We will start our Istanbul tour of the Sultanahmet historical district for a first impression of the gorgeous mosques, palaces and assorted historical oddments that make up this ancient walled capital.
First we visit the Hippodrome, center of Byzantium’s life for over 1000 years, holding 100,000 spectators and featured objects from all corners of the empire.
We proceed to the Blue Mosque, the last of Istanbul’s magnificent imperial mosques, named for the beautiful blue Iznik tiles that cover its walls. 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.
We visit Underground (Yerebatan) Cistern, Emperor Justinian’s cathedral-sized feat of underground engineering rediscovered in 1545. The giant reservoir has 326 columns supporting arched vaults in brick and covers an area of 11.720 square yards.
Hagia Sophia, the world’s oldest Byzantine basilica, dedicated by Emperor Justinian in 537 A.D. and then converted to a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. See the beautiful mosaics on display at the museum.
Afternoon we visit Topkapi Palace. This former residence of the Ottoman Sultans houses a fine exhibition of porcelain, jewelry, silverware, glassware, clocks and Ottoman weaponry, royal treasures and was once the home to the world’s largest harem.
Enjoy free time to explore the exhilarating Grand Bazaar. It 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.