Discover the rich architectural sights and intoxicating history of Istanbul on a morning tour of its Old City. Istanbul served as the capital of four different empires throughout its history (the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Latin Empire and Ottoman Empire), each of which has left its mark in evocative churches, mosques, public spaces and markets. Experience the outstanding beauty of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, wander around the former Greek Hippodrome to discover its landmarks, and immerse yourself in the shopping heaven of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
Built in 537AD as a Greek Orthodox Basilica, the Hagia Sophia was, at the time, the largest church in the world. “Hagia” translates as “Divine”, while “Sophia” means “Wisdom”, and it is hard not to be impressed by the elaborate architecture and interior details of this magnificent structures. After being converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia’s beautiful interior is now open to visitors as a museum so they too can enjoy its frescoes and mosaics.
Officially named the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque remains one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks and is renowned for its blue Iznik tiles which adorn the interior and six towering minarets. It was built in the early 17th century by Ahmed I, and although it is still in use as a mosque today, non-Muslims are welcome to visit outside of prayer times to appreciate its glorious architecture and design.
HIPPODROME and OBELISKS
The area in front of the Blue Mosque is known as Sultan Ahmet Square today, but during Greek times it was the Hippodrome of Constantinople where horse races and sporting events were held. A few fragments of the original Hippodrome remain, together with the Obelisk of Theodosius (an Ancient Egyptian obelisk which was re-erected in the 4th century), the Serpentine Column (which celebrates the Greek victory over the Persians during the 5th century Persian Wars), and the neo-Byzantine German Fountain, built in honour of Wilhelm II’s visit to the city in the late 19th century.
THE GRAND BAZAAR
One of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets is Istanbul’s impressive Grand Bazaar. With everything from Turkish home wares to exotic spices, it remains one of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions. Wander through its 61 streets to discover its more than 4000 shops, seeking out unique souvenirs and feasting on authentic Turkish cuisine at a local restaurant.
On Mondays the Hagia Sophia is closed and will be replaced with a visit to the Basilica Cistern.
On Sundays the Grand Bazaar is closed and will be replaced with a visit to the Basilica Cistern.
Available days: Everyday.
Available from: Old City | Taksim Area.
Price includes: Transport | Insurance | Guided Service | Entry Fees | Lunch
Duration: Full Day 8 Hours
Pick up time: Old City 09:00 | Taksim Area 08:30
Drop off time: Approximately 12:30