• Blue Mosque
  • Topkapι Palace
  • Egyptian Spice Market
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Cruising on the Bosphorus
  • Gardens at the Blue Mosque

Tour Questions? Call 425-608-4217

Best of Istanbul in 7 Days Tour

Istanbul is one of the world's greatest cities, period. And this tour takes you through doorways that only an Istanbul insider can open — your Turkish Rick Steves guide. You'll ponder great faiths in the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. You'll marvel at the legendary Topkapı Palace, the colorful Grand Bazaar and the exotic Egyptian Spice Market. And you'll enjoy the outdoors on a scenic cruise up the Bosphorus, and guided walking tours of Istanbul's Old Town, New District and historic city walls. Join us for the Best of Istanbul in 7 Days!

Dates & Prices

Sorry, we're unable to access departure availability at this time. Please try again later or contact us at 425-608-4217, Monday-Saturday between 9 am and 5 pm.

What's Included

  • A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Istanbul come alive for you
  • All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 12 group sightseeing events • Sultanahmet walk • Blue Mosque tour • Topkapı Palace and Harem tour • Old Town walking tour, including the Grand Bazaar • Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent • Egyptian Spice Market • Hagia Sophia church/museum tour • Chora Church tour • City walls walk • New District walking tour • Bosphorus cruise • Istanbul Archaeological Museum tour...and more
  • All group transportation during the week in and around Istanbul
  • 6 nights accommodations in a memorable, centrally-located hotel
  • All breakfasts and half your dinners
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • Free stuff including Rick Steves Istanbul guidebook, moneybelt and earplugs
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2015
  • 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
  • Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
  • Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above

Itinerary

Daily Activity Key
  • Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
  • Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
  • Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.

Day 1: Welcome to Istanbul

We'll meet at 3 p.m. at our hotel in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district, and then take an orientation walk through our remarkable neighborhood. The highlight will be a tour — and an introduction to Islam — at the exquisite, 400-year-old Blue Mosque. Tonight we'll get acquainted with one another over dinner at a nearby restaurant. Walking: light.

Day 2: The Ottoman City

Our exploration of Istanbul begins with a tour of the Ottoman Sultans' opulent Topkapı Palace and Harem. This afternoon we'll weave our way through the back streets of the Old Town of Sultanahmet, visiting the lively Grand Bazaar (the world's oldest shopping mall) and the 16th-century Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent. We'll wrap up our afternoon by exploring the exotic and fragrant Egyptian Spice Market — where "Turkish delights" are much more than candy. Walking: strenuous.

Day 3: Byzantine Constantinople

Today we'll focus on the time the city was known as Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. We'll visit the 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia church/museum — for 1,000 years the grandest domed structure in the Western world. After free time for lunch, we'll marvel at some of the world's finest Byzantine mosaics at the Chora Church and meander along Constantinople's ancient city walls. We’ll finish our afternoon together with a walk through the hanging laundry, bubbling hookahs and hollering vendors of the colorful Fener neighborhood on the Golden Horn. Walking: strenuous.

Day 4: Contemporary Istanbul

We'll explore the cosmopolitan side of Istanbul today with a walking tour of the New District, with its Art Nouveau façades, restaurants, and trendy boutiques, all along pedestrian-packed İstiklal Street. Along the side streets we'll enjoy a progressive lunch of local specialties during a culinary treasure hunt. Later this afternoon we'll find our way back to the Old Town by way of the Galata Bridge, rubbing elbows with local fishermen as we cross the Golden Horn. If you are interested, your guide will help arrange for you to be rejuvenated at a nearby Turkish bath later today. Walking: moderate.

Day 5: The Bosphorus and a Taste of Asia

Today is devoted to the Bosphorus, the strait separating Europe and Asia. We'll take a scenic cruise on this busy waterway, seeing grand palaces, colorful neighborhoods and the bustling life of Istanbul. We'll disembark on Asia, in Kadiköy, once a historic town, now a modern commercial and residential district. We’ll enjoy lunch together and explore this vibrant neighborhood of shops and markets, from fishmongers and grocers to boutiques and olive oil stores. Late this afternoon we’ll head "back to Europe" for dinner on your own. Boat: 2½ hrs. Walking: light.

Day 6: Art and Archaeological Treasures

This morning we'll do one more bit of time travel, with a tour that takes us through the gorgeous Iznik tiles, Greek and Roman sculptures, and colorful Babylonian friezes of the world-class Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy more of Istanbul's sights, its fascinating streets, and thriving neighborhoods. Tonight we'll meet for a final dinner together to share travel memories and toast new friends. Serefe!  Walking: light.

Day 7: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Following breakfast, you'll find it's quick and easy to get a cab or tram to Istanbul's airport for your flight home...or on to further adventures. Güle güle!

Itinerary specifics subject to change.

Activity Level

Our tours are physically active! It’s an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience.  On our Best of Istanbul in 7 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...

  1. Carry your luggage up several flights of stairs to reach your hotel room.
  2. Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
  3. Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  4. After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate through the city on your own.

Reviews

Shirley

Farmington Hills, MI

Tour: 10/11/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Good introduction to Istanbul. Enjoyed visiting the major tourist sites and learning about the history. Would have liked to learn how to take other public transport aside from the tram,ferry and funicular (how about metro, bus, taxis?). Loved the food experiences with our tour guide (felt confident that would not get sick).Great tour guide. Felt safe in spite of what was going on that week.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"#1 WOW moment is the Galata Bridge walk catching 1st sight of the Asian side of Istanbul, & enhanced by the Bosphorus Strait boat tour and seeing more Asian Istanbul coastline. T'was exciting to think that we were seeing the westernmost part of the Asian continent, straddling both continents on either side of the strait. An amazing city with this uniqueness. #2 WOW moment is hearing the prayer calls from the Grand Bazaar rooftop, with a panaromic view of the city surrounding us. Memorable."

Jeffrey

Minneapolis, MN

Tour: 10/11/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great goup of fellow travelers. Compared to prior travels with RS and on own, this was the most ""exotic" adventure of them all. Our guide did an amazing job of showing the sights and explaining the diverse social and political currents in this unique mega-city at the proverbial cross roads of East and West.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"We ventured to the roof top location where the motorcycle scene from the James Bond "Skyfall" movie was filmed. The view was spectacular. The "wow" came when the call to prayer simultaneously erupted from all the minarets in the old city. I have no douubt our tour guide orchestrated our walk for the day to be at that spot and at that time for an unforgetable experience."

Debbie

Anacortes, WA

Tour: 10/11/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The highlight for us was our guide Taylon. He was very knowledgeable and organized. He had a view of his culture that was very helpful in understanding modern Turkey and how it's past had shaped it. Everything went as planned and we both enjoyed the experience very much.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Our favorite moment was walking through the markets up to the roof and having at least 5 Mosques surrounding us calling their followers to prayer. It was "surreal"."

Jessica

Aiken, SC

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

A real "back door" experience that we absolutely embraced and adored. Loved the pace and how much we fit into our short visit. Best hotel location, great views from the hotel. Good food. Excellent guide in Yaren - she is a gem! Hard to imagine how this tour could be improved. Thanks for a wonderful experience and memories we will have forever. Cheers!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The "roof top timed to the call to prayer" experience on our first day. Wow!"

Toni

Royal Oak, MI

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

What a wonderful tour! This is my fourth RS tour, but what was especially interesting was that many of my tour mates were also repeat RS tour members! I From the first group meeting with our exceptional tour guide, Yaren, to the many surprises, group meals, and daily activities, everything was thoughtfully organized and planned. We had ample time to explore on our own and Yaren patiently explained how to get around Istanbul via the trams, buses, and funicular - which was very easy to navigate.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"We arrived a day before the tour started and we LOVED how close our hotel was to the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia. My friends and I walked around on our own, found a restaurant for dinner, and on our way back we marveled at the beautiful Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque - at night, lit up right before us. It was breathtaking. I'll never forget the image of seeing them lit up at night."

Edward

Chicago, IL

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was absolutely the best. Yaren our guide is so well informed and excited about her city......you just get caught up in the excitement, breathy and intrigue of the city. It truly is a city of contradictions. Modern yet old. Europe yet Asia, tradition and forward.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite wow moments were the bazaar. The boat trip and the panoramic view of the city on top of the roof. Listening to the call to prayer bouncing all over the city."

Barbara

Mililani, HI

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Only my second tour with Rick (did the Spain/Portugal 15 day tour in 2007) but I've found my favorite tour format. A city tour for me is the best way to get a feel for the land and people. It's not just a matter of sight-seeing but having the time and chance to experience the people and daily life. Yaren was absolutely wonderful in doing this and making sure everyone in the group felt included.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Standing on the roof of the Grand or Spice Bazaar and hearing a surround sound of prayer from all the surrounding mosques. Unforgettable! Also, the Underground Cistern (but not on the tour itinerary itself)."

James

Fairfield, IA

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a highly successful tour. The guide was everything you want a guide to be and more. The time was very full and used efficiently. The lodging was in a perfect location. I'd recommend this tour to anymore whether or not they ever planned to go to Istanbul

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Our guide took us to the Chora Museum and walked us through the medieval ceiling paintings telling the story of Mary, which she did her Master's thesis on. It was greatly illuminating."

Wendy

Langley, WA

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great!!! Just beware of eating raw fruits and vegies. You WILL get sick.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Yaren lead us up on top of an old caravan serei to listen to the Call to Prayer one afternoon. It was an wonderful view and the sounds came from all directions. I was also charmed by all of the stray cats and dogs and the humanity and love with which they treat them. We could learn something."

Darold

The Villages, FL

Tour: 10/04/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I am a 73 year old male with steel replacements of both knees. I found the walking and hill climbing to be well within my capabilities. The time available was packed with meaningful sites and activities. There was no wasted time. Yaren took us to all of the most important sites and activities that I can imagine. I came away feeling that my time and money were well spent. The experience in Istanbul was eye opening. The city is much like any other major cosmopolitan European city.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The view from the Galata Tower."

Bethany

Snohomish, WA

Tour: 09/13/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Overall tour experience was wonderful. This was our 2nd Rick Steve's tour and we were not disappointed.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hearing the evening calls to prayer from a hundred mosques from the rooftops of Istanbul was surreal and glorious."

Kimberly

Dallas, TX

Tour: 09/13/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

What a fabulous trip! Yaren made the city come to life! I so enjoyed the variety of sites and food and how the days were full of adventure.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"When we went to the roof top of the old inn and saw the city at sunset."

Patricia

Sun Prairie, WI

Tour: 09/13/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our second RS tour and were more than pleased with our experiences. Our tour guide, Yaren, was exceptional...frighteningly knowledgable! Our hotel was quaint, slightly worn and charming. We saw the best of Istanbul and had a good amount of time to explore on our own. Public transportation was easy to use. Food was delicious with many choices to experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"So many! The call to prayer, a scrub in a Turkish bath (on our own), a hookah! and the beauty of the mosques. 17 million people and we didn't feel crowded or unsafe."

Nancy

Saratoga, CA

Tour: 09/13/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was special, not only because of the sights, but our very bright & lovely personality-Yaren. I appreciated her gentle yet firm handling of being on time. I especially enjoyed the back door views of the rooftop walk; the neighborhood (oldest Jewish synagogue); food tour. Saw the major sites early, to avoid the crowds,; well planned! Look forward to new rug delivery!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"See above (#2). I didn't cover the Bosphorus boat ride was lovely too."

Arnie

Edmond, OK

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I,at first, wondered how a whole week could be filled in one city. I found out that there was so much to see and do and that I could have spent more time in Istanbul. Our tour guide was so good. He had so much knowledge about his city and country. Taylan made the tour much more than was expected. This was my third Rick Steves and as usual the group attendees were a great bunch.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Taylan took us on roof tops of the Grand Bazaar where they filmed part of the Bond movie (Skyfall) and we had our group picture made with the BEST backdrop of Istanbul ever!"

Jason

San Francisco, CA

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Introduction to Istanbul was superb! This city fascinates and inspires! I can easily say one of my all time favorite cities!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. Bustling, enticing, people and goods sights and smells added a vibrant and invigorating dimension to my travel experience."

James

Penticton, BC

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The program was well organized and the group was great. Taylan did an excellent job as a guide. We really got a feel for Istanbul.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Being on the rooftop of the 15th century building with an amazing view of the old and new towns."

Janice

Carmel, IN

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The trip was very enjoyable. The tour guide was excellent in explaining the history of Christianity vs Muslim. The architecture of the city is beautiful with wonderful accomplishment of engineering in that period.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The blue mosque' architecture , the Sophia Hague 's engineering feat of being able to build grand building at that time. Bastille cistern 's charm."

Gail

Penticton, BC

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was well organized and extremely enjoyable. Our guide Taylan was fantastic...taught us so much about the old and new Istanbul. I feel we saw more of Istanbul than if we had done it on our own. Our group was a lot of fun and all got along. We made new friends and had one of the most memorable experiences ever. Thank you Rick Steves and Taylan for making it all possible

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favourite "wow" moment was seeing Istanbul from the roof tops. It was such a incredible surprise and experience at the end of the day. Taylan took us through the backdoor of Istanbul and it was fantastic!"

Celia

Dunwoody, GA

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

I liked the first part of the tour and the last part of the tour, but unfortunately I was sick for 3 days in the middle. I hated missing out. Taylan was very good about checking up on me.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"As always: Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque. They're just amazing."

Lourdes

Smithville, TX

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

So glad I chose this tour over others. It was great all around. From the exposure to the culture,the arts, the food, the people, the monuments and the history.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hagia Sophia."

Sharlene

St Clair Shores, MI

Tour: 09/06/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was great. I had fun. I learned so much. I ate fantastic food.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The view of Istanbul from the rooftop of a 16th century building. It was spectacular. Plus, it was a bit of a mysterious adventure. (Thank you, Taylan.)"

Hugo

Scottsdale, AZ

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

My whole family went on this tour. We had used Rick Steve's guides before, but this was our first tour. We loved Istanbul, and were very pleased with the care and attention we received from our guide Yaren. She was a great ambassador for Turkey and a very solid source of information for all of us. She was kind, fun and very interested in engaging every tour member. She had a very wide variety of people to please, so not an easy task.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Loved the Bosphorus tour, the foray into the 'Asian" side of Istanbul."

Eugene

Oyster Bay, NY

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Absolutely superb! An introduction to a great and historic city and to a culture different from ours. Excellently managed program with a great tour guide.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Entering the nave of Hagia Sophia from the inner narthex and seeing the great space and the dome."

Don

Seattle, WA

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great place, lots to see and do, well-run tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking through the Hippodrome about 9:30pm during "Iftar" as those fasting during Ramadan are breaking their fast. Families, parties, sharing...good time being had by all"

Paul

Dallas, TX

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Istanbul was a real discovery for us. Now one of our two favorite cities

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Learning how diverse and tolerant Turks are"

Susan

Eugene, OR

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I had never been on a tour like this, and I know now that it will not be my last. Istanbul was an incredible city, brought to life by our amazing guide, Yaren. The tour and Istanbul both far exceeded any expectations I had. I'm already encouraging everyone I know and meet to go to Istanbul and to take a Rick Steves tour!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many! It's Istanbul! Sultanahmet, Haiga Sophia...I loved the Turkish bath, the eating. I was continuously wow'ed by Istanbul's rich history- tile panels from the Gates of Ishtar, the beautiful Mosques and churches and artifact-rich museums. It was a week of wows and every one was my favorite! I also miss the calls to prayer. Those were so beautiful!"

Nancy

Calistoga, CA

Tour: 06/21/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Istanbul tour was amazing, and well organized. Yaren, our guide, was exceptionally knowledgeable, and adept at delivering this knowledge to the group. I have dietary restrictions, and she insured that are group meals were delicious and met my restrictions.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The whole tour, and the people participating in the tour made the tour a "Wow" experience. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was the biggest "WOW" we survived!"

Jeffrey

Issaquah, WA

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide, Mert, was terrific. He was knowledgable, fun and had a sense of humor.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Standing on top of a mostly deserted building and looking out over Istanbul."

Juliana

Denver, CO

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I had no idea that Istanbul was such a progressive, friendly, and exciting city. I thought seven days would be too long, but it was definitely not long enough. I would go back in a heartbeat! Our guide, Mert Tanner, made it simply amazing! He listened to his guests and showed us things we wouldn't have gotten to see otherwise. He was always willing to answer questions, give directions, and help out at the drop of the hat and obviously loved the city he was sharing with us.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Basilica Cistern! It was not on the itinerary, but was my number one thing I wanted to see. When Mert let us know he would add it in for any of us that wanted to go, I was simply ecstatic and it was beautiful and breathtaking!"

Carol

Denver, CO

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This was my 2nd time in Turkey, having gone on the RS Best of Turkey tour 11 yrs ago. I traveled with my adult daughter, and it was her first time. It was nice to spend 5 1/2 days in Istanbul and see it more in depth. Great variety of sights and experiences, our fellow travelers were all so congenial and interesting, our guide was super, and the food was delicious.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The mosaics in the Topkapi Palace Harem, the magnificence of the ancient Hagia Sophia, and seeing the Basilica Cistern. But my favorite experience was the Bosphorus cruise, because I had not done that before and it gave a much better idea of Istanbul overall, after spending so much time in the old city."

Jonathan

Walnut Creek, CA

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Thanks to our great guide, Mert, Istanbul came alive with all of its fascinating history and culture. We were able to visit all the key sites in the old town and new town, cruise the Bosphorus and spend some time on the Asian side, and have enough free time to pursue our own interests. This was my first city tour and I was very impressed with how the tour was organized and the ground we were able to cover.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The palaces and religious monuments were all very interesting. The cruise on the Bosphorus was also memorable."

Denise

Seattle, WA

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our masterful tour guide really made this week in Istanbul for me. I was hoping we would get a good one and boy did we! My mother was born and raised in Turkey. So, I wanted to see where she went to school, lived and worked. Our guide helped steer us. In the first 24 hours of arriving before our tour, we didn't have much luck finding those places or at the Grand Bazaar. It was a different story after help from our guide.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The boat ride on the Bospherous. But, the Topkapi Place was right up there."

Robert

Seattle, WA

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Well organized and Mert was an excellent guide, very knowledgeable and patient. Got a good flavor of Istanbul, though it would have been interesting to have a few optional excursions to see other parts of this huge city!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Probably the Bosphorous cruise was the neatest part though the Sulyemon Mosque was very cool as well. The Topkapi Palace was very high on the list too."

Paula

Boston, MA

Tour: 05/24/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

While I traveled much on tours and on my own, this was one of the best experience. There was a good mix between organized time and on your own time. Somehow this tour attracted curious interesting people. Everyone was pleasant. Being in Turkey and our tour guide changed my vision of Turkey, the Middle East, Islam and Middle East politics.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"One night 3 of my favorite fellow travelers and I went to the roof top restaurant, had a drink, watched the sunset over Istanbul and listened to evening call to prayer. Brought me a special peace from the view and the chant."

Reina

Alameda, CA

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We learned so much about Istanbul, about Turkey, and about that area of the world than we ever expected. It taught us how important it is for Americans to learn about other cultures, especially in that part of the world, so that they truly understand what is happening there and why. Our immersion in this place for a full week left us with a great appreciation of the deep history of Turkey, as well as the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My husband's favorite "wow" moment was seeing the Suleyman the Magnificent's mosque. My favorite "wow" moment was seeing the Hagia Sophia."

MaryAnn

Salisbury, NC

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This was a very well planned tour. We saw all the highlights in the itinerary, and had enough free time to explore on our own.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I was impressed by the friendliness of most people we met. Even those selling meals and souvenirs were polite."

Ellen

Denver, CO

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Mert, overall group, food, and weather were all great. As always, I wanted to stay longer because exposure to this wonderful city just whet my appetite.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I knew from maps that the Hotel Sumengen was close to the Blue Mosque, but walking to the end of the block and seeing this huge, beautiful Mosque looming quite took my breath away. "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!""

Lee

Woodville, TX

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I enjoyed the tour very much.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The whole experience was great."

Saifu

Cupertino, CA

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Very knowledgeable guide makes the tour of Istanbul super enjoyable. Love it.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Having detail archeological and biblical overview before each tour really help to provide a framework to appreciate what I see during the tour."

Frederick

Dallas, TX

Tour: 05/17/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our tour guide, Mert, was terrific. His wealth of knowledge about the history of Turkey, the Middle East, Istanbul, its religions, culture, the mosques, the palace, the food, etc. was awesome. Plus, he was a great organizer and a really nice fellow. He is a real asset to the Rick Steves Tours of Istanbul and Turkey. The hotel was perfectly located just a couple of blocks from the Blue Mosque and in the heart of dozens of good restaurants.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hard to pick one. The Blue Mosque was awesome, but so was the Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church. Mert encouraged and assisted us to visit the Basilica Cistern, which was most unusual."

Brenda

Buffalo, NY

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I enjoyed the tour a great deal,the guide was very helpful and accommodating,and the group was enjoyable.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I found the people of Istanbul to be very friendly and helpful,and the country,(province)was beautiful .I enjoyed the cruise from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul very much."

Kimberly

Los Angeles, CA

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Fantastic!! It exceeded all our expectations: every detail was so well-planned, Mine was a wonderful, warm, passionate guide, and the tour group was great! It was the perfect blend of seeing the big, touristy "must visit" sites (Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque) and getting a cultural glimpse of the city (foodie tour, walk,through Balat, meals with Mine and our group). So well done!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"So many! But probably how compassionate and concerned our guide, Mine, was that we all had a wonderful experience. She changed up the days because it was raining (pouring, really), and wanted us to stay as dry and comfortable as possible. At the end of each day, she would take people back to locations they wanted to visit, and always made sure that we, as her "guests," felt welcome. Perhaps one of the biggest "wows" is when she took us to a rooftop for the most amazing panoramic city views!"

George

Austin, TX

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Mine Karahan is excellent tour guide, the best in Turkey! Always very nice, very experienced, the one person to show you Turkey wonderful trip to Istanbul, tulips were out, so much history Wonderful hotel Sumengen is excellent, View of Bosphorus is incredible, location is perfect, hotel is very nice. Istanbul has the worlds best drivers in the old city.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"on top of the Grand Bazaar listening to Call to prayer, with view of Istanbul, priceless. Eating all the great food! on the asian side for vegitarian lunch was really great. Wonderful hotel Sumengen is excellent, View of Bosphorus is incredible, location is perfect, hotel is very nice."

Shelley

Apo, AE

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This tour served as a great introduction and overview of this majestic, historical city. Everything was well planned and organized by our guide, and I especially enjoyed our interesting fellow group members. The days were planned with a balanced mixture of tour time and personal down-time. Our guide planned a variety of adventures (cultural) which is what I admire about the Rick Steves tours (this was my 9th). Fast-paced walking on a couple of occasions, but that is a given on most tours.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The massive Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the view of the city landscape during the cruise on the Bosphorus. There are several memorable moments that I recall with amusement: the entertaining encounters with certain local touts around our neighborhood, the 2 super-loud claps of lightning/thunder followed by an unexpected hailstorm, and being the target of a water balloon by ornery boys during a neighborhood walk. All experiences added to the uniqueness of the trip."

Wendy

Seattle, WA

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great group, great guide, great city. Really glad we chose this way to explore Istanbul for the first time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The late afternoon call to prayer from a rooftop. I felt like we were inside a bell, completely surrounded by sound and the magnificent skyline."

Darryl

Seattle, WA

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

As you know, Istanbul can be an intense city. The time was short and sites are significant. The tour is listed as 7 days, but really you have 5 1/2 days of touring. Too little for Istanbul. I think you should tiltle the tour whirlwhind Istanbul tour. Our guide was outstanding. The first day is a blur. We walked 11 miles in 8 hours. Too much to take in. The hotel was fine; staff attentive and helpful. Loved public transportaion. Too little time at the Palace. Needs to be 6 1/2 days.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It was after the tour. We flew to Urfa to visit Gobekli Tepe for the day. Our flight back to Istanbul was cancelled and we were stuck at a vacant Urfa airport. Luckily the Turkish Air put us up in a hotel downtown, While struggling with the language at the hotel, a Turkish family that was also stuck, adopted us. They showed us around Urfa, bought us dinner, coffee and tea. They were excited to show off Urfa; to meet us and share. What a gift."

Pamela

Oconomowoc, WI

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Mine was an outstanding tour guide. I was very impressed with her depth of knowledge concerning Istanbul's history, geography, customs,art and politics. We appreciated Mine's flexibility: when rain was forecasted, we did a museum tour instead of a river cruise. We appreciated her restaurant recommendations and suggested activities for our free time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"After a long day of sight seeing, Mine told us she had a special surprise. She took us to an old Byzantine Han which was very dark and foreboding. After entering through a heavy wooden door and climbing flights of stairs, our group found ourselves on the rooftop overlooking the stunning city of Istanbul. At this moment,the call to prayer began: first at one mosque and then continuing at several other mosques echoing over the rooftops of the city."

Karen

Lawrence, KS

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

How do you say FANTASTIC?!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Flying in over the city and then the taxi trip to our hotel. It was so incredibly beautiful! The tulips and the landscaping along the old city walls was so inviting. You wanted to be one of the many wandering dogs and just go roll in the grass! First impressions are priceless!"

Anita

Burlingame, CA

Tour: 04/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Wonderful group of people to travel with. Guide was knowledgeable, patient, organized and timely. She made it look effortless, even though it obviously wasn't.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"A surprise detour to the roof of a caravancary for a one of a kind view of Istanbul."

Ruth

Mcallen, TX

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We stayed in a very comfortable hotel close to the big tour destinations. Our tours were through some intensely populated streets and buildings and yet we stayed together heard about all kinds of historical buildings and changing ruling empires. We used public transportation and saw Asian Instanbul the Golden horn and the ancient city. The explanations of culture and the pointing out of daily life made the madness seem more understandable. 17 million people is a lot to squeeze in

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Turkish carpet tour. We went in the back door and saw the caravanseri and then we had Turkish hospitality with hot tea. The demonstration by the master weaver with a chance to try our hand was so tangible. Then the explanation about dyes and silk pods and wool thread making. The colorful rugs and the way they were shown was fabulous. I didn't buy but I loved the show"

Charlotte

Zurich,

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I appreciated how easy our trip was, thanks to excellent planning, so that we did not have to spend hours before our tour deciding what to do. We enjoyed the camaraderie of the group, the balance between planned time and free time, and feeling as though Istanbul was not really outside of our comfort zone, after all. The hotel location was perfect. We thought our guide, Yaren, was excellent with great knowledge of her city and its art and history.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Of course all the sites were fantastic, especially the Hagia Sofia, Chora Church and Blue Mosque, but I was not prepared to try and LIKE the sheep's intestine on a roll. It was delicious!"

Nancy

Tucson, AZ

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Istanbul is a fascinating, complex city where the ancient and the modern co-exist in seeming harmony. I especially enjoyed walking through different types of neighborhoods and glimpsing some of the real life of Istanbul's 17 million people. The Spice Bazaar was a feast for the senses. We met open,friendly people. The planned carpet workshop was very educational. The food-even the sheep intestine-was good. Who knew eggplant was so versatile? So glad I ventured beyond my comfort zone.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Probably I should say it was the sacred antiquity of Hagia Sophia or the incredible mosaics of Chora Church, all of which is true. However, one of the most special moments I had in Istanbul was sitting in a local teashop off the beaten tourist path sharing a hookah, tea and life tales with my new tour friends. Wouldn't trade that for anything."

Don

Lincoln City, OR

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The hotel was in a very good location and the staff was always willing to help. Yaren was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her city and country. The members of the tour were enjoyable to be around and everyone seemed to be serious about having a fun and educational experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"That is a tough question. I am going to say that I enjoyed the call to prayer in Istanbul. It just made me realize what a wide and varied world we live in."

Rosemary

Boston, MA

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I saw and experienced so much on a RS Tour that I wouldn't have on my own, from Yaren's insightful, colorful stories on history, architecture, art and the religions of the region to her personal stories on being a local Istanbul/Turkey native. The people on the groups are always like-minded and full of travel stories, laughs and so down to earth. A good mix of museums (RS groups get to the museums early before anyone else -- a good thing!), outdoor sites, lots of walking and free time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"One "Wow" every day. But the Chorah Church (and Yaren's insightful knowledge and stories about it) did take my breath away. Loved all the tile work from the Royal Palace to the mosques. Incredible! Take advantage of the optional outings/suggestions of what to do in your free time (spice tasting, carpet weaving demo, hooka outing, Turkish baths) -- all wow moments too!"

Charles

Tucson, AZ

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Wonderful experience overall! I was looking forward to the history and art (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman; was fantastic) but was surprised and pleased with the people experiences and visits to various neighborhoods. The food was wonderful. Was somewhat apprehensive about visiting a Moslem country, but people were friendly and we always felt safe. Was not sure how comfortable we would be on our own during free time but we got around fine (got there a day early and did some things on our own also

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hard to pick just one. Hagia Sophia and Chora Church were magnificent. Got to see a bucket list item, the Siloam Inscription in the Archaeology Museum (from Hezekiah's Tunnel in Jerusalem, mentioned in Bible Old Testament). This item is not mentioned in Rick's Istanbul Guide, and should be."

Judith

Denver, CO

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Yaren was the perfect guide, attentive to each participant, accommodating to special interests, and so knowledgeable and fun. She was a delight, and I learned so much about Istanbul and its history. There was a good mix of museums and mosques, outdoor fun, mingling with locals, free time to explore after a thorough briefing, and enjoying her favorites local foods. I don't know what she could have done to make it any better. The group and breakfasts were perfect.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting the Chora Museum, especially since Yaren was such an expert on navigating the mosaics and frescoes. I would never have gotten that much out of my visit without her knowledgeable guidance and insights."

Brian

Mcallen, TX

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This remarkable tour brought out the kaleidoscope of colors, tastes, and cultures that make modern Istanbul. Our guide brought understanding to government and events, archaeology, hidden churches and parts of the city. Multiple views of the architecture, the flowers, old city walls, even the colors of the market stalls with spices, fruit, seafood, glass, ceramic, and fabrics were astounding.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The tiles: ancient Ishtar gates of archaeology museum, inside the Topkapi harem, the Kariye church."

Judi

East Hampton, CT

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a great time learning about a country and culture that was new to us. Istanbul was a large city with many diverse neighborhoods. Everyone was so nice and helpful. The city had a calming effect on me and I was amazed at how clean everything was. I loved the local cats and dogs.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved going into the mosques and museums. The mosaics and architecture everywhere is amazing. Hearing the call to prayer was a peaceful experience for me."

David

East Hampton, CT

Tour: 03/29/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This has been our fifth Rick Steves' tour and we have come away more impressed with every trip. The city was magical and the tour guide was so good that words fail me in expressing how she made Turkey and Istanbul come alive for the group. She has the passion and the ability to keep the group focus with her personal experiences.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There was too many to state as one "WOW" moment, perhaps the cruise on the Bosphorus or the Blue Mosque to name two."

Richard

West Bend, WI

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our fourth RS tour so we knew what to expect and were very satisfied with our experience. Our tour guide was fantastic and kept an eye on the weather and adjusted our activities accordingly for the optimum use of time. We had heard that the first two days are strenuous, but but our guide kept the pace just right. Istanbul was such an amazing, eye-opening experience for those of us who love history and haven't been in a Muslim country.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"While the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace were simply breath-taking, and the Bosphorus cruise was delightful, the neighborhood walk following the Chora Church was the biggest "wow" moment for me because I felt like we were beyond the tourist Istanbul and seeing the real Istanbul, complete with some "meaningful eye contact" with some Istanbul residents."

Paul

Monroeville, PA

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Tour was very organized and an efficient use of time. Yaren, our tour guide, did all the work I would normally have to do prior to touring a foreign capitol such as Istanbul. We saw all the major sights in the RS Istanbul tour book. Our guide was invaluable in navigating the city and experiencing Turkish food.

Patricia

Denver, CO

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

My experience was everything and more than I thought! I have traveled extensively on my own, but felt with the language differences and "exoticness" of Istanbul, I would feel more comfortable with a RS tour. This tour worked for me because early in the tour, it provided me with the knowledge and comfort of how to manage the city. And then, during our free time later in the tour, I was comfortable doing many things on my own. Good mix of structure and freedom!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"So many, but seeing the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia lit up at night with a crescent moon in the background was breathtaking!"

Sandra

Clarence Center, NY

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our tour was excellent. It was thorough, detailed and rife with information. It was a complete tour - we saw all the highlights, experienced the local people, culture and food of Istanbul.

Valerie

West Bend, WI

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a wonderful week in Istanbul and more than surpassed my expectations. The guide was outstanding, the people were warm and friendly, the sites were incredible and the food was quite tasty.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Each day was filled with one or more "wow" moments. It would be difficult to single out one of them."

Andi

Franktown, CO

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

After spending a couple of extra days in Istanbul after my previous Village Turkey tour (which, btw, is missed! There was a lot of interest expressed in you reinstating it from my tour companions), I knew I would be taking this 7 day city tour sometime in the future. Timing and price were right this March so I signed up. The tour definitely lived up to my expectations and once again, the quality of our tour guide Yaren surpassed any expectations I might have had.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Again, the Aya Sophia...always a WOW! And then, of course, the biggest WOW of this particular tour was unexpectedly being in just the right place at just the right time and being introduced to Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians. What a thrill that was! And Yaren was beside herself with excitement.......Can't wait for the group photo he was gracious enough to allow."

Jonathan

Burlington, CT

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour. In fact it was my first guided tour, as I usually make my own travel plans. It won't be my last tour with Rick Steves. No worries, just a great time. Yaren took wonderfully good care of us all. Her knowledge of the history of Istanbul was amazing as was her ability to guide us through the crowds without losing one of us.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Every hour brought its own "wow" moment. It would be impossible to choose only one."

Janet

Burlington, CT

Tour: 03/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

There were so many "wow" moments during the tour. Our guide was so knowledgeable and managed to get to the prime spots before the crowds. We loved having breakfast looking out over the Sea of Marmara. Our guide was flexible with where we were going so that we could see some spots based on weather conditions. Her knowledge of our language and her own made for great translations. She helped to make our tour special. Thank you!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved the Hagia Sophia. I really could see and feel history here, and I felt a part of the grand continuum of life through the ages. I really got it! We also met the patriarch of the Eastern Roman Church. He was lovely and Wow! We met him!"

Weather

Turkey / Istanbul

Istanbul Weather

Pre-Tour

We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.

Trip Resources

Learn more about Istanbul: Check out a collection of Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, plus find a list of recommended books and movies.

Transportation

Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your tour hotel, as well as contact information for your hotel in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.

Many tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.

Istanbul is well-connected for extending your Turkish or European adventure. For information about flying within Europe, ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For Turkey, you can check schedules and purchase tickets at Turkish Airlines (www.thy.com/en-INT), Atlas Jet (www.atlasjet.com), and Onur Air (www.onurair.com.tr/onurair).

Read Rick's train travel and rail pass tips to decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass.

If you have additional European travel or tour questions, contact the Tour Department at 425-608-4217 or email tour@ricksteves.com.

Sightseeing On Your Own

If you arrive in Istanbul before your tour begins, use Rick Steves Istanbul guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Turkish, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.

Here are a few suggestions for sightseeing in Istanbul that we do not do as a group: Dolmabahçe Palace; Yerebatan Cistern; Çemberlitaş Hamam; Rüstem Paşa Mosque; Pera Museum; Military Museum; and the Istanbul Modern Arts Museum. For details, please see Rick Steves Istanbul guidebook.

For more pre- and post-tour travel information, please visit our Turkey guides' website at www.srmtravel.com.

Packing

In Turkish mosques, women are expected to cover their heads with scarves. You may want to pack a scarf or purchase one in Istanbul.

For more advice on what (and what not!) to pack, see Rick’s packing tips.