Artwork display at Arter, Istanbul, Turkey - Courtesy Murat Germen

Arter

Located in a refurbished mansion on one of Istanbul’s biggest shopping streets, Arter is already regarded as one of the city’s most esteemed contemporary art studios. While the gallery supports international artists, most of the exhibits feature Turkish artworks.

interior of a roman cistern

Basilica Cistern

The final sight on Sultanahmet’s holy trinity tour is the Basilica Cistern or “Sunken Palace,” a subterranean well that is located southwest of the Hagia Sophia. The cistern, known as Yerebatan Sarayi in Turkish, was first constructed by Constantine then rebuilt and enlarged by Justinian, was used to store water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest of 1453. The underground site, reminiscent of a cathedral, was neglected for centuries but has been renovated for public touring. A narrow stone staircase leads to an eerily lit catwalk that crosses the space, which is filled with water, giant ghostly fish and a forest of 336 columns. If it looks familiar that’s because James Bond rowed across it in From Russia with Love. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private guide.

Editors' Picks

Bazar de Kadikoy Sali Pazari

On the Asian side of Istanbul in Kadıköy, the Kadıköy Bazaar is fun to explore while shopping for local products. The market started in the sixties, and today, runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. Produce, spices, fish, coffee, pastries and more goods are available, plus there are cafes, pubs and taverns in the area as well.

intricately painted domed mosque ceiling

Blue Mosque

Across the park from the Hagia Sofia is the early-17th-century Sultanahmet, or Blue Mosque. Famous for its scandalous six minarets (only the Prophet’s mosque at Mecca was allowed that many) and blue Iznik tiles, which inspired its nickname, the building is particularly dramatic at dusk. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private guide.

Editors' Picks
House at Borusan Contemporary , Istanbul, Turkey

Borusan Contemporary

Located in a 100-year-old mansion that is the headquarters for Borusan Holdings, a Turkish steel and energy business, this gallery is open to the public on weekends only (so as not to disturb business hours). Abutting the Bosphorus, the collection displays pieces from the company’s corporate art holdings, which boasts pieces from international as well as Turkish artists.

Exterior View -  Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul, Turkey - Photo by Liza Nugent

Bosphorus Cruise

A magical way to see Istanbul is from the water. While there are commercial group day cruises, the best way to enjoy the sights is on a private charter, which can depart directly from one of the Bosphorus hotels (if you are staying there). Seeing the sun set behind the silhouetted spires of the Blue Mosque minarets is unforgettable. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private yacht or gulet for a cruise with cocktails, dinner or even an overnight.

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Çinili Hamam

The Çinili Hamam is a 500-year-old hammam in Istanbul that reopened in 2023 after a lengthy restoration project. Today, the hammam also includes a museum with rotating installations—plus visitors can use the hammam for the traditional bathing practices done here hundreds of years ago. Treatments include bathing, massage therapy, body scrubs, foot rubs and more. Inside the museum, see original hammam tiles and other archaeological finds and learn about the bath culture.

Cistern of Theodosius

Just a few blocks away from the more popular Basilica Cistern (which is the largest in Istanbul), the restored Theodosius cistern is still a marvel to behold, built by Roman emperor Theodosius in the 400s A.D. to collect water from the Valens Aqueduct. This cistern was only stumbled across in 2010 when the city tore down the former Eminönü town hall, and it was restored and opened to the public in 2018.

Recommended by an Indagare community insider

Dirimart

With two locations (Dolapdere and Pera) in Istanbul, Dirimart is designed to showcase well-known and rising artists in Turkey and the world in a space that encourages dialogue and interaction. It was founded in 2002 by Hazer Özil, and programming is primarily focused on political resistance, conceptuality and intellect. Artists who have been spotlighted include Ayşe Erkmen, İnci Eviner and Ebru Duruman. The gallery also publishes catalogs, artist books and art theory books.

Exterior View - Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, Turkey - Courtesy Four Seasons Bosphorus

Dolmabahçe Palace

In 1853, the reigning sultan abandoned the Topkapi Palace in Sultanahmet for the Dolmabahçe Palace, which is located directly on the Bosphorus. The glittery, over-the-top interiors were designed by French decorator Séchan, who also masterminded the interiors of Paris’s Opera Garnier.

Editors' Picks
shelves of colorful spices

Egyptian Bazaar

A center of commerce since 1664, the Egyptian Bazaar (or Spice Bazaar) is lined with 85 stalls, all stocked with a colorful array of spices, teas, nuts, Turkish delight, perfumes and jewelry—each run by vendors eager for your business. Step inside a stall (I particularly loved stall 18, called Cikita, where I purchased teas and spices—the service was friendly and not overly pushy and everything I tasted was delicious) and peruse the offerings with a complimentary cup of tea and a bite or two of Turkish delight. Everything is sold by weight, and once you select your loot, the vendors will scoop until you ask them to stop, before vacuum sealing the bag and sending you on your way.

Even if you find everything you need at your first stop (or didn’t come to shop at all), it is still worth wandering the length of the hall, admiring the high arched ceilings and breathing in the medley of aromas.

Exterior View-Ephesus ,Istanbul, Turkey-Courtesy Radomil

Ephesus

Ephesus is not an easy day trip from Istanbul, but for those eager to see the well-preserved Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient world’s seven wonders, the journey is worth the effort. Leave on an early-morning flight to Izmir, which is approximately an hour from Ephesus. For the easiest and most interesting visit, book a guide and driver, who will meet you at the airport and arrange for the day’s transportation. The site, which includes marble-paved streets, frescoes, decorative reliefs, mosaic floors and a 25,000-seat theater, is about 100 miles north of Bodrum, so some travelers choose to continue south. But those returning to Istanbul can also catch a late flight and return to their hotel for a late dinner. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private guide.

Galataport Istanbul

Formerly an industrial strip along the Bosphorus Strait, Galataport is an urban complex and cruise port meant to breathe life into the neighborhood. Locals and tourists alike both frequent Galataport for its plentiful shopping, dining venues, entertainment and art facilities.

Great Palace Mosaics Museum

Conveniently located near Sultanahmet Square and the Hagia Sofia, this site was one of the most thoroughly excavated portions of the Great Palace complex, and today showcases some of the restored mosaics that donned the floor before being covered in marble.

Hagia Irene

This Eastern Orthodox church in the Topkapi Palace’s outer courtyard is currently considered the oldest church in the city—though it has had to be rebuilt several times since its initial construction in the 4th century. It is also the only known church in Istanbul to have never been converted to a mosque. Today, it acts as a concert hall, and though it’s not much of a looker on the inside, the acoustics are excellent.

Recommended by an Indagare community insider

mosque alter interior with stained glass windows and gold painted ceilings

Hagia Sophia

Built between 532–537, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I, when the city was Constantinople, the Hagia Sofia had the largest dome in the world for a thousand years until it was eclipsed, in 1436, by Florence’s Duomo. Once one of the most important Christian churches, safeguarding religious treasures such as fragments of the True Cross and various relics of saints, it was ransacked by the Crusaders in 1204 (and converted to an Islamic mosque more than two centuries later, in 1453). Inside you can view fascinating Christian mosaics. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private guide.

Editors' Picks

Hurrem Sultan Hammam

The Hürrem Sultan Hammam was built in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan, the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire. It was built at the request of the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent on the site of the old baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD). The bath was closed for many years, at times being used to house convicts and also as a paper and oil warehouse and a carpet market. In 2008, restoration began to return it to a hammam, and today, guests can enjoy hot, cold and tepid sections, plus massage therapies.

chef holding a platter of baked treats

Indagare Tour: Istanbul Food

Indagare can arrange an Istanbul food tour with an expert culinary guide through the streets of Istanbul’s Beyoğlu neighborhood.
Fruits at  Indagare Tours: Food and Market, Istanbul, Turkey - Photo by Liza Nugent

Indagare Tours: Food and Market

Istanbul is home to some of the most exciting markets and bazaars in the world and also boasts a long culinary tradition. For those interested in food, tours can be arranged that visit the historic Spice Bazaar and food markets in Kadikoy and can also include lunch at one of Istanbul’s most well-known culinary destinations. Private cooking lessons can also be arranged. Indagare members can contact our team to book.

Evening View at  Indagare Tours: Historical Highlights, Istanbul, Turkey

Indagare Tours: Historical Highlights

Near the shore of the Sea of Marmara is the most picturesque part of Istanbul’s Old City and holds most of the major sites. Start with visits to the fabled Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, which are located across a park, in walking distance from one another. History buffs also should not miss the Basilica Cistern, the so-called “Sunken Palace” southwest of the Hagia Sofia. You’ll need plenty of time to properly explore the Topkapi Palace, a lavish complex of beautifully preserved tiled buildings and picturesque courtyards (note that it is closed on Tuesday). If you go with one of Indagare’s recommended guides, you will be able to bypass the normally long lines to get into the Harem, which requires a separate ticket.

Interior View - Indagare Tours: Istanbul Art Scene,Istanbul, Turkey

Indagare Tours: Istanbul Art Scene

Istanbul has a thriving contemporary art scene. Visit studios, museums and galleries with a resident art expert who is connected with the local art scene. The expert can introduce you to photographers, artists and gallery owners and help you with purchasing and shipping. Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team to arrange.

Exterior View -  Indagare Tours: Istanbul for Teens, Istanbul, Turkey

Indagare Tours: Istanbul for Teens

For most teenagers, Istanbul is different from anything that they have seen in their life. Indagare can arrange special visits to hip neighborhoods like Ortakoy, Bebek and Nisantisi where they will find many other teens their age. They can also stroll around the Galata area where young designer boutiques are located along with neat little shops. They will, of course, also love exploring the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. Indagare members can contact our bookings team to arrange.

Exterior View -  Indagare Tours: Istanbul Shopping, Istanbul, Turkey

Indagare Tours: Istanbul Shopping

There are so many options for shopping within Istanbul that it can often be hard to find exactly what you are looking for. Whether you are interested in hunting through the best of Istanbul’s famed bazaar or seeking out high-end boutiques and workshops, Indagare can arrange to have a shopping expert lead you in the right direction. In the past, members have been in search for the perfect leather bag but also more obscure requests such as antique carpets and vintage jewelry. Indagare members can contact our bookings team to arrange.

carved sarcophagus

Istanbul Archaeological Museum

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is a compound of museums housing palace collections, including the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

Dance at  Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), a non-profit foundation focused on the arts, has a wonderful location in the restored Art Nouveau Deniz Palas in Şişhane. Since its founding in 1973, IKSV has launched five regular festivals focusing on film, jazz, theater, music and art as well as organized a Turkish pavilion at the Venice Biennale and hosted such international artists as the Alvin Ailey dance company and Santana in Istanbul. They also have regular exhibits and salons. The IKSV Design gift shop, with an eclectic mix of objects for art aficionados, is a great place to shop for gifts. Be sure to make a reservation to dine at their popular rooftop restaurant, X.

Istanbul Military Museum

Housed in the building of the former Military Academy, the Military Museum originally consisted of weapons that were inherited from the Ottoman armory. Collections were expanded over time, and thanks to donations and new acquisitions, the Museum now includes military artifacts from as far back as the 13th century to present day. Since 2007, sections of the museums have been devoted to Turkish Army displays, the Seljuk period, the Ottoman Empire, the conquest of Istanbul and the Battle of Gallipoli. These displays include dioramas, maps, sculptures and oil paintings.

Exterior View -  Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Modern

The Istanbul Modern museum, housed in a former customs warehouse by the Bosphorus, is an important stop for those interested in 20th-century Turkish art. It also has good international exhibits. Have lunch at the wonderful Istanbul Modern Café. Indagare members can contact the bookings team to arrange for a private guide.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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