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Approximately 5 Hours
Historic Areas of Istanbul
"With its strategic location on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul has been associated with major political, religious and artistic events for more than 2,000 years. Its masterpieces include the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque, all now under threat from population pressure, industrial pollution and uncontrolled urbanization."
Cross the Galata Bridge and travel into the heart of Byzantine Istanbul. Your first destination is the Blue Mosque -- a 17th-century marvel, built to rival and surpass the grandeur and beauty of nearby St Sophia. From the outside, it is a study of domes and minarets; inside, more than 20,000 shimmering blue Iznik tiles vie for the limelight with the 216 stained-glass windows.
Just a short walk away, you'll enter the awe-inspiring Topkapi Palace -- a huge walled complex overlooking the Bosphorus. This former Ottoman palace is now a museum containing an extraordinary collection of art, artifacts, jewels and a rich Treasury section including the Topkapi Diamond -- immortalized by James Bond, and of course by nature. Take in the breathtaking views of the Bosphorus Strait, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. You'll also walk through the Harem section -- the home of the Sultan. It offers an exceptional insight into how the Ottoman rulers lived. Enjoy some free time to browse on your own.
The Spice Market or Egyptian Bazaar was constructed in 1663 as a part of the adjacent Yeni Mosque complex, to generate funds for the upkeep of the mosque. This was an avant-garde concept at the time - light years ahead of the not-for-profit fundraising game. The Spice Market is the best place to purchase spices familiar and exotic, whose pungent aromas bear little resemblance to the supermarket variety, as well as fresh Turkish Delight, caviar and a fascinating array of teas before you return to the port.
Your tour concludes with the walk back to your vehicle, and a relaxing drive back to the port.
Please note: Expect dense traffic conditions in Istanbul. Modest attire is required; knees, shoulders and midriffs must be covered, and shoes must be removed to enter mosque(s). Shoe bags will be provided. Some sections in the palace may be temporarily under renovation and close to public.