This morning, after meeting with your guide, you will set out on an overview tour that covers the highlights, including the most historic section of Istanbul, called Sultanahmet. First, you will visit the Hippodrome, which was once the central focus of Constantinople. Built by the Romans,, only fragments are left of what was once a grand stadium that held 100,000 spectators for public meeting and important events, including chariot races. Here in the Hippodrome, you will also see the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine.
Later you will pay a visit to the famous Hagia Sophia Church. Built in the 6th century, this church influenced architecture for centuries. Its original design was created as a mirror of the heavens. Take your time exploring the vast galleries and beautiful mosaics. Given its age, the church is in remarkable condition and the interiors are full of important frescoes and mosaics depicting holy subjects.
Next, you will step into the Blue Mosque, one of the most important temples of worship in the world. It is named for the blue Iznik tile work that decorates its interior and its dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district. It was built by Mehmet Aga, the imperial architect and was very controversial due to its six minarets, which many at that time believed was sacrilegious as it rivaled the architecture of Mecca itself!
Not far away, you will also visit the dramatic and beautiful Byzantine Underground Cistern, built in the 6th century as a secure water reservoir for the city. It is one of Istanbul’s most unusual tourist attractions! It was laid out in 532 under the rule of Justinian.
You could spend the rest of the afternoon at the famous Covered Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, offering an almost endless selection of Turkish carpets, gold, jewelry and artworks offered in some 4,000 shops!