ISTANBUL HERITAGE TOUR - Combining IMPERIAL & OTTOMAN SPLENDOURS TOUR
Full Day Regular Group Tour
(20-25 people for each group)
THE IMPERIAL TOUR
St. SOPHIA This ancient basilica, built by Constantine the Great, in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, is one of the architectural marvels of all time.
SULTANAHMET IMPERIAL MOSQUE Across from St. Sophia built in the 17th century by the architect Mehmet, this is known as the BLUE MOSQUE because of its magnificent interior decoration of blue Iznik tiles.
HIPPODROME, The scene of ancient chariot races, the ancient Hippodrome, with its four monuments; the GERMAN FOUNTAIN OF WILHELM II, the OBELISK OF THEDOSIUS, the bronze SERPENTINE COLUMN and the COLUMN OF CONSTANTINE.
GRAND BAZAAR (COVERED MARKET) In this labyrinth of streets and passages are more than 4000 shops with each trade having its own area; the goldsmiths’ street, the carpet sellers, Turkish arts and crafts, such as handpainted ceramic plates, hand-honed copperware, brasware and trays, water ewers, onyxware and meerschaum pipers.
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.
We begin at Topkapı Palace, from the 15th to the 19th century, the principal residence of the Ottoman Sultans. We visit the fabulous Imperial Treasury and the Baghdad Kiosk. Topkapı Palace is now a museum and has unrivalled collections of jewelry, including the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, the 3rd largest in the world. It also possesses numerous Ottoman court costumes and ceramics, notably including one of the world’s finest collections of Chinese celadon ceramics, many 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 feature of Topkapı Palace are its courtyards’ ancient trees; it is easy to imagine the sultan strolling here far from the cares of state and empire.
Our next stop, Hagia Eirene, the Church of the Holy Peace, is one of the few churches in Istanbul that was never converted into a mosque, as it was used as an arsenal until the 19th century. Hagia Eirene reputedly stands on the site of a pre- Christian temple and has the distinction of being the first church built in Byzantium as it was converted into the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
From there, we visit Gülhane Park, once a part of the outer gardens of Topkapı Palace, where the Edict of Gülhane, a declaration of rights and liberties that played an essential role in the modernization of the Ottoman Empire. After the proclaimation of the Republic, Gülhane Park was for many years home to the Istanbul Zoo