My husband and I went on this tour for our first day in Istanbul. We wanted an introduction to the sense of the city and got even more than we expected. The description of the tour is accurate–we went to “real” places: weekly markets where we saw almost exclusively people who lived in the neighborhood, varied communities where we were able to walk around and understand the differences in areas (and learn historical/cultural rasons for the differences), and tasted a variety of the many foods (from multiple kinds of baklava to regional fruits).We saw families returning from circomcisions, learned how to tell which food carts to eat at, gained an understanding of the Syrian refugee crisis, and more. Our guide, Polat, quickly grasped the kinds of questions we had (there was just one other couple and us!) and tailored his conversations to our interests. Different groups might have different discussions, depending on their interests.

The tour itself was great—and Istanbul is an amazing city in all ways–but I have to emphasize that the guide made the tour for us. He was the perfect travel companion and guide–personable, intelligent, funny, and kind. I have a few walking ddifficultiesat times (but I did walk 6 miles that day) that he kept in mind without imposing limitations on the others’ interests. I especially liked the way he explained the routines of daily life as we saw it by putting these routines into larger contexts that helped us understand the complexities of the city. I also ate more good food that I thought possible!

I wish I had chosen to take the full day (with hammam) but I was hesitant. By the end of the day, I was comfortable enough to reconsider, but I still had jet lag. Still–we had about 10 hours of a perfect first day.