Visiting the 6th Century Hagia Sofia, the greatest architecture ever created and Topkapi Palace with its spendid riches.
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Istanbul was Constantinople, therefore, when you are visiting Istanbul you cannot escape the even more ancient city of Constantine. It was the Christian Imperial Capital of the world for 11 centuries until it was conquered in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet. Constantinople was sacked by Venetian Crusaders in 1203, and then by the Ottomans in 1453, so not a lot remains of the Byzantines. What remains are architectural jewels such as the Hagia Sofia, or Church of the Holy Wisdom. The Ottoman Empire left a more indelible mark; today one can see palaces, mosques and fortresses all of which are artistically eastern, all of which will fascinate you. But, Istanbul is not all history. Indeed, today it is a vibrant and thriving city of more than 15 million, modern and upscale with a night life unlike almost any other. The young dance to pulsating international music in chic nightclubs and restaurants hum with a huge clientele, waiters carrying large trays of food to and fro, large tables of Turks eating and laughing, where business is hot. There is an energy there that is carrying the city forward at an incredible speed. It is the juxtaposition of ancient and new, east and west, which makes this one of the most intriguing cities in the world. Included in your itineary are hotel, private airport transfers, private guiding, breakfast and a la carte lunches daily, entrance fees, taxes, map of Istanbul, general information and a recommended reading list. The trip can be extended by as many days as you like.
Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Byzantine Cistern, Rustem Pasha Mosque, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and the Hipodrome.
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Arrive in Istanbul, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the historic part of the city. Your afternoon is free to walk around the incomparable Sultan Ahmet District, right at the door of your hotel. If you arrive in time, we will arrange a walking tour in the afternoon. Overnight at a hotel of your choice, which will be located near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.
This morning you will have a private, tour of Topkapi Palace, including the Harem Section. It was constructed in 1478 by the first Ottomans to rule Constantinople and is renowned for its ceramics and jewels as well as for the Harem with its walls of priceless polychrome tiles. After lunch you will visit the Spice Market and the exquisite Rüstem Pasha Mosque, which are just steps apart. The mosque is famous for its exquisite 16th Century İznik tiles, set in a very wide variety of beautiful floral and geometric designs, which cover almost the entire interior. They are considered the finest in the world. The Spice Bazaar will intrigue you with its unusual foods and spices. Your guide will be happy to explain all of the different uses for these foods.
Today you will be provided with another private tour, visiting Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the sixth-century Byzantine cistern, the Yerebatan Sarnici. Hagia Sofia is considered one of the finest treasures of architecture in the world, while the graceful Blue Mosque, which is the national mosque of Turkey, is across the park. Graced with six elegant minarets, it was built between 1609 and 1616 and is called the Blue Mosque because of the intensely colored blue tiles on the interior. After lunch visit the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, overlooking the Hippodrome. This lovely museum has fine examples of Ottoman calligraphy in gold and intricate miniatures and illuminated manuscripts set in an historic 16th century palace. The museum also houses a stunning collection of antique Turkish carpets. While you are in Istanbul, you can throw off your clothes and enjoy a Turkish Bath. The baths are separate for men and women and you will be scrubbed until you shine! Our favorite is Cemberlitash, just steps from the covered bazaar in the most historic part of Istanbul. The bath, established by Nurbanu Sultan, wife of Selim II and mother of Murat III, is one of the structures built by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan, in 1584. Bathe in history!
You will have a private transfer to the airport for your return flight.
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