Byzantine History Tour in Istanbul

Byzantine History Tour

Istanbul has many churches, cisterns, palaces and columns from the Byzantine Empire. Some of these structures are still standing, while others are in ruins. If you visit these places with a tour guide who knows the Byzantine history well, you can visualize the legacy of this great civilization.

Constantinople, the heart of the Byzantine Empire, was built in 330 by Roman Emperor Constantine. Byzantium, a small Greek acropolis in the past, was named Constantinople in honor of its founder and became the second capital of the Roman Empire.

My name is Serhat Engul. I am a licensed tour guide in Istanbul. As someone who has been striving for years to specialize in Roman history, I organize Byzantine history walking tours in Istanbul.

Byzantine History Tour in Istanbul

In this article you will find some of the Byzantine buildings in Istanbul. I introduce these historical places in my Byzantine history tour in Istanbul.

  • Hippodrome of Constantinople

Hippodrome of Constantinople was built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Constantine, who wanted to decorate the new capital in the best way, brought artifacts from all over the empire. Some of the works that decorate the Hippodrome can still be seen in the vicinity.

The Hippodrome, situated in the heart of Constantinople, witnessed some of the most important events in the history of the city. The most important figures in Byzantine history, such as Emperor Anastasius and Justinian, faced the people who rebelled against them.

The rivalry between the Blue and Green teams competing in the hippodrome lasted for centuries. The supporters of these teams also led politics in some periods. Many issues related to Byzantine history can be explained through the Hippodrome. Therefore I start my tours here.

Byzantine History Tour Istanbul
Hippodrome of Constantinople
  • Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the most important place to see about Byzantine history in Istanbul. The building, which opened a new chapter in the history of architecture, remained the largest church in the world for more than 1000 years. Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine’s most famous emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora, remained as the spiritual center of Constantinople during the Middle Ages.

Byzantine History Tour in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia
  • Basilica Cistern

In the years when the Byzantine Empire reigned, the city was filled with cisterns from one end to another. Basilica Cistern, the largest and most beautiful of these cisterns, stands out with its 336 ancient Greek columns. The Medusa heads placed under two of these columns make the cistern even more mysterious.

Byzantine Constantinople Tour
Basilica Cistern
  • Great Palace Mosaic Museum

Constantinople was at the center of traditional trade routes throughout the Middle Ages. Therefore it was the capital of luxury and grandeur. The Great Palace of Constantinople was built to reflect this wealth.

The palace, built by Emperor Constantine and extended to the coast during the Justinian‘s reign, was an epic place. Unfortunately, only the floor mosaics have survived from this palace. In this museum we see the 6th century Byzantine art which still maintains its pagan perspective.

Byzantine History Tour in Istanbul

Great Palace Mosaic Museum
  • The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is located in the Fener neighborhood of Istanbul. The Church of St. George in the Patriarchate is an honorary center for all Orthodox Christians in the world. Although the Patriarchate was built after the Byzantine period, there are many relics associated with Byzantine history. I enjoy telling my Byzantine stories in the mysterious atmoster of the church.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
  • Valens Aqueduct

Istanbul was a city lacking water since the ancient Greek period. After the Roman rule, this problem was solved with aqueducts. The largest aqueduct built in Constantinople is dated to the Roman Emperor Valens. Nowadays some of the aqueduct is standing, but there is heavy traffic underneath. we can see the aqueduct from the taxi during our Byzantine history tour.

Valens Aqueduct
  • Chora Church

The Chora Church was actually a monastery located outside the city. When the city was expanded by Theodosius II, it remained in the new city walls. The present church was built in the 11th century by the Komnenos dynasty.

However, the mosaics that gave the church worldwide fame were added in the 14th century by Theodore Metochites, a Byzantine treasurer. Among the Byzantine churches in Istanbul, Chora Church is the most important after Hagia Sophia.

Byzantine History Tour of Istanbul
Chora Church
  • Palace of the Porphyrogenitus

Located in today’s Sultanahmet district, the Great Palace was the main palace in the early Byzantine Empire. However, it began to lose its importance from the 11th century. Late Byzantine emperors began to live in the Palace of Blachernae, which is located in the outskirts of the city.

The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, the only surviving part of this palace, is a museum open to visitors. At the end of our tour we visit this medieval Byzantine palace.

Palace of the Porphyrogenitus

Byzantine History Tour by Serhat Engul

By Licensed Tour Guide Serhat Engul

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