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!
You'll get all this!
- An extra-small group, limited to 20-24 people — less than 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 2013
- 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
- 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 — for 1,000 years the grandest domed structure in the Western world. This afternoon we'll marvel at some of the world's finest Byzantine mosaics at the Chora Church and meander along Constantinople's ancient city walls. Our day will end with dinner together and 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. 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 the Kadiköy district, and explore this vibrant neighborhood of markets and shops before heading "back to Europe." 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, intricately-carved sarcophagi 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
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.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, 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...
- Carry your luggage up several flights of stairs to reach your hotel room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate through the city on your own.
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.
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: Dolmabaçe Palace, Yerebatan Cistern, Cemberlitas Hamam, Rüstem Paşa Mosque, Pera Museum, Military Museum, and the Istanbul Modern Arts Museum. For details, please see Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook.
Most 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. Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a railpass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303 ext. 214). Advance purchase, buy-at-home railpasses are mostly valuable for the convenience. You can get a rough idea of buy-as-you-go ticket costs from our above railpass guides.
In addition, there are a few Turkish airlines you may want to investigate. 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). When traveling off-season, always call ahead for hours and closures to avoid surprises.
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.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there is one item we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. In Turkish mosques, women are expected to cover their heads with scarves. You may want to bring one with or purchase one upon arrival in Istanbul.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Taylan was a terrific tour manager and guide. His background in art and archaeology was apparent in his narrations and he made his talks interesting and enjoyable. He was very generous with his time and can be both laid back and take charge when necessary. He did a great job sharing Istanbul with us."
— Linda Tabb in Champaign, IL
"Alp was an enthusiastic leader and more than willing to share his country and its history with us. He had a wealth of knowledge and seemed to know ‘everybody' in Istanbul. Alp made Istanbul come alive for us."
— Penny in Concord, CA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Istanbul is a 'wow' all by itself! The Sultanahmet neighborhood where we stayed, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque (stunning), the Bosphorus, the markets, all so vivid and colorful. And the Turks — great people and very congenial. Sadly, my most magic memory is looking back at the city from the plane as we left. It was dawn, and I could see the skyline of Sultanahmet in the morning light, evocative and beautiful."
— Tracy in Seattle, WA
"It isn't often that somewhere exceeds one's expectations. Istanbul was more than I ever imagined — more exotic, more enchanting, more spiritual, more beautiful. Everything added up to a week+ worth of 'wow' moments."
— Dawn in Farmington, UT
"There were several 'wow!' moments but my favorites were when our guide took us to some of the more back street restaurants. The food was great and the people were wonderful."
— Jennifer in Canal Fulton, OH
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
- Topkapı (1964)
- Istanbul (1957)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- The Sound of Istanbul (2005)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Elif Savas
- Pop/rock: Moğollar, Soner Arica
- Traditional/folk: Latif Bolat, Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Istanbul
- Istanbul: Memories and the City — Orhan Pamuk
- Istanbul: The Imperial City — John Freely
- The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe — Chris Morris
- Atatürk — Andrew Mango
- The Turks Today — Andrew Mango
- The Bastard of Istanbul — Elif Shafak
- My Name is Red — Orhan Pamuk
- One for Sorrow — Reed and Mayer
- Savarona — J. Patrick Hart
- Human Landscapes from My Country — Nazim Hikmet