Exclusive Wonders of Istanbul
Exclusive Wonders of Istanbul
This exclusive introduction to Istanbul tour includes an orientation drive and two of the big three sites: The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.
After meeting your professionally trained tour 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 Grand Mosque, formerly known as the Byzantine Church of Divine Wisdom. Originally built as an Orthodox basilica, it later was used as a mosque. 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, Hagia Sofia became a mosque and was used as such until 1931. It was opened as a museum in 1935 until 2020, when it became a mosque once again.
Departing Hagia Sophia, you will next visit the world-renowned Blue Mosque finished in 1616. Sultan Ahmet I commissioned the Blue Mosque 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 jewelry, pottery, spice, and carpet shops, it also has areas where stalls are grouped by the type of goods sold, such as leather coats or gold jewelry. What started as one main building has grown into a sprawling complex consisting of 12 major buildings accessed through 22 doors. It is thought to have more than 5,000 shops and stalls, two mosques, two hamams, and many restaurants and cafes. 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 Blue Mosque is currently under restoration until April 21, 2023. The Blue Mosque visit will be replaced with a visit to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque. The Blue Mosque is closed from 30 minutes before until 30 minutes after prayer time, and 2 hours during Friday noon prayer. The covered area of the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sunday; a visit to the Spice Market will be substituted. The carpet demonstration is optional and guests not wanting to attend can use the time to stroll, shop or purchase refreshments.