At 9:00am, you will meet your professional guide holding a name sign outside of the baggage claim area at the airport or in your hotel lobby for your full day of private sightseeing. NOTE: This is the perfect tour for a long layover on your way to an onward destination. An introduction to Istanbul!
Your private tour of Istanbul starts with a visit to the Hippodrome, which was one of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire. You will take a short walk to the Blue Mosque, completed in 1616, it is a triumph of harmony, proportion and elegance. The mosque was a part of a complex also including, tombs, fountains, kitchens, and a bath. Its colourful 260 windows enables the sunlight to reach inside. This makes the interior unusually light. The blue Iznik Tiles covering the walls have given the mosque its popular name, Blue Mosque.
Next, you will visit the magnificient Topkapi Palace, the residence of the sultans for almost three centuries. It is located on the promontory jutting out between the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. This setting provides a magnificent view. The construction of the Topkapı Palace was completed between 1465 and 1478. Being the imperial residence of the sultan, his court and harem, the palace was also the seat of government for the Ottoman Empire. 4,000 people lived in the Palace. In the Treasury section, you will see breathtaking displays, including the 7th largest diamond in the world, the “Spoonmaker’s Diamond”.
Lunch recommended at Konyali Restaurant located in the courtyard of the Ottoman Topkapi Palace overlooking the Marmara Sea and the palace walls, serving local Ottoman cuisine in a historic Ottoman setting.
After your lunch, you will visit St. Sophia, the church of the Divine Wisdom. The architectural marvel of all time. It was built during Emperor Justinian reign ( AD 537 ) and it remained the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II who ordered to convert Hagia Sophia into a Mosque. In 1934, Atatürk proclaimed it a museum. The walls of this beautiful piece of architecture are decorated with gorgeous mosaics.
Last, visit the Grand Bazaar, the largest and oldest covered Bazaar in Turkey with more than 4,000 shops. A variety of handicrafts, carpets, rare jewels and souvenirs all sold in small shops next to each other. The merchants are selling everything from antiques, home wares, books, copper ware, ceramics, gold and inexpensive souvenirs. Venture into the hidden courtyards or hans, lookout for marble fountains and ornate kiosks. Streets are named according to the trades and the most oriental atmosphere in Istanbul is found in the bazaar.
At the end of your visits, you will return to the airport or your hotel.