2. Istanbul: Off-the-Beaten-Track Istanbul Fener and Balat
This particular tour includes some of the unique places in the city but also which are difficult to visit on your own. The tour will take you to the roots of historic Istanbul with visits to the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian monuments.
You will meet with your guide at 09.00 am at your hotel reception. The first stop is Suleymaniye Mosque was built on the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan. Construction began in 1550, and the mosque was finished in 1557. The mosque is partly modeled on the style of a Byzantine basilica, particularly the Hagia Sophia, which was perhaps a conscious move by the sultan to create a continuity and a symbolic connection with the city's past.
After the mosque, we will have a tea-coffee break at Kadinlar Pazari under the shadow of the aqueduct of Valens. An authentic square filled with "buryan kebab" restaurants. Walking along the aqueduct will end at one of the oldest and most influential churches, now a mosque in the city, Zeyrek Mosque or Monastery of the Pantocrator, A unique combination of two former Eastern Orthodox churches and a chapel. The Zeyrek Mosque is the second largest religious edifice after the Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantines remaining in Istanbul.
The next stop will be the Gul Mosque; Gul Mosque started life as the 11th-century Church of St Theodosia and was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. We will then continue to the beautiful districts of Fener and Balat to discover the Aya Nikola Greek Orthodox Church before visiting the Fener Orthodox Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is one of the fifteen autocephalous churches that compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 1586 the Ecumenical Patriarchate has had its headquarters in the relatively modest Church of St George in the Fener district of Istanbul.
Afterward, enjoy a break from sightseeing to have a drink. We will then wander around the labyrinth cobblestone streets of Balat to see Phanar Greek Orthodox College, this Fener landmark, known locally as Kirmizi Mektep for its castellated red-brick facade, still functions as a Greek school. Then we will visit Saint Mary of the Mongols, an Eastern Orthodox church in Istanbul. It is the only Byzantine church of Constantinople that has never been converted to a mosque, always remaining open to the Greek Orthodox Church.
Please note that some visits will be only panoramic from outside because of the restoration works.