument that was originally a circus sporting center of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Last but not least, go to the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and biggest markets in the world, which has more than 4,000 shops that attract approximately 300,000 visitors daily. Stop to purchase a few memorable souvenirs to remember your day out in Istanbul.

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.4 / 5

based on 738 reviews

Kenan was helpful, knowledgeable and professional. Nice sense of humor as well, my husband and I had a nice experience overall and felt we were able to squeeze a lot in one day, and Kenan was flexible enough to adapt to our wants and needs… It was amazing how he seems to know the Grand Bazaar like the palm of his hand! I wanted to see fabrics and he took me to three exquisite small stores, had tea with the owners, made me feel like a local, not a tourist. At Topkapi he knew so much about the architecture, the time frames, and very interesting anecdotes and folk legends… and hey I am an Art Historian! Recommend

Absolutely amazing tour! We were taken on a walking tour around the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. We were also shown traditional Turkish rug artisans at work, which was fascinating. Our guide, Baris was fantastic - he gave the full history and background of each place visited and answered all our questions. Couldn't have asked for a better tour or guide! Cannot recommend enough :)

This private tour was excellent as it allowed us to visit 2 significant sites in one day. Our guide Ozlem was knowledegable and flexible. We were met door to door by driver and tour guides. I would highly recommend this if you do not have a lot of time in Turkey and yet would like to visit outside of Istanbul to see this amazing country

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!

Kaya was an excellent guide. Highly recommended experience!