We took a day trip from Istanbul to Ephesus, the most famous ancient city in Turkey, by flying down in the morning and returning the same day in the evening.
It was a very convenient way of doing it for us as we only had a few days in Istanbul but this is somewhere we really wanted to visit as well.
Ephesus itself is only about 1 hours' drive away from Izmir airport and the flights take about an hour each way. We arranged it through a local tour company and found it very convenient as everything was included from the tour to flights and transfers. It was all very well organized so that we didn't find it too rushed or tiring, just as a very interesting day out.
You can see the day trip we did with them and some others here: www.toursistanbul.com/day-trips.htm
Even though it was just for a day, we found it very worthwhile and the city beautifully preserved.
It's easy to miss the Hippodrome, in a sense, because it's the space between buildings. It's well worth paying attention to, though.
The space still retains the long shape of the chariot racing track which was famous in antiquity and was the site of a famous riot. The fans of the racing teams were as obsessed as modern day football fans.
In the centre, the late Roman and Byzantine emperors displayed numerous antiquities hauled to Constantinople from all over the empire, including Egyptian obelisks and the serpent column from the sanctuary of Delphi in Greece, which was set up to commemorate victory over the Persians by the Greeks in 480 BC. Only the column is there now, but it used to support a giant tripod (bowl on three legs) - a fitting symbol to put in the Hippodrome since tripods were, like modern 'cups', the usual prize in athletic games.
The Egyptian obelisk is from Karnak, brought to Constantinople by Theodosius I, and placed on a relief-decorated base. The base shows the imperial court and Hippodrome scenes, and around it is the original ground level of the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome is between the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Islamic Art. A row of tea shops next to the Blue Mosque looks onto it
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