History Tours in Istanbul

Book unique experiences offered by locals in Istanbul.


About History Tours in Istanbul in Istanbul

Bring comfortable shoes and set the alarm - you've got a lot to see.

Istanbul is like Mecca for history and archeology nerds, and the Istanbul Archaeology Museums (a set of three museums) will blow your mind, even if you tend to get bored staring at old stuff. The Museums are very close to Topkapi Palace, literally a treasure trove of Ottoman history in its full glory.

For those more inclined to happenings in the here-and-now, the city itself is people-watcher's paradise. Roaming the streets of this ancient city - one of the oldest continually-inhabited places in the world - is an activity in itself. Marvel at the variety and sheer mass of humanity here, note the crumbling buildings side by side with sleek new developments, and witness a cosmopolis fluctuating at a speed that is both enlivening and alarming.

First-timers

No trip to Istanbul is complete without a visit to the Sultanahment area, home to the #1 stunnas of the sightseeing world, including: Topkapi Palace, Sultanahment Mosque (also known as the "Blue Mosque"), and the Hagia Sophia. The area is also home to outrageously long lines and hordes of tourists, but such is the price we pay for access to global heritage treasures.

Local Favorites

To get away from the tourist crowds, check out Yeni Camii, a beautiful mosque dating back to 1597 that is still in use. Dress appropriately - but the mosque staff can provide long skirts and head coverings on site. Yeni Camii is directly across from the Spice Market, which, as the name would suggest, is your prime source for all your international spice, tea, "Turkish Viagra" (you'll have to find out yourself) and even your pashmina needs. Despite the obvious tilt toward the tourist market, locals still shop here during the quieter morning and lunchtime hours.

Ortakoy Mosque, beautifully situated in the shadow of the Bosphorus Bridge, is another favorite local spot. Make sure to stop in one of the many local waffle stands surrounding the Mosque plaza.

To get a taste of the diverse cultural history of the city, walk along the Golden Horn through the traditional Greek and Jewish neighborhoods in Fatih to reach the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Self-Guided Tours

Many of the city's prime sightseeing destinations are concentrated in the Sultanahmet area. You can easily site-hop through the must-see's mentioned in the "First-timers" section above, and the Grand Bazaar is just a short walk northwest of the area. While it is feasible to see all these major sites in one day, it is a grueling itinerary, made more tiring by the constant calls from local touts you will face along the way. If you have the time, break up these sites into two half-days to mix in time for more relaxing pursuits.

There are no doubt many aggressive touts throughout the city that are out to overcharge and underserve you. However, Istanbul (and the rest of Turkey) prides itself on its hospitable culture and these bad examples are not in any way representative of the country's warm spirit. Remember that tourism is a crucial part of this city's economy, which is still extremely stratified between the rich and the poor. Consider asking a reputable hotel or tour guide company to recommend a tour guide for more off-the-beaten track itineraries. The city is full of extremely knowledgable locals that could add another layer to your experience filled with rich Istanbullu insights. Most importantly - you are sure to end any guided walk with a new lifelong friend.

Views

Unforgettable views abound in this gorgeous city! Known to some as the "city of seven hills," Istanbul is basically a concentrated mass of buildings, ranging from ramshackle to palatial, that slope gently down to the storied waters of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. You'll leave the city with many indelible snapshots of the city landscape, but here are a few places to get an iconic Istanbul view:

• Night ferry from Eminonu to Kadikoy (or vice versa): Hop on the boat on either the European or the Asian side and cross continents after nightfall for an unforgettable view of the beautiful Haydarpasa train station, the Bosphorus Bridge and the bedazzled nighttime cityscape.
• Galata Tower: Climb (don't worry, there is an elevator) to the top of one of Istanbul's most historic and iconic landmarks for a sweeping view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
• Galata Bridge: Keep your feet on the ground while soaking in the magnificent views of the water, surrounding landmarks and lively sidewalk life full of fisherman and young troublemakers.




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