Byzantine Highlights of Istanbul
Duration: 4 1/4 hours
Tour Code: ist-001
Explore Istanbul's lesser-known but equally important sites, including the Chora Museum, the Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome and the Underground Cisterns.
Depart the pier for the drive to the Chora Museum, Istanbul's most important Byzantine monument after St. Sophia. The museum is dated between the 11th and 14th centuries, and is home to a splendid array of mosaics and frescoes that reflect the rebirth of Byzantine art.
Next, you will pass by the Hippodrome, which was originally built by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus in 203 AD and subsequently reconstructed and enlarged by Constantine the Great. Today, the only remains of the original building include the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine and the Constantine Columns.
Your next stop will be St. Sophia, or Hagia Sophia. This magnificent ancient Byzantine church is among the world's finest architectural works, and is known as the Eighth Wonder of the World by many historians. The largest church for many centuries, today St. Sophia is the world's fourth-largest church after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome and Milan's Duomo.
Your tour will conclude with a visit to the Underground Cistern, Istanbul's largest and the most magnificent covered cistern. Built during the reign of Constantine I, then repaired and enlarged during the reign of Justinian I, the Cistern supplied water to the palace complex located nearby.
After the tour, you will re-board your coach for the return drive to the pier. You may opt to return directly to the pier, or be dropped off at the Grand Bazaar and return to the pier via taxi at your own expense.
Please note: Guests are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes for this tour, which involves moderate walking with long periods of standing. The Underground Cistern is not wheelchair-accessible. The Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays and will be replaced with a panoramic drive along the Golden Horn and city walls. On Wednesdays the Chora Museum is closed and is replaced by the Archaeological Museum.