Hello, I’m Serhat Engul, a local tour guide based in Istanbul. As a history buff, I organize private guided tours that tell the stories of historical districts in Istanbul. These districts include Sultanahmet, Fener & Balat and Beyoglu.
Sultanahmet and Fener & Balat districts are within the boundaries of Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula (former Constantinople). On the other hand, although Beyoglu is a relatively new district, it’s a historically important place.
Famous buildings of the city such as Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are located in Sultanahmet. However, Fener & Balat, which is off the classical tourist route, also contains many hidden gems.
In this article, I would like to introduce you to my walking tours in these districts. I have been a licensed tourist guide in Istanbul since 2004 and I have shown these routes to hundreds of people.
If you want to see Istanbul through the eyes of a local tour guide, you can contact me for a private guided tour. You can be sure that these tours will leave unforgettable memories for you!
Explore Istanbul with a Local Tour Guide!
Exploring Istanbul with a local tour guide will open the doors to a history of 2700 years. The history of Istanbul consists of multiple layers and covers the Greco-Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
I especially recommend you to visit structures such as Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern with a guide.
These structures have been associated with many stories throughout history and you need someone to passionately convey them to you.
1. Half-Day Private Old City Tour
Half-Day Private Old City Tour is an excellent option to get general information about Istanbul. On this 4-hour walking tour, you will discover the heart of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula, Sultanahmet and its surroundings.
The half-day Istanbul walking tour basically has five stops. These are buildings that represent different periods from the history of Istanbul. For this reason, this tour gives you a clear idea of the cosmopolitan nature of the city.
The Hippodrome is my favorite starting place for my tours in Sultanahmet. Because this place dates back to the Roman Empire period and has some of the oldest historical artifacts in the city.
b. Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque is the most famous mosque in Istanbul and takes its name from the blue Ottoman tiles in its interior decoration. This is the most distinctive structure of Ottoman history in the half-day Sultanahmet tour.
c. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built in the 6th century, during the Byzantine Empire. After the 15th century, it was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. As such, it is a work that perfectly reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Istanbul.
d. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is the most mysterious among dozens of Byzantine cisterns in Istanbul. This place is famous for the Medusa Heads under the columns. The Basilica Cistern was also featured in some scenes of famous movies such as James Bond and Inferno.
e. Spice Bazaar
Spice Bazaar is located in Eminonu, the transportation hub of Old Istanbul. On our way to this historical bazaar, we pass through streets filled with Istanbul’s best local restaurants and public markets. The half-day tour of Old Istanbul ends in this 350-year-old bazaar.
Why Should You Take a Half-Day Istanbul Tour?
Half-day Istanbul tour introduces you to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures. However, this tour is not just about visiting historical monuments. During the tour, you learn a lot about the culture and daily life of Istanbul.
Especially at the end of the tour, during our walk to Spice Bazaar, you discover the restaurants and sweet shops in the city where the locals eat. Thus, this history tour also offers a partial food tour experience.
2. Full Day Private Old City Tour
Full Day Private Old City Tour covers every place in the previous half-day tour, and there is Topkapi Palace on top of it. The tour automatically becomes a full-day activity as it takes an average of 3 hours to visit Topkapi Palace and its Harem Rooms.
The full-day Istanbul tour is a walking tour that takes 7-8 hours with all the historical artifacts and a lunch break. It is an inclusive cultural tour for those who are really into history and walking.
Why Should You Take a Full-Day Istanbul Tour?
Full-day Istanbul tour is for those interested in history and those who like to walk. Blending Istanbul’s Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman history, this tour is a bit tiring but allows you to learn a lot.
3. Fener and Balat Walking Tour
Fener and Balat walking tour is for those who want to explore the historical districts of Istanbul that are off the tourist route. Although these districts stand out with their colorful houses, they also contain great historical and cultural riches.
Churches, mosques and synagogues on this route are not well known as they are not easily visited without a guide. However, you can thoroughly explore these magnificent districts of Istanbul with a local tour guide.
Fener and Balat walking tour is a half-day activity and takes approximately 4 hours. For all the details about this tour, you can get information from this page.
4. Beyoglu Walking Tour
Beyoglu walking tour covers the relatively newer districts of Istanbul compared to the Old City. These areas where the heart of the city beats. Most of the top restaurants and cafés located within these neighborhoods.
The Beyoglu walking tour starts from the Tophane district, where the Istanbul cruise port is, and then continues along Karakoy, Galata, Istiklal Street. At the end of the tour, we arrive at Taksim Square, the heart of Istanbul.
The Beyoglu walking tour is a half-day activity and takes about 4 hours. You can reach a blog post describing this tour step-by-step via this link.
5. Byzantine Heritage Tour
Byzantine Heritage Tour allows you to discover the traces of a civilization that no longer exists in Istanbul. There are many churches, cisterns, palaces and artifacts left from the Eastern Roman (aka Byzantine) empire in Istanbul. You can see what’s left of Constantinople on this tour.
Byzantine Istanbul tour consists of a balanced blend of churches, palaces and museums in Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula (former Constantinople). This tour can be designed as both half-day and full-day. For more information about this tour, you can check this page.
Istanbul Private Tour Guide Cost 2023
The cost of traveling with a private tour guide in Istanbul is between 200 USD and 300 USD. If you organize a private half-day tour, the price is 200 USD, while for private full-day tour, the price is 300 USD. I would like to emphasize that these are private guided tours.
Private half-day Old City tour, which is the first tour on the list, costs 200 USD, while the remaining more specific half-day tours (eg Byzantine tour, Fener Balat tour and Beyoglu Tour) cost 220 USD (this fee remains the same for up to 4 people).
On the other hand, full day Old City tour and Byzantine heritage tour (if planned as a full day) costs 300 USD. If you would like to organize your own private guided tour, you can contact me by filling out the form on this page.
Istanbul Local Tour Guide on TripAdvisor
Majority of the local tour guides in Istanbul are registered on TripAdvisor and their reviews are visible there. You are advised to check the guide’s background from internet, to make sure that he/she is the right person for you.
I suggest you read the comments carefully. Long and detailed reviews will help you better to find the right private tour guide for you in Istanbul. You may read my reviews on TripAdvisor from this link.
Candace Williams says
I wrote to you yesterday about a half day tour on Friday, Nov 11. My sister and I are also interested in a full day tour on Saturday, November 12. Please let us know as soon as possible about your availability.
Serhat Engul says
Thank you for reaching out.
The last days have been very busy for me and I could not reply to emails within the same day. However, I replied to your email today.