Meeting at the hotel
Special access to the listed venues
Istanbul, or Byzantium as it was called at the time, was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for more than 1000 years. The city was known with many different names such as Nova Roma (New Rome), Augusta Antonina, Constantinople and so on. Founded in 330 AD by Constantine the Great, Byzantium became one of the largest and richest cities in the world, and remained so until the 15th century. The Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire as it has come to be known, built countless churches, palaces, infrastructure buildings, monastic complexes, columns, and other structures in and around Istanbul throughout history. The city was the center of trade, pilgrimage, education, trade, and diplomacy for many centuries under this empire.
Our “The Rise of the Byzantium” tour highlights not only Constantinople’s monumental architectural legacy, but also its ancient water systems, everyday life, public spaces (forums), celebrations, protests, religious life, as well as the palace life. On this special day, participants also learn about the colorful cultural landscape of the Byzantine Empire, just like their famous mosaics made from hundreds of different stones.
Mystic world of ancient cisterns: There’s something almost mystical about entering the underground world of the historic cisterns that hide underneath the city. Unlike the world above-ground, these grand ruins are dressed in a deep silence that embraces visitors and very quietly tell them the tale of their past grandeur. It is estimated that there have been more than 200 underground cisterns in Istanbul and a few are open to visitors. You get to choose between two largest and most famous ones: Basilica Cistern, (Yerebatan Sarnıcı in Turkish) or Theodosius Cistern (Şerefiye Sarnıcı)
Byzantine Churches converted into mosques: After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 a great number of Byzantine churches were converted into mosques and they still function as mosques. In the scope of this tour, we will see several of them, which are free, underrated, and contain the architectural features of both Christian and Islamic architecture.
Ancient Forums of the Byzantium: Former Forum of Theodosius (Beyazıt Square), and former Forum of Constantine (Çemberlitaş) are the two historical sights that used to occupy the center of public life in Byzantium. They continue to be lively public squares of Istanbul.
Column of Constantine: Erected in 330 AD by Constantine I in order to commemorate the declaration of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire, this column is 35 m long and is made from several porphyry blocks, only found in Egypt.
Hippodrome: 4th century Hippodrome was the center of chariot racing as well as celebrations, protests, festivals, and so on. It was also a symbol of imperial power, decorated with large monuments brought from all over the empire that are still surviving. According to many historians, with its capacity for 40,000 people, Hippodrome was the center of urban life.
Little Hagia Sophia: The original name of Little Hagia Sophia was “The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus” which was dedicated to two young saints: St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. This church, now converted to a mosque, was built in 536 CE by Justinian I and remains one of the most interesting examples of “church-mosques.”
Important Note: Some venues listed above will be seen from the exterior.