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  • Istanbul's Sultanahmet
  • Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
    Topkapι Palace
  • Spice Market, Istanbul, Turkey
    Egyptian Spice Market
  • Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
    Hagia Sophia
  • Culinary Tour
  • Bosphorus boating, Istanbul, Turkey
    Cruising on the Bosphorus

Tour Questions? See our FAQ | Email tour@ricksteves.com

Best of Istanbul in 7 Days Tour

from $1,795 per person + air

Single Supplement $625

See Dates & Prices

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 wander a neighborhood that's home to such international icons as 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, as well as 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

2022

2023

What's Included

You'll get at least 14 group sightseeing events — at no extra cost!

Here's what you'll see and do on our Best of Istanbul tour:

  • Rüstem Paşa Mosque (Blue Mosque under renovation)
  • Sultanahmet walking tour
  • Topkapı Palace and Harem
  • Local artisan demonstration at Grand Bazaar
  • Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent
  • Egyptian Spice Market
  • Hagia Sophia Mosque
  • Chora Church
  • City walls walking tour
  • Golden Horn walking tour
  • New District walking tour
  • Bosphorus cruise
  • Kadiköy district walking tour
  • Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Plus you'll get all this, too.

  • 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 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
  • A tour kit including a guidebook (when available) and a moneybelt
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2022
  • 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 your tour

Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions for important details regarding everything listed above.

Group sightseeing events subject to change.

Itinerary

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 introduction to Islam — at the exquisite, 400-year-old Rüstem Paşa Mosque, home to a collection of impressive Ottoman tiles. Tonight we'll get acquainted with one another over dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain.

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 peek into the famous Blue Mosque (currently under restoration), then weave our way through the back streets of the Old Town on our way to meet with an artisan in the lively Grand Bazaar (the world's oldest shopping mall). Next we'll visit the 16th-century Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificent and wrap up our afternoon by exploring the exotic and fragrant Egyptian Spice Market — where "Turkish delights" are much more than candy.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain.

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/mosque — 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.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles thorughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain.

Day 4: Contemporary Istanbul

We'll explore the cosmopolitan side of Istanbul today with a walking tour of a New District neighborhood, with Art Nouveau facades, restaurants, and trendy boutiques. 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 Karaköy through the alleys of the trendy Galata neighborhood, mingling with locals in their daily routine. If you're interested, your guide will help arrange for you to be rejuvenated at a Turkish bath later today.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs.

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 and now a modern commercial and residential district. After lunch together we'll explore this vibrant neighborhood of shops and markets, from fishmongers and grocers to boutiques and olive oil stores. Late this afternoon we'll catch a public ferry "back to Europe" for dinner on your own.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Boat: 2½ hrs.

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 İznik 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, fascinating streets, and thriving neighborhoods. Tonight we'll meet for a final dinner together to share travel memories and toast new friends. Serefe!

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain.

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.

Physical Demands

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/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your 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 towns and cities on your own.

Reviews

Helen

Tour: 09/04/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I did not know what to expect from Istanbul but was blown away by the beauty, history and character of the city. Every day was a feast to the eyes and ears as I took in my surroundings. Our tour guide, Taylan, did an excellent job of acclimating us to the city so we were comfortable exploring on our own during the free time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many "wow" moments on this tour! My first "wow" moment was visiting a small mosque on our orientation night and being blown away by the beautiful tile work and craftsmanship of the building. It was like being in an interactive art display!"

Elise

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Istanbul is a fascinating city and our guides Yaren (an “Istanbul-ite”) and Togay were phenomenal. They were so knowledgeable about the city and its history and archaeology and their love for their city and country shone through. As a solo traveler, I felt very welcome and comfortable as part of the group. The pace was great - it was strenuous at times, but that was very clear in the tour information so did not come as a surprise. We saw and experienced so much in just a week!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"One of my favorite parts of the tour was visiting the carpet co-op. Learning about the whole weaving process was fascinating, and the quality of their product is amazing. The time and labor that goes into each piece is huge! I think about a third of the people/couples on our tour, including me, purchased rugs."

Cynthia

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and explained things in a clear and interesting manner. They did not sound like a text book but more like they had actually been there. Yaren was fun to be around, always considerate of everyone’s concerns and questions, incredibly knowledgeable, with a great personality.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking up to the Hagia Sophia as well as the tiles uncovered when preparing to build a parking garage,"

Lawrence

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This is my first tour and I didn't know what to expect, though I have heard good things about Rick Steves tours generally. But I was amazed at how well-organized our days were, and how incredibly knowledgeable our guide, Yaren, was. The pace was just right-there was lots to do without making it a pure endurance contest. The accomodations and meals provided were also outstanding. A great introduction to Istanbul!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were too many to really select a single one, but if I HAD to pick I would say the archeological museum on the last day. As a general "impression" though, the thing I remember about the Turkish people, was how kind and friendly they are. This is exemplified by how they treat the numerous street animals-cats and dogs. Istanbul residents were uniformly patient with them, owned by everyone and apparently full citizens."

Michael

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Just a lovely tour. Our guides were amazing.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Haya Sophia!"

Chris

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was so well planed out and we were shown each day what we would be doing the next day so we could plan what to wear and what to do with our free time. Our guide, Yeran, was amazing and had the best personality. The food was great and so was the hotel.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The intense beauty of the Rustem Pasa Mosque. The tile work was mind blowing. The size and grandeur of Hagia Sophia has to be seen to be believed. What power the city must have presented in it's heyday to a traveler on the Silk Road."

Cheryl

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my second visit to Istanbul. The first was with the Best of Turkey in 13 Days tour. That tour stayed in Istanbul for two nights and while we packed in a lot of sightseeing, I knew that I wanted to come back. Our tour guide Yaren (who also guided my Best of Turkey tour) is a fantastic guide. Informed, kind, full of energy, and passionate about her hometown of Istanbul. Her personal stories and knowledge of neighborhoods made the tour really special. The asst guide Togay was great also.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the archeological museum and visiting some of the neighborhoods away from the tourist crowds."

Ellen

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

My tour experience was incredible! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and her depth of experience and knowledge that she shared added a deeper value to our tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Hagia Sophia was as incredibly beautiful in person as pictures made it look! Being in Istanbul and experiencing the culture of the city around me is hard to describe. It was fantastic and such a life-changing experience to learn how truly important this city is to the history of our world, including our contemporary world."

Andre

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great time!!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Turkish Bath experience was pretty awesome."

Victoria

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

So much fun! Very positive guides and I learned so much about the history and culture. Also, loved the food tastings!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Turkish bath."

Mary

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I enjoyed this tour of Istanbul, and learning about the history of the city, as well as the country. The tour was very well led by our guide Yaren, as well as assistant guide Togay:) They were both very easy to talk to and led the group with ease.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"All of Istanbul was very interesting. I enjoyed the boat ride on the Bosphorus Strait and seeing both the Asian and European continents:)"

Marceline

Tour: 06/26/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Yaren was an excellent guide. Her background in archeology and her familiarity with Istanbul provided insight we would not have had otherwise. We went to locations we would have skipped over had we been on our own, such as the cistern and the mosaic museum. I have never been so relaxed on vacation. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime tours.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hard to pick one—but the mosaic museum and archeology museum along with the context that Yaren provided, were definitely two highlights."

Bj

Tour: 05/22/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Truly wonderful. From the city of Istanbul itself to the tour guide (Mert) to my fellow travelers. So many delightful people, I hated for together to end.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Probably the cruise on the Bosphorus (no more walking and such beautiful buildings along the way. A close second, our visit to the Balat neighborhood. Loved the colorful houses and interesting shops."

Mary

Tour: 05/22/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Your tours attract really delightful co-travelers. They are intelligent, curious, cooperative, and compassionate. No matter how good the guide, that is an important component to an enjoyable trip.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The beauty of the city at night was amazing. We meandered along the Galataport seaside boardwalk basking in the twinkling lights and the energy of the people with pop-up musicians. Our guide was particularly good at explaining some of the current political issues, as well as discussing some of the religious aspects of the city."

Susan

Tour: 05/22/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This tour exceeded my expectations: - Well organized with backup plans in case of the unexpected - Rich cultural offerings - Endless learning opportunities - Emphasis on healthy, physically active itineraries - Sight-seeing was front-loaded in the beginning of the week--exhausting! - Variety of food and drink we were able to try - Hotel was better than my low expectations - Fantastic guide who was knowledgeable, forthright, engaging, and considerate - Bottled water was readily available

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Turkish people we met were warm and wonderful! My Turkish rug was HAND-DELIVERED to my home in California by a friendly member of the Vezirhan team!"

Catherine

Tour: 05/22/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Normally a solo traveler, I am so glad I took this first Rick Steves tour to experience the Turkish culture. Whereas before the tour, perhaps I saw differences. The tour has helped me to see the similarities.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite tour moment was a quiet one in the ladies' section of the Hagia Sophia where a group of ladies in conservative dress were taking a selfie. After offering to take their photo, one of the ladies asked me to join them, putting their arms around me as part of their friendship circle. With our photos capturing the moment, she came to me, kissed me on both cheeks and said "now we are friends." Yes, we are."

Jan

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our first Rick Steves' Tour and we hope to do more.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting the Hagia Sophia and realizing it was completed 537 AD."

Shirley

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

A focused tour of this amazing city, it’s history and culture, through the eyes of our marvelous guide Yaren.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Hagia Sophia, it’s age, volume, colors and atmosphere, under the watchful eyes of the “guard cat.”"

Margaret

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Favorite "WOW" moment

"visiting the Haman"

Jim

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Yaren, our tour guide was outstanding and highly informative, and she did a great job of guiding a large group through the congested, narrow streets of Istanbul. My main criticism: the quality of the hotel in which we stayed. Although the location was good, the room was tiny, and most of the friendly staff didn't understand English. Overall, the tour was a good mix of guided tours and free time and was good value for the money.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Two: The cruise of the Bosphorus and trip to the spice market..."

Carol

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The Istanbul tour was an amazing experience start to finish. It is an ambitious itinerary, due to the complexity of navigating this large and crowded city. Our tour guide was skilled and very organized. However, the group size of 27 is too large to manage logistics of staying together, hearing the guide, navigating busy streets and trams, etc.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were several - Seeing the mosques and historic sites, our cruise on the Bosporus, viewing the artifacts in the Archeological Museum,"

Joan A

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

A great tour, great people and everyone should take Rick seriously when he says lots of miles over uneven ground. Train for the tour unless you're already doing 4-8 miles a day up and down hills. Pack light, no one on our tour had a skirt. Great hotel with awesome food at the roof restaurant but reserve before you go because it's a popular local spot and always sold out. The "must see" sites are incredible but I was overwhelmed with the friendliness and kindness of the people I met. Buy a rug.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Our tour guide Yaren! The breadth and depth of her knowledge was extraordinary. She was also the 24/7 mother hen to us chicks and even a month after the tour she answered my text about a shop we went to. I loved the Archeological Museum and when Yaren told us the weeping women sculpted on a sarcophagus were likely paid mourners. She was always in 3 places at once and anticipating every possible challenge. I hear the other guides for this tour are just as good. Good job Rick Steves!"

Carol

Tour: 05/15/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Full filled my expectations

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The rooftop views !"

Joan

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

From start to finish, this was an outstanding tour. We arrived a day early and found the hotel personnel very helpful in getting us oriented. Using the guide book we made the most of our first day. Once we met with the group, the activities we shared were amazing. It was a nice balance of history, culture, architecture, and becoming independent travelers in this amazing city. Yaren, our guide, was an absolute treasure. Her love of her country and her wealth of knowledge was so enjoyable.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It's hard to pick a favorite. Listening to Yaren in the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace made so much history come alive. The afternoon at the Hammam was heavenly. The cruise on the Bosphorus to "the opposite" was relaxing and enjoyable. And the trek to Fener and Balat gave us a different perspective of Istanbul. The entire week was a "wow" for me."

Susan

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 2 of 5

The hotel room was too small for 2 people. My friend ended up in a Turkish hospital for the bulk if the tour so I was able to do fine by myself. It was next to impossible t communicate with the hotel staff due to a language barrier. Only the manager spoke enough English to carry on a conversation and be understood. Your literature vastly understated the amount of walking involved in this tour. I logged 8-12 miles every day. Our guide was wonderful.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Grand Bizarre and the Spice Market."

Molly

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

I loved our guide and learning about Istanbul and seeing so many places, neighborhoods, museums, and places of worship.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The carpet store we visited where we were shown how silk threads are produced. I was happy to see something I had always wondered about."

Kathryn

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide was so knowledgeable and helpful. I think we covered as much as possible in our seven days.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The people volunteered helpful info when we needed it (out on our own). The overall complexity of history"

Maureen

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

It was very invigorating, Enjoyed the Hammam very much. So intriguing to see how the silk rugs are made very entertaining presentation. The food was very good, most of the people were soooo friendly and nice

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The silk carpet tour."

Linda

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour and I enjoyed it very much. Our tour guide, Yaren, was outstanding. She was so knowledgeable about Istanbul - current day events/politics as well Istanbul's rich history. I learned so much more from the tour than I would have if I had traveled on my own. Our hotel location was convenient and the restaurants we visited on tour were all excellent. I have dietary restrictions and Yaren made sure that I was always well taken care of.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many WOW moments on tour, especially when visiting the beautiful mosques, palaces and other historical sights. But one unexpected WOW moment for me was visiting the Turkish carpet shop and seeing first-hand how the silk is collected, spun, dyed and ultimately hand-woven into a one-of-a-kind carpet. That was a real treat and something I will always remember."

Caroline

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I was impressed with the tour guide, Yarin (?/spelling) in Turkey. She was accommodating, knowledgeable, and offered tips beyond what was expected. I like the group and was pleased with the staff at the hotel. They went above and beyond to solve a problem we had with finding a cell phone of my tour mate who lost it in the car on the way to the hotel from the airport.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Probably the Turkish Bath. However the visit to the rug (bought a rug/hope it gets here) and the ride on the Bosporus & Asia was amazing. Hard to pick because the uniqueness of the history and the museums was great as well."

Roger

Tour: 04/17/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my eighth Rick Steves Europe tour since 2018, and ranks near the top. Istanbul is truly surprising. The vitality if the Turkish people, the depth of their civilization and their open, friendly response to Americans were all more than I expected.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The National Archaeological Museum on the grounds of the Topkapi palace grounds is a major cultural institution."

Tamara

Tour: 04/10/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I really loved how much of Istanbul we were able to experience. Our guide, Mine, was exceptional and added so much value to the experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Turkish Bath and the Hagia Sophia"

Ljubomir

Tour: 04/10/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Very organized. Our tour guide, Mine Karahan, was amazingly knowledgeable and organized. I felt safe.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting the ancient town of Balat, Turkey was fascinating. Historical, challengingly hilly, rife with photographable sights."

Deborah

Tour: 04/10/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour and I would happily do another one. Our tour guide, Mine was great - personable, full of information and good humor and so helpful if tour members wanted to do things outside of the official tour. It was my first time in Istanbul, but I don't think I missed much. Being given the museum & transportation passes was an unexpected delight. Having Mine with us at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market made it fun and stress free. Highly recommend this tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Getting a Turkish Bath. I've never experienced anything like it and it was amazing. Thanks to Mine for arranging it."

James

Tour: 04/10/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Vey much as expected.

When To Go & Weather

Any time between March and June and September through October are good times to visit Istanbul. However, the months of April, May, September, and October are best for offering comfortable weather and the full range of tourist fun.

Turkey, Istanbul

Weather Chart

Hotels & Flights

Visa Required

If you are an American or Canadian citizen, you must obtain a visa prior to your arrival in Turkey. Before you fly, get your "e-visa" at www.evisa.gov.tr. (if you have trouble accessing the site with Safari, please try Chrome or Firefox.) The website will take you through a series of steps (have your passport handy), ending with your credit card payment (currently US $50 for Americans and US $60 for Canadians; MasterCard or Visa only). Once you pay, you will be emailed a link to download and print your e-visa. Always carry it inside your passport! Holders of passports from any country other than the US or Canada are also responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents prior to joining the tour.

Tour Hotels

In case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations, the contact information for the tour's hotel is included in your tour confirmation email as well as in the Itinerary section of your tour account. One month prior to your tour's departure, you'll find directions on how to get from the airport to your tour hotel in the Documents section of your tour account.

Flights

Our tours don't include airfare, so your flight arrangements and transfers are completely up to you.

Most tour members arrange to fly in and out of Istanbul (IST).

We suggest arriving a day or two before your tour begins to allow ample time to get over jet lag and be well-rested for the first few days of your tour. For more information about transportation options for getting to and from your tour, see your Rick Steves Istanbul guidebook.