PRIVATE ISTANBUL TOUR
Your guide will meet you in the hotel or port. Our first visit will be to the Topkapı Sarayı (Palace), home to the Ottoman emperors for more than five centuries. Stroll through the grounds at a leisurely pace, imagining the opulence of Topkapı Sarayı at the height of Ottoman power, its grounds filled with strong rulers, ministers, and awe-struck visitors. The next stop on your tour will be one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, the Hagia Sophia (literally the Church of “Holy Wisdom”), serving in succession as the seat of the Orthodox Patriarchy of Constantinople, a mosque, and (currently) a museum. Wander slowly through the cathedral to take in the spectacular mosaic scenes of the Virgin Mother, Jesus, the saints, many biblical narratives, and Byzantine emperors and their entourage. After lunch, we will cross the Sultan Ahmet Gardens to visit the Blue Mosque, with its wonderfully curvaceous exterior featuring a cascade of domes and six slender, fluted minarets. Beautifully crafted blue Iznik tiles adorn the interior and give the building its unofficial but commonly used name. Next we will walk through the Hippodrome, the athletic and social center of ancient Constantinople. Today the park contains the Serpent Column of three intertwined snakes, the Obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III, and the Fountain of Kaiser Wilheim II. En route to the Grand Bazaar, we will stop at the sixth-century Basilica Cistern, constructed using 336 columns, many of which were salvaged from ruined temples and feature finely carved capitals. Its symmetry and sheer grandeur of conception are quite breathtaking, and its cavernous depths make a great retreat on summer days. The Grand Bazaar itself is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world and remains an integral part of daily local life among city residents and visitors alike. With sixty-one covered streets, more than three thousand shops, five hundred stalls, and eighteen fountains, the Grand Bazaar attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors each day and continues to be an alluring draw for shoppers from around the globe.
After our visit to the Grand Bazaar, we will return to your hotel or port.