Hello, my name is Serhat Engul. I have been working as a private tour guide in Istanbul since 2004. I organize private walking tours in Istanbul focusing on Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history. In this article, you can find information about my private guided tours in Istanbul.
As a tour guide, I founded Istanbul Clues to provide detailed answers to my guests’ questions. There are 200 articles about Istanbul on the travel blog you are visiting right now. In case of need, you can find reliable insider tips about hotels, food, transportation and activities in Istanbul on the site.
Do I Need a Private Tour Guide in Istanbul?
It is debatable how convincing my answer to this question will be. If you wish, let me tell you about the history of the city and you decide whether it is really necessary to hire a private tour guide in Istanbul.
After the partition of Rome, it became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which we know as Byzantium in modern history. It remained the capital of Byzantine Empire for 1000 years under the name of Constantinople.
In the 15th century, the rising power of the period, the Ottoman Empire, captured Istanbul. The city had once again become the capital of a powerful empire. It remained the main port of the Eastern Mediterranean trade routes for centuries.
Istanbul’s history consists of many layers and it takes time to make sense of it. An experienced and knowledgeable tour guide who can convey this information to you in the shortest way can offer you a completely different vision.
In addition to visiting historical places in Istanbul and listening to their unique stories, it is also important to get to know the cosmopolitan food culture of the city. You can learn a lot about Istanbul’s history, culture and food in a short time on my private guided tours.
My Private Guided Tours in Istanbul
There are some districts that must be visited to really get to know Istanbul. Among these, Sultanahmet, Fener & Balat, and finally Beyoglu districts stand out. In the lines below, you can find my private guided tours in Istanbul covering these districts.
In this article, you can find 5 tours about the history of Istanbul that complement each other. Although the first two tours are almost similar, one takes a half day and the other a full day. The main difference between the two is the Topkapi Palace visit. Since it takes more than 3 hours to visit the palace, the activity becomes a full day tour.
In third place is a Byzantine tour for those interested in Roman history in Istanbul. Since the Byzantine period lasted for 1000 years, there are many historical artifacts from this period in the city. This tour covers Constantinople between the 4th and 15th centuries.
In the fourth and fifth titles, there are walking tours covering Fener & Balat and Beyoglu districts for those who want to go out of the tourist route and do something different in Istanbul. Among them, the Fener Balat tour focuses on the life of non-Muslims in Ottoman Istanbul, and the Beyoglu tour focuses on the cosmopolitan Istanbul of the 19th century.
In my opinion, these are the places that should be visited with a private tour guide in Istanbul. However, in some custom tours, I add activities such as Bosphorus cruise, walking from Ortakoy to Bebek, and Kadikoy Fish Market.
1. Half Day Istanbul Old City Tour
Half Day Istanbul Old City Tour gives you a great insight about the Istanbul’s history, culture and hidden treasures. Since this tour takes half a day, it is not tiring and you can spend your afternoon with other activities.
Half day tour starts at 10:00 O’clock in the morning. Duration of the tour is 3 to 4 hours. The price of the tour is 120 EURO (same price up to 4 people). Please also note that your entrance fees are not included. Admission is free for licensed tour guides.
This tour starts by meeting at Sultanahmet Tram Station. Afterwards, the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and Spice Bazaar are visited respectively. During the tour, you will get an idea about the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods of Istanbul.
After visiting the historical monuments in Sultanahmet, we pass by Sirkeci and Eminonu, where the city’s best local restaurants and dessert shops are, and end the tour at Spice Bazaar. In this way, you can make your choice for a great lunch with the tips you receive during the tour.
The half-day old city tour is ideal for those who come to Istanbul for the first time. You can also read this article for more information about a half-day private guided tour in Istanbul.
2. Full Day Istanbul Old City Tour
Full Day Istanbul Old City Tour covers the most important tourist attractions in Sultanahmet, the heart of the Old City. This tour is a bit tiring as it takes 7-8 hours, but it is suitable for those who love history and walking.
Full day tour starts at 09:00 O’clock in the morning. Duration of the tour is 7 to 8 hours. The price of the tour is 180 EURO (same price up to 4 people). Please also note that your entrance fees are not included. Admission is free for licensed tour guides.
The tour starts by meeting at Sultanahmet Tram Stop. After visiting the Hippodrome and the Blue Mosque, we go to Topkapı Palace. We take a lunch break at a traditional restaurant inside the palace. In the late afternoon we will visit Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern.
The half-day tour in the previous title also looks the same at first glance. However, Topkapi Palace makes the difference. Since Topkapi Palace is spread over a huge area, an average visit takes 3 hours. When the lunch break is also added to it, it becomes a full-day activity.
This tour is great for history buffs. It introduces you to the main structures of Istanbul in the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. So you learn the sophisticated history of the city. You can read this article for more information about the full-day private guided tour of Istanbul.
3. Byzantine History Tour
Byzantine History Tour helps you discover the Christian heritage in Istanbul. Istanbul was one of the leading centers of Christianity for a millennium. Today, it still carries the legacy of those days.
Constantine the Great was a Roman emperor who changed the course of history. He made Istanbul the co-capital of Rome under the name of Constantinople, and more importantly, he became the first Roman ruler to accept Christianity.
Constantinople was now the city where the emperors lived. For this reason, the authority of the eastern bishops sometimes overshadowed even the Pope. This power reached its peak during the reign of Emperor Justinian.
Today, there are city walls, churches, cisterns and palace ruins among Byzantine sites in Istanbul. The half-day Byzantine tour includes the Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Hagia Irene Museum and Little Hagia Sophia.
Normally there is also a full day version of this tour. That tour also includes Chora Church, Theodosian Walls, Palace of the Porphyrogenitus and Church of St George. However, as Chora Church (Kariye Mosque) is under restoration, I cannot do the full-day tour for now.
4. Fener and Balat Walking Tour
Fener and Balat walking tour is to enjoy history, architecture and food. These districts were the places where non-Muslims lived in Ottoman Istanbul. Fener was the Greek quarter and the Orthodox Patriarchate is still here. On the other hand, Balat was the Jewish quarter in the city.
Nowadays there are art galleries, antique shops, cafés and restaurants in the oldish streets of Fener and Balat. This walking tour is also the most productive activity for those who want to take pictures in Istanbul.
In Istanbul, you need a private tour guide most during the Fener Balat walk. Because the churches in these districts are normally closed to visitors. However, guides who know the area can call the attendants in advance and get permission to enter.
Fener Balat walking tour starts by meeting in front of Kadir Has University at 10:00 in the morning. Duration of the tour is 4 hours. The price of the tour is 120 EURO (same price up to 4 people).
5. Beyoglu Walking Tour
Beyoglu walking tour perfectly complements the historical experience you have in other tours. After seeing the early Ottoman structures in Istanbul Old City, you will continue your historical journey in Beyoglu.
There are two periods in the history of the Ottoman Empire. The first is the Classical Period, when the empire was at its peak. You can see the traces of this period in and around Sultanahmet. Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque reflect this period very well.
The Modern Period represents Westernization. The Ottomans started to build European-style palaces and structures from the 19th century. You can see the best examples of this period in Beyoglu.
The Beyoglu tour covers the relatively new places of the city such as Karakoy, Galata, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square. A walk in these districts will introduce you to the last century of the Ottoman Empire.
The Beyoglu walking tour starts at 10:00 in the morning by meeting in the courtyard of Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque next to the Tophane Tram Stop. Duration of the tour is 4 hours. The price of the tour is 120 EURO (same price up to 4 people).
Serhat Engul on TripAdvisor
I signed up for TripAdvisor in 2015 as Private Tour Guide Serhat Engul. Since then, more than 50 guests have written detailed reviews about my private guided tours in Istanbul. Among the notes you can see references to each of the tours I’ve introduced in this article.
As someone who loves Istanbul, I passionately share what I know about the city with my guests. I am happy to see that I have managed to share this information with people through my tours and my blog.
You can read most of what a tour guide will tell you about Istanbul from books. After all, I learned most of what I know from history books. But how many books can you read before visiting Istanbul? Or how many times do you have to visit Istanbul to find out the tips a local tour guide knows about the city?
The private guided tours of Istanbul that I present on this page are designed to provide you with the most information in the shortest way. And this website will give you clues about the depth of my knowledge about Istanbul.
If you are coming to this city and really want to know the history and culture of Istanbul, you can book one of my private guided tours. In order to inquire about availability, please fill out the form on the contact page.
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