Istanbul City Tour Excursion Reviews
We took a city tour that we loved. Small tour (max 10 people -- 8 attended our tour) that took us into the back streets of Istanbul to experience the local areas and truly local food (no tourists present). It included a ride on the Bosphorus, a walk through the local fish market, true Turkish coffee experience, etc. Absolutely loved it.
Again we booked only a guide with Epehesus Deluxe. The first day we had also a car and driver but 2nd day we took the tram. First day was for Topkapi-Palace and Spice Market. Was nice but 2nd day with Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Cistern, Grand Bazaar and the visit on the top of the roofs around the Grand Bazaar like James Bond 007 Skyfall was unbeatable. The end of the tour took us by the new commuter train to the Asian side and back on the ferry with the sunset on Istanbul's skyline.
Got the bus at the gate of the port. 20 each, traffic was terrible the bus kept stopping every few feet.Eventually we arrived at a big square where we were told, not too nicely, that we had to change to another bus, that was at the far side of the square.This bus moved fairly quickly, I think he was making up time lost by the first bus.This bus went down the same street a few times, and we passed the same football ground three times.As bus tours go I have had better.
We did an excursion that included St. Sophia, the Blue Mosque, St. Irene's and the Topkapi palace. The guide was excellent and gave a lot of background information that was missing in our other tours. A ship endorsed carpet weaving demo is included and while the carpets are beautiful (and very expensive), the salesmen latch on to you like leeches and are hard to get rid of at the end. They were just the beginning - there is a lot of pressure to buy in Instanbul - the carpet sellers were just the first. As you walk down the street you are harassed by pashmina sellers, perfume sellers. bag sellers, even kids selling socks - all before you get into the grand bazaar. Be prepared to say no and keep walking. Do not engage in polite conversation or they will follow you for blocks. If you do want to buy something you must haggle over the price. If you are comfortable with that you can deal away. We did OK with the few things we bought.
The Hagia Sophia is beautiful but very dark inside and has (currently) lots of scaffolding making it hard to get good pictures. The tile work in the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace is amazing.
Just part of the tour as you made your way from the port to the major sights.
As cruising with Royal Princess on the Great Mediterranean Tour, we decided to search a less-expensive, but still valuable day tour in Istanbul, and, thanks to the internet and to Trip Advisor, we were lucky to find Ada Vegas Travel agency, managed by a really professional and enthusiastic staff, led by Yuksel Tasdemir (http://www.adavegastravel.com/). They have set everything to be just perfect, at a more than convenient price for the four of us: a great comfortable Mercedes, a skilled driver and an exceptionally knowledgeable and nice guide, Erkal. We have seen the amazing Istanbul, heard its adventurous history, visited the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Topkapi Palace, the Topkap? Harem and all, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar in a more than pleasant speed (so many to enjoy in just a couple of hours limited by the ship's departure!).
Everything we saw was just unforgettable, full of history and magnificence.
The last but not least experience was a visit to the "Matis-Carpets and Jewellery" demonstration shop where splendid carpets, made of silk, with a breathtaking art so old and so perfect, that made us think we were in heaven! Mr Yavuz Ozdemir a courteous host, made of the demonstration a great lesson of Turkish traditional art, a must see when visiting Istanbul, where West and East mingle in an harmonious way.
The Spice Market - a great place to find not only the fantastic Turkish delights, but also hundreds of spices and species of tea, a paradise for our noses and tongues!
All sort of rare spices, very exquisite and expensive too, like the saffron,along with very well-known ones, make the joy of the cooks. In some shops we were served cold tea in a very courteous Turkish tradition.
The Grand Bazaar - a bit too crowded by so many tourists, it is interesting to walk inside. Good opportunities to find whatever one needs/wishes. If you want to bargain, you should be really good at negotiation techniques. Otherwise, don't be sure you have found the lowest price in the city!
Very rushed and guide was not not very knowledgable. No time to get out of the bus to photograph the Hagia Sofia or Blue Mosque.
Do not like being "ambushed" in a selling exercise. Not advised about the carpet selling.
2 day tour across the city, well worth it
We joined with a group from Cruise Critic and followed the instructions we had from a previous cruise critic member. This was to stop at the ATM's outside the port then catch the tram to the Hagia Sophia stop. We wandered around here then joined the queues and went inside for a while. After this we walked over to the Blue Mosque with our ticket that we had purchased online. Ours wouldn't work at the scanner along with several others so this meant a trip back to the ticket office to sort this out. We then joined the queue and thinking we were adequately dressed entered the mosque. I was wearing a longish dress but this was not enough and I was given a robe to hide the lower part of my legs. The Topkapi Palace was closed that day so we walked onto the Cistern which was well worth a visit. After this we walked to the spice market then went onto the Grand Bazaar. It was a hot day so we jumped on the tram back to the nearest stop to take us to the port. We ended up as a small group of 4 as we had lost the others along the way.
Good introduction to this fascinating city if you are going to spend time pre or post tour there.