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Imagine a city that was once the capital of two of the most powerful empires in the world’s history. A city that is rich in historical treasures and whose diverse architecture tells stories of its different occupants over the centuries…
Our two-day Byzantine & Ottoman architecture tour of Istanbul will explore such a city. Go beyond Istanbul’s daily life as you delve deeper into this ancient capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Explore magnificent ruins and buildings from both eras as their architecture takes you back in time and tells you of when Istanbul was once Constantinople.
History; loads of history and learning as you explore what life was like in the Byzantine and Ottoman versions of Istanbul.
On the first day of the tour, visit incredible pieces of Ottoman architecture, including the Topkapi Palace Museum, Suleymaniye Mosque and Complex, the Spice Bazaar, Galata Bridge, Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque and Complex, Tophane Fountain, Tophane Pavilion (Kosk), and the Tophane-I Amire.
Lunch will be served at an exquisite local fish restaurant. You will also get the chance to enjoy an authentic Turkish nargile experience if interested.
On the second day, tour fine examples of Byzantine architecture like the Valens Aqueduct Bridge, Byzantine Churches, the Column of Constantine, the Hippodrome, and the Boukoleon Palace.
Istanbul is inspiring because it has its own code of architecture.
Istanbul served as the seat of the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in 1299 and lasted for almost seven centuries. The ruling families built many buildings in the city, including mosques, bazaars, and palaces that still stand to this date.
Istanbul also served as a melting pot for diverse cultures from various regions of the world during the Ottoman reign. Explore the Ottoman highlights and learn the stories and cultures of the inhabitants of Istanbul at that time.
The Topkapi Palace was built in 1461 following Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s order after his conquest of Istanbul. It used to be the private residence of the Ottoman Sultans for over 350 years and was later converted into a museum in 1924. The palace is easily one of the world’s richest museums and is widely considered one of Istanbul’s best sights.
Explore this magnificent oriental palace that houses some of the finest examples of Chinese porcelain, jewelry, bookbinding, and box craftsmanship. Visit the royal gardens as you marvel at this tremendous architectural accomplishment. Some breathtaking sections of the Palace include the Treasure, Baghdad Pavilion, the world-famous Harem, and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle and Holy Relics.
After a taste of the luxurious lives of Ottoman Sultans, we will proceed to one of the largest and finest mosque complexes in the city- Suleymaniye Mosque and Complex. The complex, decorating the city’s skyline, was built on one of the peninsula’s seven hills.
The spectacular mosque was built by Sinan, a famous Ottoman architect, between the years 1550-1557 in honor of the Kanuni Sultan Suleiman. Enjoy the outstanding colored tiles, antique columns, and stained-glass windows that decorate the mosque. Proceed to explore the vast complex that includes a mausoleum and tombs, a library, a public kitchen, Hamam, and four medreses.
We then proceed to a place of color and rich fragrance, the Spice Bazaar. This market was built in 1664 and is home to a wide variety of herbs and spices, dried fruits, Turkish delight, and so much more. Enjoy the sights and wonderful scents of this historical market, where you can shop for souvenirs to take back home.
Erected at the mouth of the Golden Horn, the bridge connects the Eminonu and Karakoy neighborhoods. The iconic Galata bridge dates back to the Justinian era and gives you breathtaking views of the city as you walk through it. The panoramic views of the city and its history make the bridge a great attraction.
Following a delicious lunch at Karakoy Lokantasi, which offers an exquisite Ottoman menu, we will continue with our second mosque complex of the day. The Kilic Ali Pasha Mosque and Complex include a charming mosque, a Hamam, a public fountain, and a religious school. The mosque’s interior is decorated with Iznik tiles that give it both a unique and breathtaking look. This mosque was built in 1580 by Mimar Sinan and had an interesting reason behind its building.
Next to the complex is a street lined with nargile cafes. If you are interested in an authentic nargile/shisha experience, a visit to one of the cafes will be facilitated.
Our next stop is a beautiful baroque style fountain, the Tophane Fountain. Built in 1732, this is the third-largest historical fountain in Istanbul.
This pavilion is one of the few pieces of architecture designed by a foreign architect, W.J Smith (British). Sultan Abdulmecid built the pavilion, and this visit will be from outside.
Our last visit of the first day will be one of the largest Ottoman armories, established in the 15th century. Today, the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts uses the building to exhibit temporary collections.
Centuries before the Ottomans came knocking, Istanbul was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire for over 1000 years. Back then, this magnificent city was known by different names; Augusta Antonina, Nova Roma (New Rome), and most famously, Constantinople (Constantine’s city) after the founder. Constantinople was founded in 330 CE, and today, you will explore the lives of its Byzantine occupants as told by the architecture from that era.
Our first visit will be a magnificent piece of Roman architecture, the Valens Aqueduct Bridge. Approximately 920m long, this aqueduct bridge was built from large ashlar blocks in 345-373 CE to bring water from Thrace to Constantinople. Finished during the reign of Valens 1, the aqueduct still functioned as late as the 18th century.
We then head to some very unique buildings, Byzantine churches. These churches are unique because they were later converted into mosques after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453. Marvel at this unusual yet breathtaking mix of Christian and Islamic architecture as you visit these ancient churches.
Another structure that speaks a lot of the rich history of Istanbul is the Column of Constantine. This 35-meter-long column was erected in 330 CE by the empire Constantine in honor of Constantinople’s declaration as to the seat of the Roman Empire. The majestic column decorates the streets of Istanbul and is made from porphyry blocks.
The 4th Century Hippodrome is another beautiful ancient structure that once entertained Constantinople. This was once the center of sports like chariot races, protests, celebrations, and festivals. Enjoy the surviving large monuments from all over the empire that decorate this magnificent Hippodrome.
Our last visit of the tour will be the Boukoleon Palace. This served as the summer palace of the Byzantine imperial family. The palace was abandoned in the 13th century when the capital of the Byzantine state moved to Blachernae. The ruins were destroyed during the highway and railway constructions in the late 19th century.
Like many others on the website, this tour is also open to last-minute bookings, but please note that we will need to make sure an expert guide is available for these two special days.