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What to do in Istanbul before tour starts

Hi all, We are getting ready for the Best of Turkey tour that starts June 27th. We arrive two days early and are working on an agenda for our time before the tour starts. Please provide any suggestions for what to do in Istanbul that we will not do on the regular tour. We are considering doing the City Walls and Neighbors Walk and visiting the Theodosius Cistern. Thanks so much for your suggestions!

Posted by
2417 posts

Definitely the Basilica Cistern. We loved the archeological museum near Topkapi Palace. We actually went twice as we enjoyed it so much. At night, you can go to the whirling dervish ceremony at Hodjapasha. You will need reservations for this ceremony. You will have perhaps have an opportunity to see whirling dervishes in Cappadocia as well.

Posted by
2252 posts

I’m also a fan of the Cistern and visited both times we were in Istanbul. We also took a cooking class that was lots of fun and in the teacher’s home, right around the corner from our tour hotel. Visit the baths although as I recall, most accessed those during one of our free afternoons. Take a look at the itinerary for the Best of Istanbul tour and I’m sure you’ll get some good ideas!

Posted by
226 posts

The last I read in April, 2022, the Basilica Cistern was still closed. Just check to be certain.

Posted by
8614 posts

Meander about the Cihangri District. Its lovely. Cafes, antiques shops.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you so much for all your suggestions. I believe that the Basilica Cistern is closed but I think the Theodosius Cistern is still open.

Posted by
2455 posts

You might check out the “Two Markets, Two Continents” food tour with Culinary Backstreets of Istanbul. This one introduces you to the Asian part of Istanbul, as well as many delicious samples of varied Turkish dishes. I took it my first day in Istanbul on one trip, and really enjoyed it. The company has various other food tours in Istanbul as well. When I did this tour, at the end they gave each participant a small book sharing and describing dozens of small typical ethnic restaurants in various parts of the city. I have happily sought out and visited various of these on subsequent visits.
Also, I too recommend a visit to the varied Archeology Museum, which will take some time.
And, the Arasta Bazaar near and downhill from the Blue Mosque, and the small mosaic museum attached to this bazaar, with many ancient mosaics from Roman times in Istanbul, most of which you view from above them. This bazaar is a series of independent shops, sort of a 2-sided strip mall, that offered some calm and quality shopping, very different from the bustling and large Grand or Spice Bazaars.

Posted by
4565 posts

I loved the Rhythm of the Dance Show at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center.

It's at the same center where you can see the Whirling Dervishes, but you will see that on the Best of Turkey tour.

Posted by
4565 posts

Karen, I just returned a few days ago from the RS Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours.

Dolmabahçe Palace, on the banks of the Bosphorus, is quite interesting and is not included in the tour. You'll find it and perhaps some other helpful ideas in my trip report.

Posted by
4565 posts

You'll get a Museum Pass as part of your tour that covers entry to the Galata Tower and saves you from waiting in the ticket line, though you'll still need to wait in the entry line.

Even if you go before you get your Museum Pass, it's only 130 Turkish Lira, less than $8.00. But you'll have to wait in the ticket line first.

You could go at sunset for beautiful views. We found the lines to be shorter near sunset than during the day.