After your breakfast, you will be picked up from your hotel for your full-day Byzantine and Ottoman Traces tour.
After decades in which scaffolding cluttered the interior of Emperor Justinian’s sixth-century Byzantine masterpiece, the thrill of being able to experience the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum is hard to overstate.
Sultan Ahmet I’s a grand architectural gift to his capital was this beautiful mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque today. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque caused a furor throughout the Muslim world when it was finished as it had six minarets (the same number as the Great Mosque of Mecca). A seventh minaret was eventually gifted to Mecca to stem the dissent.
Hippodrome and Obelisks
This was the center of Byzantine public life and the scene of splendid games and chariot races but also factional conflicts. Today, there isn’t much of the Hippodrome left to see, except for a small section of the gallery walls on the southern side, but the At Meydanı (park) that now stands on the site is home to a variety of monuments.
Grand Covered Bazaar
The colorful and chaotic Grand Bazaar is the heart of Istanbul’s Old City and has been so for centuries. Starting as a small vaulted bedesten (warehouse) built by order of Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461, it grew to cover a vast area as lanes between the bedesten, neighboring shops, and hans (caravanserais) were roofed and the market assumed the sprawling, labyrinthine form that it retains today.
Topkapi is the subject of more colorful stories than most of the world’s museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines, and scheming eunuchs lived and worked here between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire. A visit to the palace’s opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury, and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into their lives.
In Byzantine tradition, there is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art within the church. The apse semidome and the bema arch are covered with mosaics. There are also the frescoes that can be found on the south side aisle.
At the end of the tour, you will be dropped off back at your hotel.