‘If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.' - Alphonse de Lamartine

Mighty Byzantine walls, mysterious underground cisterns, majestic basilicas, opulent Ottoman palaces and the glittering Bosphorus strait, lend this cosmopolitan city an aura of magic. Traditions rooted in 2,500 years of history are observed in age-old bargaining techniques in the covered bazaar, the heartfelt hospitality of the local people and the cadences of the muezzin’s call to prayer.

The info below outlines the highlights of touring with Neyzen in Istanbul, where we recommend a minimum 3-day stay. All the experiences featured here can be selected and combined to create the ultimate Istanbul tour in line with your specific interests. Broaden your experience of Turkey by including any other regions of the country or an Aegean yacht charter into your trip.


Accommodation Istanbul - style


Istanbul has been a hotspot for travel since the mid 19th century. The city is filled with unique places to stay, catering from budget options to beautiful design-led boutique hotels and 5-star super luxury. Many leading world hotel chains like the Four Seasons, Kempinski, Shangri-La, Park Hyatt and the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, have also opened exclusive properties in Istanbul’s best locations.

There are essentially 4 districts of choice for accommodation: Sultanahmet, Beyoglu, the hotspot for those-in-the-know Karakoy, and on the Bosphorus. The best way to experience Istanbul is to spend time in 2 of these areas, the most practical being Sultanahmet when you arrive, and either Beyoglu, Karakoy or on the Bosphorus before you depart.

  • Imaginatively converted Ottoman era houses & mansions
  • Period furnishings
  • Nostalgic charm with modern comforts
  • Restaurants, bars, cafés & shopping on your doorstep
  • Find the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cisterns, Hagia Sofia, covered bazaar & many more of the main attractions here
  • Eclectic district rich with bohemian ambiance
  • Boutique hotels in ottoman era apartment buildings
  • Rooftop terraces with city panoramas
  • Design-led hotels
  • Istiklal Avenue, Tunel & Galata districts with shops, cafés, bars & restaurants
  • Converted historical palaces & period mansions
  • Renovated former industrial buildings
  • Luxury-design boutique hotels
  • Romantic waterside setting
  • Stylish dining & waterfront cafés
  • Iconic views of imperial mosques & the dramatic bosphorus
  • Creative young Istanbul fused with the gritty street life of the working city
  • Istanbul Modern gallery gives a new edge to the area since 2004
  • Hip urban fashion, café and gallery culture
  • Beautifully restored historical architecture
  • Designer hotels like 10 Karakoy and House Hotel Vault

Historical sites and museums


The world’s oldest basilica, built in the glory days of Byzantium as an attempt to revitalize the dwindling Roman Empire, the Hagia Sophia remained the greatest Church in Christendom for 7 centuries. The interior mosaics are of particular interest.


The largest and most magnificent covered cistern in Istanbul was built during the reign of Justinian I to supply water to the palaces in the vicinity. During a 1987 restoration, the original brick pavement and 2 magnificent marble heads of Medusa were uncovered.


When Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople in 1453, he deemed the palaces of the Byzantine Emperors uninhabitable and began building the incredible Topkapi. The palace houses some of the world’s finest porcelain, jewelry, Ottoman weaponry and the world’s largest harem.


A small church built here before the erection of the 5th century Roman city walls gave its name to later churches built on the same site. The present structure is dated to the llth-14th centuries, and its meticulous mosaics and frescoes are considered masterpieces of the Byzantine Renaissance.


Designed by the famous architect Sinan in 1561, this small but beautiful mosque creates a stunning sight in the busiest and oldest commercial center of the city. Near to the Spice Bazaar, its façade and interior are decorated with particularly fine Iznik tiles.

Other highlights include:
  • BLUE MOSQUE One of the most famous monuments of Turkish-Islamic art. Over 20,000 exquisite Iznik tiles decorate the galleries of the interior chamber.
  • ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM Istanbul's equivalent of the British Museum includes a sarcophagus of scenes from the life of Alexander the Great. Kids love the model Trojan horse in the children's section.
  • TURKISH ISLAMIC ARTS AND CRAFTS MUSEUM Includes a magnificent collection of gigantic carpets from all over the country, a fully fitted nomad tent and the grand interior of a 19th-century Bursa mansion.
  • MOSAICS MUSEUM Remains of mosaics from Great Palace built by Constantine the Great show scenes of Byzantium daily life, hunting and landscapes.
  • GALATA TOWER Offers the best panoramic views of the city, Asian and European sides.
  • THE BEYLERBEYI PALACE Beautifully preserved 19th-century wooden mansion and gardens blending Eastern, Turkish and Western motifs.
  • SAKIRIN MOSQUE One of the most modern mosques in Turkey and the 1st designed by women. Features brilliant design by architect Hüsrev Tayla and interior designer Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu.
  • SEHZADE MOSQUE AND COMPLEX Built around 1548 by Mimar Sinan, this mosque and madrasa was the Renaissance architect’s dream illustrating a decorative simplicity typical of the master Sinan
  • SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE A vast imperial masterpiece by Suleyman the Magnificent’s genius head architect, Mimar Sinan, and one of the most beautiful and distinguished examples of Ottoman architecture.
  • KILIÇ ALI PAŞA MOSQUE Commissioned by Kilic Ali Pasa, an ambitious 16th century Italian who rose up the ranks from slave to captain, and later to Grand Admiral of the Ottoman navy. A newly restored and fine example of Ottoman Islamic architecture.
  • THE DOLMABAHCE PALACE This eclectic waterfront palace, the largest in Turkey, cost the lavish equivalent of 35 tons of gold in Ottoman currency. 14 tons of gold were used to gild the ceilings of the 45,000m2 mono-block structure, which stands on an area of 110,000 m². A must see.



Explore Istanbul’s hidden nucleus for urban cool cafes and restaurants. For a true taste of today’s local culture in Beyoglu, abandon the well-trodden tourist promenade of Istiklal Street, and get lost in the cobbled streets of Tunel, Galata and Karakoy. The buzz of the day-to-day life of central Istanbulites is almost tangible in Tunel and Galata; here hang out in small local cafes, or shop at boutiques for the one-off creations of Turkish designers. Wander down to Karakoy for a real insight into the extremes of the city: on the Bosphorus a maze of streets conceals creative coffee shops and restaurants where hip locals gather for work and play; in contrast towards the Golden Horn, you find yourself amidst the throng of the city, where street vendors sell almost anything from jeans to fishing rods, and local fisherman display their daily catch on the waterfront.

Culinary treats punctuating this tour include Namli Gurme Karakoy, a gourmet deli selling a mouth-watering range of cold meats, cheeses, honey, and olives. Next-door Karakoy Gulluoglu offers traditional baklava second to none. Close by are the well-established Lokanta Maya restaurant and the fantastic Karakoy Lokantasi. There are also 12 new design-led and delicious restaurants to sample, all opened in 2014, and more to come in 2015. Continue to Bankalar Caddesi, once Istanbul’s main banking street and indulge at Galata Salt Gallery’s Neolokanta Restaurant, one of Istanbul’s finest.

Cooking Classes

Spice up your trip to Istanbul with Neyzen’s hands-on Turkish cooking classes in the heart of the city’s vibrant old town. Turkish cuisine is the fortunate heir to the rich and diverse culinary cultures of the Ottoman Empire, which spanned the entire Eastern Mediterranean from the Balkans to the Middle East.

Street food tour

During this tour we visit some of the most popular street food vendors in the Beyoglu area, sampling stuffed mussels, Gozleme crepes, fresh and roasted nuts, the famous kebabs and more. Learn about the food, its history and traditions, and be enthralled by stories and anecdotes from the vendors.

Tour of the Spice Bazaar and Fish Market

This guided open market tour begins at the Spice Bazaar. Learn the history behind the market place, the spices and their uses. A lunch stop at the fish restaurant boats moored in Karakoy is followed by a tour of the Fish Market in Beyoğlu. Guests also visit some of the family-owned specialty shops that have been around for several generations.

KadikÖy Market Tour

In the historical Kadiköy Market discover the specialty food stores of local merchants and sample traditional fare and many hard-to-find ingredients. Lunch of regional Anatolian cuisine is eaten at the marketplace’s most famous restaurant, Çiya, owned by renowned chef Musa Dağdeviren.


Unique experiences


Experience magical Istanbul from the water. You will pass the Ottoman fortress of Rumeli Hisar and the opulent Beylerbeyi Palace on the Asian side, while of special interest on the European shore are the Ciragan Palace and the Ortakoy Mosque and Square. Today modern villas intermingle with beautifully preserved old wooden seaside mansions and the Bosphorus shoreline is fringed with inviting fish restaurants and cafés.


Mimar Sinan built Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı in the late 16th century to serve the Levend marine forces in the Ottoman navy. Famous for its majestic 17m high dome, the Hamam is one of the distinguishing features of Tophane, Istanbul’s harbor district. The Hamam has gloriously re-opened after 7 years of extensive restoration, and promises an experience to remember at the height of luxurious style amidst a breathtaking historical atmosphere and the chance to get pampered in true, Ottoman style.


The Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara evolved from a place of exile during the Byzantine era, to a popular destination for visitors to escape hectic city life today. The main feature of any of the Islands is the sound of silence. Horse-drawn carriages and bicycles replace motorized vehicles, making an oases of peace and quiet. Explore the islands’ timeless charm on foot or by a leisurely ride through narrow lanes and streets lined either by untouched pine forest or fine, wooden Victorian cottages.


Steeped in history, a guided tour on foot through the labyrinthine streets of these untapped, and relatively conservative, neighborhoods on the Golden Horn provides a key insight into understanding Istanbul as a whole. A great many communities and religions have converged here over the centuries, leaving an extraordinary legacy of art and architecture, religious monuments, and gastronomic delicacies. This excellent tour explores these districts and ensures that the secrets of Istanbul, some unforgettable monuments (several included in the UNESCO World Heritage List), authentic restaurants, and the fascinating stories of old and new are not missed.


Nowadays Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities live side-by-side here in Karakoy, Istanbul’s old commercial port. Many buildings, some dating back 600 years, have been restored and opened as some of the city’s trendiest design-driven hotels, urban cafés, up market restaurants, funky boutiques, contemporary art galleries, and museums. These mingle with original Ottoman Hans, often falling apart, and being used as hardware shops and tradesmen’s workshops. Start exploring the up-and-coming Karaköy at the quay to the east of the Galata Bridge, here getting a fantastic view across to Sarayburnu, the wooded peninsula home to Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. Venture away from the waterfront to visit the fascinating Yeralti Cami (the Underground Mosque). The presence of more than 15 churches, such as Latin Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Bulgarian, and 5 Jewish synagogues, as well as Greek, Jewish, French, Italian and Austrian schools, reflects Karakoy’s true cosmopolitan character and brings a truly diverse and exciting atmosphere to the area.


This is an experience virtually exclusive to Neyzen’s guests and offers the great opportunity to explore one of the most important old commercial Ottoman buildings, the 17th century Buyuk Valide Han, rarely entered by visitors. In the northwest corner of the Han, which still operates its small workshops serving the textile industry today, a crumbling stone staircase leads up to the roof, which offers a truly fabulous view of the city. Note that climbing up to the roof is at your own risk, as there aren't any railings on the roof.


Without a doubt the best place to view the captivating Whirling Dervish Ritual in Istanbul, the central hall of this dervish lodge was built in 1491. The oldest of 6 historic lodges remaining in Istanbul, the complex was converted into a museum in 1946. Taking their name from the great Sufi mystic, Rumi, also known as Mevlana, Mevlevis seek a mystical communion with God through the Sema, which involves chanting, prayer, music and dance. Other exhibits include displays of Mevlevi clothing and accessories, a collection of traditional musical instruments, calligraphy and ebru (paper marbling), and the tomb of Galip Dede, the 17th-century Sufi poet whom the street is named after.


Special access


Our garden tours look at some of the most interesting gardens in Istanbul and the Princes’ Islands, introducing guests to garden owners and landscape artists. Gursan Ergil, landscape designer, author, historian, and currently Landscape Curator at the Princes’ Islands Museum, leads the tours. These beautiful 19th and early 20th century gardens are closed to the public and offer privileged access only for Neyzen’s tours.


On a privately booked yacht for your group only, soak up the atmosphere of Istanbul and this famous riviera as you cruise along both the Asian and European shorelines. Some of the highlights seen from the water include waterfront palaces, fortresses and the Bosphorus Bridge. Explore the grounds of a 19th century traditional wooden mansion on the banks of the Asian side, before early evening cocktails and a classical music performance in the Yali’s gardens.


Experience a private guided tour of the great Hagia Sophia, Eastern Orthodox cathedral-turned-mosque (built 537-1453), opened exclusively for your group alone to explore this awe inspiring structure and its holy relics.


A bench jeweler for 20 years, 36-year-old Sevan Bicakci is known in the fine jewelry industry as The Lord of the Rings. His precious and profound creations are one-of-a-kind, hand made and inspired by the historical architecture of Istanbul and many childhood memories. While exploring Istanbul’s Old City, we visit Bicacki’s shop museum and workshop located near the Grand Bazaar.


Neyzen has guest access to the military-run Selimiye Army barracks here where the public museum is also located. The museum is interesting enough, but our exclusive tour of this handsome building with 2.5km of corridors, 300 rooms and 300 windows, is really something else. During the Crimean War the barracks became a military hospital where the famous lady with the lamp and 38 student nurses worked. It was here that Nightingale practiced the innovative and radical nursing methods that history knows her for.




Since the 1460s, Istanbul has been a shopper’s mecca. Today shops and markets overflow with an eye-catching and extraordinary array of jewelry, Ottoman-era textiles, leather, hand-woven rugs, ceramics and glass, antiques and charming accessories. From artisanal carpet and gold merchants to local markets, the legendary Grand Bazaar, one-off chic boutiques, antique shops and high-end designer stores, Istanbul is great for shopping, whatever your budget and quest. Take a Neyzen guide with you as a personal shopping assistant, and we can advise you on the best places to go. There are some areas where this guidance can really come in handy to get the best deals, as well as having someone to translate.

  • JEWELRY From beaded costume designs to some of the most skillful gold workmanship in the world, antique and new, classic and modern, Istanbul offers an incredible variety for jewelry shoppers and investors.
  • TURKISH CARPETS Find the world famous hand-woven carpets and Turkish kilims in an extensive choice of color, pattern and motif, from rustic to elegant in style, and made with high-quality natural materials and dyes.
  • COVERED BAZAAR The oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world right in the heart of old Istanbul, this giant labyrinth holds around 60 lanes and more than 3000 artisanal shops.
  • ÇUKURCUMA Slightly off the beaten track, this neighborhood has long been popular among antique enthusiasts attracted by its flea market atmosphere, heaps of Ottoman-era knickknacks, antique books and many unusual finds.
  • ISTIKLAL AVENUE Bookstores, art galleries, chic boutiques, thrift stores, theaters, coffeehouses, and historical patisseries thrive against a backdrop of elegant 19th century Turkish architecture.
  • NISANTASI Istanbul’s high-end shopping district showcases Turkey’s top designers, such as Özem Suer and Esra and Tuba Çetin, as well as international brands.
  • ARMAGGAN A prestigious store and gallery showcasing modern Turkish design inspired by traditional Anatolian patterns and coloring, Armaggan offers the antithesis of mass produced art, including exclusive objets d’art, jewelry and textiles.

Contemporary Art


Founded in 2004, this vast former warehouse on the Bosphorus is the first private museum to organize modern and contemporary art exhibitions in Turkey. The venue also includes a photography gallery, library, cinema center, café and design store, while the restaurant offers an incredible view of the old city across the water.


Respected Turkish-American curator Suzanne Egeran helped set up Galeri Manâ in 2011, taking the name from the Turkish word for meaning. Housed in an atmospheric converted 19th century wheat mill, the gallery seeks to represent the vanguard of conceptual contemporary art from Turkey and around the world.


Arter -Space For Art is located in an elegant restored mansion in the vibrant heart of Beyoglu. Since its opening in 2010 the gallery has fast found its feet as an intelligent platform for contemporary Turkish art, encouraging the production of site-specific exhibitions, installations and performances.


Founded in Ankara in the 1980s, Nev combines its space for the new art coming out of Turkey with an extensive art history and catalogue archive. Exhibits vary from understated prints and drawings to experimental sculpture and installations, a truly refined taste being the common denominator.


Located in the well known Misir Apartmani, a beautiful 19th-century apartment block in Beyoğlu, Galerist is one of the city's most popular galleries, and home to the chic rooftop 360 Bar. Over the past decade Galerist has established a strong presence in the international art scene, and is dedicated to introducing Turkish artists to the global art community.


The 10th edition of Turkey’s premium art fair runs from November 12-15, 2015 and takes place at Istanbul Congress Center (ICC) and Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Centre (ICEC). The fair offers a range of Turkish and international art including painting, sculpture, video works, installation and limited editions from local and international galleries. New to the fair in 2014, was the Plug-In New Media Section, dedicated to showcasing digital art in a 1000 square meters area next to the main exhibition space.


Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) presents Istanbul Biennial 2015 showing Sept 5 -Nov 1. Since 1987, the Istanbul Biennial has defined a hub in Turkey for visual artists and their audiences from all over the world. The 13 previous events have strengthened an exciting network of local and international art circles whereby artists, curators and art critics bring together new trends in contemporary art. According to curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the 14th Istanbul Biennial 2015, featuring artists Cevdet Erek, Füsun Onur and William Kentridge among others, will reveal a new unconventionality and set out “…looking for where to draw the line, to withdraw, to draw upon, and to draw out.”


Arts and Crafts


We offer a number of handcraft workshops and classes in Istanbul each providing expert private instruction and the chance to get creative in the heart of this inspiring city. We have workshops on the centuries old Ottoman Marbling Ebru technique, a method of aqueous surface design, producing rich patterns and effects similar to marble and other stones on paper, glass or fabric. We also offer a Turkish & Ottoman Calligraphy workshop, which introduces the revered art of forming characters from the Ottoman-Arabic Diwani script. Taught with figurative imagery and an insight into geometric Islamic art, this workshop gives both a both hands-on experience and a fascinating art historical perspective. Other options include a Traditional Turkish Tile & Ceramics class and a workshop on the art of Fine Woodworking with mother-of-pearl inlay.


Jewish heritage


Jews have lived in the geographic area of modern Turkey for more than 2,400 years. In the later Middle Ages, Ashkenazi Jews migrated to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires supplementing the original Jewish population of Asia Minor. In the late 15th century, the Ottoman Empire invited many Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution in Spain and Portugal to Asia Minor. Despite emigration during the 20th century, modern day Turkey still has a small Jewish population of about 27,000. The major sites of Jewish interest in Turkey are in Istanbul where there are 29 synagogues ,although they are not all practicing or open to the public. These synagogues show how the different waves of Jewish immigrations to Turkey influenced the design of these houses of worship.


Galata is home to Istanbul’s main synagogue, Neve Shalom, a symbol of the Turkish Jewish community since being attacked in 1986 and again in 2003. The only remainder of the original synagogue is the grandfather clock in the foyer, which is still fixed at the time of the first bombing. The Ashkenazi Synagogue features a beautifully designed dome and vibrant interior art.


There used to be many synagogues active in the old Jewish district of Balat, but now only the beautifully renovated Ahrinda and Yanbol Synagogues are in use, and only on Shabbat. Jews from Macedonia originally built the Ahrinda Synagogue, which has been beautifully restored and is noted for its bemah in the shape of Noah’s ark, and a magnificent hanging chandelier in its central dome.


A short walk down the famous winding staircase, Ask Merdiveni (Love Steps), brings you to the former Zülfikar Synagogue, now the site of The Zulferis Museum which was founded in 1992, the first Jewish museum in Turkey. Naim Güleryüzü has been responsible for the vision, renovation and construction of this museum, a testament to 500 years of peace and tolerance in Turkey.



Sultanahmet a Historical Square
Sultanahmet Arasta Bazaar
Sultanahmet Baklava shop
Sultanahmet Eminönü
Sultanahmet gülhane-parkı
Sultanahmet Hurrem Sultan Turkish Bath
Sultanahmet spice bazaar
Sultanahmet the Four Seasos room
Sultanahmet the fourseasos yard
Topkapi Palace sunset
Galata Bridge
Istanbul at night
Kamondo stairs
karakoy cafe
karakoy ferry
Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam
Beyoglu at sunset
Beyoglu at sunset
Beyoglu cafe
Beyoglu Cicek passage
Galata door
Galata Mevlana Museum and Dervish performance
Istanbul galerist
nostalgic tram
Pera Palace Lobby
Pera Palace Room
roof top restaurant in Beyoglu
Banks of the Bosphorus
Bosphorus view
Four Seasons Bosphorus pool
Four Seasons Bosphorus reception
Four Seasons Bosphorus room
Ortakoy Mosque
Rumeli Hisar
Tugra Restaurant at the Ciragan Palace
Fazil Bey Turkish Coffee House
Istanbul ferry
kadikoy ferry cafe
kadikoy fish market
kadikoy homemade candy store
kadikoy specialty food shop for pickeled everything
page cafe gallery kadikoy
Sumahan exterior
Sumahan Room
How we custom design tours

The destinations, sites and excursions outlined here are great inspiration for creating your custom designed itinerary. As well as being experts on Turkey, we understand people, and have been designing imaginative vacations here for over 25 years. The trips we offer cater to a range of budgets but maintain our high standards and consistently deliver a unique style and concept. For advice on creating a tailor made itinerary taking you exactly where you want to go and doing the things you most enjoy, contact us here.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
The Grand Bazaar - Kapali Carsi in Istanbul
  • One of the oldest covered markets in the world with 61 lanes and over 3000 shops
Heritage Tram On Istiklal Avenue
The heritage tram in Beyoglu, Taksim
  • The 19th Century tram running through the old Grande Rue De Pera, now Istiklal Caddesi
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