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Istanbul

Culture & History

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Our most recommended Istanbul Culture & History

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

1. Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

Witness the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and see the whirling dances and dervishes. Enjoy complimentary drinks during the show. Step inside a 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci and take your place. Learn more about the Mevlevi Sema from the provided booklet. Marvel at this cultural dance that dates back 800 years. The program begins with a classical Turkish music concert. See the dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, hear the drum voice as the dervishes perform the seven-part Sema ceremony which represents the birth of humanity. The Sema ends with a Fâtiha for the souls of all prophets, martyrs, and believers, and a prayer for the salvation of the country.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

2. Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table

Join a sightseeing dinner cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and dine with live entertainment. Pass some of Istanbul's most famous monuments, including Dolmabahçe Palace. Cruise between Europe and Asia and pass under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, including Dolmabahçe Palace and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle, and marvel at the mansions that line both coastlines. Watch live folk dances from the regions of Turkey, be seduced by a belly dancer, and relax to international music played by the on-board DJ.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Strait Catamaran Cruise with Dinner

3. Istanbul: Bosphorus Strait Catamaran Cruise with Dinner

Enjoy Turkish food and entertainment with the mesmerizing Istanbul views at night on an unforgettable dinner cruise. While enjoying very delicious dishes on board, you will come across some of the best city views of the Bosphorus Strait at night. Feast on amazing foods with unlimited alcoholic drinks while cruising along the European and Asian continents and enjoying traditional Turkish dances and shows. Start with pickup from the European side of Istanbul or arrive at the meeting point by yourself, depending on the option chosen. First of all is the Whirling Dervishes Show (Sema), a spiritual ritual performed by the followers of famous mystic Rumi. Then, watch Zeybek, an Aegean folk dance giving some epic, heroic vibes. Start with some Latin and Halay which is an energetic traditional celebration dance from Central Anatolia. There will also be some Turkish classic Belly Dancing. It is time to heat up the place some more with some Roman dance, which is a very rhythmic and exhilarant performance. Moving on to the Caucasian legacy, watch jaw-dropping Kafkas dance performance with traditional Caucasian music and costumes. Last but not least, visit the Black Sea region to witness their traditional dance Horon and set a high note before ending the night. The main dishes are served at 10:00 PM. The delicious food of fish or mixed grilled meat plate will be accompanied by unlimited soft drinks as well as alcoholic drinks. After dinner, a live DJ performance starts to make this magical night even more unforgettable before heading back to the port.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide

4. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry with Guide

After you meet your local guide, you will skip the ticket lines and get inside the fastest way. Once inside the Topkapi Palace, you can discover the three courtyards, terraces with astonishing views, as well as precious collections at your own pace and enjoy the highlights of this stunning. Starting from the square and fountain in front of the Topkapi Palace, you can see explore each of the famous gates while listening to interesting stories and surprising details about legendary figures from history.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

5. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line

Skip the line and visit the most important museum of Turkey and the Balkan Peninsula. Discover how the Topkapi Palace was built between 1466 - 1478 and served for over 400 years as the residency and administrative headquarter of the Ottoman Sultans. The guide will explain to you the entire story of the Palace during a one hour tour. Marvel at the great architectural beauty of this important monument of the Ottoman Empire.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

6. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise from the Old City

A Bosphorus cruise is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Get on the boat and start discovering the long waterway which separates Europe and Asia. Discover Istanbul’s main attractions, including magnificent palaces, ancient castles and famous hills and parks, as well as spectacular seaside residences from different centuries while passing under famous bridges. You will start your tour from the Old City in Eminönü and cruise along the European side until the 2nd Bosphorus bridge and return back along the Asian coast. You will pass by Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Bosphorus Bridge, Rumeli Fortress and Beylerbeyi Palace. You will aslo get to see some historical landmarks from a distance such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden Tower, and Galata Tower. 

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

7. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

Travel back in time to experience the story of the ancient Hagia Sophia on a guided tour in Istanbul. Trace how this iconic site has transformed over time with a local guide. Uncover stunning details as you explore this architectural gem. Meet with your professional local guide in front of Hagia Sophia. Hear a short history of the Old City then start the Hagia Sophia Tour.  Your guide will explain the mystery of the magnificent Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum at the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia has always been a precious building. 

Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

8. Istanbul: Dolmabahçe Palace Admission and Guided Tour

Explore Dolmabahçe Palace - the biggest royal residence of the sultans and the imperial family of the Ottoman Empire. Meet your licensed English-speaking guide outside the monument and enter with your skip-the-line admission ticket. Begin a guided tour of the stunning interiors. Learn about how the palace was built by the orders of Sultan Abdülmecid I and opened in 1856. Admire the greatest collection of Baccarat and Bohemian chandeliers on the planet, including the biggest Bohemian chandelier ever. Marvel at the vast collection of gold inside, specifically on the ornate ceilings.  As you continue the tour, learn about the distinct differences between the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Topkapı Palace - for example, the architectural style and the way that the furniture was used. Find out how the Dolmabahçe Palace was the last headquarters of the empire and was served until 1922. At the end of your tour, you can explore Imperial Harem on your own freely, without a guide.

Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

9. Istanbul: Turkish Dance Show at Hodjapasha Cultural Centre

Get tickets to the Turkish Dance Show at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center for an entertainment-filled evening in Istanbul. Watch a lively performance with traditional dances, folk music, colorful costumes, and video projections in a former hammam built in the 15th century. Be enticed by Turkish folklore dances from different regions of Anatolia performed by professional dancers, blended with modern choreography, stunning costumes, and live music. Enjoy the intimate and authentic atmosphere of this evening show inside the Hodjapasha Cultural Centre, situated within the ancient construction of the Hodjapasha Hamam, a restored 550-year-old Ottoman bath. Admire the original architecture of the building and discover the Dervish exhibition, presented in the foyer area.

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket

10. Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Tour with Entry Ticket

Discover the Topkapi Palace on a guided tour. Learn about Ottoman history in the Palace and the life of the Sultan's family in the harem.  Meet your dedicated guide at a hot spot for traditional Turkish delicacies, where there are restroom facilities and you can purchase water or snacks. Then let your guide take you to Topkapi Palace. Explore the splendor of Topkapi Palace, the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Discover the complex of buildings, pavilions, and courtyards was a self-contained city, which most inhabitants rarely left. Explore the outer-terraced gardens and admire the view over the Golden Horn. Visit the harem, ruled by the Queen Mother who wielded domestic and political power. The harem housed hundreds of women and family members as well as hundreds of eunuchs, who performed a wide range of duties. Admire cupboard doors inlaid with mother of pearl and tortoiseshell and stunning Iznik tiles with verses from the Quran. The tour ends with a visit to the holy relics and the imperial kitchens.

Frequently asked questions about Istanbul Culture & History

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 3,125 reviews

Ali, our guide was a charismaric Istanbulite, who has an immense knowledge of the city of Istanbul and it's forebear, Constantinople. Great tour to get a real feel for the history and culture of the city.

The tours were great and Stoneland travel did a great job setting up it all, being available for any questions at all times on WhatsApp and helping with extra travel arrangements while we were in town.

Abaolute worth doing ad you skip all the lengthy queues for the sites. Our guide Hal was amazing and very interesting to listen to. A pricier way of skipping the queues.

Great experience! Loved all the dances and food was great! Service was great! Nice to be out on the water :)

Everything was great! It’s an unique experience and worth every penny. We will definitely come back!