On the half-day tour, you will walk around the pair of distinctive Ottoman sites, Topkapı Palace and Little Hagia Sophia Mosque, learning about the former royal residence of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the local history, architecture and art. You will begin the tour at Topkapı Palace that used to be the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. Back in the days, inhabitants of the palace rarely had to venture out, and the palace functioned as an autonomous entity, as a city within a city. Built in the 15th century, Topkapı has been an important part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. The complex consists of 4 main courtyards, many smaller buildings and hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only several are accessible to the general public, including the Ottoman Imperial Harem and the treasury, also known as hazine. There, the Spoonmaker's Diamond and the Topkapı Dagger lie on display. You will see the museum collection that features Ottoman clothing, weapons, armor, miniatures, religious relics and illuminated manuscripts, including the Topkapı manuscript.
Then, your guide will take you to Little Hagia Sophia Mosque, an early Byzantine building that dates back to 527 AD. Also known as Küçük Ayasofya Camii, it used to be an Eastern Orthodox religious site in the times of Constantinople, bearing the name the Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus. Later, in the early 16th century, it was converted into a mosque during the period of Ottoman rule, and a madrasa, ornate portico and minaret were added to it. Since it was the first domed church, just preceding Hagia Sophia, you will learn why it is regarded as one of the most important buildings in the development of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul and visit its lovely courtyard that serves today as a shady tea garden.
Highlights: Ottoman Palace, Topkapı Palace, Little Hagia Sophia Mosque.Departure: daily. Includes: a local guide, hotel pick-up and drop-off, bus, entrance fee.