Byzantine History Tour in Istanbul (with Local Guide)

Hello, I am Serhat Engul. As a local guide living in Istanbul, I organize a walking tour focusing on Byzantine history. On this tour, it is possible to trace the events that took place in the city between the 4th and 15th centuries and to get to know the legendary Constantinople.

History enthusiasts from all over the world have joined my Byzantine Istanbul tour so far. It was a great pleasure to passionately share my knowledge with my guests and make the history of the city come alive in their eyes.

If you are curious about the Byzantine buildings in Istanbul and the events they are associated with, you may consider joining my private Byzantine Istanbul tour. To inquire about price and availability for the tour, please fill out the form on the contact page.

Highlights of the Byzantine Istanbul Tour

The Byzantine history tour includes information about the ancient structures in today’s Istanbul, as well as very interesting stories about the sieges and rebellions that took place in Constantinople.

You can find the highlights of the Byzantine Istanbul tour in the lines below. The tours I organize may change every year depending on the availability of the buildings. However, it basically includes the structures in the headings.

Unfortunately, there is no Hagia Sophia in my Byzantine history tour in 2024. Because after the building was converted into a mosque, the visitor experience is very limited and the guides are not allowed to give long explanations that may disturb the worshipers.

In my tours, instead of Hagia Sophia, we visit the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which is called “Little Hagia Sophia” by the Turks. This building – just like Hagia Sophia – was built by Justinian in the 6th century.

My aim in these walking tours is to comfortably share my narratives about Byzantine history in relatively quiet environments, away from the tourist triangle consisting of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.

1. The Hippodrome

Byzantine Hippodrome in Istanbul

The Hippodrome was an arena where the most exciting races in Constantinople took place and where rebellions broke out that endangered the thrones of even the most powerful emperors.

A 3500-year-old Egyptian Obelisk, a 2500-year-old Serpent Column and a 1000-year-old Walled Obelisk have survived from the hippodrome, and each has its own story.

2. Great Palace Mosaics Museum

Roman Mosaics in the Great Palace Mosaic Museum

Great Palace Mosaics Museum offers us clues about the Roman palace where Byzantine emperors lived. It is possible to see magnificent Roman mosaics this place.

Here we talk about why Emperor Constantine moved to the humble Greek town of Byzantium and how he transformed it into the new capital of Roman Empire.

3. Basilica Cistern

Byzantine Cistern in Istanbul

Basilica Cistern is simply one of dozens of water reservoirs built by the Byzantines in Constantinople. However, it is also a Roman structure that fascinates its visitors with its mysterious environment.

Here we talk about how the Byzantines developed the engineering they inherited from Rome and how they built structures such as Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern.

4. Little Hagia Sophia

Former Byzantine Churches in Istanbul

Little Hagia Sophia is one of my favorite Byzantine buildings in Istanbul and today serves as a mosque. This was the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in the 6th century.

Here we talk about how Petrus Sabbatius, who came from a poor village in the Balkans, went through a transformation and became the greatest emperor of Byzantium ever, under the name “Justinianus”.

5. Hagia Irene Church

Hagia Irene Church

Hagia Irene Church is a magnificent Byzantine structure that has been overshadowed by its neighbor Hagia Sophia throughout history. However, this does not prevent it from fascinating its visitors with its mysterious atmosphere.

Here we talk about the Iconoclasm in Byzantium and why frescoes and mosaics, the most important parts of Byzantine art, were destroyed in this period that started with Leo III.

6. Valens Aqueduct

Byzantine Aqueduct in Istanbul

Valens Aqueduct was a Roman masterpiece that gave life to Constantinople, which had experienced water shortage throughout its history. It was named after an emperor who died in the Balkans while fighting the Goths.

Here we talk about how a small Greek colony called Byzantium turned into the Roman capital, Constantinople, and how, as the most populous city in the world, it suffered from a lack of water.

7. Monastery of Pantokrator

Monastery of Christ Pantokrator

Monastery of Pantocrator was the third largest church in Byzantine Istanbul. This is one of the most distinctive structures on the shores of the Golden Horn and serves as the Zeyrek Mosque.

Here we talk about the Crusades and how the Komnenos dynasty, which had this structure built, relieved the pressure created by the Crusades on Constantinople with clever maneuvers.

8. Church of St George

Church of Saint George in Istanbul

Church of St George is where the throne of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the most important religious figure of Byzantine Istanbul throughout history, was located. For this reason, it is the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity.

Here, we will talk about the most important religious figures of Byzantine history such as St. John Chrysostom, Gregory the Theologian, and Basil the Great, as well as the history of Christianity in the East.

Some of the stops of Byzantine Istanbul intersect with my other history tour, the Fener and Balat walking tour. You can review this thematic tour about the life of non-Muslims in Ottoman Istanbul through this article.

9. Chora Church

Byzantine Mosaics in Istanbul

Chora Church stands out as the most elegant church built during the late Byzantine period and has the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics you can see in the world. In this sense, it reflects the renaissance of Byzantium.

Here we see how the lives of Jesus and Mary were interpreted in Orthodox Christianity through the golden mosaics and frescoes, the most distinctive works of art during the Byzantine Empire.

Chora Church was one of the jewels of Istanbul during the Byzantine period. You can review this article with beautiful photographs to get to know this magnificent Byzantine structure of Istanbul more closely.

10. Palace of the Porphyrogenitus

Byzantine Palaces in Istanbul

Palace of the Porphyrogenitus is the only surviving structure of the Blachernae Palace, the second largest palace in Byzantine Istanbul. This structure was recently restored and serves as a museum.

Here we talk about the Byzantine palaces in Istanbul. We discuss how and why the early emperors lived in the Great Palace in Sultanahmet and later moved to the Blachernae Palace next to the Theodosian Walls.


So far, I have met with people who are interested in Byzantine history from many parts of the world, especially the USA,UK, Canada and Australia. Sometimes I have witnessed people from far corners of the world sharing the same passion as me.

There is information about my references on the about page of this site, but if you wish, you can also read reviews about me on TripAdvisor. Although some of these comments are about other tours, a significant part of them are feedback about my Byzantine tours.

If you would like to explore Istanbul between the 4th and 15th centuries with me, you can contact me by filling out the form on the contact page. As a licensed tour guide based in Istanbul, I am ready to share with you what I know about the history of Byzantium.

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