Join archaeologist Iain Shearer to discover over 2,500 years of history, culture, art and architecture in the stunning transcontinental metropolis of Istanbul.

At a Glance

  • Marvel at Istanbul’s iconic seven mosques built upon seven hilltops, including the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
  • Wander through vibrant markets and colourful streetways and enjoy curated sightseeing to historical landmarks
  • Experience the unique blend of cultures of Istanbul, the crossroads of Europe and Asia
  • Enrich your experience with insightful talks by your tour leader, archaeologist Iain Shearer

Delve deep into the rich history of the Turkish capital, which served as the capital city during the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Nicknamed “The City on Seven Hills,” explore some of Istanbul’s seven grand mosques - including the Hagia Sophia - built upon seven hilltops, and marvel at the city’s colourful and dramatic architecture.

Wander through one of the oldest covered markets in the world, enjoy curated sightseeing to iconic and historical landmarks and savour the authentic flavours at the juncture of Western and Eastern cuisine.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


28 September – 05 October 2024 (8 days)

Tour leader

Iain Shearer

Tour Status


Book now


Arrive in Istanbul on suggested flights and make your way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including private transfers, travel insurance (a condition of travel), accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.

In the evening, join your tour leader Iain Shearer and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by dinner.


In the morning, explore the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, located within the spectacular Ibrahim Pasha Palace. Wander the central square built among the ruins of the old Hippodrome, which was inspired by the Circus Maximus in Rome and marked the centre of the city in Byzantine times. Visit to the impressive 17th century Blue Mosque, decorated with 21,000 blue Iznik tiles.

Then visit the Hagia Sophia, an architectural and engineering marvel which, in its heyday, was the largest building in the world. Originally constructed as a Christian cathedral during the Byzantine era, it became an important imperial mosque for almost five centuries following the Islamic conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Explore the Byzantine Basilica Cistern or Yerebatan Sarayi, meaning “Sunken Palace” in Turkish, deep beneath the city and largest of several hundred cisterns that once served Constantinople.


After a morning talk by Iain, venture to the decadent Topkapi Palace. Steeped in history, the palace was converted into a museum after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. The palace has a spectacular collection of bejewelled turban crests, silken caftans, devotional Islamic objects and Chinese porcelain.

Then, enjoy a guided tour of Hagia Irene, one of the largest and oldest Byzantine churches in Istanbul. Hagia Irene was commissioned in the year 330 AD by Emperor Constantine the Great and then became a weapons depot during the Ottoman Era.

Continue to the Archaeological Museum, which houses an extensive collection of classical statuary and sarcophagi along with exhibits documenting Istanbul’s ancient, Byzantine and Ottoman history.

Later, explore the Grand Bazaar and its fine selection of Oriental rugs, handcrafted jewellery and crockery. Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure, with the option to stay in the Bazaar and explore the 4000 shops further.


In the morning, tour the opulent Dolmabahçe Palace, the largest palace in Turkey, perched on the shores of the Bosphorus. Built between 1843 and 1856, this unique Ottoman fusion of Baroque, Rococo and Neo-classical architecture was the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The interior is exquisitely decorated in gold and crystals – including the world’s largest Bohemian chandelier, once thought to be a gift to the sultan from Queen Victoria.

After lunch, visit the Spice Bazaar, the largest and most famous of Istanbul’s covered markets, and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, a 16th century mosque covered with the greatest collection of Iznik tiles in the world.

Continue to the Süleymaniye Mosque, whose cascading domes and slender minarets dominate the skyline on the Golden Horn’s west bank. Arguably the most beautiful of Istanbul’s imperial mosques, it was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and built in 1557 by Mimar Sinan, a renowned architect of the Ottoman Golden Age.


After a morning talk, drive to the Yedikule Fortress, and discover its transformation over time. Built by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century, originally the site was only a section of the walls surrounding the city. Then in Byzantine times, the Golden Gate was added as the main ceremonial entrance to Constantinople, and today is an impressive seven-tower complex.

This afternoon, visit Little Hagia Sophia, constructed in 527 as a Greek Orthodox church to commemorate the two saints, Sergios and Bacchus, and converted to a mosque around 1500.

Then, visit the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque, a 16th-century Ottoman mosque commissioned jointly by the grand vizier Sokollu Mehmet Pasha and his wife Ismihan Sultan. Designed by imperial architect Mimar Sinan, the mosque’s most significant attribute are the four fragments of holy black stone from the Kaaba in Mecca embedded in its walls.


This morning, travel to Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands nestled in the sparkling waters of the Sea of Marmara. Discover the island’s picturesque landscapes, delve into its rich history and indulge in its charming atmosphere. Tour the Roman Catholic church of San Pacifico and see the large painting by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista, depicting San Pacifico, flanked by saints Ignatius and Sophia, as they fly over the Princes’ Isles.

Later, enjoy a guided tour of the Museum of Princes’ Islands, the city’s first contemporary museum. The museum showcases the history of the islands, offering thousands of documents, digital photographs, documentary films and archival records from public institutions.


Today, visit the Museum of Modern Art, one of Turkey’s newest and most prominent contemporary galleries, containing a superb display of Turkish modern art featured in its permanent exhibition. Then, enjoy a guided tour of the Neve Shalom Synagogue, built in response to an increase in the Jewish population in the old Galata neighbourhood in the late 1930s.

In the late afternoon, visit the Galata Tower, built in the mid-fourteenth century as part of the Galata Walls when the Galata quarter was a Genoese colony. Continue to the Pera Museum, a historical structure that was completely renovated to serve as a museum and cultural centre. The museum houses a robust collection of Anatolian Weights and Measures as well as a collection of Kutahya tiles and ceramics.

In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Iain and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. For those returning home today, make your way to Istanbul Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including private airport transfers, additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour and travel insurance (a condition of travel).



Per person, twin-share

AUD 5,950

Single supplement

AUD 950

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 2,000

Final payment due

30 July 2024

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in a centrally-located 4-star hotel with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner), excluding alcoholic beverages
  • Talks and discussions with your tour leader, Iain Shearer
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides and wait staff

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Visa for Turkey
  • Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Hotel and airport porterage
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotel
Istanbul – Royan Hotel Hagia Sophia Istanbul****

N.B. A hotel of a similar standard may be substituted.

More Details

Tour code: AG2419

Fitness level: Above Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.

Suggested airline: Qatar
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Australian passport holders require a visa to visit Turkey, which must be applied for online prior to arrival at a cost of approximately USD 60. Renaissance Tours will assist you with your visa application.

New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Turkey.

Download booking form here.


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