Topkapi Palace & Harem Museum: An extensive tour of the residence of the legendary Ottoman Sultans, now converted into a museum. It consists of several exhibition halls, such as the Treasury, the porcelain section, the armory and the rooms devoted to holy relics.
A nice luncheon will be served in a quaint local restaurant.
Basilica Cistern: Built by Justinian after 532, the Basilica Cistern stored water for the Great Palace and nearby buildings. Lost to memory, it was rediscovered in the mid sixteenth century by Petrus Gyllius, who had been sent to Constantinople by the French King Francis I in search of Byzantine monuments and manuscripts. Gyllius, who noticed that the local people were lowering buckets through holes in the floors of their houses to retrieve water, found an entrance and thus put this mysterious subterranean architectural surprise back on the map. You will marvel at the almost 10,000 square meters of space supported by 336 marble columns each nine meters in height.
Hagia Sophia Museum: The Hagia Sophia that you can visit today was the primary church of Byzantine Constantinople and was built upon the site of two earlier churches that had been destroyed. Emperor Justinian I (527-565) commissioned the project and had materials brought in from all around his empire for the massive church’s construction. The Hagia Sophia was the most important church of the Christian East. Structurally, it was the first of its design and boasted the largest dome that had yet been engineered which provided a voluminous and well-illuminated interior. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and was used as such throughout the Ottoman period. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the modern Turkish Republic’s most revered founding father and its first Prime Minister, initiated the process to have the Hagia Sophia transformed into a museum which opened for visitors in February 1935.
Sultanahmet Mosque/Blue Mosque: This mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I between 1609 and 1616 and is located in the district of old Istanbul that is named after this Ottoman Sultan and it is distinguished by its six slender minarets. The central dome is 43 m in height and 33.4 m in diameter and there are 260 stained glass windows throughout the mosque. Due to the intricately decorated blue, green and red tiles of its interior, it has long been referred to as the Blue Mosque. These tiles, produced and painted by hand in Iznik (ancient Nicaea), are an attraction in and of themselves. The Quranic inscriptions that you will see throughout the mosque were made by Seyyid Kasım Gubari, one of the most famous calligraphers of his time.
Roman Hippodrome and Monuments: The ancient Hippodrome was the center of Byzantine social life and the scene of fiercely competitive chariot races. It was located in the square that is now in front of the Blue Mosque and is still the site of ancient relics from its glory days. These are the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine. Remains of the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of the three monuments.
After the tour, you will be returned to your hotel. You may also choose to part from your guide at the location of the last visited sight of the tour.
Please note that the order in which sights are visited may vary.
Please make note of the following: