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St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul

St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul: Our most recommended tours and activities

Istanbul: Golden Horn & Pierre Loti Hill Cable Car Day Trip

1. Istanbul: Golden Horn & Pierre Loti Hill Cable Car Day Trip

The Golden Horn, a horn-shaped estuary, is said to be the world’s best natural harbor. Its name is rumored to have been derived from the golden hue of the water due to the reflection of the sun during sunset. During the Byzantine period, the Golden Horn was a trading harbor as well as a popular residential area. By the time of the Ottoman period, the Golden Horn had become populated by immigrants from Spain, Armenia, Greek, etc. In this full day trip, you’ll explore the areas by the banks of the horn and learn about the many historic sites nearby and explore the picturesque parks and promenades that have popped up in recent years. Start with a stop at St. George’s Cathedral. This neo-classical church dates back to the 16th century when it was recognized as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Take a look inside the lavish interiors of the cathedral before heading to the Phanar Greek Orthodox College. Built in the early 1800s and said to be one of the oldest educational institutions in Turkey, this historic structure will remind you of the iconic Hogwarts Castle in the famous Harry Potter franchise. Up next, you’ll head to the districts of Fener and Balat, which are steeped in history and culture. Wander around the cobblestone streets and take in the colorful Ottoman architecture. Stop for lunch in one of the local restaurants in Balat before heading to the Bulgarian St. Stephen Church. Also known as the Bulgarian Iron Church, this shrine’s design features prefabricated cast iron elements in the neo-Byzantine style. Marvel at the intricate details of the church before making your way to Pierre Loti Hill. To reach the top of the hill, you’ll board a cable car and take in the stunning 360-degree views of the Golden Horn. Once you reach the hill itself, take a breather and admire the breathtaking views of the wonderful city below.

Walk Fener and Balat – Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Region

2. Walk Fener and Balat – Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Region

If you are interested in visiting a functioning Byzantine church or seeing the only church in the world constructed entirely of iron and steel, then do not miss this full-day walking tour through Fener and Balat in Istanbul. The name Fener is derived from a Greek word 'Fanari,' meaning 'lantern' or 'lighthouse' in Turkish, and this district was made up of predominantly Romaic (Greek Orthodox) families up until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, this UNESCO-project filled site is known as the part of Istanbul where the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is situated. On this tour you'll hear the story of Phanariotes who served as dragomans to the Ottoman government and to foreign embassies. Following the included lunch, you will visit Balat, which is located on the southern shores of the Golden Horn. It is one of the Jewish districts where the people re-settled during the time of the Ottoman Empire. We will take you through Balat, where you will find yourself walking down intriguing streets, full of color and life. Synagogues, Armenian churches, Romaic churches, Byzantine remnants, and Ayazmas are all part of the adventure.

Istanbul: City by Night Tour with Golden Horn Ferry

3. Istanbul: City by Night Tour with Golden Horn Ferry

Admire Istanbul after dark with this unique van, ferry, and walking tour. Watch the city lights come on as you take a ferry past sights like Galata Tower, St. Stephen Church, and St. George's Cathedral. Take a stroll down Istiklal street to soak in the atmosphere of Istanbul's nightlife. Enjoy the convenience of being picked up from your centrally located hotel in Istanbul at 6:00 PM. Relax on the short drive to Karakoy. Board a ferry that cruises along the Golden Horn estuary. Look out from the boat for sweeping views of Istanbul's lights. See Galata Tower, St. Stephen Church, St. George's Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Rahmi Koc Museum. After your ferry cruise, disembark at Sutluce and make your way to Taksim square to begin your walking tour of Istiklal street. Stroll down a busy street that is packed with shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and cinemas. Finish your tour at Galata Tower where you have the option to purchase a ticket to admire the Romanesque architecture from the inside. Return to your accommodation or a centrally located restaurant at the end of your tour.

Istanbul: 6-Hour Byzantine Tour Along the Golden Horn

4. Istanbul: 6-Hour Byzantine Tour Along the Golden Horn

Want to discover the Istanbul of Byzantine Constantinople? Have you finished the famous sites in Sultanahmet and ready to walk in areas where tourists do not go? Then this Byzantine Istanbul (Constantinople) tour along the Golden Horn will be the perfect choice for you. The vastness of the vision and boldness of the design of Byzantine era Constantinople is expressed through the Hagia Sophia located in Sultanahmet but medieval Constantinople around the Golden Horn offers more information. Poke around forgotten corners just over this hauntingly beautiful inlet – the Golden Horn and walk to see Constantinople before the Ottoman Conquest of 1453. Your Byzantine Istanbul Constantinople tour will start with a ferry ride from Eminonu or Karakoy zigzaging both sides of the Golden Horn to end in Ayvansaray. Ayvansaray is where Constantinople officially ended, so you’ll see and walk along the mighty Byzantine walls of Theodosius from the 5th century. Your first visit will be to an extraordinary Greek Orthodox Church – Mary Blachernae. The only church in the whole world where there’s a service on a Friday morning. Built on a sacred water source, the church is a pilgrimage site for the Greek people in Istanbul. Climb the 7th hill of Istanbul as you make your way to one of the oldest Byzantine palaces from the 13th century (Tekfur Sarayi). Then, walk your way back through Balat which houses one of Istanbul’s surviving mediaeval synagogues and trendiest houses that are now enjoying their second or even third type of use. In Fener, you will see the Greek Orthodox patriarchate housing a column, which is believed to have been used for the binding and flogging of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Istanbul: Greek Orthodox District 3-Hour Walking Tour

5. Istanbul: Greek Orthodox District 3-Hour Walking Tour

Learn about the history and culture of the Greek Orthodox part of Istanbul on a walking tour with an expert local guide. Explore the charming streets lined with old homes and glorious Byzantine churches. This Sunday morning, 3-hour walking tour investigates an area of Istanbul currently protected as part of a UNESCO conservation project. Derived from the Greek word 'Fanari,' meaning 'lantern' or 'lighthouse' in Turkish, Fener was a district of prominent and predominantly Romaic (Greek Orthodox) families up to the beginning of the 20th century. It is the part of Istanbul where the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is situated. On the tour, you are invited to explore the world of the Phanariotes, who dominated the administration of the Patriarchate. Listen to the story of Phanariotes who served as dragomans to the Ottoman government and to foreign embassies. Visit a Byzantine Church and see the world’s only church made of iron and steel. As you wander the jumble of streets, you will see apartments and palaces, and get a taste of the fascinating history of one of Istanbul’s most intriguing neighborhoods.

Istanbul Full-Day Private Christian (Byzantium) Tour

6. Istanbul Full-Day Private Christian (Byzantium) Tour

Take a full-day tour of Istanbul and explore it from the perspective of the Byzantine Empire. See ruins of Byzantine churches, Byzantine stone houses, superb mosaics and frescoes at the Church of St. Saviour of Chora, the city’s underground cistern, and more. Traveling by air-conditioned coach, you will drive to the Church of St. Saviour in Chora. The Turkish word "Kariye" is derived from the ancient Greek word "Chora," meaning outside of the city. It is known that there was a chapel outside of the city before the 5th century when the city walls were erected. The first Chora Church was rebuilt by Justinianus and, in the era of Komnenoi, served as the court chapel for important religious ceremonies. Continue to the Fener Orthodox Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the seat of Orthodox Christianity since Constantine the Great’s declaration of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Visit Zeyrek Mosque, the former Pantokrator Church. Representing the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period in Constantinople, it is the second largest religious edifice built by the Byzantines still standing after Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is your next stop. For centuries it was the largest church in the world, and it still boasts the 4th largest dome after St. Paul`s in London, St. Peter`s in Rome, and the Duomo in Florence. Dedicated to the Hagia Sophia, or “Divine Wisdom,” it is one of the greatest examples of Byzantine architecture in survival, and has been called “The 8th Wonder of the World” for its spectacular art and architecture. End your tour at the Basilica Cistern, or Yerebatan Sarayı ("Sunken Palace"), the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath Istanbul. Located 500 feet (150 meters) southwest of the Hagia Sophia, on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, the magical atmosphere of the underground palace dates back to the 6th century reign of Emperor Justinian I.

Other Sightseeing Options in St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul

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What people are saying about St. George's Cathedral, Istanbul

Overall rating

5.0 / 5

based on 2 reviews


We had the chance to spend a day with an absolutely fantastic, French-speaking guide, with 30 years of experience as a historical and archaeological guide. He was able to adapt to our centers of interest, and we were able to appreciate a real and extremely rich exchange on the history of the city and the country. Many thanks again to him. To recommend without hesitation!

Our guide Mr. Adnan was helpful with historic stories that local people could deliver. This is an exceptional route that we can enjoy Byzantine relics. I had such an unexpected yet wonderful experience. I hope I can actually visit Blachernae Palace when the restoration is complete.