Enjoy skip-the-line access to the Hagia Sophia and visit the Grand Bazaar on this half-day Istanbul tour with an expert guide. Beat the entrance lines at the UNESCO-listed Hagia Sophia and behold its dome and mosaics as you uncover its past as a Christian basilica and mosque. Then, explore another Istanbul heavyweight, the Grand Bazaar. Get your bearings and haggling tips from your guide, and shop around its 4,000 and more gold, rug, ceramics, antique and souvenir stalls. Receive personalized attention from a guide on this small-group tour, limited to 15 people maximum.
Meet your guide near the Hagia Sophia and walk to the main entrance. As you stroll, get the lowdown on Istanbul’s history, when as Constantinople, it served as a Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman imperial capital.
Pause to admire the Hagia’s exterior, and hear more about the building's illustrious past. Constructed in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, this UNESCO-listed edifice was the greatest church in Christendom until it was converted into a mosque in 1453 and then became a museum in 1935.
Bypass the main entrance lines and enjoy fast-track admission into the spectacular interior. Gaze dumbstruck at the main dome that soars over the vast nave and the gold Byzantine mosaics covering the walls. Then, tour the main treasures, including the 9th-century mosaic of the Virgin and Child, as your guide explains how the building is regarded by many art historians as the eighth wonder of the world.
Next, stroll through the city's bustling streets to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s main souk and one of the world’s biggest covered markets, with more than 4,000 stalls. Listen to historical nuggets from your guide on route, including how the market has been an important trading center since the 15th century.
Be introduced to the maze-like lanes, bedestens (domed halls) and hans (courtyards) by your guide to help avoid getting lost, and soak up the color and seeming chaos as you pass stands selling gold, jewelry, antiques, rugs and more. Learn haggling tips and enjoy time to browse and buy, perhaps bagging bargains and souvenirs.
Your tour finishes at the bazaar, so you can continue shopping or return to your hotel under your own steam.
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Near the Hagia Sophia, central Istanbul
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