Wonders of Istanbul & Turkish Cuisine Tour

A 8 day trip to Turkey 
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Istanbul is a sensual marketplace and a rich melting pot of the finest influences from around the globe. Indulge in its culinary brilliance and discover the sultans' favorites with this week long gourmet cuisine tour. Cooking classes, iconic dining, spice bazaars, street food; you explore a dazzling myriad of flavors and the focus on food interweaves with Istanbul's architecture brilliance and endearing charm.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Istanbul, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Bosphorus, Suleymaniye Mosque, Spice Market, Bosphorus, Dolmabahce Palace 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Istanbul - Arrival in Istanbul and Welcome Dinner at Ciya

With seven nights in Istanbul there's no need to immediately start rushing around the attractions. You'll be met at the airport and transferred to the four-star Midtown Hotel, indelibly situated along streets of cultural harmony and intrigue. Rest and relax. Soak up the soft sounds that emanate from all over the city. Take a short wander and marvel at the architectural riches. Feel at home as the city immediately pulls you under her spell. Despite its size, the city is laid-back and effortlessly combines exploration with relaxation.

Tonight's welcome dinner introduces the rich influences of Turkish cuisine. Ciya is perhaps the city's most famous restaurant, a onetime street cafe that's blossomed into a charming restaurant showcasing the complete range of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. Mezes, salds, soups, desserts, dolma, truffle kebabs, chicken on a bed of saffron rice; the ever-changing menu provides a gastronomical feast and an opportunity to sample a variety of food in a classically Turkish atmosphere. Like all tours and activities on this itinerary, you're transferred to the restaurant by a private driver.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, dinner at Ciya, all transfers

Day 2: Istanbul - First Cooking Class and Exploring the Grand Bazaar

This itinerary includes four cooking classes at a local culinary school. They're taught by renowned local chefs, masters of their trade who take inspiration from both the sultans' and the traditional village recipes passed down for generations. Each class is a very hands-on experience, enabling you to experiment and perfect a range of dishes. Exploring Turkish cuisine is like exploring a famous international art gallery. A rich selection of influence creates meals of almost infinite variety and improvisation. Each can stand alone as an artistic masterpiece. Yet there's a structure and thread that runs deep through the cuisine, one that forms the base for regional styles and development.

Each cooking class will explore a particular theme and everything you create is then enjoyed as you sit down with the chef for lunch. Note that the exact menu can be tailored to your individual tastes and desires. For example, those with a sweet tooth can enjoy a greater focus on desserts. Classes can be steered towards iconic dishes or the extravagant creations reserved for sophisticated palates.

The information in this itinerary details an example menu that covers the full range of Turkish cuisine. Your first cooking class is all about an introduction to the diverse ingredients and flavors. Learn biber dolma, yaprak sarma, and other easy examples of vegetables cooked in olive oil. Experiment with the fragrances of a healing yoghurt soup from rural Anatolia, and cook up a classic banquet favorite in cerkez tavagu, Circassian chicken with walnuts.

After lunch spend the afternoon touring Istanbul's favorite sites on a guided walking tour. Wander through the rooms of the Topkapi Palace, each resplendent with their collections of Chinese porcelain, robes, crystal, jewels, silver, and relics from Islamic history. Explore the atmosphere of Sultanahmet Square and then saunter through the maze of alleys that form the world famous Grand Bazaar. Each corridor curves past endless shop fronts and four centuries of history are etched into the domed ceilings. After the action of the afternoon, tonight's dinner table is serenity personified. Enjoy Mediterranean flavors in a timeless setting at Matbah Ottoman Palace Cuisine before a transfer back to the hotel.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, half-day cooking class with lunch, dinner at Matbah Ottoman Palace Cuisine, afternoon Istanbul walking tour, all transfers

Day 3: Istanbul - Mezes and Mosques in Istanbul

The meze is probably Turkey's most famous dish. It's essentially a platter of flavors that form the start of any great Turkish dinner. Yet, a great meze becomes more than just a starter. It's fanatically Moorish, the delicate blend of dishes meaning that everyone keeps picking away until there's no more room for the main course. This morning's cooking lesson explores the meze and its fine balance of spices, herbs, vegetables, and experimentation. There's a huge menu of dishes to choose from here. Some classics include spicy wheat salad (kisir), zucchini patties (mucver), and fine roasted aubergine (patlican salatasi). Today's lesson also involves learning about the subtle combinations and pairings of Turkish cuisine. With this knowledge the possibilities of meze become infinite. Once complete, enjoy your meze in the classic way; eating slow and taking small sips of raki.

Your afternoon walking tour continues the exploration of Sultanahmet. Sip a reenergizing tea on the benches that grace the remains of the Old Hippodrome. Visit the Underground Cistern and Egyptian Obelisk, relics that remind everyone of Byzantine and the city's ancient Roman history. Then remove your shoes and enter the Iznik tiled beauty of the Blue Mosque, astonishingly intricate details covering the walls. After a visit to the Istanbul Crafts Centre, tonight's relaxed dinner is enjoyed along the shores of the Bosphorus.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, half-day cooking class with lunch, dinner at a gourmet riverside restaurant, afternoon Istanbul walking tour, all transfers

Day 4: Istanbul - A Full Day Culinary Flavored Tour of Istanbul

Today involves a full-day tour of Istanbul with a strong focus on culinary treats. Start in the Suleymaniye Mosque, the city's largest mosque revealing grand 16th century design and a silence demanding atmosphere. There's a certain hypnotism to the domes, 72 meter high minarets, and complex patterned ceilings. Continue to the New Mosque and compare the different architectural styles, before gazing across Galata Bridge and following the scents to the Spice Market. Great food may be more than a sum of its parts, but without the original ingredients there would be no food. So spend a couple of hours exploring the diverse spices and smells of the market. Explore fragrances from India and Southeast Asia, find sought after saffron, and take in the vibrant colors that spill onto the corridors.

Now cross to the Asian side of Istanbul by ferry and wander through Goztepe Farmer's Market, the fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits imbuing shocks of color. Next it's Kadikoy market, seven decades of food history revealed in the simple yet elegant stalls. Lunch is a classic local delight, freshly caught fish grilled on floating restaurants that hum with an eclectic audience. Then change the pace as you cruise along the Bosphorus Strait and follow the city's Europe Asia divide. Admire the palaces and houses that line the shore as you leisurely indulge in the aesthetics of the city. The rest of the afternoon is free and there are many quaint spots and cafes for really relaxing amongst the city's atmosphere. Tonight's dinner table is at Mikla, a gourmet restaurant that offers clever twists on classic Turkish culinary themes.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, full-day Istanbul tour, lunch at traditional fish restaurant, dinner at Mikla, all transfers

Day 5: Istanbul - Creating Turkish Desserts and Indulging in a Therapeutic Hammam

How is your sweet tooth? Turkish desserts have been exported around the world and they form the base of today's cooking lesson. Turkish delight and sweet nutty pastry are perhaps the most famous of local exports, but these are just the proverbial icing on top. How about semolina cake with lemon (revani) or the milky puddings (muhallebi) so adored by sultans? The lesson explores the base of Turkish deserts and its different flavors. But you can't just have dessert for lunch, so you'll also be cooking up a couple of old-world favorites that the sultans demanded at their banquets.

Today is about indulging. After the desserts it's time for some therapeutic healing at one of Istanbul's oldest hammams. Five centuries of history are etched into the rooms and carved ceilings and, while the spa therapy is classic in nature, it's been upgraded and enhanced by modern techniques. Lie back on a hot stone for a deep salubrious scrub and enjoy a whole afternoon of tailored therapies. Continuing the feel of the day, the Tugra restaurant provides exquisite views and a sublime gourmet menu.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, half-day cooking class with lunch, dinner at Tugra, entrance to traditional hammam and two hour treatment, all transfers

Day 6: Istanbul - Final Cooking Class and Relaxing in Istanbul

The final cooking session involves a menu created by you. After three lessons and five days discovering the ingredients and dishes, here's an opportunity to concoct your own feast. Of course, the expert chef provides assistance and ideas, helping to formulate a menu that's replicable at home yet proudly Turkish. Lunch is a leisurely one and a chance to say goodbye to your teacher over iconic sips of raki. The rest of today is deliberately left free so you can explore Istanbul at your own pace. Your driver is available throughout the day and can transfer you to any parts of the city. Providing a new slant to the itinerary, tonight's dinner is at Akintiburnu Balik, a seafood restaurant along the river.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, half-day cooking class with lunch, dinner at Akintiburnu Balik, all transfers (the driver is at your service throughout the day)

Day 7: Istanbul Street Food and Final Wanderings in the City

After a leisurely morning the final iconic treats of Istanbul are explored on a guided morning tour. Stretching 600 meters down the Bosphorus, the Dolmabahce Palace is an ode to regal opulence. There are 365 rooms, many of them ostentatiously decorated with excess and indulgence; a four ton chandelier is just one example. Your driver then takes you up Camlica Hill, the city's highest point and a chance to photograph two continents in one panorama.

This itinerary aims to provide a complete menu of Turkish cuisine and this afternoon's street food tour offers another slice of sensual influence. Sample a huge variety of renowned eats and centuries old favorites. You'll recognize some, but as you explore a very offbeat and localized side to the city, you'll continue to discover a seemingly endless menu. These couple of hours provides a lingering and ongoing lunch. This isn't a sit down meal; it's a wide concoction of snacks and treats that can be found in a suburb rarely seen by tourists. The rest of the afternoon is left free for you to slumber and savor the final impressions of Istanbul. Tonight's farewell dinner is accompanied by an Anatolian folklore group, their soft resonance combining with a wide-ranging menu that lets you choose a final gourmet favorite.

What's Included: overnight at the Midtown Hotel, breakfast, morning Istanbul tour, afternoon street food tour including lunch, farewell dinner with Anatolian folklore entertainment, all transfers

Day 8: Istanbul - Departure

After an easy breakfast it's time to bid farewell to Istanbul. Your driver will transfer you to the airport for your international departure. Now it's your chance to export the beauty of Turkish cuisine and impress everyone back home.

What's Included: breakfast, airport transfer

If you want more than eight days in Turkey, consider adding on to this tour. Browse the Turkey travel reviews for ideas.

Price

Starting Price 

$2,075
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.