Istanbul is an old city. It has been the seat of two of the biggest empires of Europe, the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. For visitors of the city, it is more or less a given to explore the remnants of these empires and stand in those areas where the vestiges of their grandeur can still be experienced. There is perhaps no better place than the Hippodrome, or as it is now called the - the Sultanahmet Square where one can see Constantinople (what the Byzantines called Istanbul) and the Istanbul of the Ottomans collide.
Since the places selected all lie in the vicinity of the Square, this tour can easily be done on foot. the tour starts off at 8.30 in the morning in the Hippodrome and from there on we proceed to the rest of the monuments. Time - wise the itinerary is as follows -
- HIPPODROME AREA (8.30-9.00)
- BLUE MOSQUE (9.00-9.30)
- TOPKAPI PALACE (10.00-12.00)
- At Noon : Lunch (12.30-13.30)
- HAGIA SOPHIA (14.00-15.30)
- BASILICA CISTERN (15.30-16.00)
- GRAND COVERED BAZAAR ( Around 16.30 - Free time for shopping)
The SULTAN AHMET MOSQUE is better known as the BLUE MOSQUE among the western travelers with its interior blue-white tile decoration and has become an attraction also because of its unique architecture with six minarets that makes it different from other mosques which in that time had just 4.
The HAGIA SOPHIA MUSEUM, is a place where one can see the flow of history itself. It was built as a Church, then converted into a Mosque, and now it is a Museum. This history, from the Byzantine, to Ottoman, to the time of Ataturk, all can be seen here.
The TOPKAPI PALACE was the seat of Ottoman Empire more than 380 years where 24 of 36 Sultans lived and ruled their lands. This was the driver's seat of the Ottoman Empire for 400 of its 624 year existence!
BASILICA CISTERN was built by the same Byzantine Emperor who built Hagia Sophia, Justinian, to support the city with water. It is the largest cistern in Istanbul. It is basically an underground chamber to hold water and though it has very little water on the ground, it still nevertheless, is an impressive structure with 336 columns with some very intricate carvings.
We'll pay a visit to world famous GRAND COVERED BAZAAR with its 3500 tiny shops. Apart from being heaven on earth for shopaholics, historically the covered bazaar is quite a site of contestation, as historians are divided on whether the structure is Byzantine or Ottoman in entirety. In this last phase of our tour you're free to explore it in your way, but after getting some shopping tips! Especially on haggling!
The cost of the tour covers the guiding of a group with a maximum group size of 6. Turkish Tea is also included into the cost. However, the entry charges into those monuments that do levy them, are not covered, neither is the lunch. Also, some of the monuments are closed on certain days of the week, so do choose your day to tour wisely, so you do not miss out on anything!
Hagia Sophia, 30 TL, Closed Monday
Topkapi Palace, 30 TL, Closed Tuesday
Basilica Cistern, 20 TL, Open Daily