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Istanbul Tours

Istanbul is a more than two thousand years old city with so many faces to explore. Therefore it may be best to organize a custom-made tour according to your choices and time.

Historic Istanbul – Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, was the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over a thousand years.

During this time, the city developed a rich cultural and architectural heritage that can still be seen today. Among these are:
  • The Hagia Sophia is a stunning example of Byzantine architecture, with its massive dome, intricate mosaics;
  • The Basilica Cistern, which is a vast underground water reservoir built in the 6th century to provide water to the city; 
  • The Chora Church which features stunning mosaics and frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Jesus.
 
During the Byzantine rule, Istanbul turned into the religious capital of Orthodox Christianity and stayed so after the Ottoman conquest, till today. The Fener Patriarchate is the spiritual centre of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is considered to be the “first among equals” of the Orthodox bishops. 

Istanbul was the capital of The Ottoman Empire for 400 years and they left a lasting impact on the city’s architecture, art, and culture.

Many of their most famous monuments can still be seen today:
  • The Topkapı Palace,
  • The Süleymaniye Mosque,
  • The Blue Mosque,
  • The Galata Tower,
  • The Grand Bazaar
  • The Cağaloğlu Hammam are a must-see place for anyone interested in history, architecture, and culture.

Levantine Istanbul

– Levantine refers to the period of the city’s history during the 19th and early 20th centuries when it was a thriving centre of trade and commerce under the influence of European merchants, diplomats, and professionals, who were collectively known as the Levantines.

The Levantines played an important role in shaping Istanbul’s cultural and architectural landscape, introducing new styles and techniques that blended European and Ottoman traditions. They were known for their elegant mansions, fashionable cafes, and vibrant social scene, which helped to make Istanbul a popular destination for European tourists and expatriates. The Pera Palace Hotel is the epitome of this era and any visit to Istanbul will be left unfinished before seeing the Pera district with its many historic apartments, shopping arcades and restaurants that are renovated and still functional today.

Istanbul as a Shopping Destination

– Istanbul offers a unique shopping experience that combines traditional Turkish crafts and souvenirs with modern international brands. Whether you’re looking for traditional textiles, handmade ceramics, or the latest fashion trends, you’re sure to find something that suits your taste and budget in this vibrant city.
The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and largest covered markets, with over 4,000 shops selling everything from textiles to jewellery to spices. Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is a colourful indoor market that sells a wide variety of Turkish sweets, spices, teas, and other culinary delights.

Istiklal Avenue

is a lively pedestrian street which is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and is a popular destination for fashion-conscious shoppers looking for international and local brands.

Nisantasi

is an upscale neighbourhood known for its high-end fashion boutiques, trendy cafes, and chic restaurants. It’s a great place to shop for designer clothes, jewellery, and accessories. Istanbul is home to numerous shopping malls that cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets. Here are some of the most popular shopping malls in Istanbul.

Zorlu Center

: Located in the Besiktas district, Zorlu Center is a luxurious shopping mall that offers high-end brands, fine dining options, and entertainment options such as a theatre and performance center.

Istinye Park

: Situated in the Sariyer district, Istinye Park is a popular shopping destination that features a wide range of international and local brands, as well as restaurants, cafes, and a cinema.

Kanyon

: Located in the Levent district, Kanyon is a modern shopping centre that offers a mix of high-end and mid-range brands, as well as dining options and a cinema. The architecture of the mall complex has received many awards.

Cevahir

: Located in the Sisli district, Cevahir is one of the largest shopping malls in Istanbul, offering a wide range of brands, dining options, and entertainment options such as an amusement park and a bowling alley.

Galataport

: Located in the Karaköy district, the Galataport is a world-class waterfront destination with a mix of commercial, cultural, and residential uses. It is also used as a cruise ship terminal. The shopping area has a promenade along the waterfront which may have the best point of view of historic İstanbul. It offers shopping and dining options, and is the home of the renovated modern arts museum “İstanbul Modern”.

Istanbul as a Gastronomy Destination –

The city has a vibrant food scene, that presents a collection of the best examples of Turkish culinary delights. From historic Ottoman recipes to international interpretations of traditional Turkish food, you will be both startled and amazed by the richness of Turkish cuisine.
Istanbul has a few Michelin-starred restaurants as well. These are Neo Local, Turk Fatih Tutak, Mikla, Nicole, and Araka. Most of them serve modern and creative interpretations of traditional Turkish cuisine with a touch.

Assistance is a one-of-a-kind restaurant which revives Ottoman cuisine from academically hunted recipes in the Palace Archives. The Ottoman Cousine is a synthesis of Central Asian, Anatolian, Middle Eastern and Balkan flavours reflecting the heritage of a 700 years lasting great empire.

When you are in İstanbul, it might be worth visiting the original location of the Nusr’et, which is a chain of steakhouse restaurants founded by the Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, who is also known as “Salt Bae” for his signature move of sprinkling salt on meats with a dramatic flourish. The menu at Nusr’et primarily features high-quality cuts of meat, including various types of steak, lamb, and veal. The restaurant is known for its large portions and extravagant presentation, with dishes often featuring gold leaf or other luxurious touches. The chain has also been frequented by numerous celebrities, further adding to its fame.

Divan

is a restaurant chain with multiple locations in Istanbul, known for its elegant atmosphere and high-quality Turkish cuisine. The branches in the Divan Hotel Elmadağ and the Galataport may be the best.

Karaköy

is a neighbourhood located in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, along the shores of the Bosphorus Strait. It is known for its lively atmosphere, trendy cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and street art. The area is home to a wide variety of restaurants the best of which are Karaköy Lokantası, Mükellef, Mahkeme and Mürver.

The 1924 Restaurant

is a Russian Restaurant in Beyoğlu district which is established by Russians fleeing the Bolshevik revolution in 1920s. Still serving in the same historic building, it is a fine example of Russian cuisine with caviar dishes and vodka cocktails.

Dragon

is the best Chinese Restaurant in Istanbul. It is located in the Hilton İstanbul Bosphorus Hotel.

Nobu

İstanbul is a high-end Japanese restaurant located in the heart of the city, within the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The restaurant is part of the renowned Nobu restaurant group, which was founded by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and has locations in cities around the world.

Karaköy Güllüoğlu

is a well-known bakery and dessert shop located in the Karaköy neighbourhood of Istanbul. The shop is famous for its baklava, a sweet pastry made with layers of thin phyllo dough and filled with nuts and syrup. Güllüoğlu offers a wide variety of other Turkish desserts, including Turkish delight, halva, and künefe, a sweet pastry made with cheese and syrup.

Saray Muhallebicisi

is a historical chain of dessert shops specializing in milk-based Turkish desserts. Try Güllaç which is a light and refreshing dessert, however, it is only served in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Another signature dish is tavukgöğsü with vanilla ice cream. Tavukgöğsü is an interesting milk pudding that is made with chicken breast, rice flour, sugar, and buffalo milk. Street food is not popular in Turkey, however, it will be worth trying fish & bread in the Beykoz Wharf, and baked potatoes in Ortakoy.

Istanbul as an Entertainment Destination –

Istanbul offers a diverse range of entertainment options that reflect its rich cultural heritage and cosmopolitan spirit. It is home to a wide range of cultural events throughout the year, The Istanbul International Music Festival, Istanbul International Film Festival, Istanbul Biennial and Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair are the most important ones.

Beyoğlu Cultural Heritage Road which starts from the Galataport and ends in Atatürk Kültür Merkezi (AKM) provides a short but comprehensive pedestrian tour of the inner city. AKM and Zorlu Performance Center are two popular venues for a wide range of events, including concerts, theatre performances, art exhibitions, and conferences.
Istanbul is home to a wealth of museums that showcase the city’s rich history, culture, and art. Here are some of the most notable museums in Istanbul:

Istanbul Archaeological Museums

: Located in the Sultanahmet district, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums is a complex of three museums that house an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient civilizations, including the Ottoman Empire, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.

Hagia Sophia Museum

: Originally built as a cathedral in the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia has been repurposed as a mosque and museum. It houses a collection of Byzantine mosaics, as well as Islamic calligraphy and Ottoman-era art.

Topkapi Palace Museum

: Located in the Fatih district, the Topkapi Palace Museum was the residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. The museum houses a vast collection of Ottoman-era artefacts, including weapons, ceramics, textiles, and jewellery.

Istanbul Modern

: Located in the Karaköy district, Istanbul Modern is a contemporary art museum that showcases works by Turkish and international artists. The museum features a wide range of exhibitions, from painting and sculpture to video and installation art.

Pera Museum

: Located in the Beyoğlu district, the Pera Museum is a private museum that houses a collection of Ottoman-era art, as well as European paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Chora Museum

: Located in the Edirnekapi district, the Chora Museum is a former Byzantine church that houses a collection of Byzantine-era mosaics and frescoes.

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

: Located in the Sultanahmet district, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts houses a collection of Islamic art and artefacts from the Ottoman Empire and other Islamic civilizations.

Istanbul is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a diverse nightlife scene that caters to a wide range of tastes and preferences. Beyoğlu is the centre of nightlife in Istanbul. You may have a laid-back dinner in Nevizade or Çiçek Pasajı, then visit the bars in Asmalı Mescid, listen to live music in Nardiss Jaz Club, Hayal Kahvesi or Babylon. For a more chic experience with a view, City Lights Bar on the roof of the InterContinental Hotel and 16 Roof in the Swiss Hotel Bosphorus may be tried.

Other trending hotspots with restaurants and bars are Bomonti, Bebek and Yeniköy districts on the European Side.