The Imperial Tour will make you discover the must-see monuments of Istanbul, where the affascinating history of this city has been written. The tour takes place in the Sultanahmet district, the peninsula hanging between Europe and Asia where over two thousand years Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans built their empires. We will stroll around the ancient part of the city, the site of former Constantinople, an historic area selected as a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO. We will also gain an insight of Istanbul’s daily life, discovering some aspects of the city which tourists normally don’t get to see. In an unforgettable day, we will learn a lot about the history, culture and traditions of ancient and present-day Istanbul.
- Blue Mosque (cannot be visited on Fridays before 3 p.m.)
- Topkapi Palace (closed on Tuesdays)
- Hagia Sophia Museum (closed on Mondays)
- Basilica Cistern
- Grand Bazaar (closed on Sundays)
Duration: 6 h approx.
Included: guide service
Not included: entrance fees, transport, lunch
The Hippodrome was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire.
Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı with a few fragments of the original structure surviving: the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius and the German Fountain.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultanahmet Camii) is a historical mosque of Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire (from 1453 to 1923). The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.
It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.
Visiting hours: 9 – sunset. Closed during praying time
The Topkapı Palace is a large palace that was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign. As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a major tourist attraction and contains important holy relics of the Muslim world including the Prophet Muhammed’s cloak and sword. The Topkapı Palace is among the monuments contained within the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Criterion IV of the UNESCO’s Declaration describes it as “the best example[s] of ensembles of palaces […] of the Ottoman period.”
Visiting hours: April – October 9-19; November – May 9-17. Closed on Tuesdays
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453 it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusaders’ established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29th May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1st February 1935.
The Church was dedicated to the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, its dedication feast taking place on 25 December, the anniversary of the Birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Although it is sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia (as though it were named after Saint Sophia), sophia is the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom – the full name in Greek being Ναός τῆς Ἁγίας τοῦ Θεοῦ Σοφίας, “Church of the Holy Wisdom of God”.
Visiting hours: November – May 9-17; June – October 9-19.30. Closed on Mondays
The name of this extraordinary underground monument is derived from a former Roman Basilica which was located here in the 3rd and 4th century.
In order to provide the city with a sufficient water reserve, the emperor Justinian converted the basilica into a huge cistern for the construction of which recycled materials from former buildings were used. That explains the hetherogenity of the 336 columns which sustain the structure: most of them are of Ionic and Corinthian order, some in Doric order and a few not decorated at all.
The building resembles more a palace than a cistern as its evocative Turkish name, “Submerged Palace” (Yerebatan Sarayı), testifies. The twilight, the fresh air, the music and the maze of columns reflected in the water create a magic atmosphere. In the north-western wing of the building you can admire two amazing columns featuring at their bases two huge heads of Medusa, the mythological figure with the petrifying sight.
Visiting hours: April – September 9 – 18:30; October – March 9 – 17:30
The Grand Bazaar (Turkish Kapalıçarşı, meaning “Covered Bazaar”) of Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.
It was built in 1461 by order of Sultan Mehmet II. Between the XVI and XVIII century, several fires and earthquakes damaged the structure which was repeatedely restored. The current building is deeply affected by the restoration works which underwent in the XX century.
Spanning over 30 hectars, it comprises 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
Visiting hours: 8.30 – 19; closed on Sundays