Rewind to Istanbul’s days as Constantinople on an 8-hour tour of the city’s Byzantine churches and monasteries. With a guide, explore the Christian sanctuaries built during the Byzantine Empire. See the glittering mosaics and frescoes of Chora Church — now Kariye Museum — and view the church-turned-mosque sites of Pantocrator and Pammakaristos. Explore palatial ruins and more as your guide brings them to life with historical commentary. Lunch at a restaurant is included and numbers are limited to 15 for a personal experience.
Begin your small-group tour with a pickup from your centrally located Istanbul hotel. Aboard your air-conditioned minivan, learn about Istanbul when it was Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.Stop at the Sarachane district on the city’s European side to stroll around the ruins of the 6th-century St Polyeuktos church, once one of Constantinople’s most significant Christian places of worship. Admire its carved remnants, and then make your way to the 12th-century Church of the Pantocrator, another important Constantinople landmark. View this former monastery church, now a mosque, and its age-old cistern, as you hear about its history.Continue to Pammakaristos Church, now converted into the Fethiye Mosque. The 12th-century place of worship is home to a glorious collection of Byzantine mosaics in its funerary chapel. Visit the ruined Monastery Chapel of St John the Forerunner, Istanbul’s oldest remaining church, and then enjoy a 2-course lunch at a local restaurant. Dishes often change, but typically the meal consists of soup or salad to start, followed by a meat dish with eggplant.Chora Church, or the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, is next, so head inside to see some more of Istanbul’s exquisite mosaics and frescoes. Admire intricately created pieces that depict the life of Christ and represent the pinnacle of Byzantine art at that time.Stroll around Tekfur Palace (Palace of the Porphyrogenitus), an Imperial residence that was used until an Ottoman conquest in the 15th century. See the façade, arches and courtyards as your guide recounts how the palace once boasted vast gardens, dungeons and houses. Finally, finish your tour with a hotel drop-off.