Exclusive Wonders of Istanbul (Friday Only)
After meeting your professionally-trained guide on the pier, you will begin an orientation drive through the business center of the modern city, across the Galata Bridge, along the banks of the Golden Horn and under the Byzantine Aqueduct of Valens. Along the way, you will see the Süleymaniye Mosque, dedicated to Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. You will continue around the mighty city walls, which once protected Constantinople from the many invasions and attacks it incurred over the centuries.
In the Old City, your first visit will be to the Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine Church of Divine Wisdom. Originally built as an Orthodox basilica, it later was used as a mosque, and now is a museum. Built in 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople and was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years. Upon the conquering of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, it became a mosque and was used as such until 1931. It was opened as a museum in 1935.
You will then have approximately 60 minutes for lunch on your own.
After the lunch break, you will visit the world renowned Blue Mosque finished in 1616. The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I when he was only 19 years old. The interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while in the galleries they become flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and trees.
Next, visit the Hippodrome, originally the home of sports games in the Byzantine period. It is estimated that the Hippodrome of Constantine was about 1,476 feet long and 427 feet wide, and capable of holding 100,000 spectators. The track was U-shaped, and the emperor's box was located at the eastern end of the track.
You will be treated to an optional carpet demonstration with about 1 to 2 hours of shopping in the open (uncovered) section of the Grand Bazaar and the nearby covered area of the Grand Bazaar that dates to 1461. Well known for its jewelery, pottery, spice, and carpet shops, it also has areas where stalls are grouped by the type of goods the sell, such as leather coats or gold jewelry. What started as one main building has grown into a sprawling complex consists of 12 major buildings accessed through 22 doors. It is thought to have more than 5,000 shops / stalls, two mosques, two hamams, and many restaurants and cafes. and explore the shops filled with jewelry, carpets, leather ware, and copper goods. You will then be returned to the ship pier. Your time at the Bazaar is enough for an introduction. This is not a "shopping" tour. For the serious shopper wishing more time in the Bazaar, you can end your tour here. Please let your guide know you are not returning with the group. Guests remaining at the Bazaar are responsible for their own transportation back to the pier.
Please note: Hagia Sophia is closed on Monday; a visit to Underground Cistern will be substituted. The carpet demonstration is optional and guests not wanting to attend can use the time to stroll, shop or purchase a refreshment.
Reviewer: Frisky seniors
This excursion met expectations. The guide was very accommodating and ""knew the ropes,"" in terms of which place to visit when. It was an enjoyable experience.
The only concern was the bazaar. Vendors are very aggressive and you have to be EXTREMELY cautious. Other guests on our cruise were locked into a shop and not allowed to leave until they made a purchase.
Some of the sites were overcrowded, however likely that's the case this time of year. If you are not culturally diverse skip this tour.
The guide and driver were very nice, well educated on the subject matter and experienced. They were at the pick-up point early and ready to go. We were able to get around with ease and the guide knew when to visit the locations without significant crowds or waiting. Great experience.