Rick Steves' Best of Istanbul Tour, Day by Day
Our week-long tour of Istanbul takes you through doorways that only an Istanbul insider can open. 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. Hop aboard this slideshow preview and discover this exotic place where Europe meets Asia. Let's go!
Day 1: Welcome to Istanbul
We'll meet at 3 p.m. at our hotel in Istanbul's historic Karaköy district. We'll then take an orientation walk through our remarkable neighborhood, rubbing elbows with local fisherman as we cross the Galata Bridge to the bustling Old Town and enjoying stunning views of the Golden Horn and Bosphorus waterways. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 5: The Bosphorus and a Taste of Asia
Today is devoted to the Bosphorus, the strait separating Europe and Asia. We'll start the day early, leaving the hotel to enjoy a mouth-watering, traditional Turkish brunch together along the Bosphorus. Then 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.
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!
Day 7: Tour Over After Breakfast
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!
Ready to go? Find departure dates and book your Best of Istanbul in 7 Days tour for 2022.
Itinerary specifics subject to change.