Private Wonders of Istanbul
After meeting your professionally-trained private 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 Suleymaniye Mosque, dedicated to Sultan Suleyman 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.
Departing Hagia Sophia you will next 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 a optional carpet demonstration with time for shopping in the open (uncovered) section of the Grand Bazaar. You will then have a short time in the nearby covered area of the Grand Bazaar which dates from 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: The covered area of the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sunday; a visit to the Spice Market will be substituted. Hagia Sophia is closed on Monday; a visit to Topkapi Palace will be substituted. The carpet demonstration is optional and guests not wanting to attend can use the time to stroll, shop or purchase refreshments.
Reviewer: Mighty Mo
Our tour guide was so knowledgeable and unhurried. We learned much about the sites we visited, the Turkish history and how to navigate the daunting Grand Bazaar!!
Reviewer: Travel pro
Enthusiastic guide who loved his job.