The Best Tour Guides In Istanbul

Istanbul | © Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Istanbul | © Pedro Szekely/Flickr
For a city that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, Istanbul has a multitude of historical sights that are renowned and popular, as well as those that are hidden and off-the-beaten-track. Even though tour guides are plentiful in and around the major touristic sights, the most reliable and knowledgeable guides who offer a truly local experience are few. We chose three tour guide companies that offer tailor-made but thoroughly local experiences, as well as tours that are awash in detailed historical information for those who want a deeper introduction to Istanbul’s centuries-old story.

Fest Travel

A cultural organization and travel agency, Fest Travel has been operating since 1985 and began its life with the Strolling Through Istanbul and Istanbul Step by Step tours. With the immense success of these tours, the agency currently offers 170 different itineraries in Istanbul, 200 itineraries all around Anatolia, and more than 220 tours in 190 countries ranging from Peru to Alaska. However, much more important than these numbers is the agency’s dedication to each destination’s cultural, religious, and archeological characteristics, so that you’ll always have a guide who has a deep knowledge of the particular route and all its sights. For Istanbul, Fest Travel’s tours include the Byzantine Tour, Bazaars of Istanbul, Bosphorus Cruise, Jewish Heritage, Ottoman Tour, and Two Continents (just to name a few).

Istanbul Tour Studio

Founded by Sinan Sökmen in 2013, Istanbul Tour Studio offers a fully customized travel experience in Istanbul as well as all over Turkey. From the airport welcome all the way to hotel bookings, dinner reservations, and transportation, the agency’s team has its guests covered in every regard. However, Istanbul Tour Studio also stands out with its tours that harbor a very local feel and are completely curated to the interests of every guest. Collaborating with connoisseurs in different fields and local experts, ITS created itineraries and daily tours that range from interests such as history, photography, food, art, shopping, outdoors, and the must-see sights. Preferred by the independent traveler who’d rather avoid the usual touristic haunts, Sökmen and his team always go for the unique local experiences. Some of the current tours include Istanbul Helicopter Tour, One Day Street Art Tour, Spiritual Sunday Walk, Bike and Bite Tour Istanbul, and I’m Rowing in Istanbul (among many others).

One of the many hidden gems of Istanbul only accessible from the water. Image courtesy @umitko • #istanbul #turkey #travel

A photo posted by Istanbul Tour Studio (@istanbultourstudio) on

Locally Istanbul

As their name already suggests, Locally Istanbul is all about the local experience far from the usual trodden touristic paths. Founded by Ümit Aggül and Erk Erkaya, two young and dynamic Istanbul experts who have a weak spot for excellent food, Locally Istanbul’s itineraries are based entirely on the personal whims of each client. Based on the specific interest, expectations, timing, and mood of every guest, the tours aim to show Istanbul’s versatile personality from its rich history to its design, fashion, art, culture, music, and nightlife scenes. Locally Istanbul is perfect for visitors who want to hang out with two locals who know their city inside out and would love nothing more than to show off its best attributes. Some of the preferred tours include the famous Istanbul tour in a WWII vintage motorcycle (helmet provided), Tour of the Asian Side, Golden Horn Tour, Private Bosphorus Cruise, Art & Antiques Tour, Turkish Designers Tour, and Istanbul By Night.