Begin to explore Istanbul with a visit to the Blue Mosque. Istanbul’s monumental shrines celebrate many different faiths, and the Blue Mosque is probably one of the most famed masterpieces of Ottoman religious architecture. Its named for the Blue Iznik, the turquoise colored tiles made of quartz minerals that decorate the interior of the shrine.
The building is also unique for its six minarets, and was the preferred shrine for the Ottoman Sultans. Its massive dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district. Built by Mehmet Aga, the imperial architect, it was very controversial due to its six minarets, which were considered a sacrilege, as it rivaled the architecture of Mecca itself!
Continue 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. Given its age, the church’s vast galleries are in remarkable condition and the interiors are full of important frescoes and mosaics depicting holy subjects.
Visit one of Istanbul’s most unusual tourist attractions – the dramatic and beautiful Byzantine Underground Cistern. Built in the 6th century as a secure water reservoir for the city, it was laid out in 532 under the rule of Justinian. Don’t miss the columns resting on busts of Medusa’s Head that are believed to be a shrine to the water nymphs!
Continue to the Hippodrome, which was once the central focus of Constantinople (the Byzantine name of the city). Built by the Romans in the 3rd century AD, only fragments are left of this grand stadium that held 100,000 spectators. You will also see the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine.
Exeter Services: Vehicle, Guide and Driver (6-8 Hours)
Hotel: Pera Palace or Four Seasons Bosphorus