Istanbul

Istanbul offers a wonderful introduction to Turkey and a unique holiday destination.

A fascinating mix of past and present, modern and traditional

Istanbul offers a wonderful introduction to Turkey and a unique holiday destination.  The former capital of three powerful empires - Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman - is a fascinating mix of past and present, modern and traditional.

The museums, churches, palaces, mosques, bazaars and the sights of natural beauty seem inexhaustible. In addition to Istanbul’s unique historical and cultural background, the city’s innumerable attractions, contemporary hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and shops make Istanbul one of the most fascinating destinations of your Mediterranean cruise vacation.

The bewitching Mullah calls to prayer ring out across the city, punctuating each day with haunting resonant tones and lending a distinctly Eastern air to this European city. In fact, Istanbul literally straddles the two continents of Europe and Asia, bisected by a wide waterway, the Bosphorous Strait.

The rich architectural and cultural hallmarks of this city will make a day away from your luxury cruise liner into a fascinating extravaganza of sights and sounds.

Our extensive package of excursions with great deals on attractions in and around Istanbul provides the best way to get the most from Istanbul. First time visitors can enjoy a comprehensive sightseeing experience in the Deluxe Istanbul tour, which covers key attractions from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi Palace. The Grand Bazaar provides unrivalled shopping opportunities and is the perfect place to pick up an authentic handcrafted rug, traditional ceramics or stunning jewellery.

Keen cruise fans can go from one ship to another and opt for the Bosphorous boat tour, a relaxing and scenic tour of the sights along Istanbul’s Bosphorous Strait.

Cruise to Istanbul - Turkey - Mediterranean - MSC Cruises

Directions


Ships dock right on the Bosphorus directly across from the Old City, just short of the first bridge crossing the Bosphorus near Dolmabahce Palace. The Old City is within walking distance by heading north, crossing the bridge and then entering Old City by the Spice Market.

Port average temperature

Istanbul has a temperate climate but is located within a climatic transition zone between oceanic and mediterranean climates.

Summer is generally hot and humid, the temperature between July and August averaging 28°C. Winter is cold, wet and often snowy, averaging 5°C. Spring and autumn are usually mild and wet but are erratic, and the weather can range from chilly to warm, though the nights are chilly.

The humidity of the city is constantly high which makes the air feel much harsher than the actual temperatures. The city being located in the second most humid region of the country, has an average annual humidity of 72%. Average annual precipitation is 678 mm. Istanbul has an average annual of 152 days of precipitation. Summer is the driest season, but precipitation does occur during that season and is irregular and often torrential.

Snowfall which occurs almost annually is common between the months of December and March, with an annual total snow cover of 19 days, but average winter snowfall often varies considerably from year to year, and snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall.

Fog is prevalent, throughout the year, particularly during the mornings, but it quickly dissipates before noon. However fog cover during the whole day is rare, and it usually occurs in winter, spring and autumn. Thunderstorms, which are not common, usually occur in late spring, summer and early autumn, with an annual total of 22 days, and are particularly rare during the rest of the year and almost unheard of in winter. The city is also quite windy, having an average wind speed of 18 km/h.

The highest recorded temperature was 40.5 °C on 12 July 2000, and the lowest recorded temperature was −16.1 °C on 15 February 1927. Due to its size, topography and maritime influences, Istanbul exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates.

The temperate figures shown are based on monthly average weather conditions for the selected port. Weather data is not real-time, and sometimes no data is shown for a specific date, month or port in general.

ISTANBULMonths
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Average high °C7810152025272724191310
Averagelow °C224812161819161285
 IST01 - CITY TOUR (full day, lunch included) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Lunch or dinner included  Cultural  Shopping  Best seller  Straddling two continents, Istanbul is a fascinating city and one which proudly keeps the heritage of its past alive. We will visit the Blue Mosque with its internal panels of blue and white ceramic tiles and enjoy a panoramic view over the ancient Hyppodrome that was once the centre of Byzantine public life. We will continue to St. Sophia Church to admire the wonderful Byzantine mosaics before stopping at the magnificent Topkapi Palace, centre of the Ottoman Empire between the XV and the XIX centuries and which also housed the Sultans and their Court; individual visit of Palace wings. We will have time for lunch before indulging the favourite Turkish past-time of shopping. Highlights of the day include a stop in a luxury jewelry or in a leather shop and the chance to watch a typical carpet demonstration. Next you will have free time at the fabulous Gran Bazaar. Please note: drinks are not included in lunch; only water. If the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. Only cameras without a flash are allowed inside St. Sophia Church. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $135.00 Adults $95.00 Children

   


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 IST02 - TOPKAPI PALACE AND SHOPPING (approx. 4 hours 45 minutes) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Wheelchair and disabled friendly tour - Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.  Cultural  Shopping  Don’t leave Istanbul without having visited the world-famous Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly 400 years of their 624-year reign. Your excursion begins with a fascinating guided tour of the Topkapi Palace, after which you can explore the different sections of the Palace and admire the beautiful view of the Bosphorus Strait at your own pace. The Palace also contains important holy Muslim relics, including the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword. After the Palace visit, the tour continues on to the Grand Bazaar for a chance to browse and purchase souvenirs. To round off your Topkapi experience, there will also be a stop in a luxury jewelry or in a leather shop and the chance to watch a typical carpet demonstration. Please note: if the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $60.00 Adults $42.00 Children

   


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 IST03 - BOSPHORUS CRUISE (approx. 4.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Shopping  Enjoy a fascinating boat tour along the Bosphorus Strait which divides Istanbul into two, splitting the city between the continents of Europe and Asia. This excursion will begin in Istanbul’s historic district where we will board a boat heading to the Sea of Marmara and sail towards the Asian part of the city. Admire the ancient quarters of Uskudar and Kuzguncuk with wooden villas and houses, sail past the Dolmabahce Palace, Ortakoy Quarter and Leander’s Tower on the small island of Kiz kulesi. You will admire the Beylerbeyi Palace, the summer residence of the Ottoman Sultans and pass under the two bridges that unite Asia with Europe. Highlights of the day include a typical carpet demonstration and/or the chance to purchase in a luxury jewelry store or in a leather shop before having free time for shopping in the spice market. Please note: if the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Spice Market will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $58.00 Adults $41.00 Children

   


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 IST04 - ORIENTAL JEWELS (approx. 5 hours 15 minutes) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Cultural  Shopping  Best seller  Leave the ship and enjoy a few hours discovering some of Istanbul jewels: the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, the Underground Cistern and the sights and scents of the spice bazaar. Our excursion begins with a visit to the Ottoman Rüstem Pasha Mosque designed in 1561 by the architect Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Damat Rüstem Pasha. We will admire its interior characterized by exquisite tomato-red Iznik tiles set in a stunning floral and geometric design typical of the early Iznik period (1555 – 1620). The mosque was built on a high terrace over a complex of vaulted shops and has a double porch with five domed bays. We will continue on to the “Cisterna Basilica”, the largest of several underground cisterns beneath the city of Istanbul, with 336 marble columns. You will admire the face of Medusa, located in the northwest corner of the cistern and which is set upside down, apparently to diffuse the power of this Gorgon’s gaze. The excursion also includes a visit to the colourful and perfumed spice market, free time at the fabulous Gran Bazaar and a chance to see a typical carpet demonstration and/or to shop in a luxury jewelry store or in a leather shop. Please note: if the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar and to the Spice Market will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. This excursion is available only for guests onboard MSC Armonia, MSC Orchestra and MSC Sinfonia. Conservative attire is recommended for visitings sites of religious importance. This tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $72.00 Adults $50.00 Children

   


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 IST06 - CULTURE, ART & SHOPPING IN ISTANBUL (approx. 5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Cultural  Shopping  Best seller  The excursion will begin with a transfer to the Blue Mosque where we will admire the interior panels of blue and white ceramic tiles. Built between 1609 and 1616, the Blue Mosque contains the tomb of its founder, as well as a madrasah (school) and a hospice. After the visit we will enjoy a panoramic view of the ancient Hippodrome that was the centre of the Byzantine public life before continuing to St. Sophia Church to admire the wonderful Byzantine mosaics and learn how this building evolved from a church to a mosque and which has since become a museum. You will have the opportunity to shop at a luxury jewelry store/leather shop or to see a carpet demonstration before enjoying free time in the fabulous Gran Bazaar. Please note: the order of the visits may vary. If the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. Only cameras without a flash are allowed inside St. Sophia Church. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $83.00 Adults $58.00 Children

   


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 IST08 - DE LUXE ISTANBUL TOUR (full day, lunch included) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Lunch or dinner included  Cultural  Shopping  Best seller  Enjoy an exclusive excursion discovering the “jewels” of this important Turkish city. Leave the port and drive to the Blue Mosque where we will admire the interior panels made up of blue and white ceramic tiles. Built between 1609 and 1616, the Blue Mosque contains the tomb of its founder, as well as a madrash (school) and a hospice. After the visit we will enjoy a panoramic view over the ancient Hippodrome that was the centre of Byzantine public life before continuing to St. Sophia church to admire the wonderful Byzantine mosaics and learn more about this building. One of Istanbul’s main attractions, it evolved from a church to a mosque and has since become a museum. The excursion continues at the magnificent Topkapi Palace, the ancient centre of the Ottoman Empire and private residence of the Sultans and their court. During the XVIII century the Topkapi Palace grew to its current size and incarnation and at times it housed 10.000 residents and Guests. We will break for a delicious lunch at the Ciragan Palace, located on the shores of the Bosphorus and which overlooks the ancient city of Istanbul. The original palace was torn down and rebuilt many times over the centuries ; it was used as a banqueting hall by Mahmut I for foreign ambassadors. After lunch you can indulge in the favourite Turkish past-time of shopping. You will have the opportunity to shop and enjoy free time in the Grand Bazaar as well as the chance to enjoy a short carpet demonstration and/or shop in a jewelry store or in a leather shop. Please note: if the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. This tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair.Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $199.00 Adults $139.00 Children

   


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 IST10 - ISTANBUL BY LAND & SEA (full day lunch included) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Lunch or dinner included  Cultural  Shopping  Join this day-long excursion and discover the gems of Istanbul by land and sea. Your tour will begin with a transfer to the Ottoman Rüstem Pasha Mosque designed by the architect Mimar Sinan for Grand Vizier Damat Rüstem Pasha from 1561 to 1563. We will admire its interior characterized by exquisite tomato-red Iznik tiles set in a stunning floral and geometric design typical of the early Iznik period (1555 – 1620). The mosque was built on a high terrace over a complex of vaulted shops and boasts a double porch with five domed bays. We will continue to the “Cisterna Basilica”, the largest of several underground cisterns beneath the city of Istanbul, with 336 marble columns. The name comes from a large public square, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. You will admire the face of Medusa, located in the northwest corner of the cistern and which is set upside down, apparently to diffuse the power of this Gorgon’s gaze. The excursion also includes a visit to the fabulous Gran Bazaar. Enjoy free time for shopping, watch a typical carpet demonstration and/or shop in a luxury jewelry store. We will have time for a delicious lunch before enjoying a lovely cruise across the Bosphorus, the waterway that lies between the two continents of Europe and Asia. You can admire Istanbul from the sea and see how the different periods of history unfold in the city’s monuments: witness the amazing Byzantine Anadolu Fortress and the Beylerbeyi Ottoman Palace, summer residence of the Sultans. Admire the ancient quarters of Uskudar and Kuzguncuk with their wooden villas and houses before continuing to Dolmabahce Palace, the Ortakoy Quarter and past Leander’s Tower ( also the “Maiden’s Tower” ) on Kiz Kulesi island. Sail under the two bridges that link Asia and Europe. Please note: if the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. This tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $107.00 Adults $75.00 Children

   


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 IST11 - ISTANBUL: THE CITY ON TWO CONTINENTS (full day, lunch included) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Lunch or dinner included  Cultural  Shopping  This unique excursion takes you to the Asian and European sides of this metropolis located on the shores of the Bosphorus. We will cross the Bosphorus Bridge to reach the Asian side, with a visit to Beylerbeyi Palace, summer residence of the sultans and stunning example of late Ottoman architecture. One of the most attractive rooms is the reception hall, with its extravagant marble pool and fountain. We will then board a boat to reach the European shore of Istanbul, where we will have lunch. The afternoon is dedicated to the amazing “Cisterna Basilica”, the largest of several underground cisterns beneath the city of Istanbul, with its 336 marble columns. Its name comes from a large public square, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. You will admire the face of Medusa, located in the northwest corner of the cistern and which is set upside down, apparently to diffuse the power of this Gorgon’s gaze. The tour also foresees some time for a typical carpet demonstration and/or visiting a luxury jewelry or in a leather store before free time for shopping in the fabulous Gran Bazaar. Please note: drinks are not included in lunch - only water. If the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Taking photos or shooting videos inside Beylerbeyi Palace is prohibited. Click HERE to watch the video
 

Price per person $97.00 Adults $68.00 Children

   


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 IST12 - ISTANBUL: ANTIQUITY, TRADITIONS & SHOPPING (approx. 4.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Cultural  Shopping  After leaving the port, this fascinating excursion will show you the sights of this lovely Turkish city, including the Golden Horn, the historical inlet of the Bosphorus dividing Istanbul, and the ancient defensive walls of Constantinople. The tour also includes a visit to Süleymaniye Mosque, the city’s largest mosque that was built at the order of Sultan Süleyman, who was known as Süleyman the Magnificent. Having been completed in only seven years, the original complex consisted of the mosque itself, a hospital, public baths, a caravanserai and a public kitchen. The mosque also houses the tombs of Sultans Suleiman II and Ahmed II. A further highlight of the tour is a visit to the colourful and wonderfully aromatic spice market, some free time to spend browsing through the fabulous Grand Bazaar and a chance to see a typical carpet demonstration and/or to shop in a luxury jewellery or in a leather store. The tour concludes by taking you back to your vessel. Please note: the order of the visits may vary. If the visit falls on a Sunday or a religious holiday the visit to the Grand Bazaar and to the Spice Market will be replaced with a crossing the bridge uniting Asia to Europe. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance.

Price per person $59.00 Adults $41.00 Children

   


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 IST14 - ISTANBUL BY NIGHT: DINNER & SHOW (approx. 4 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Lunch or dinner included  Wheelchair and disabled friendly tour - Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.  Located on the Bosphorus Strait in the scenic natural harbour called the Golden Horn, the ancient city of Istanbul is the only metropolis worldwide to straddle two continents: Europe and Asia. As beautiful as Istanbul is by day with its magnificent mosques, cosmopolitan flair and fabulous architecture, after sundown the city is transformed into a fairytale world of twinkling lights that cannot fail to delight. This colourful and culinary night-time tour to Istanbul begins with a coach drive to a renowned nightspot for a delicious dinner, accompanied by live entertainment in the form of a typically Turkish folklore show. After dinner, look forward to rejoining your coach and embarking on a sightseeing tour of this exciting Turkish city, the largest in the country with a population of some 13 million in its greater catchment area. You will also cross the famous Bosphorus Bridge to reach the Asian side. Please note: this excursion is available only for guests onboard MSC Armonia.

Price per person $128.00 Adults $90.00 Children

   


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 IST16 - ISTANBUL'S BYZANTINE LEGACY (approx. 4.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Cultural  Shopping  The city of Istanbul is not only Turkey’s largest metropolis, but also home to a rich legacy of Byzantine history. On leaving the pier by coach, you will head for the first of these Byzantine moments with a stop at the fabulous Süleymaniye Mosque, the city’s largest place of Islamic worship. The huge structure was built at the order of Sultan Süleyman – also known as Süleyman the Magnificent – from 1550 to 1558. Apart from the mosque itself, the original complex also featured a hospital, primary school, public baths, caravanserai, several Qur’an schools, a medical college and a public kitchen to feed the poor. In the gardens behind the main building, you will also find two mausoleums with the tombs of Sultans Suleiman I, Suleiman II, Ahmed II and Safiye. A short drive will then take you to see the gorgeous Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, which is regarded as a particularly fine example of Byzantine architecture and is a further highlight on this tour. Most of the current building dates back to the late 11th century and over time, the church first underwent conversion into a mosque and latterly became a museum. The interior of the church is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes. Your Byzantine experience is rounded off with panoramic views of the city’s Byzantine walls and a chance to watch a typical carpet demonstration and/or to shop in a luxury jewellery or in a leather store. The tour then ends with your return to the port and your ship. Please note: conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. This tour is not available on calls falling on a Wednesday.

Price per person $60.00 Adults $42.00 Children

   


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 IST18 - MYSTIC DERVISHI SHOW & DINNER (approx. 4 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Limited seat  Lunch or dinner included  Delve into the world of whirling dervishes and the 13th-century Sufi mystic known as Mevlãnã (or Rumi) on a fascinating night out in Istanbul. On your way to the venue to watch the "Whirling Dervishes Performance", you will also have a chance to see the outside of the Süleymaniye Mosque complex. Characterised by great architectural beauty, this amazing feat of early structural engineering is one of best-known sights in the whole of Istanbul. As followers of Mevlãnã, these Sufi ascetics of the Mevlevi Order take part in a formal ritual, called Sema, that involves 4 states of whirling. Each of these 4 stages represents a transition from an original state of being God’s unknowing servant to a state of acquired knowledge and perfection. This enlightened state can only be achieved through receiving God's love and truth as well as by allowing oneself to engage in spiritual communion with God. Watching the dervishes elevate themselves into a state of religious ecstasy – revolving at tremendous speed in time with the music, heads bent, eyes closed, arms and legs flailing wildly, colourful skirts swirling – is truly inspirational. Following the Sema ritual, you will make your way to the restaurant section in Süleymaniye Mosque – the former soup kitchen of the larger mosque complex designed by the architect Sinan – for a taste of Turkish specialities. Your return to the pier and your ship marks the end of the tour. Please note: as the restaurant is located in the Süleymaniye Mosque complex, alcoholic drinks are prohibited by Islamic rules. Only soft drinks, natural fruit juices or water will be served during dinner. This tour is not recommended for guests with mobility problems or using a wheelchair. This tour is available only for guests on board the MSC Armonia.

Price per person $130.00 Adults $117.00 Children

   


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Shore Excursions programs and Itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour. Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, It is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment.