Istanbul is a fascinating city full of thousands of years of history and is very walkable.
Its neighborhoods showcase different cultural traditions left behind by ruling empires throughout the ages.
This post lists the best free walking tours you can take in Istanbul, including self-guided tours and small group tours.
Most walking tours will be an overview of the historic Old City and its cultural history.
You can also find a culinary tour covering the food from the city's multiple cultures.
We are a group of local walking tour guides who lead daily walking tours in Istanbul.
We hope to see you on one of our tours.
More Tour Options? More tours are available here or you can read the individual tour sections below.
- Introduction to Istanbul Tours
- Old Town Istanbul Tours
- Alternative Istanbul Tours
- Self-Guided Tours
- Free Tours in Other Cities
WHAT ARE FREE WALKING TOURS?
Free walking tours are technically pay-what-you-like tours that are led by local guides.
Instead of paying an upfront cost, tourists can pay the guide what they thought the tour was worth at the end.
We suggest €10-15 (200-300 lira) per adult for an entertaining tour.
Since the guides know their groups are looking for value, you can expect a charismatic intro to their city.
This means these tours are both popular and affordable, which will attract larger crowds.
For travelers who want to ensure an experience with smaller groups of people, we recommend paid small-group tours.
TIP: Take the popular hop-on-hop-off bus tour through Istanbul for an easy mode of transportation that can help you cover more ground than you would while walking.
INTRODUCTION TO ISTANBUL WALKING TOURS
These pay-what-you-wish walking tours provide an introduction to the city of Istanbul (once known as Constantinople), focusing on the most notable sites and monuments in the city.
Istanbul's location and its life as a city under the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires, means that the city has layers of history that could use some explaining.
Here are some of the landmarks you can expect to visit:
- Blue Mosque
- German Fountain
- Basilica Cistern
- And much more!
If you're looking to become more familiar with where everything in the city is located, these outings will likely be the most helpful.
Free Istanbul Tours
This company currently offers one of the best introductory tours of Istanbul, and they currently enjoy a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars.
In addition to seeing historic sites, you can also expect to visit a local tea house where you'll have an opportunity to try Turkish coffee.
The Authentic Istanbul Walking Tour is available every day at 10:30 am in both English and Spanish, and it runs for approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
If you're looking for a slightly longer introduction to Istanbul, this company provides a 3-hour outing that covers a lot of ground.
Their tour has a rating of 4.7 out of 5, and it includes a lot of locations not always covered on other introductory outings,
For instance, you can expect to walk by Cesme Street and see some of the more historic houses in the city, and there's a stop at Topkapi Palace as well.
This tour is offered daily in English and Spanish at 10:30 am. You can also enjoy this outing in German at 14:00 (2 pm) each day.
OLD TOWN ISTANBUL WALKING TOURS
While these pay-what-you-wish walking tours cover a lot of the same ground as introductory tours, they provide a lot more historical information about the city rather than just trying to introduce you to its most notable sites.
In addition to stops at almost all the sites you'd expect to visit on an Istanbul introduction tour, you can also look forward to stops at the following locations:
- The Walled Obelisk
- Haseki Hurrem Baths
- Gülhane Park
- Grand Bazaar
- Hagia Sophia
- Süleymaniye Mosque
- And more!
If you're interested in learning more about the history of Istanbul, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman architecture, these tours are an excellent chance to discover how this became one of the biggest and most important cities in Turkey.
Guide 4 Istanbul
With an overall rating of 5 out of 5 stars, it's safe to say this tour has been well-received by most guests.
There are a lot of notable Old Town landmarks covered on this outing, including stops at Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market.
This tour will also take you through the Eminönü District to see sites such as the Golden Horn, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, and the Soleiman Mosque.
You can take this pay-what-you-wish tour daily at 13:30 (1:30 pm) and it runs for approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
This company offers an Old Town Istanbul tour that is fairly similar to competitors with one major difference: they include entrance to the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia.
Like their competition, this outing also enjoys a rating of 5 out of 5 stars, and it's quite popular with guests.
The tour is 3 hours long and it's available daily at 10 am.
Food Tours Istanbul
Explore the rich culinary traditions of Istanbul with specially curated food tours.
Dive into local flavors, hidden gems, and cultural insights, making your journey to Turkey's vibrant capital a delectable adventure.
Experience Europe and Asia's fusion in taste, interact with locals, explore the Asian side of Istanbul, and more.
Istanbul: Food Tour with Local Delights
Join a professional tour guide on a flavorful journey through Istanbul's diverse cuisine on this 4-hour food tour.
Visit eight distinct stops featuring exclusive Turkish tastes, from caviar and smoked salmon to authentic 'Etli Ekmek'.
Enjoy Turkish tea and coffee with locals at the meeting point, and experience an immersion into Turkey's culinary culture, beyond the typical tourist route.
With free cancellation and a professional guide, prepare for a walking tour on both the European and Asian side, and remember to come with an appetite!
Hidden Tastes of Istanbul Tour
Embark on a 2-hour exploration with the "Hidden Tastes of Istanbul" tour, discovering unique Turkish cuisine often overlooked by tourists.
Guided by experienced locals, this tour provides insights into Ottoman history, Turkish food culture, culinary customs, and historical monuments such as the Serpentine Column and Egyptian Obelisk near Sultanahmet Square.
Taste an array of traditional dishes, from Borek to Kokorech, while enjoying hidden gems of the Grand Bazaar and Suleymaniye District.
Explore both Balat and the Bosphorus cruises area, and understand the art of Turkish calligraphy.
The tour operates on a tip basis, and attendees may choose to taste or simply learn about the food.
ALTERNATIVE ISTANBUL WALKING TOURS
These tours are intended for those who want to get a look outside of the city centre and off the beaten track.
You can expect to visit a lot of hidden gems you won't always see on other tours, including the following locations:
- Beyazit Square
- Sahaflar Carsisi
- Rustem Pasa Mosque
- And more!
If you're already familiar with the basic history of Istanbul and you've seen all the major landmarks, do yourself a favor and consider one of these pay-what-you-wish tours.
Free Istanbul Tours
In addition to their introductory tour, this company also offers an outing that will take you to some of the best sites off the beaten path.
While visiting these interesting locations, you'll also learn about subjects such as Turkish weddings, daily routines, and common meals to eat in Istanbul.
This 2-hour and 30-minute tour is available in both English and Spanish weekly on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 14:00 (2 pm).
Aside from their Old Town tour, this company also has an outing that specifically focuses on two unique neighborhoods: Karaköy and Kadıköy.
Since you will need to take a ferry to get from one location to the next, it will be necessary to bring 13 Turkish Lira for the cost of the ferry ride. The tour itself is still pay-what-you-wish!
You can take this 3-hour tour daily at 15:00 (3:00 pm).
Guide 4 Istanbul
Much like its competitors, this company also provides an alternative tour of Istanbul. However, in this case, it's basically just their daily tour offered at night.
If you're looking to discover the city as the sun is setting, this is an excellent opportunity you won't want to miss.
This tour is available every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 17:00 (5 pm) and it is 2 hours 30 minutes in length. Starting at the end of May 2022, it will be offered nightly.
Self-guided tours are for those who want to explore the city solo and on their own schedule.
Big Boy Travel
Big Boy Travel offers a self-guided tour for travelers in Istanbul.
The Istanbul self-guided tour is completely free, but one might have to pay for the attractions that are highlighted on the route if you want to go in.
The website includes a map of your route and starts at Hippodrome Park.
Happiness and Things
This blog offers a detailed self-guided tour of Istanbul for anyone who wants to just see the highlights or really take their time.
It includes an interactive map and a suggested timetable, from 9:00 am to 19:00 (7:00 pm)