We begin our tour of the Sultanahmet district, the heart of Istanbul, at Hagia Sophia*. Built by the Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century AD and designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isodore of Miletus, The church is one of the marvels of world architecture. Converted into a mosque in 1453, it is not a museum. Its massive dome still dominates the skyline of old Istanbul. It is also famed for its mosaics, including glittering portraits of emperors and empresses and a poignant Virgin and Child. Next we visit the Blue Mosque which takes its name from the exquisite tiles adoring its emperor. Built by Sultan Ahmet I in the early 17th Century and designed by a pupil of Sinan, the greatest Ottoman architecs, it is the only imerial mosque with six minates. Its cpırtyard is especially grand. The Hippodrome the stadium of ancient Byzantium, held 100,000 spectators and featured objects from all corners of the empire. Of these, an Egyptian obelisk and bronze sculpture of three entwined serpents from Delphi survive. The Grand Bazaar was the commercial heart of the old city and its 4,000 shopst are full of treasures including carpets and kilims, silks, jewelry ceramics, icons and leather goods. Wandering through the Grand Bazaar, indulge in some shopping, Ottoman style.
(Afternoon tours also available on Tuesdays)