Byzantium & Ottoman Combo TourThis tour covers almost all of the city’s highlights including a traditional Turkish lunch to offer you a compact tour option to cover them all in a day.
You will begin with a drive over the Golden Horn towards the Old City. Your first stop will be the ancient Hippodrome. For over 1,000 years this was the center of Byzantium life. Afterwards, for another 400 years, it was the social center of the Ottoman Empire. The Hippodrome was the scene of countless political and military dramas, including the famous chariot races. The main monument left today is the impressive granite obelisk, carved in Egypt around 1,500 BC and brought to Constantinople in 390 AD.
Next you’ll visit St. Sophia Museum which originated as a church in 360 AD under Constantine. Hagia Sophia was converted into a Mosque when the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453 by Sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Today the Museum is considered the most important Byzantine monument in the world. Mosque of Sultan Ahmed I, otherwise known as The Blue Mosque, is renowned for its architectural harmony, proportion and elegance, is unique as it is the only original mosque in the world with six minarets. Breathtaking stained-glass windows and graceful arabesques decorate this mighty structure. Ibrahim Pasha Palace is known as the Turkish Islamic Museum of Arts and is located on the west side of Hippodrome. It exhibits a variety of items that include antique kilns, manuscripts, calligraphy, wood, ironwork, stone sculpture, stained glass and folk art as well as the Ethnological collection which are devoted mainly to the nomads of Anatolia. The Museum also hosts the most valuable ancient Turkish carpets which are the original Usak and Selcuk Carpet collections.
Following the Palace visit, you will have the chance to enjoy the best examples of Turkish cuisine before you continue to the next visit. The highlight of the tour will be Topkapi Palace (Harem section excluded). Topkapi Palace is a great walled complex hugging the shores of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn and it was once the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Mehmet II built the palace-city, home for three centuries of Sultans, in the mid-1400s as a summer palace. Topkapi was enlarged by Suleiman the Magnificent into the Sultan’s principal residence and with the successive Sultans grew into a great complex of buildings set in lovely gardens. A series of courtyards connect various buildings which now house an astonishing collection of Chinese porcelain, treasures, the Topkapi dagger, the celebrated Topkapi Diamond and much more.
After a drive you will reach the Chora Museum, located just beyond the ancient city walls. The Chora Museum was built between 1077 and 1081 by Maria Dukaina, the mother-in-law of Emperor Alexius Comnenus. It has had many restorations and refurbishments during its long history and was converted into a Mosque in 1500 by the Ottomans. Dating from the early 14th century, the mosaics and frescoes depict the lives of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ and are beautiful examples of the Byzantine Renaissance.
And finally you will visit one of the most colorful sites of Istanbul; the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar is composed of two sections; the covered part and the modern part. The covered part is a whole quarter on its own and is surrounded by a wall which can be entered through eleven gates. The maze of streets and lanes are one of the greatest sights in the city, where various trades such as carpets, jewelry, leather goods, silver; varieties of souvenirs, textile, antiques, and home textile are segregated into particular sections of the bazaar. You will have the chance to explore the exotic atmosphere of the covered part for a brief period of time. You will also have the opportunity to visit the open and modern section of the Grand Bazaar which offers the best artworks and most reliable shopping. During your time in the Grand Bazaar, you will be taken for a presentation on the unique art of Turkish carpets and given additional time to shop.
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