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Byzantine Istanbul Tour with the Hagia Sophia

Marvel at Byzantine architecture with an expert
From US$370 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
Hagia Sophia
Photos & Highlights
  • Travel through time as you experience Byzantine culture through the ages
  • Led by a scholar in Byzantine history and architecture
Tour Description
The Hagia Sophia is the gem of Istanbul’s Byzantine splendors. This architectural and artistic wonder reflects the essence of Istanbul through the ages, having served as a cathedral, mosque, and museum dedicated to both Christianity and Islam. This 3-hour introduction to Justinian Istanbul brings this architectural wonder to life, from Roman origins and the rise of the Ottoman Empire to today’s secular Istanbul. Together, we'll develop an appreciation for the city's rich, varied cultural history, and how this has not only informed this magnificent landmark, but the city's identity as well.

Please note: Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 2020. All visitors must wait in line to enter regardless of if they are visiting tourists or locals waiting to worship. This has lead to very long lines at most times of the day. If the line is particularly complicated, your guide may propose an alternative itinerary, however you will always have the choice to wait in line together.

"Our guide was very gracious, warm, knowledgeable and generous. She clearly loves sharing her cultural history with others, and her enthusiasm was contagious. She did especially well at putting everything into CONTEXT! We enjoyed her so much that we extended our tour with her into the afternoon, in order to have her guide us on a walk into the Grand Bazaar, the neighborhood with traditional hans, and the Spice Bazaar.”

This essential Istanbul tour begins outside the walls of the Hagia Sophia, walking amongst the 4th century ruins of the Roman empire. The ancient hippodrome, hidden cisterns, crypts and artifacts frame the backdrop of civilization during the rise of Constantinople. Masters of urban planning, it was here that the Romans laid the foundation for the rise of the Byzantine Empire.

For more on the origins of the city, try our Golden Horn Tour.

An Evolving Building For An Evolving City

Just beyond the ruins lies the magnificence of Hagia Sophia itself. Built by Constantine the Great in the sixth century, this was the largest church in the Roman empire, and held the title as the largest cathedral in the world for more than a century. Underneath Hagia Sophia’s impressive dome, discover Byzantine architecture at its finest, boasting rich mosaics of religious importance, remnants of the church’s transformation to a mosque in the 15th century, the Weeping Column, the Sultan’s Lounge, and the Omphalion, where Byzantine emperors were crowned. Touring this singular building will provide a deep appreciation of Istanbul’s vibrant history.

If you are interested in a deeper exploration of Ottoman architecture, we highly recommend Istanbul Architecture Tour.


Is there a dress code for your tours in Istanbul?
Yes, sites visited on this tour are considered holy places. Shoulders and knees must be covered. Dresses and shorts must be below knee level, and shoulders must be covered (zip-on jackets or scarves are acceptable). We recommend bringing along scarves or shawls to be able to cover those body parts.
These rules may seem unduly strict, but remember, you are a guest visiting sites that are regarded as a religious sanctuary.

Is this tour suitable for children?
This tour isn’t part of our official family program, however, we can assign a family friendly guide for family tours. Please indicate the ages of your children when booking. If you're traveling with children, you may prefer to book our Topkapi Palace Tour for Kids, which has been specifically designed to engage younger learners.

Is this tour suitable for visitors with mobility issues? 
Yes, the Hagia Sophia is wheelchair accessible and this tour isn’t walking intensive for clients with reduced mobility. We recommend that clients with mobility issues contact us so we can create a tour adapted to your concerns.
Where You'll Start
161 Reviews (4.7)

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Very professional and informative.
Excellent. Knowledgeable Personable helpful and much more
Excellent and personable guide and personalized tour