Turkey is a beautiful country at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There’s so much history and culture to experience there, and what better place to start than the capital Istanbul? Straddling two continents (Europe and Asia), Istanbul is an interesting destination for foodies, romantics and history buffs. Taking a guided tour is a great way to learn more during a short visit to Istanbul and find the best local places to eat and explore.

ten Bosphorus Sunset Yacht Cruise

The Bosphorus is the river that crosses Istanbul and separates the city into two continents, Asia and Europe. Embark on a 2.5-hour sunset cruise on the waterway between European and Asian Turkey to see sights such as Dolmabahçe Palace, Ortaköy Mosque and Rumeli Fortress illuminated as night begins to fall . Travelers enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks on board while learning about the city’s interesting history from a tour guide.

Bosphorus cruise at sunset

9 Guided Tour Of The Old Town

Istanbul’s old town is full of interesting history, eclectic bazaars and breathtaking architecture. With a private tour taking the place of 1-3 days, travelers can learn about important structures such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Basilica Cistern from a knowledgeable guide. Part of exploring the old town includes shopping at the Grand Bazaar for local produce.

Take a small-group tour of the Old Town

Related: Here’s how much a vacation in Turkey will cost you (with breakdowns)

8 Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Travelers to Istanbul can embark on a 6-7 hour food tour that fuses the flavors and dishes of European and Asian Turkey into one informative adventure. Travelers will experience a traditional Turkish breakfast consisting of several small dishes and, of course, will have the chance to try Turkish coffee. Along with sampling local dishes, travelers will also visit the spice markets to learn more about the flavors that influence Turkish cuisine.

Book the Taste of Two Continents Food Tour

Related: Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque: Tips for Visiting Both in One Turkey Trip

seven Istanbul Essential Small Group Tour

A small-group tour is the perfect setting to experience the vast city of Istanbul while having the chance to ask questions of a local guide along the way. The 8-hour tour takes travelers through the Old Town and UNESCO World Heritage Sites across Istanbul. They have the chance to visit and learn about Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Hippodrome, as well as visit the Grand Bazaar.

Take the essential Istanbul tour in a small group

6 Full-day tour of Gallipoli

A Gallipoli tour takes travelers on a day trip from Istanbul to historic World War I battlefields. Travelers have the chance to see the ANZAC cover, which is the site where troops first landed, and can also stroll Brighton Beach. It’s also the chance to get a perspective of the First World War from the Allied and Turkish side through trench tours at Johnston’s Jolly. The day trip lasts 17 hours, so lunch is provided in Gallipoli.

Book a day trip from Istanbul to Gallipoli

5 Day trip to Pamukkale

A day trip to Pamukkale from Istanbul takes around 16 hours but is well worth the trip. This beautiful region of Turkey features milky blue hot springs that are perfect for relaxing with a great view. Travelers will visit the historic city of Hierapolis and the ancient pool of Cleopatra.

Take a day trip from Istanbul to Pamukkale

4 VIP Turkish Bath Experience

A two-hour Turkish bath experience in a hammam in Istanbul is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The hammam is 600 years old and was designed by the same architect who built the iconic Topkapi Palace. A tour package includes a traditional hammam and scrub, but it’s possible to upgrade the experience to include a massage. Enjoy tea and coffee as part of the relaxation treatment.

Book a VIP Turkish bath experience at the Hammam

3 Skip-the-line guided tour of Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace is one of Istanbul’s top attractions, so there’s always a queue to get in. The best way to skip the lines is to book a guided tour with skip-the-line privileges and start exploring this architectural marvel right away. Visiting Topkapi Palace provides insight into how the Ottoman sultans lived there for six centuries. It also offers the chance to view religious relics and jewelry that are not on display for general admission holders.

Join a tour of Topkapi Palace (skip the line)

2 Whirling Dervishes at HodjaPasha

Attending a Mevlevi Sema ceremony held at Istanbul’s HodjaPasha Cultural Center offers travelers the chance to experience an 800-year-old tradition. The special rituals are performed by the whirling dervishes for 1 hour, accompanied by video projections and a live Turkish orchestra. It’s a fantastic way for travelers to immerse themselves in Turkish culture.

Book the Whirling Dervishes Tour

1 Istanbul Food Tour by Night

Foodies will love having the chance to explore the city’s food scene at night when the street stalls come out and the streets come alive with a different twist. For 4 hours, participants stroll through the Beyoglu district and taste mezes, baklava, kebabs and raki, the local anise-flavored liquor. Wandering the back streets of Istanbul with a small group and exploring the markets, restaurants and stalls after dark is the perfect way to taste, smell and see a different side of the city.

Explore Istanbul’s food scene by night