Istanbul Highlights Tour: From the Blue Mosque to Hagia Sophia

Your essential introduction to Istanbul with an expert
From US$442 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Hippodrome of Constantinople
  • Nakilbent Cistern
  • The Blue Mosque
Photos & Highlights
  • Visit the main sites of Istanbul's historic center, including the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque
  • Led by a local expert or historian guide
Select a date
Tour Description
Join an expert guide on this introduction to Istanbul as we weave a narrative of the city's storied history through the iconic sites of the Sultahnamet district, including Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, and if time permits, one of the city's hundreds of ancient cisterns. 

You'll begin amongst the 4th-century ruins of the Roman Empire with the Hippodrome, the focal point of social life in the Byzantine period, where we'll center our discussion on the rise of Constantinople.

Your next stop will be the Hagia Sophia. Built by Constantine in the sixth century, this architectural and artistic wonder reflects the essence of Istanbul through the ages, having served over the years as church, mosque, and museum, before converting back to a mosque in 2020. You'll have the opportunity to enter and view the interior of the impressive dome and its rich mosaics from the upper galleries.

Discussion will turn to the fall of Constantinople and transition to the Ottoman Empire, where you'll move on to another jewel of the historic center - the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque. Wandering the interior of this UNESCO World Heritage site, our focus will turn to the principals of Ottoman architecture as we admire the thousands of blue Iznik tiles after which the mosque takes its name.

Depending on your interests, your guide may continue your exploration with a visit to the Nakilbent Cistern, an overlooked Byzantine marvel, or with a stop at a local cafe for tea and discussion about life in Istanbul today.

Wrapping up your time with your expert guide, you'll have developed an appreciation for the city's rich, varied cultural history.

  • It’s your first time in Istanbul and you’re seeking an introduction to the historic center 
  • You’re returning to Istanbul and wish to go deeper on some of the cities most iconic sites
  • Hagia Sofia
  • Blue Mosque
  • Hippodrome of Constantinople
  • Nakilbent Cistern (optional)
  • All tickets are purchased on-site by you. Your guide can assist. Your confirmation email will have further details.
Meeting and Ending Point 
  • We meet near the Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet.
  • The exact meeting point and map are communicated in your confirmation email.
  • You will have headsets on the tour. 
The Hagia Sophia is wheelchair accessible.

This tour is not walking intensive for clients with reduced mobility. We recommend that clients with mobility challenges contact us so we can create a tour adapted to your concerns.
  • For more information about Context tours, please visit our FAQs.
Does this tour skip the line to Hagia Sofia?
No. Since Hagia Sophia was reconverted into a mosque in 2020, all visitors must wait in line to enter regardless of whether they are visiting tourists or locals waiting to worship. This can lead to very long lines. If the line is particularly long, your guide may propose an alternative itinerary, or you can choose to wait in line together.

Will I be able to visit all areas of Hagia Sophia?
Access to the mosque is currently limited to the general public. Only the galleries on the upper floor can be visited.

Does this tour include the Topkapi Palace?
This tour does not include Topkapi Palace. Please see our Topkapi Palace Tour for a comprehensive introduction to that historic site.

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?
We are happy to assign a family-friendly guide for your tour. You may also like our Topkapi Palace Tour for Kids tour which is specifically designed to engage younger learners.
Book with confidence — see Context's flexible cancellation policy here.
Where You'll Start
(4.75) 195 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Deeply knowledgeable and mixed with her own unique background made this an enjoyable tour.
Reyen”s immense knowledge and passion for her city make you feel a part of the culture. She is Amazing.
This tour was fabulous. I can’t believe how knowledgeable Betul is. She made it so enjoyable and so special, while still being very informative.