Journey to exotic Istanbul, the only major world city to straddle the continents of Asia and Europe. Discover great architectural treasures reflecting the power of the Ottoman Empire while witnessing the glory of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and more.
- It's Included:
- Accommodations: for 4 nights in Istanbul at the unrated Wyndham Istanbul Old City Hotel or similar
- 5 meals: 4 breakfasts and 1 lunch
- Included tours: Topkapi, Blue Mosque, & Hippodrome; Grand Bazaar; Istiklal Street; Hagia Sophia & Suleymaniye Mosque, Spice Market
- Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
- Now included for 2015:
- Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
Say farewell to your fellow travelers on Eastern Europe to the Black Sea and fly from Bucharest, Romania, to Istanbul, Turkey today. Then, gather for an orientation walk in the neighborhood of your hotel, followed by lunch on your own. Tonight, join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink. Then enjoy dinner on your own at one of Istanbul's many fine restaurants.
Visit Topkapi Palace: The world's oldest and largest surviving palace, one of the world's richest museums, and a masterpiece of Turkish architecture. Then discover the Roman Hippodrome and the Sultan Ahmet Mosque—better known as the "Blue Mosque" due to its interior's dazzling tile work. Following an included lunch at a local restaurant, you'll explore the thriving Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest indoor markets in the world, which dates back more than 600 years.
After your time at the Grand Bazaar, you'll enjoy a guided walking tour that brings you to Istiklal Street, a bustling pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops, cafes, theaters, cafes, galleries, and more. Long an epicenter of commerce and entertainment, Istiklal Street has benefited from an extensive renovation project that beautifully restored its broad streets, historic architecture, and streetcar system to their original splendor. During your tour you will visit what the locals refer to simply as "The Tunnel"—the second-oldest subway station in the world, which was opened in 1875. You'll also have an opportunity to see the remarkable artistic displays of fresh seafood and experience the enthusiastic bargaining that takes place at the neighborhood's famous Fish Market.
Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own in the city's Galata district before retiring to your hotel.
Begin your day with a visit to the imperial Suleymaniye Mosque, which was built in the mid-16th century. One of Istanbul's most iconic structures, it features a broad central dome surrounded by smaller domes, half domes, and tall, narrow minarets. You'll then see the Hagia Sophia, a building that has been both a church and a mosque over the course of its nearly 1,500-year history. It is the single most famous example of a Byzantine structure, and contains breathtaking mosaics and frescoes. Before enjoying lunch on your own, you'll attend a Turkish carpet-weaving demonstration and learn about this ancient, intricate local art form.
This afternoon, discover the roots of local cuisine during a guided trip to the Spice Market—which is second only to the Grand Bazaar in size and scope. While spice vendors are still active here, you'll see a variety of other wares as well.
Tonight, enjoy an evening at leisure to make your own discoveries in Istanbul, perhaps enjoying local specialties such as büryan kebap or perde pilav.
Enjoy a full day to explore Istanbul on your own. Consider returning to discover more treasures at the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Market. Or visit some of the many shops and restaurants of Taksim Square—the central hub of present-day Istanbul. Further enrich your perspective on contemporary Istanbul and Turkish culture with a visit the Istanbul Modern, a new museum at dockside of the Bosporus. The museum is dedicated to an awareness of traditional and modern Turkish art, as well as a desire to integrate with the international art world.
Or join us for an optional, all-day East Meets West tour, featuring Dolmabahce Palace, a cruise on the Bosporous, lunch at a local seafood restaurant, and an enlightening museum visit.
Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.