A half-day or full-day Istanbul city tour is a good way to get your bearings and a sense of the city's geography.
Efendi Travel offers innovative half-day tours to see some out-of-the-way Istanbul sights such as the Süleymaniye Mosque, Kariye Museum (Church of the Holy Savior in Chora), City Walls, Pierre Loti café, Golden Horn, and Egyptian Spice Bazaar for as little as €35. More...
Here are some more examples. The actual programs of each tour company will vary from the descriptions below, but these samples give you an idea of what you may see in a given amount of time.
Byzantine Relics (3 hours)
See Istanbul's top Byzantine sights in this short tour which includes Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia), the cathedral built by Emperor Justinian in 537 which was the largest church in Christendom for a thousand years. You'll also descend to the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Saray Sarnıçı, above) where scenes from the James Bond movie From Russia With Love were filmed. Finally, you'll tour the Byzantine Hippodrome, with its various monuments including a 3500-year-old red granite obelisk brought from Egypt and erected here in 390 AD.
Ottoman Relics (4 hours)
The Ottoman Empire produced marvelous architectureand you'll see two of its finest works: Topkapı Palace, home of the sultans, and the famed Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I. After a stroll through the Hippodrome, you'll venture into the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar for some shopping (carpets, antique jewelry, leather apparel, meerschaum and porcelain are specialties).
Istanbul Tour (8 hours)
This all-day tour is a combination of the two Istanbul half-day tours above: Byzantine Relics and Ottoman Relics.
Bosphorus Cruise (4 hours)
Your tour might start at the Egyptian Market on the Golden Horn in Eminönü, at the foot of Galata Bridge. It's also known as the Spice Bazaar, and you'll see why! Board your Bosphorus cruise vessel for the voyage north toward the Black Sea, passing the sultan's palaces of Topkapı, Dolmabahçe, Yıldız, Beylerbeyi and Küçüksu, and the mighty castles of Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı. You'll have the opportunity to visit Rumeli Hisar, the larger fortress, and also the Sadberk Hanım Museum, one of Turkey's finest private collections housed partly in an Ottoman mansion.
Two Continents (4 hours)
Start with a tour of Dolmabahçe, the sultan's gigantic 19th-century palace, then drive across the lofty Bosphorus Bridge to enjoy views of the Bosphorus and the city. Your goal is Çamlıca (CHAHM-luh-jah), the highest hill in the city, with its Ottoman-style coffeehouse and tea garden from which you'll enjoy panoramic views.
Istanbul by Night (3 hours)
Turks love nightlife, and if you do too, join in! Your Turkish night out includes a drive through Istanbul's illuminated streets to a supper club featuring Turkish and European cuisine. The floor show includes live traditional Turkish music, regional folk dance troupes, and—of course—a belly-dancer. Want to try it yourself? Get up there and dance!
It's possible to tour the Gallipoli battlefields on a long one-day excursion from Istanbul, but it's more comfortable to do it as an overnight, which also gives you the opportunity to visit Çanakkale and Troy. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan