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Istanbul: The Capital of Empires

Constantinople and Istanbul, two names for one city, is the capital of the mighty Byzantine and Ottoman empires, a city where East meets West, and sits astride two continents, Europe and Asia. The shores of Istanbul are lapped by the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, and its monuments are ranged over seven hills. Minarets and domes dominate the famous skyline and a stroll through the streets reveals the city's diverse and magnificent heritage. Hagia Sophia, the great cathedral of Byzantium with magnificent marbles and mosaics, vies with Ottoman mosques clad in beautiful Iznik tiles. The Topkapi palace: luxurious residence of the sultans, elegant fountains, bathhouses, and bustling covered markets. Every visit to Istanbul is a pleasure, for it is one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

Your Tour Includes

  • Return economy flights from London
  • 5 nights bed and breakfast at the Boutique Eresin Hotel, Istanbul
  • Transfers and excursions in Turkey by private coach
  • 2 lunches and 3 dinners
  • Services of your expert lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
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Itinerary

Fly from London to Istanbul and transfer to our hotel. Before dinner there is time for a short stroll around the Hippodrome, once Constantinople's great arena for chariot races and other public entertainment.

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Hippodrome

We will spend the day exploring the Byzantine monuments, beginning with the majestic 6C cathedral of Haghia Sophia, a remarkable testament to Byzantine architectural geometry. Continuing to the Yerebetan Saray, an extraordinary underground cistern with a forest of over 300 columns.

In the afternoon, we see Mosaic Museum which houses original ornamental pavements from the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors, then visit the little church of St. Saviour in Chora (subject to opening), a jewelhouse of late Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Included Highlights

Haghia Sophia

We begin our exploration of the Ottoman city with a morning visit to the Topkapı Palace, opulent residence of the Ottoman sultans and political centre of the empire. We see the magnificent collection of Chinese porcelain and Ottoman textiles as well as the Imperial Treasury with its wealth of gold and jewels. This afternoon, we visit the Süleymaniye mosque complex, masterpiece of the great Ottoman architect Sinan, followed by a walk through the Covered Bazaar. There is some free time for independent exploration and shopping.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Covered Bazaar

Venture on a morning private boat trip along the Bosphorus, the straits separating Europe and Asia, past castles and ornate Ottoman mansions and palaces. We visit the Sadberk Hanım museum, which displays both a fine archaeological collection spanning the Anatolian Neolithic to Byzantium and a magnificent range of Ottoman textiles, ceramics, calligraphy and metalwork. After lunch by the Bosphorus, we return to the Golden Horn and see the mosque of Rüstem Pasha, Süleyman the Magnificent's grand vizier, its interior covered from floor to ceiling in high quality Iznik tiles. Finally, we walk through the colourful Spice Market and have some free time to stroll around the bustling market area.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Included Highlights

Bosphorus

This morning we visit the Dolmabahce Palace to see the opulent state rooms and ostentatious ceremonial hall. Its extravagant 4.5 ton chandelier was a present from Queen Victoria to the sultan. Return to the Hippodrome area to see the mosque of Sultanahmet, also known as the 'Blue Mosque', unique in Turkey with its 6 elegant minarets and the Palace of Ibrahim Pasha, another grand vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent, which now houses the excellent Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. Free afternoon to explore independently.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Dolmabahce Palace Blue Mosque

Drive beside the majestic Land Walls of Constantinople to Yedikule, the 'Fortress of the Seven Towers', built by Mehmet the Conqueror and used as a notorious prison. The Ottoman fortress contains a section of the Byzantine walls which includes the famous Golden Gate. Drive across the Golden Horn and walk from Taksim Square to the Pera Palas hotel along the former Grande Rue de Pera, the height of fashion among 19th century European residents and still lined with the imposing façades of their former embassies. Visit the Pera Museum, a private museum which houses an interesting collection of Orientalist paintings. There is some free time before our transfer to the airport for the return flight to London.

Includes Breakfast

Included Highlights

Golden Gate of Constantinople

Please note that it is necessary to have a good level of fitness as there will be at times extensive walking and inevitably some long periods of standing.

Accommodation

You will be spending 5 nights at the Boutique Eresin Hotel, Istanbul.