We start our exploration of İstanbul at the Byzantine city walls, which protected Constantinople against all invaders for 800 years. Next, we arrive at the Hippodrome, the great stadium that was the center of public life in the Byzantine period. Nearby looms the great dome of Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Divine Wisdom, built by the Emperor Justinian in the early 6th century. It remained a church until the Turkish conquest in 1453, and contains some of the world's finest Byzantine mosaics. Today, it is a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site.
Just across a park lies the famous Blue Mosque, so named because of the lavish tile decoration of its interior. It is the only mosque in İstanbul to have six minarets, and was built by Sultan Ahmet I in 1616. A short walk away stands Topkapı Palace, for many centuries the residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Our tour will take in an outstanding collection of Chinese and Persian celadon and jewelry, now housed in the vast imperial kitchens.
Our final stop will be the world-renowned Grand Bazaar, which is one of the world's largest covered markets, with more than three thousand shops. This is the ideal place to shop for Turkish carpets, kilims, textiles, ceramics, jewelry, and other traditional handicrafts.