Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar with Lunch
- Topkapi Palace: Explore the opulent pavilions, golden mosaics, and treasure-filled cabinets of the grand imperial complex that was the seat of Ottoman power.
- Hagia Sophia: Constructed by the Byzantines in 532 A.D., this stunning domed church was converted to an imperial mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453, and later into a museum.
- Blue Mosque: Formally known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, but called blue because of the color of its interior floor-to-ceiling tile mosaics. It's one of Istanbul's most photogenic buildings, with its huge domes and six towering minarets.
- Hippodrome: Many of the statues and monuments that adorned this ancient park the center of politics and chariot racing in Byzantine Constantinople are still there today.
- Turkish lunch: Enjoy a feast fit for a Sultan as you dine on a traditional Turkish lunch of lamb, chicken, or vegetables with fragrant rice.
About this Istanbul tour
Istanbul's strategic location between Europe and Asia means the city has been prime real estate throughout the course of history. Beginning in the 15th century, Muslim Ottoman rulers staked their claim to Istanbul by building splendid palaces dedicated to worship, knowledge, and personal pleasures. But the most magnificent and best-known place in Istanbul started out with the Christians.
The "Church of the Holy Wisdom" was too pretty to tear down when the Ottomans ended the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453, so they just dabbled with the design, adding their minbars and mihrabs (pulpits and wall niches pointing to Mecca) and replacing any Christian art with appropriate Muslim ornamentation. Or they just covered it up.
Hagia Sophia's massive dome is an unrivaled masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, part of Emperor Justinian's in 532 A.D. to create what was the largest place of worship on earth. And even though it changed flags, Hagia Sophia kept the title for another 67 years, until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.
Step inside and look straight up the Hagia Sophia's golden mosaics are rivaled only by those in Ravenna's basilicas and mausoleums. But they were hidden by plaster for centuries, until secular Turkey's first president ordered it stripped off in the 1930s. It was an act of holy wisdom.
Another wise move
Mustafa Ataturk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, knew the Hagia Sophia was one of Istanbul's greatest treasures. But it was also one of its most divisive, too a never-healing sore spot between Christians and Muslims in Turkey and throughout the world. In 1935, Ataturk declared that Hagia Sophia would no longer be a place of worship, but instead it would be a museum for the entire world to admire.
Please proceed outside of the Cruise Terminal to the coach parking lot and look for our tour representative with the displayed logo sign. Call the operator once you are at the designated meeting point.
Please dress conservatively. No exposed shoulders or knees in mosques. The Grand Bazaar, one of the most colorful sites of Istanbul, is where you'll have the chance to experience Turkish weaving arts and a carpet presentation. Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays. Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays and during religious festivals on the following dates of September 24 - 27, 2015, July 05 - 07, 2016, and September 12 - 15, 2016. Blue Mosque is closed until 3 pm on Fridays. St. Sophia is closed on Mondays between September - June.
Due to the nature of this tour, it is not recommend for travelers using walkers or wheelchairs. Participants must be able to walk approximately 3 miles over uneven and cobblestone surfaces, inclines and 40 to 60 steps.
Cultural, Full Day, Shopping, Walking Tour
English, German, Spanish, French, Italian
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated strenuous. Travelers must consider their physical fitness level and medical history when determining whether this tour is appropriate. Travelers with pre-existing neck, back, knee and/or shoulder injuries, cardiac conditions, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, other heart or respiratory conditions or any other medical condition must take particular caution when selecting a tour categorized as "strenuous". If you have concerns, you must consult with your personal physician before engaging in any activity that may be too strenuous for you.
Suitable for all ages.
Special Medical Restriction
This tour is not recommended for travelers with walking difficulties or who cannot manage steps. There is no maximum age restriction, but we ask travelers to be aware of their physical fitness, limitations and understand this activity is rated strenuous.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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