IST-01 FULL DAY ISTANBUL TOUR
We begin our tour of the Sultanahmet district, the heart of old Istanbul, at Saint Sophia*. Built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, this church is one of the marvels of world architecture.Its massive dome dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is famed for its mosaics, including glittering portraits of emperors and empresses.Next we visit the Blue Mosque, which owes its name to the exquisite tiles adorning its interior. Dating from the 17th century, it is the only imperial mosque with six minarets.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.
In the afternoon tour at Topkapi Palace, which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the principle residence of the Ottoman Sultans. We will visit the fabolous Imperial Treasury and the Baghdad Kiosk. Topkapi Palace is now a museum and has unrivalled collections of jewelry, including the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, the 3rd largest in the world, Ottoman court costumes and ceramics, notably one of the world’s finest collection of early Chinese ceramics, much of it gifts from other rulers. Interestingly, some of the ceramics have a special glaze that was said to change color in the presence of poison. We also visit the Imperial Armory, displaying centuries of Ottoman weaponry. But perhaps the loveliest features of Topkapi Palace are its courtyards with their ancient trees, and it is easy to imagine the sultan strolling here far from the cares of state and empire. The SEeymaniye Mosque is the largest and grandest of Istanbul’s imperial mosques. It dates from the 16th century heyday of the Ottoman Empire, and was designed by Sinan, the greatest architect of his day and originator of the Classical Ottoman style of architecture. Of the 2,000 structures Sinan designed, Suleymaniye Mosque and its complex of charitable institutions rank among the most important.
(every day except Tuesdays)