Bare Bones | Insiders' Istanbul
Get under the skin of Istanbul with this in-depth trip through its many diverse ages and civilisations. The remnants of the Byzantines; the power of the East Roman Empire; the mysticism of the Sufis; the treasures of the Orthodox Church – Istanbul is home to them all and more, with each element forming a highlight on our tour. Along with abundant opportunities to travel and dine like a local, this stimulating introduction includes two days following the perimeter of Constantinople’s ancient walls; mighty constructions that kept the city safe for 1,000 years. All the while, our expert Guide Lecturer will be at your side to share the best of Istanbul’s stirring stories. We also have plenty of free time for more personal Turkish encounters, allowing us to delve in to other parts of the city at our own pace.
- Great Cities
- Historic Churches
- Just One Hotel
Our insider adventure begins this afternoon. After settling in to our city hotel, we come together for an informative introduction with our group and expert guide. Following this, our time is free to enjoy Istanbul’s evening attractions – its fresh cuisine being a highlight.
This morning we explore the metro system, making our way to Kazlıçeşme in the European quarter. Here begins our first enjoyable walk near the Sea of Marmara, following the line of the city’s Theodosian Walls. Along the way we stop to admire sights such as the Yedikule Fortress, a former Ottoman stronghold, and the imposing Silivri Gate. In the afternoon, we continue to the church of Zoodochos Pege, a sacred site for Greek Orthodox pilgrims. We also enter the Panorama 1453 Museum, an innovative 3D attraction that aims to bring the Ottoman conquest to life. A scenic tram ride takes us back to the area near our hotel, for a second free evening of unguided discoveries.
By tram and funicular we visit Galata, a neighbourhood on the shores of the Golden Horn waterway. Here we find the Tower – a Medieval Genoese construction with panoramic views across the city. Our next stop is the Whirling Dervish Lodge, a unique museum of Ottoman Sufism that tells all about the order and its ecstatic religious dances. To end the morning we also stop at the Crimea Memorial Church, a building commissioned in honour of the British dead in Crimea. The rest of the day is free for us to spend however we wish: unwind in a Turkish bath, stroll through the glorious bustle of the Grand Bazaar, or perhaps even enter the city’s Archaeological Museums, which house over one million precious artefacts between them.
We take the tram to Laleli. Here we also find the historic complex of Faith Mosque and the former Byzantine Aspar cistern. The Imperial Mosque of Selimiye is our last morning stop. Later we visit Mary of the Mongols, the only Byzantine church of Constantinople not converted to a mosque, despite repeated efforts from the sultans. Our next stop is the Fener Patriarchate, headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church since 1586. We finish at St Stephen’s, a Bulgarian church famed for its cast iron features.
For our final full day in Istanbul we return to the Theodosian Walls. Here, explorations of a different section lead us to the mighty Topkapı Gate, the hilltop Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, and the Medieval Church of St Saviour in Chora, where some of the city’s oldest and finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes can be seen. We break for an independent lunch in this historic area, then return to the city walls, where we view the façade of the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, the city’s best-preserved Byzantine palace. We end the guided part of our day at the nearby Ottoman tombs.
Today we take our time for a late morning departure: lie in, enjoy a last Turkish breakfast, or head out on a final stroll through the neighbourhood. We make our return journeys home in the early afternoon.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - Breakfast only
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
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