Istanbul at New Year
Founded as Byzantium, famed as Constantinople, the city we know today as Istanbul straddles two continents and has played a pivotal role in world history. When the modern republic of Turkey came into being in the 1920s, Istanbul lost its status as imperial city and capital. But it remains one of the world’s most delightful, complex and vibrant metropoli, its present day streets, waterfronts and bazaars both welcoming and mysterious; its people fully modern yet deeply aware of their city’s rich history. For people in western Europe, Istanbul has long represented ‘the Orient’.
This tour is led by Terry Richardson, classical historian, writer and journalist and author of the Rough Guide to Istanbul. This is an ideal opportunity to explore the iconic monuments of historic Sultanahmet at a quiet time of year and to discover some of the hidden corners and back street life of other quarters of this great city.
Deposit: £500 Single supplement: £560
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Day 1 - London - Istanbul
We fly from London to Istanbul and transfer to our hotel.
|Hotel||Eresin Sultanahmet Hotel|
Day 2 - Istanbul
A day exploring Byzantine Constantinople: we start with a visit to the great basilica of Haghia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, built by Justinian in the early sixth century. Justinian’s contemporary, the historian and writer Procopius (who was not a fan of the emperor) wrote that it was ‘distinguished by indescribable beauty, excelling both in its size, and in the harmony of its measures…magnificent and elegant, full of light and sunshine’. Mehmet the Conqueror turned the great church into the city’s imperial mosque. Today it is a museum. Close by we will also see Haghia Eirene, the Church of the Holy Peace, built during the same period as its neighbour. We then descend into the Yerebatan Sarayı, a cavernous and palatial Byzantine underground water cistern which supplied the imperial palaces until they fell into ruin. Our final visit of the day is to the Archaeological Museum, built by the sultans in the late 19th century to house marvellous collections of artefacts from across the Ottoman Empire.
Day 3 - Topkapı Palace - Üsküdar
Today we view the grandeur and ambition of the Ottoman rulers at the vast and rambling Topkapı Palace. The palace was also home of the imperial harem, which once housed over 1000 women – an enduring symbol of Ottoman power and mystique. Now a museum, Topkapı is a veritable treasure-house of architecture and applied arts. In the afternoon we take the ferry to Üsküdar situated on the Asian side of Istanbul fronting the Bosphorus Strait. Üsküdar is a conservative and devout part of the city and we spend some time here taking in the atmosphere and visiting some of its splendid Ottoman mosques.
Day 4 -
We spend the morning viewing the great walls of the city built by Theodosius II in the early 5th century. Built into the line of the walls is the ruined Palace of Porphyrogenitus, where some of the last Byzantine emperors chose to live. Close by is Kariye Camii, formerly the church of St Saviour in Chora, notable for its breath-taking collection of frescoes and mosaics. In the afternoon we walk along what remains of the Hippodrome – its soaring seating once accommodated tens of thousands of spectators. We cannot leave this part of the city without visiting the mosque of Sultan Ahmet (the Blue Mosque) with its high dome and semi domes, multiple minarets and beautiful interior richly blue with the finest tiles from the imperial tile makers of Iznik.
Day 5 - Istanbul
Our journey begins atop the city’s third hill at the sublime Suleymaniye Mosque complex, masterpiece of the Ottoman Empire’s most famous architect, Sinan. We then walk down to the Ottoman era Spice Bazaar and enjoy the scents and tastes of this vibrant market. Afterwards we cross the Galata Bridge to the ‘European’ side of the city and visit the Pera Museum. This is a privately owned museum exhibiting historic artefacts, traditional arts and important works by European artists who were inspired by Ottoman culture. It is here that the most famous painting in Turkish art history ‘The Tortoise Trainer’ is on display.
We end the day at the Galata Mevlevi Lodge, one of the oldest tekkes in Istanbul, where the adherents of Sufism, practised their sema (whirling ceremony). This 15th century building was converted into a museum and remains an important corner store of Sufi culture. A treasure trove of artefacts are on display at the museum, including musical instruments, calligraphy, Mevlevi clothing and accessories.
Day 6 - Istanbul - London
We transfer to the airport for our flights home.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Professional Tour Manager
- Meals as per the itinerary, tea or coffee with dinner
- Entries to all sites as per the itinerary
- All taxes & gratuities
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single supplement||Availability|
|28 December 2021||AINY211228||28 December 2021 (Tuesday)||2 January 2022 (Sunday)||Terry Richardson||£2,945