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10 Private Istanbul Guides: fall in love with Istanbul in a day (2024)

Are you looking for or wondering about a private Istanbul Guided tour? Look no further!

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Checking out tours and guides can be overwhelming. I get it! After living in Istanbul, Turkey for years now I still can get overwhelmed.

While I know Istanbul, I definitely don’t know it like the professional tour guides, which is why I have such a value for them.

What I love most about a private tour is they can customize it to your needs and desires as well as they make sure you’re taken care of.

Been here before and you already saw the Hagia Sophia, ok great the guide will adjust. Don’t really wanna go in the cistern, no problem.

You don’t have to worry about knowing the language or getting ripped off as you go shopping because they have your back.

Local led tour guides will help you experience Istanbul in a way you never could simply as a foreigner.

If you want to avoid hours combing through lists of guides and tours, here are the ones I recommend! Many are pretty similar but there are some different ones in there as well.

They all have English-speaking tour guides and some even have other languages like Spanish, German, and more.

If you’re finally ready to start getting that trip together to visit Istanbul, this is a great way to see the highlights.

Let’s jump in and see if we can find you the perfect private tour.

4 Must-Have travel accessories for Touristy areas

  • This external battery by Anker is the best. I used mine for years until I left it in another country. ?
  • No trip to a touristy area without a bag specifically made for travel, think not pick-poketable. Travelon is my go to brand.
  • A money belt is really great to have especially in crowded/touristy areas. This one has RFID blocking and a great price!
  • I know many women love wearing their hair down but I can’t stand it. This hat is great because of the hole for a ponytail!
  • I always travel with a refillable water bottle and this Epic water bottle is my go-to. It has a filter specifically for tap water.

My top Pick!

Top Pick
A Suyleman mosque in the background with a view from the Bosphorous

Best of Istanbul

Take an unforgettable journey through Istanbul’s enchanting history with a private tour!

Whether you choose one day or three days to explore the Old City’s highlights, there is something for everyone!

Jump to other tour recommendations

A bit of Istanbul history

Before I jumped into all the private guided tours, I wanted to share a brief history of Istanbul.

If you don’t know where Istanbul is, it is the only megacity to straddle two continents, Asia and Europe.

It is separated by the Bosphorus Strait, which has many great tours if you’re looking for a different perspective.

The history and culture in Turkey are massive and old and beautiful but Istanbul specifically also has its own rich history. Before it was Istanbul that we know today, it was called Constantinople…cue the Constantinople song now.

While it isn’t absolutely certain when it was first settled, we do know that the Greeks founded the city of Byzantium somewhere around 300 AD.

During this time, Constantine, the Roman Emperor, took over building it and named it Constantinople.

For a while, it was back and forth between the Romans and Greeks as to who had control but eventually, it was overtaken by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire had control of this city.

Then WW1 happened. Shortly after this, the Turkish War of Independence took place and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic.

It was finally a sovereign nation in its own right. Not much later the city’s name was changed to Istanbul and Ankara became the country’s capital.

Ataturk was known for wanting to be more progressive and wanted to leave the religious ties. Fez hats became illegal, the alphabet was changed from Arabic to Latin, and much of what he started is still seen to this day.

Turks love Ataturk. So much so that they have an entire day to celebrate him and they stop for a minute at the precise time he died, every year. I mean, they stop traffic and get out of their cars to pay respect to this man, kind of stop.

As you come to Turkey, and more specifically Istanbul, you will see the beautiful tapestry that time and cultures have woven into this place.

While you can see much of it on your own, a private guide will really drive it home sharing things with you that you wouldn’t so easily have learned on your own.

Major sites you will probably want to see

There are 6 major parts of Istanbul.

  • Old Istanbul, south of the Golden Horn (red)
  • Contemporary (New) Istanbul, east of the Golden Horn (yellow)
  • the area along the Golden Horn (black)
  • the shores of the Bosphorus on the European side (green)
  • the Asian shore (purple)
  • the Princes’ Islands (blue)

Old Istanbul

  • Hagia Sophia – While it is currently a mosque, it was originally finished in 360 AD as an Eastern Orthodox church. The original and the second iteration burned down and the one you now see is actually the third one built.
  • Topkapı Palace – This is a really beautiful building. It was where the reigning sultans lived in the 1400-1800s. Now you can visit and see how they lived.
  • Grand Bazaar – The world’s largest and oldest covered market. It can be quite overwhelming and you will definitely pay more than you would just outside. Make sure you haggle if you want to buy something.
  • Spice Bazaar – This is called the Egyptian Bazaar as well. In my opinion if you have seen the Grand Baazar then it’s pretty much the same.
  • Blue Mosque – This mosque is known for the beautiful blue tile work inside. It is in the classic Ottoman style with blues and tulips. Stunning work for sure.
  • Basilica Cistern – There are hundreds of cisterns below the city but this the largest. Renovations were taking place for the last 5 years and they recently finished.

New Istanbul

  • Galata Tower – The views from the top of the Galata Tower are stunning. You can get a 360º view of the city from here. They also have a really cool replica of the city with move parts in the museum portion.
  • Dolmabahçe Palace – During parts of the Ottoman Empire, this palace served as the main administrative center. Again the opulence and detail is quite fascinating especially for someone who grew up in the States.

Other

  • Fener & Balat – Golden Horn area – There is a great walking tour. This area was the center of Jewish culture in the 15th century and is home to some of the oldest churches, mosques, and synagogues.
  • Rumeli Hisar – northeast on the Bosphorus coast – This is one of two fortresses that were built as plans were made for a Ottoman siege on Constantinople in 1451.
  • Chora Church – Golden Horn area – This is a medieval Greek Orthadox church that has been used both as a mosque and a museum. Last time I was up there, they were doing renovations but is known for it’s mosaics and fescos.
  • Golden Horn – It is a natural estuary that connects with the Bosphorus Straigt where it meets with the Marmara Sea. There are some great things to see in this area.
  • Kadıköy – Asian side – I live over here on the Asian side so I am probably partial. Kadıköy is the hip, western part of the Asian side of Istanbul.
  • Princes’ Islands – an archipelago of 9 islands, 4 large ones and 5 smaller ones. Not all of them are accessible but definitely worth a visit.

There are all sorts of tours available. Walking tours, food tours, Bosphorus tours and more. Whatever it is you’re looking for, there are some great options out there.

Who is a private tour best for?

Let’s be honest, a private tour is not for everyone. That’s ok. But let me tell. you about the reasons it could be for you.

Don’t have to know Turkish. The beauty of a private guide is that they will handle all the Turkish parts and explain all the things in your native tongue.

They will also be able to help communicate with shopkeepers and local workers.

Insight into both the culture and the history. Tour guides in Turkey are required to obtain a 4 year degree in tourism and history.

There are, of course, unofficial and illegitimate tour guides who don’t have the same training or credentials.

Real tour guides will be able to give you insights and make connections that you wouldn’t be able to make on your own.

Save time. With private tours you get to skip to the front of lines and they will explain the history of the places you will see as you go.

Problem solver. True tour guides will make sure that you’re not taken advantage of or scammed in any way. They will help you avoid sketchy areas of the city and introduce you to hidden gems.

There are lots of benefits to hiring a tour guide. So maybe you’re asking yourself what are the cons then? Well the one con I can think of is cost.

Sometimes tours can be pricey, but there are options for all price ranges. Honestly, it is easy to get around in my opinion. It isn’t like you travel to Istanbul, Turkey every year.

Costs of Private Tours

These vary greatly on where they are, how long they are, what they cover, and what’s included.

Prices can range anywhere from $6-25 per hour. That being said, that doesn’t include tips at the end.

While you’re not required, tipping is typically expected for tours. Generally speaking somewhere between 10-20% is expected. You can read more about tipping here.

IMO the 10 Best Private Istanbul Guided Tours

Exploring Istanbul can be an amazing experience, and the best way to do it is with a private guide.

Private guides are knowledgeable locals who will help you discover all the hidden gems of Istanbul that most tourists miss out on.

With their expert knowledge and insider tips, they’ll make sure your time in Turkey is unforgettable!

Here are 10 of the best private tours in Istanbul to help you get started on your journey.

Hagia Sophia on a clear sunny day.

1. Best of City – Full-Day Walking Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: It offers an exclusive experience to explore all that Istanbul has to offer, including priority entrance to famous sites such as the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, and more.

On this tour, you will be able to immerse yourself in Turkish culture while learning about its rich history through your guide’s expert knowledge and insider tips.

What’s Included:

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: No

Hotel Pickup: No

Cost: $149 for up to 20 people

Topkapi palace building with high arches and an intricate overhang

2. Istanbul Private Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: The benefits of a private Istanbul tour are plentiful.

You get the chance to sightsee places like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace.

But you’ll also be able to explore the Hippodrome and experience the Grand Bazaar for a unique shopping experience.

With your professional tour guide’s detailed knowledge of the city and its history, you’ll get to learn more about Ottoman sultans as well as other cultural aspects that make Istanbul so special.

They do such a great job of adding personal touches to make it memorable for you.

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: Yes

Hotel Pickup: No

Cost: $105 per person

Hagia Sophia illustration

3. Full-day Private Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: Not only will you get to see some of the most amazing sights such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace, but you will also get to explore the Hippodrome and experience the world’s oldest Bazaar for a unique shopping experience.

With your private guide’s expert knowledge and insider tips, you will get to learn more about Istanbul’s rich culture and history.

Plus, you’ll get to explore the city at your own pace without needing to rush from one attraction to another!

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: No

Hotel Pickup: Yes

Cost: $265 for up to 8 people

Private Fener Greek Secondary and High School - red brick building with gates and barbwires

4. Fener & Balat Private Tours

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  3 hours |? LOCATION: Fenar & Balat

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Highlights: This tour is a little different than the rest.

With their expert knowledge and insider tips, your private guide will show you all the hidden gems of Istanbul, including the Golden Horn, Balat District, Fener District, and more.

You’ll also get to visit churches, synagogues, and mosques as well as explore the Byzantine city walls of Constantinople.

This tour is perfect if you have already seen the major stuff and you want to go a little deeper or you have limited time in Istanbul.

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: Walking Tour

Hotel Pickup: Pick Up at Galataport if ship details are provided

Cost: $243 for up to 2 people

four people drinking Turkish coffee with the Hagia Sophia in the background

5. Private Guided Istanbul Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: Private guided tours of Istanbul provide the perfect way to experience its many wonders on a personal level.

With a knowledgeable local tour guide leading your tour, you can access all the hidden gems that make Istanbul such a unique and amazing city.

Your guide will be able to take you to all the must-see sights in Istanbul, as well as make sure it is exactly what you want to see.

After meeting at your hotel, or other designated spot, craft your perfect tour in Istanbul.

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: Yes, walking tour

Hotel Pickup: Yes

Cost: $145 for up to 12 people

Galata tower viewed from a roof top close by

6. Private 7-hour Istanbul Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: The private 7-hour Istanbul Tour is the perfect way to experience the best of what this vibrant city has to offer.

With a professional guide, travelers can enjoy a private VIP tour of Istanbul in a luxurious vehicle, taking in all the sights including Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and the oldest Bazaar in the world.

During your tour, you’ll be able to wander through the maze of shopping streets and take in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.

Whether you’re looking for a day trip or on a short stay with a cruise, this tour is a great option to see all the highlights of Istanbul.

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: Yes

Lunch: No

Transportation: Yes

Hotel Pickup: No

Cost: $195 per person

Dolmabahce Palace gates. White gates with gold inlays.

7. Customizable Private Tour

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  8 hours |? LOCATION: European Side

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Highlights: The ultimate tailor-made experience, this private one-day tour of Istanbul offers travelers the opportunity to explore the wonders of the city at their own pace.

With a professional guide and private transportation included in the package, you will be able to enjoy a flexible schedule that allows you to choose which locations you want to visit.

No matter your language preference, there is an experienced guide available who can provide insight into Turkey’s rich cultural heritage and history.

This tour provides convenience and comfort for those looking for an unforgettable exploration of Istanbul in just one day!

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: Yes, private transportation

Hotel Pickup: Yes

Cost: $414 for up to 4

a ferry boat in the distance on The bosphorus on a cloudy day

8. Classic City Tour & Bosphorus Cruise

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours |? LOCATION: Old City & Cruise

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Highlights: Experience the best of Istanbul’s Old City with a private tour!

With this tour, you can explore the city’s fascinating blend of Christian and Islamic influences at places like Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque.

Enjoy shopping at markets such as the world’s biggest Bazaar, Spice Market, and covered bazaars for spices, sweets, and souvenirs.

Plus take an optional cruise on the Bosphorus passing by the iconic suspension bridge (tickets not included).

All this in just 7 hours will pass quickly due to how enjoyable it is!

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No, but the restaurants they choose are great!

Transportation: No

Hotel Pickup: No

Cost:$265 for up to 8 people

street art of a man sitting and reading a book on the side of a building in Kadıköy

9. Istanbul Guided Private Tour

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours |? LOCATION: Customizable

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Highlights:

This tour is one of the few that boasts full customization which means that you can see both the European and Asian sides of this unforgettable city.

With a private tour, you can make the most of your time in this amazing city.

From full-day tours to multi-day excursions with hotel pick-up included, there are plenty of options for any traveler looking for an incredible exploration of Istanbul.

With customizable itineraries and personalized experiences tailored to your interests, you’ll be able to explore all the top sights of Istanbul while enjoying a comfortable, convenient journey.

Plus, you’ll have access to knowledgeable local guides who will help you uncover hidden gems that only locals know about!

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: No

Hotel Pickup: Yes

Cost: $200 for up to 8 people

Istanbul in the Marmara Region in Turkey with a photo of the suyleman mosque from the bosphorus

10. Best of Istanbul

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  6 hours |? LOCATION: Multiple Options

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Highlights: The Best of Istanbul Tours offers travelers a unique and comprehensive experience to explore this vibrant city.

With professional guides and customizable itineraries tailored to your interests, you can be sure to get the most out of your visit.

Choose from a full-day tour to multi-day excursions with hotel pick-up included.

Plus, with access to knowledgeable local guides who will help you uncover hidden gems that only locals know about, you’ll be able to enjoy an unforgettable exploration of Istanbul in just one day!

This tour provides convenience and comfort for those looking for a truly special journey.

What’s Included

Private Tour: Yes

Entrance Fees: No

Lunch: No

Transportation: No

Hotel Pickup: Guide to meet you at Centrally located hotels

Cost: $250 for up to 8 people


I hope you found the perfect private tour for what you wanted to do! You can’t really go wrong with any of these.

As you stroll through the streets of Istanbul, soak in all of the intricacies of this amazing place, and enjoy the food and the smells of Turkish coffee.

This is just the first step to falling in love with Turkey…there is so much more than just Istanbul, though it is a great place to start! If you wanna stay longer, check out the week-long itinerary for Turkey.

FAQs about Istanbul Private Tours

How much does a private tour guide in Istanbul cost?

The cost depends on the tour you select but generally, a full day is somewhere between $100-$150 per person.

Do you actually need a Private Istanbul guide?

It really depends on your preferred style of seeing a new city. If you want local insights, I recommend a private Istanbul guide. If you love discovering on your own, have a blast and enjoy! Istanbul is easily walkable.

What is the best way to tour Istanbul?

If you are talking about the Sultanahmet area, walking is sufficient. Otherwise, you can use metros, ferries, and buses to get around. Google Maps does a great job of helping you get to where you need to go.

How many nights in Istanbul is enough?

Depends on how much you want to pack in. If you like to go, go, go style of vacationing, 3-4 nights is sufficient. If you prefer a bit more relaxed time, I would give yourself a week to make the most of your time.

How much do you tip a private tour guide in Turkey?

While tipping isn’t a thing like it is in America, it is customary to tip your tour guide 10-15% per person, per day. You can read more about tipping in Turkey here.

Can I wear shorts in Istanbul?

If you will visit a mosque you have to have on pants or something (not leggings) past your knees. Otherwise, roaming Istanbul in shorts is fine. Read more about how to dress when visiting Turkey.

Do I need a guide for Topkapi Palace?

Depends on how much you want to know. The history is pretty intense and long. If you like history, I definitely recommend you get a guide or a free audio guide at the least. If it isn’t your thing, enjoy walking around and checking it all out.

Do you have to dress modestly in Istanbul?

Istanbul is becoming more and more modern all the time. That being said, just because you can do something doesn’t mean it is the best. Read more about how to dress in Turkey.

How long can an American stay in Istanbul?

You can easily get an e-visa which means that you get 90 days within a 6-month period with multiple entries.

Which part of Istanbul is the best to stay in?

I personally love Kadikoy. It is more chill than the European side but still has a similar feel. Not to mention it also has some of the best food and lovely seasides. Plus it is just a short ferry ride to the other side.

Final thoughts on Istanbul Private Tours

If you’re planning a visit to Turkey and want to make the most of your experience, considering a local private tour of Istanbul is a fantastic idea.

These top 10 best Istanbul private guides offer similar options, including exploring the city’s iconic landmarks to delving into hidden gems and cultural insights.

Not only will you save time and avoid the hassles of navigating a new city, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of Istanbul’s rich history and vibrant culture.

With customizable itineraries and knowledgeable local guides, you’re in for an unforgettable journey that will make your time in Istanbul truly special.

So, pick the day tour that suits your interests, and get ready to discover the wonders of this enchanting city.

Read more:

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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