Journey to the Best Places of Istanbul
Turkey's capital, Istanbul, lies at the tip of Europe and Asia, and has long been sought after by numerous empires. Byzantium's colony grew to become the great empire's capital of Constantinople in the Middle Ages and, after the Ottoman Empire's conquest of the city, it retained this place of prominence for centuries to come. Its long and illustrious history has left the city (officially renamed Istanbul after the Turkish Republic was founded) strewn with glorious remains, and even the most monument-weary traveler will be captivated by its multifaceted sightseeing.
You should also give yourself enough time to explore each of the other sights in addition to the big four (Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar). Sultanahmet has a number of tourist attractions within the old city district, yet there is a wealth of other things to do throughout the rest of the city as well.
One of the world's great monuments, Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine structure in Istanbul and an important architectural monument. It is also known as Aya sofya in Turkish and Sancta Sophia in Latin. Byzantine emperor Justinian I built it as a Christian church in the 6th century CE (532–537).
In subsequent centuries, it was converted into a mosque, a museum, and then back into a mosque again. With the minarets and inscriptions of the Islamic faith alongside lavish mosaics of Christianity, the building reflects the many changes in religion in the area over the centuries.
The glorious palace along the Bosphorus was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century and was the seat of the Ottoman sultans until the 19th century. An incredible array of courtyards and rooms is surrounded by battlemented walls and towers. The complex is decorated with exquisite hand-painted tiles, connecting a maze of beautifully decorated rooms.
In addition to the Harem (where the Sultan's concubines and children would spend their days), you can also view the impressive Imperial Council Chamber and walk through the vast Palace Kitchens. The sultan's private rooms are located in the Third Court.
In the Sacred Safekeeping Room of the Third Court, you can find a collection of relics associated with Prophet Muhammad, and the Imperial Treasury is filled with a treasure trove of glittering gold pieces and precious gems that will make your eyes water. In order to fully experience Topkapi Palace, you should give yourself at least half a day.
A beautiful mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque, was Sultan Ahmet I's architectural gift to his capital. When finished, the mosque caused a stir in the whole Muslim world, because six minarets were on its roof (the same number as the Great Mosque of Mecca). In order to quell the dissidents, a seventh minaret was ultimately gifted to Mecca.
It is nicknamed "Iznik Mosque" after the Iznik tiles it uses as interior decoration. The mosque has one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture, as the entire interior is colored and shaped in a very special way. The gardens sandwiched between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya provide a great opportunity to appreciate their twin domes enroute to Istanbul as a great sight-seeing experience. You can visit the Blue Mosque at dusk for extra ambience, as the call to prayer echoes from the minaret.
You can easily reach the Arasta Bazaar from the Blue Mosque. This is a great place to do some retail therapy, since there are a lot of outstanding souvenir shops. If you don't plan on browsing, don't miss Elham Mosaic Museum, housed within the Arasta Bazaar between the Mosque and the bazaar. It displays a 250 sq. meter mosaic paving stone unearthed in the 1950s. A fantastic information panel explains how the mosaic floor was found and subsequently rescued.
Istanbul's Basilica Cistern is one of its most intriguing tourist attractions. It was once used to store the imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors in an underground hall supported by 336 columns. Constantine the Great started the project, which was completed by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century.
The majority of the columns used in the construction were reused from classic structures, and they feature decorative carvings. Some of them may be most well-known to you, such as the Medusa stones, a group of carvings depicting the head of Medusa in the northwest corner. The columns in this area are beautifully lit, and the waters are trickling steadily all around.
In AD 203, Septimius Severus began construction on the ancient Hippodrome, which was finally completed by Constantine the Great in AD 330. It was the location of numerous magnificent games and chariot races in Byzantine times but also the scene of factional violence.
At Meydani (park), which now occupies the Hippodrome grounds, has monuments encompassing aspects of its past. Currently, there aren't many remains to be seen of the Hippodrome, except for a few gallery walls on the southern side.
It is surrounded by a fountain, given to the Ottoman sultan by William II in 1898. Three ancient monuments can be seen in the southwest, including a 20-meter Egyptian obelisk (from Heliopolis); Constantine's Serpent Column brought from Delphi; and an ancient stone obelisk of gold-plated bronze that was stolen by the soldiers of the 4th Crusade in 1204 AD.
Istanbul Archeology Museum
Within walking distance of the palatial Topkapi Palace, this enormous museum complex boasts an astonishing collection of artifacts from Turkey and throughout the Middle East. It gathers up a wide range of historical pieces from this region.
The complex is divided into three different sections, all of which are worth visiting: the Museum of the Ancient Orient, the main Archeology Museum, and the Tiled Pavilion of Mehmet the Conqueror, which houses an extensive collection of ceramics.
In the main Archeology Museum, you should not miss the fascinating exhibit room, Istanbul Through the Ages, that features a large range of artifacts.
The Grand Bazaar is the place where everyone goes when they visit Istanbul. In fact, for many visitors, sightseeing in Istanbul is as much about shopping as museums and monumental attractions. In a city quarter surrounded by thick walls, this covered market is the first mall in the world, taking up the entire region between the Nure Osmaniye Mosque and the Beyazit Mosque.
Architects of the Beyazit Mosque (built in 1498-1505) took their cue from the famous Aya Sofya mosque and reconstructed its architecture.
The bazaar is accessed through 11 secure entrances from where an intricate web of vaulted-ceiling alleyways, filled with shops and stalls selling everything from Turkish souvenirs to handicrafts, lies ahead. It is still easier for visitors to browse the various trades since the various sections are separate.
There is a burned column near the entrance of the bazaar, located on Divanyolu Caddesi. By Constantine the Great, this stump (still 40 meters high) was set up as a porphyry column in his forum. Until 1105, it was adorned with a bronze statue of Constantine.
Sulaymaniyah Mosque is an iconic landmark in Istanbul, perched on a hill above Sultanahmet district. Sinan, the renowned Ottoman architect, built the palace between 1549 and 1575 for Süleyman the Magnificent. Featuring harmonic proportions and fresh design, the 52-meter-high dome dominates the interior.
Within the quiet garden area of the Ottoman palace stands an interesting Ottoman cemetery, which houses the türbes (tombs) of Sultan Süleyman and his second wife, Haseki Hürrem Sultan (known internationally as Roxelana).
A must-try at the Spice Bazaar is Turkish delight (lokum), dried fruit, nuts, herbs, and spices. As the Ottoman government taxed Egyptian products heavily to build it, it is therefore called in Turkish (Misir Çarsisi) means “Egyptian Market”. Spice Bazaar is a must-see, and at certain times of the day it is packed with cruise boat tour groups from docked ships. Try to be there before 11 am or after 4 pm.
The stately Yeni Camii (New Mosque) stands next to the Spice Bazaar's main entrance. This mosque was constructed in 1615 and finished in 1663, so it's sort of "new" in Istanbul. While sightseeing in the area, you might want to take a look inside, since the interior is richly decorated with original tile-work and liberally adorned with gold leaf.
It is quite clear from Dolmabahçe Palace that European decoration and architecture influenced the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. The building was built by Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1854 to replace Topkapi Palace as the sultan's primary residence.
While the outdoor gardens are punctuated with fountains, ornamental basins, and flower beds, the interior is a dazzling display of the splendor and pomp of the Turkish Renaissance style.
The interiors blend Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Ottoman elements, accompanied by chandeliers made of mammoth crystal, lavish gold use, French-style furniture, and stunning frescoed ceilings.
Located just outside the old city walls of Constantinople, Chora means "country" in Greek. It is a beautiful Early Christian Church (originally called the Church of St. Saviour of Chora). This is the sixth reconstruction of the Chora Church, which was originally built in the 5th century and destroyed in the 9th century and altered a few times from the 11th to 14th centuries.
The church (now a museum) is best known for its vivacious 14th-century mosaics, almost intact in the two narthexes and fragmentary in the nave, and its stunning frescoes. Among the many themes depicted in these incredible examples of Byzantine art are the genealogy of Christ and stories from the New Testament.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
A must-see attraction for Ottoman and Islamic art lovers, this museum is situated in Ibrahim Pasha's palace, who was the Grand Vizier of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. This museum displays a vast collection of carpets that is widely regarded as the best in the world.
Visit the Turkish Carpet section of the museum to see a dazzling array of styles from almost all periods of Turkish history (including the Caucasus and Iran), then set out on a shopping mission to pick out a carpet of your own.
Furthermore, the museum provides spectacular ceramics, calligraphy, and woodcarving displays that date from as far back as the 9th century AD.
Little Aya Sofya
In order to determine whether the Aya Sofya would be structurally sound, Emperor Justinian constructed a miniature model of the building first. The church was originally known as the Church of Sergius and Bacchus, but due to the similarities in architecture, its long-held nickname was subsequently adopted as the building's name.
It remains a working mosque today since it was converted to a mosque during the Ottoman era. Despite its smaller proportions, the building has been lovingly restored and should not be missed.
Taking a stroll here, through alleyways lined with Ottoman-era buildings - some in lavishly restored condition and others clattering into decay - is a tranquil respite from the bustle of Sultanahmet. Enjoy a relaxing cup of tea at the tranquil garden of Little Aya Sofya before continuing your sightseeing journey.
Rüstem Pasha Mosque
A stunningly preserved Iznik tile panel is one of the most striking aspects of Rüstem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul, which may be the prettiest mosque in the city. There is no denying that the Blue Mosque really gets all the glory, but in the courtyard walls outside the mosque and inside the mosque, the best examples of these beautifully intricate hand-painted tiles, decorated in blues, reds, and greens, can be found.
Furthermore, since it is less well-known than other places, you are likely to enjoy them without there being any crowds to contend with. There is no better way to discover the mosque than by finding it down a narrow road lined with market stalls, just near the Spice Bazaar, where it is bustling with life.
It's not easy taking a subway out to Yedikule, but this commanding fortress is worth the effort. This fortress was built by Emperor Theodosius II in the 5th century. It formed the southern section of Constantinople's defensive walls during that time.
During the Late Byzantine period, the mammoth arch (blocked up) with doors covered in gold was called Porta Aurea (Golden Gate). Ottomans used the fortress as a defense, as well as a prison and execution site after conquering the city.
There's a spectacular view across the Sea of Marmara when you climb to the top of Yedikule's battlements, which was recently restored.
Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim
There is no shortage of Turkish restaurants and cafes along the pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street). In 1875, the Tünel, the oldest underground railroad in the world, was constructed so that it could connect the upper and lower ends of the street.
On top of the hill is Taksim Square, which is serviced by a quaint old-fashioned tramway running along its length. A short distance from Taksim Square is Cumhuriyet Caddesi, which is home to a range of hotels, shops, restaurants, and high rises. Across from the square, on the east side of Mácka Park, is the Military Museum.
Old consulate buildings and churches surround the Istiklal Caddesi district. There is also Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence nearby. The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Pamuk, the most famous Turkish author.
The Museum of Innocence is a conceptual art museum inspired by the theme of his novel, and is a rather bizarre, kooky, yet wonderfully atmospheric affair.
Ferries are readily available across the Bosphorus to reach Istanbul's Asian shore. In the middle of the Asiatic coastline stands the 30-meter-high Kiz Kulesi, (Maiden's Tower). The historic city of Üsküdar was known as Scutari in the past, and has some old mosques, steep lanes, and wooden houses (especially between the ferry dock and the cemetery).
Antiquity referred to it as Chrysopolis, and it was one of the first Greek settlements on the Bosporus. The city saw more foreign conquest than Constantinople, with a more strategic position and strong walls, but the city benefited economically from its exposed situation - until 1800 it served as the terminus of the caravan routes that brought treasures from the East to Constantinople and even beyond.
This city is home to the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, built by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1547 for his daughter Mihrimah, and the Yeni Valide Mosque, constructed by Sultan Ahmet III in the 18th century.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
The easiest place to stay when visiting Istanbul's top attractions is Sultanahmet, Istanbul's Old City. From here you will be within walking distance to the city's top attractions. Many hotels in the area provide wonderful views of these buildings from their rooftop terraces, as well as the Bosphorus out to sea. You can walk to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Aya Sofya in just five minutes.
The Sultanahmet district is well-connected to other attractions beyond the district by tram, as well as other public transportation.
We hope that, after reading this blog most of our beloved reader will definitely going to visit the Istanbul, the city of art, very unique and impressive architecture and beautiful culture.