After you meet your local guide and small group close by Hagia Sophia, kick off your tour with a walk to Topkapi Palace. Arrive, skip the line, and head inside to see this old home of Ottoman sultans. As you walk around courtyards and small buildings, learn how this palace was the primary residence for sultans from the 15th to the 19th century.
Next, pass by elegant gates and pavilions as you make your way into beautiful chambers once roamed by as many as 4,000 people. Hear how Sultan Mehmed II commissioned Topkapi in 1453 as you admire antiques and rare artifacts of the Treasury. See the famous diamond-studded Topkapi Dagger, kingly gowns and lavish weaponry as your guide whispers lore of romance, royal luxuries and executions that were once a regularity here.
At your own expense, you may visit the palace's Harem and discover the quarters of the sultan’s many wives, princes and eunuchs.
Next, leave the palace and make your way to Süleymaniye Mosque, the biggest mosque in Istanbul. Dedicated to Sultan Süleyman I, this beautifully designed mosque was built by Ottoman architect Minar Sinan over eight years in the mid 16th century. Enjoy its regal architecture as you gaze up at its four elegant columns. Then, step inside and see the handsome interior designed with humbled worship in mind.
Continue to your last stop at a traditional workshop and see local artisans make ceramics. Witness fine craftsmen mold wet clay by hand on the kickwheel. Admire vases and other pieces as you hear about classic Ottoman techniques used to sculpt beautiful creations.
Finish your tour after you leave the shop and either continue to wander through the neighborhood at your leisure or return to your hotel.