Istanbul Tourist Guide – Half Day Private Tours (2024)

Hello, I am Serhat Engul. I have been a licensed tourist guide in Istanbul for about 20 years. I organize half-day walking tours covering most of Istanbul’s historical sites. On this page you can find the private guided tours I offer in Istanbul in 2024.

The history of Istanbul has a multi-layered structure covering the Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. To better understand this sophisticated history, you can book one of these private tours with me, lasting between 3 and 4 hours.

Discover Istanbul with Private Tourist Guide

Taking history tours in Istanbul with a private tourist guide gives you the opportunity to design tours at your own pace. In this way, you can obtain comprehensive historical information and examine historical artifacts better, away from crowded groups.

In the following lines, you can review the tours organized according to the opening and closing times and restoration status of historical monuments in Istanbul. If you would like to check availability for one of these private walking tours, you can contact me by filling out the form on the contact page.

1. Sultanahmet Tour

Istanbul Tourist Guide 2024

Sultanahmet tour is the best selling tour among all my tours. In approximately 3 to 4 hours, you will see some of the most prominent historical monuments in Istanbul. Meanwhile, you gain general information about the history and culture of Istanbul.

Half-day Sultanahmet tour includes the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Spice Bazaar and Rustem Pasha Mosque (with the most beautiful Ottoman tiles). Although this program does not cover some of the main attractions at first glance, it is an excellent introduction to the history of Istanbul for first-timers.

On this walking tour, you will learn about the Greco-Roman history of Istanbul, starting from ancient times, as well as get an idea about the Ottoman period. You will also meet some of the Old City’s best local restaurants and dessert shops as you walk to Spice Bazaar towards the end of the tour.

2. Historical Peninsula Tour

Private Tour Guide in Istanbul, Turkey

The Historical Peninsula tour primarily covers Sultanahmet, but goes a little outside the tourist circle and also shows you alternative places in Old Istanbul (Constantinople). This tour is a perfect blend of Ottoman and Byzantine history.

The half-day Historical Peninsula tour covers Hagia Sophia, Cistern of Philoxenos, Forum of Constantine, Grand Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque and with this route it perfectly completes the Sultanahmet tour in the first title.

In this second tour, you will complete the missing parts of the first tour and visit the most important buildings in Byzantine and Ottoman period Istanbul. After these first two tours, my suggestion to you is to continue exploring Istanbul with alternative tours such as Fener & Balat or Beyoglu walking tour.

3. Byzantine History Tour

Byzantine History Tours in Istanbul

The Byzantine history tour includes some places from the tours in the first two titles and is a unique tour. If you are specifically interested in the Roman and Byzantine periods of Istanbul, this tour will be a great experience for you.

Half day Byzantine history tour has Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, Great Palace Mosaics Museum, Little Hagia Sophia (Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus) and Hagia Irene Church. In this walking tour, we will focus on the Byzantine monuments in Sultanahmet.

In this thematic history tour, you will gain general information about Byzantine Istanbul and learn the history of buildings such as the Grand Palace, Hippodrome and Little Hagia Sophia, located in the heart of Constantinople, with all the legends and stories associated with them.

The itinerary of the Byzantine Istanbul tour may vary depending on the restoration status of the relevant historical monuments. You can find the latest version of the half-day Byzantine tour in this article, which I frequently update.

4. Fener & Balat Walking Tour

Fener and Balat Walking Tour

Fener and Balat walking tour gives you information about how non-Muslims lived in Ottoman Istanbul. On this tour, we visit churches and synagogues in the off the beaten path parts of the city. We also take photos of colorful houses and stairs in the neighborhoods.

Fener Balat tour is one of the main tours that should be done with a tourist guide in Istanbul. Because the mosques, churches and synagogues in this area are normally closed and you need a local expert who knows the officials to visit them.

Fener was the district where the Orthodox Patriarchate was located in Ottoman Istanbul, and therefore the most prominent Greek families of the city lived here. The legacy of the Greeks who lived here between the 15th and 20th centuries can still be seen in the churches and colorful houses.

Balat was the Jewish quarter of the city during the Ottoman period. For this reason, there are synagogues and various buildings reflecting the life of that period in the district. You can follow the traces of this cosmopolitan life on the Fener and Balat walking tour.

If you are interested in this unique tour outside the tourist circle and would like to arrange a private guided tour for yourself, you can view the Fener and Balat tour itinerary here.

5. Beyoglu Walking Tour

Beyoglu Walking Tour in Istanbul

Beyoglu walking tour allows you to get an impression of the new lifestyle of the Ottoman Empire, which was rapidly Westernizing in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this tour, we see the iconic places of the city such as Karakoy, Galata, Istiklal Street and Taksim Square.

The tour starts from the Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque, a classical period Ottoman structure. Thus, you will get to know the Karakoy district, which was the port of Istanbul facing the Golden Horn during both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

During the tour, we pass in front of the Galata Tower and see Neve Shalom, the largest synagogue in the city, from the outside. We visit the Pera Palace Hotel, where Orient Express passengers once stayed. We also explore the buildings on Istiklal Street, the most popular walking path in the city.

6. Topkapi Palace Tour

Istanbul History Tours

The Topkapi Palace tour covers this unique palace, which hosted the Ottoman sultans between the 15th and 19th centuries. It takes an average of 4 hours to visit the palace, which spreads over a huge area.

During the half-day Topkapi Palace tour, we visit Hagia Irene, a Byzantine church located in the first courtyard, the structures and exhibitions spread across the four courtyards of the palace, and of course the Harem Rooms.

A Topkapi Palace visit accompanied by an Istanbul tourist guide will give you an experience as if you have traveled in time. A visit to the palace is a very intense and tiring experience in itself and therefore cannot be combined with other tours.

7. Ortakoy & Bebek Walking Tour

Private Walking Tours in Istanbul

Ortakoy and Bebek walking tour is a great alternative tour for guests who have taken one or more of the tours I have introduced previously. On this tour, you will learn about the most attractive districts of the Bosphorus coast.

Ortakoy and Bebek tour starts from the iconic Ortakoy Square, where Istanbulites flock on weekends. First, we visit the Ortakoy Mosque, a baroque Ottoman mosque, and then we start walking towards Bebek.

During our walk, which continues along the Bosphorus for a few kilometers, we pass through Arnavutkoy, an old fishing village, and reach Bebek, the most beautiful bay of the Bosphorus. Here are the cafes with the most beautiful views of Istanbul.

8. Asian Side Walking Tour

Istanbul Asian Side Tour

Asian Side walking tour mainly takes place in Kadikoy, which is also the most popular address of street food tours in Istanbul. Kadikoy is the best place for visitors to Istanbul to get off the classic tourist route and experience a little local life.

Asian Side Walking Tour starts by boarding a ferry near Spice Bazaar and passing to the other side of the Bosphorus in half an hour. It covers Kadikoy’s famous Fish Market, Bahariye Street and the hip Moda neighborhood.

It is still possible to see the traces of this period in Kadikoy, one of the most cosmopolitan places of the Ottoman period. When you visit this area with a tourist guide in Istanbul, you will see many details that the average tourist leaves the city without seeing.


Local Tourist Guide in Istanbul

In conclusion, you can make unforgettable memories by visiting the places we have introduced in the above titles with a tourist guide in Istanbul. An experienced guide will save you time by keeping you away from crowds as much as possible.

The routes determined in these tours were created with the experiences I gained from the walks I have been doing in Istanbul for years. The aim of the tours is to provide you with maximum information and visuals in minimum time.

Visiting hours and restoration status of historical monuments in Istanbul are information that needs to be constantly updated. For this reason, I designed my half-day tours on the list by taking into account the current state of these old buildings.

The routes on these tours are designed to avoid waiting in line for hours in front of museums and historical monuments and to visit them at the most convenient times. For this reason, tour programs cannot be modified or combined with each other.

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