Backstreet of Istanbul
What is the best way to discover Istanbul?
Day 1: The Vintage Day The tour starts in Balat, exploring the Golden Horn side of the historical peninsula. Balat was – and still is – a unique neighborhood, where Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Jews have been living together as friends and neighbors since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Its identity is largely unchanged, with old-style, narrow, colorful houses, each 3 to 4 stories, with shops on the first floor, along the narrow streets. There are even some ghost houses, waiting to be discovered. You can see clothes, boasting a rainbow of colors, hanged to dry between balconies of opposite houses; and the inhabitants of Balat are in no way less colorful than what they wear. Apart from being the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the virtual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church since the Ottoman Empire, Balat houses the Bulgarian church, The Armenian church, literally side by side with Roman Catholic churches, 500 years old mosques, and the oldest synagogue in Istanbul. More Greek Orthodox churches from different centuries, a holy spring, old hamams, a very big, very old Greek School for Boys, complete with its red bricks and tower, are neighbored by old hamams and even older city walls, small workshops, and a museum in a cistern, which itself is under a private university. Walking around in Balat is like lingering in Wonderland or in Diagon Alley. Thrilled in constant time travel, you will be delighted by the smells of the bakeries, small cafés, and restaurants as you walk along the streets. Nowadays, those streets are getting very trendy. Don’t be surprised if you see many photographers, local tourist groups, or even a filming crew on the streets. So many more details are waiting for you to discover. You will also see many vintage and trendy, new clothing boutiques. One of Istanbul’s best-kept secrets is that the city houses many art galleries. To unlock this secret, your guide will lead you to Istiklal Street, the virtual downtown of the city. For city dwellers, İstiklal is the perfect path to surrender to the lure of urban life at narrow streets offering enchanting glimpses of the sea and the historical peninsula, in between lines of 19th-century buildings. Immersed in this magical atmosphere are contemporary art galleries, antique stores, stylish boutiques, and trendy cafés where one can enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee with candy from a 300-year-old brand while watching hipsters from all nationalities stroll by. Going down through that street leads into a colorful parade of retro objects and; and going down through this one to antique furniture. If you can find the hidden street; you walk down long stairs called “French passage” full of colors and some statues. Down there you will Nobel Laureate Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk’s contemporary museum called after his novel “The Museum of Innocence.” Then you walk down a street that has many art galleries. In an exotic, old apartment, you will visit the world-famous artist Ismail Acar, seeing his workshop and immediately understanding why he is world-famous. His paintings consist of Istanbul's historical buildings and portraits of its major figures and people. This will be the top of the tour if you are an art enthusiast. The building itself has a lot of historical details. They have just found an old Jewish artifact that dates back to 450 years. Apart from its beautiful garden, there are also tunnels under that apartment. And you will be amazed by his paintings as well as his sculptures and very creative ideas. One side of his gallery’s ceiling was cut, and you are able to watch Whirling dervishes shows from the top. Many more impressive details will meet you in this gallery. Do you like to test some chocolate by biting a statue of the Mona Lisa? You will see Salvador Dali’s statue which was made for the blind artist to be able to touch to know him. Every floor is another journey. By prior reservations, a whirling dervishes show will be in the gallery for you. Again, if you inform us before, we will prepare some sultan dress for you and our polaroid cameras and have a picture with old dress in front of a painting and make your tour eternal. (those activities will have extra charging) The final surprise of the day will be his gallery’s terrace that will amaze you with the view and time to relax with his tea to jointly plan your second day. Day 2: The Contemporary Day İstanbul is simultaneously a historical and a modern city that offers the best for every taste. You start your second day of the tour drinking your morning coffee, at a restaurant with the breath-taking view of Bosphorus, in the trendy high society neighborhood of Bebek. You will be sitting in Europe, looking at Asia: a very unique experience. Then you walk along the Bosphorus and hop on a taxi and reach to discover the chic streets of sophisticated Nisantasi, which is constantly buzzing with shoppers hanging around elegant cafés and classy boutiques. Another trendy and modern part of Istanbul. There we will find many upscale clothes and jewelry, home textile shops, and restaurants. This is the heart of modern life in İstanbul, where many celebrities congregate. Istanbul has always been a major trade center of the world; since the city is the main junction point where sea and land routes all intersect. Stepping into the Grand Bazaar feels like a journey in time, which takes you back to the golden age of the Ottoman Empire with all artisans, work, and shop owners hassling to sell the best of their products. Not only inexpensive touristic souvenirs but also upscale well-known family stores of jewelry, leather, antiques, art, replicas, ceramics, towels, home textile, and much more than one can imagine. Grand Bazaar, the oldest and biggest shopping mall in the world, has 22 gates and 4000 shops, first opened in 1461! Experiencing the infinite variety of ancient, vintage, and modern shops selling Turkish and other delights and meeting the differing, wonderfully hospital (and eager to sell) people urging you to buy what they offer. Beware, though, that some of them are famous and known as could sell bicycles to a fish. Of course, there is an equal variety of foods and spices to be tasted, especially the many Turkish teas and coffees. There are some secret gems that even locals cannot find easily. Get excited to discover this. Your tour guide will be there to help you as she knows what is valuable and what prices are fair. Do you know that there is only one man left who can manufacture a Gramophone? Do you know there are fountains in the bazaar, there is a man bringing dieffenbachia from Florida to paint them? There are many Armenian jewelry shops, and some of the world’s most famous jewelry designers are from the Grand Bazaar. And of course, spice shops sell saffron, caviar, and the best Turkish delights and special spice mixes. Did you know that 80 percent of the world’s hazelnuts come from Turkey? We are renowned for figs, apricots, so you can find dried fruits in this bazaar. With many more, you won’t want the gate to close that day. And, also, don’t miss the famous experience of bargaining over prices. Good luck!
Discover the vibrant modern streets of Istanbul.
Explore the charming old streets of Balat and the Grand Bazaar.
Visit art galleries and studios, including Ismail Acar's famous gallery.
Shop for unique souvenirs, jewelry, and more in Nisantasi and the Grand Bazaar.
Children between the ages 2 and 10 receive a 50% discount.
Included in the Package
- Transportation from/to your address via a proper, comfortable vehicle.
- Professional tour guide experience in various languages
Not Included in the Package
- Drinks and all personal expenses.
- Admission fees
- Cancellation for tours can be made 36 hours before for full-day excursions outside of İstanbul without paying the penalty. Otherwise, you will be charged the full tour price.