Highlights of This Tour:
The fabled capital of three great empires – Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman, Istanbul is steeped in almost 3,000 years of history. The greatest concentration of landmarks is found in Istanbul’s oldest district, Sultanahmet, an awe-inspiring expanse of leafy parks, Byzantine cathedrals, Greek statuary, bustling bazaars and imposing mosques with towering, slender minarets.
Daily Morning Tour – Itinerary:
We begin our tour of the Sultanahmet district, the heart of old Istanbul, at Hagia Sophia*. Built by the Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century AD and designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isodore of Miletus, the church is one of the marvels of world architecture. Converted into a mosque in 1453, it is now a museum. Its massive dome still dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is also famed for its mosaics, including glittering portraits of emperors and empresses and a poignant Virgin and Child. Next we visit the Blue Mosque** which takes its name from the exquisite tiles adorning its interior. Built by Sultan Ahmet I in the early 17th century and designed by a pupil of Sinan, the greatest of Ottoman architects, it is the only imperial mosque with six minarets. Its courtyard is especially grand. The Hippodrome, the stadium of ancient Byzantium, held 100,000 spectators and featured objects from all corners of the empire. Of these, an Egyptian obelisk and a bronze sculpture of three entwined serpents from Delphi survive. The Grand Bazaar was the commercial heart of the old city and its 4,000 shops are full of treasures including carpets and kilims, silks, jewelry, ceramics, icons, and leather goods. Wandering through the Grand Bazaar, indulge in some shopping, Ottoman style.
(Afternoon tour also available on Tuesdays)
*On Mondays, when Saint Sophia is closed, we visit the Chora Church, famed for its mosaics.
** Blue Mosque is closed on Friday Mornings.