Istanbul Tours (3 days)
DAY 1: Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Underground Cistern, Grand Covered Bazaar
A full day tour of the old city which has been the throne of power of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires; practically the city that ruled the world for nearly 15 centuries. We start our tour with Sultanahmet Square, which was known as the Hippodrome. Some of the important monuments of the Hippodrome are the Egyptian Obelisk dating back to the 16th century B.C., the Serpentine Column from the 5th century B.C., and the Stone Obelisk erected in the 10th century A.D. The Blue Mosque, famous with its more than 20.000 blue Iznik tiles and unique with its 6 minarets, was built in the classical period of the Ottomans and is one of the best examples of classical Turkish art.
After the marvelous underground cistern we visit the Topkapı Palace that was built in the 15th century by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. It has been the imperial residence of Ottoman sultans housing many souvenirs of 600 years and exhibiting the imperial treasury, Chinese porcelains, weapons, calligraphy etc. The day ends in the Grand Bazaar, the most attractive shopping center in the world with 4000 shops.
DAY 2 Spice Bazaar, Bosphorus Cruise, Sariyer, Suleymaniye Mosque, Teahouse of Pierre Loti
Visit of the Spice Bazaar with its domed and vaulted shops selling spices and herbs, also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. Then we go to the pier for a Bosporus cruise on a public ferry. Starting the trip from the Golden Horn and sailing through the waterway separating the two continents, Asia and Europe- with a possibility to take pictures of the marble palaces, old wooden villas of Ottoman architecture besides modern residentials on the shores. We get on land in the Sariyer district which has the old and modern taste together. Thereafter we visit Suleymaniye Mosque, dedicated to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, built by the famous architect, Sinan. Then we a drive to the Golden Horn for a short break at the Café known as the Pierre Loti teahouse, it commands a superb view over the Golden Horn.
DAY 3 St Sophia, Istanbul Archeology Museum, Chora Museum
St Sophia, one of the greatest marvels of architecture, was constructed as a basilica in 536 A.D. by Emperor Justinian. The Church was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in the 15th century and then into a museum after the establishment of the Republic. Afterwards we visit the Istanbul Archeology Museum, besides its importance as the first Turkish museum, it remains one of the world’s largest museums with over one million works. Opened to the public in 1891, it houses a collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine artifacts. Chora Church (Kariye Camii in Turkish) is the most interesting Byzantine church after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The importance of the church does not so much come from the building itself, but the frescoes and the mosaics are superb and reflect the magnificent heritage of Byzantine Art.