Meet your guide in around 1pm at your central Istanbul hotel and set-off on your imperial Istanbul half-day tour. Head to Hagia Sophia aboard an air-conditioned minivan. Along the way enjoy commentary from your guide that explains the rich history of Istanbul. Learn about four empires who sculpted the city’s architecture and culture and include the Roman empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922).
Arrive at Hagia Sophia, constructed in the 6th century as a Greek Orthodox church when Istanbul was known as Constantinople. Built by the Roman Emperor Justinian, learn how this basilica reigned as the largest in the Christian world before the Ottoman empire captured and converted it into an imperial mosque. A museum since the early 20th century, walk through its impressive dome structure and observe beautiful Byzantine mosaics. Listen as your guide explains the intricate history of the second-most visited museum in Turkey.
Nearby, cruise underground to the Basilica Cistern which was used as a water filtration system by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. Marvel at the immense size of the largest of hundreds of old cisterns in Istanbul. Gain insight into the importance of this cistern as your guide explains how it served the Great Palace of Constantinople.
Return to the surface and make your way to the oldest and largest canopied markets in the world - the Grand Bazaar. Since the 15th century, when the Ottomans began their reign, this market has been a cultural and trade center for jewelry, pottery, spices, quality leather goods, and fine carpets. As you explore some of the 61 streets and 3,000 plus shops, stop to ogle local treasures and if you want haggle for a souvenir.
Once you leave the bustling market, follow your guide to your minivan and finish your tour with a transfer back to your hotel.
Please note: On Mondays, the Hagia Sophia is closed and will be swapped with Chora Museum, you may visit the Nakkas Cistern or Basilica Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar is closed on Sundays, so extra time will be allocated to the other two landmarks.