Secrets of Istanbul & Turkish Cuisine Tour
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- Discover the varied brilliance of Turkish cuisine with four half-day cooking classes taught by Istanbul’s finest chefs
- Learn the secrets of all the Turkish culinary classics: mezes, pilavs, desserts, dolma, and also be inspired by the unique tastes of the Sultans’ favorites
- Experience the complete range of Istanbul’s sensual treats with spice markets, street food tours, and dinner tables at the city’s finest gourmet restaurants
- Spend seven nights in Istanbul and fully immerse yourself in its rich and evocative culture
- Explore the world-renowned history and wonders of Istanbul, your journey heading back almost 2,000 years as you visit mosques, bazaars, Roman relics, and Sultans’ palaces
- Take a river cruise along the Bosphorus, the divide between Europe and Asia, and marvel at the architecture that gazes across the continents
- Indulge in the therapeutic splendor of a traditional Turkish hammam, the experience combining history, architecture, and the healing powers of a modern spa
- Enjoy free time to experience Istanbul at your own pace; eight days is an excellent amount of time to develop a real impression of the many sides to the city
Turkey’s cuisine is a sensual pot of juxtaposed influences. From the East and from the West, the country has absorbed treats and flavors to forge its own unique style. Sultans have spearheaded the exotic ingenuity while local classics have turned street food into worldwide gourmet classics. This 8-day tour is all about exploring and being inspired by the cuisine and tastes of Turkey. Take four cooking classes with renowned local chefs, go on food orientated tours into hidden parts of Istanbul, and enjoy the finest of Istanbul’s gourmet restaurants. The culinary focus mingles with cultural inimitability as you soak up Istanbul. Eight days fully immerses you in the city’s diversity and enables you to explore at a relaxed pace. You’re not merely glimpsing highlights. This itinerary is about the heart and soul of Istanbul.
The scene is set for culinary indulgence with a welcome dinner at Ciya. Throughout this itinerary you have dinner tables booked at the city’s finest restaurants, each with its own atmosphere and style. Tours also have an indulgent flavored focus, like an evening exploring the street food of the city and a themed visit to the Spice Bazaar. The chief highlight of this cuisine-focused vacation is four half-days of cooking lessons with renowned local chefs. You’ll learn all the staple classics of Turkish cuisine, but this is no simplistic menu. Be inspired by the concoctions and fusions that epitomize the crossover between Eastern and Western culture. Explore the dynamic and delicate tastes of Middle Eastern cuisine. Create rich desserts and colorful mezes as you explore both the food of the Sultans and the generations old recipes of local mothers.
While food is a focus, there is far more to experience over these eight days. Start with visits to the classic and iconic sites, like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, or an elegant cruise on the Bosphorus. Exotic atmosphere radiates from the Grand Bazaar and the cobbled streets that weave through Sultanahmet. Therapeutic indulgence is delivered by an afternoon in a traditional Istanbul hammam. Old-world opulence bursts out of palace rooms and there’s lots of free time for discovering your own piece of the city. Istanbul is full of sublime surprises and only by staying for a week can you fully appreciate the magic and history on offer.
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.
Accommodation / Transfer / Dinner
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.
Accommodation / Transfer / Activity / Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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.
Accommodation / Tour/ Transfer / Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
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.
Accommodation / Tour / Transfer / Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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.
Accommodation / Transfer / Activity / Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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.
Accommodation / Activity / Transfer / Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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.
Accommodation / Tour / Transfer / Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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.
If you want more than eight days in Turkey, consider adding on to this tour.
Transfer / Breakfast