Istanbul - The Capital of Empires

Prices from £2,095


26 Sep 2020 - 1 Oct 2020
Duration: 5 nights
Ref: 20ISTA
With: Sue Rollin


Prices from £2,095
Single Supplement: £295
Deposit: £200

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Constantinople and Istanbul, two names for one city, capital of the mighty Byzantine and Ottoman empires, a city where East meets West, 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, 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.


"I love sitting in Sultanahmet park and looking around: locals feeding the pigeons, tourists contemplating the Egyptian obelisk, the magnificent dome of Haghia Sophia, the Ottoman Palace of Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha, the six elegant minarets of the Blue Mosque - history of a great city at a glance."

Sue Rollin specialises in the ancient and Islamic Middle East and Mediterranean. An archaeologist and linguist by training, she lectures for the Arts Society and the Art Fund and has led study trips in Spain, Sicily, Morocco, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Sue speaks Spanish, Italian, French and German and works regularly as an interpreter for international organisations. She is co-author of two travel guides: the ‘Blue Guide to Jordan’ and ‘Istanbul: A Traveller’s Guide’.

DAY 1:

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Istanbul. Transfer by private coach to our five star hotel. Before a group dinner, we take a short stroll around the Hippodrome, once Constantinople's great arena for chariot races and other public entertainment.

DAY 2:

A day spent exploring the Byzantine monuments, beginning with the majestic 6th century cathedral of Hagia Sophia, a remarkable testament to Byzantine architectural geometry. Continue to the Yerebetan Sarayi, an extraordinary underground cistern with a forest of over 300 columns. In the afternoon, we visit the Mosaic Museum which houses original ornamental pavements from the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors, we then visit the little church of St. Saviour in Chora, a jewel of a house with late Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.

DAY 3:

We begin our exploration of the Ottoman city with a morning visit to the Topkapi 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. Afternoon visit to the Süleymaniye mosque complex, masterpiece of the great Ottoman architect Sinan, followed by a walk through the Covered Bazaar. Afterwards there will be some free time for independent exploration of Istanbul.

DAY 4:

A special treat this morning will be a private boat trip along the Bosphorus, the straits separating Europe and Asia, past castles and ornate Ottoman mansions and palaces. We visit the Sadberk Hanim 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. The interior of the building is covered from floor to ceiling in high-quality Iznik tiles. Finally, we walk through the colourful Spice Market, with some time to stroll around the bustling market area.

DAY 5:

Morning visit to the Dolmabahce Palace to see the opulent state rooms and ostentatious ceremonial hall. The palace’s 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 six elegant minarets. Visit the Palace of Ibrahim Pasha, another grand vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent, which now houses the excellent Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. The rest of the afternoon is yours for further exploration or relaxation. In the evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together.

DAY 6:

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. Our final visit will be to the Pera Museum, a private museum which houses an interesting collection of Orientalist painting. In the afternoon we transfer to the airport for our late afternoon return flight to London Heathrow.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

Please note that this tour involves a fair amount of walking across uneven ground. You must be fit and surefooted to make the most of this tour. If you would like to find out more about the physical ‘difficulty level’ of the tour, please ring or email us.


Twin/double share: £2095 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £295
Price of the tour without flights: £1895 per person
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Return flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Istanbul
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Five nights’ bed and breakfast in a locally-rated five-star hotel
  • 3 dinners, 2 lunches
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Eresin Hotel Sultanahmet, Istanbul

The five star Eresin Hotel Sultanahmet is located near the main sites in Istanbul, including the Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace and is close to the Sea of Marmara. The hotel displays many historic artefacts from mosaics to ceramics and sections of ancient column decorate the bar area. The hotel features a restaurant and rooftop terrace with city views. Rooms are fully equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, a safe, TV, hairdryer, minibar, air-conditioning.