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After reading our review, you will learn a lot of useful information about the main attractions of Istanbul. When compiling our rating, we took into account the recommendations and reviews of experienced guides. With our list of questions about what to see in Istanbul, you will certainly not have.
What to see in Istanbul in the first place?
It would be endless to list all the interesting places in Istanbul. Therefore, we have chosen only the most significant and important objects of the Turkish capital. In our opinion, every tourist should pay attention to the following excursions in Istanbul:
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
Initially, at the location of this architectural monument of the Byzantine era, there was an ancient acropolis. Construction work began at the direction of Emperor Justinian in 532. After Constantinople fell, from the Orthodox Church the cathedral became a mosque, adding several more minarets to itself for a long time. Over the centuries, the building with a 55-meter dome has been subjected to robbery raids and destruction more than once. However, he managed to reach our time, preserving inside the tombs of the sultans, calligraphic phrases in the Muslim language and Byzantine mosaic icons.
Official website: http://ayasofyamuzesi.gov
2. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
One of the most famous Istanbul palaces, which should be included in the list of “main attractions in Turkey“. During the first half of the 18th century, the beautiful castle served as a home for the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. The palace territory is divided into separate zones, each of which has its own entrance: there are inner chambers and a harem, an office and a treasury, service and office rooms. Currently, this palace is considered the largest museum complex of light in terms of area: it is necessary to see such sights of Istanbul by allocating a whole day. By the way, in Topkapi you can drink a cup of tea and have a snack – there is a cozy cafe with views of the Bosphorus.
Official website: http://topkapisarayi.gov
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3. Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul
Your trip to the capital should certainly include a visit to this early 17th century building. Architectural delights in the styles of the mosque are Ottoman and Byzantine. Precious and unique types of marble were used for construction work. Ceramic tiles from Iznik, with which the facade of the temple is lined, have a beautiful blue color. It is thanks to them that the Sultanahmet Mosque got its second name.
Official website: http://www.sultanahmetcamii
4. Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is an old and large indoor market in Istanbul
What to visit in Istanbul for shopping lovers? This is a huge covered market, about 3.7 thousand squares in size. The bazaar with 66 streets began its work in the 15th century. At the moment, there are approximately 4 thousand shops and shops. There is also a school and a bathhouse, a temple and currency exchange offices, warehouses and restaurants on the territory. What can be bought? Absolutely everything: spices and herbs, souvenirs and fabrics, Turkish carpets and precious jewelry, clothes and shoes. Your trip here will be unforgettable: the Grand Bazaar has its own unique atmosphere.
5. Basilica Cistern
Underground Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
The object is a 4th century reservoir, located much below ground level. Previously, it was the main reservoir of water in Constantinople – the liquid flowed here from the neighboring forest. The ceiling of the cistern supports more than 330 marble columns brought from Byzantine cathedrals. At the end of the 20th century, the Basilica was given the status of a museum – it was restored and equipped with a lighting system.
Official website: http://yerebatansarnici
Check out the beautiful places of Istanbul in this wonderful video!
6. Galata Tower
Galata Tower in Istanbul
The prototype of this stone tower was a wooden structure built in Byzantine times. Over the long history of its existence, the attraction has served as a prisoner, and a lighthouse, and a fire service tower – guides in Istanbul will tell you many legends associated with it. There is an observation platform on the upper level, from which you can take great photos or just admire the panoramas of the city and the sea. At the foot of the building there are several restaurants, including those serving national cuisine of the country.
Official website: http://www.istanbul
7. Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul
Construction work continued for 7 years. White marble was used for interior decoration. Inside the most beautiful and largest mosque in the capital, about 10,000 parishioners can simultaneously accommodate. The temple with 138 windows is a reminder of the former greatness of the Ottoman Empire. On the territory there are high minarets, galleries, prayer halls, libraries, observatories, baths, hospitals and educational institutions. If you are interested in the best attractions in Istanbul, come here first.
8. Maiden's Tower
Maiden's Tower in Istanbul
The construction with an observation deck, created during the war between Sparta and Athens, is located on a small island. Note that the victory went to the Athenian army, and the island was turned into an outpost. At one time, the Maiden Tower was used as an insulator, an economic military warehouse, a prison and a lighthouse. Now it is one of the main symbols of the Turkish capital. Where did her name come from? According to the legends, the Sultan imprisoned his daughter in this tower, trying to save her from the predicted death from a snakebite. However, on the day of her 18th birthday, the girl received a basket of flowers, one of which contained a poisonous reptile.
Official website: http://www.kizkulesi
9. Yoros Fortress
Yoros Fortress in Anadolu Kavagi in Istanbul Guilhem Vellut
From the former grandeur of the fortress, only ruins remained. If you translate the name of the attraction from Greek, then it indicates a “holy place”. If you do not know what to see in Istanbul in 1 day, go to this monument of the Byzantine days.
10. Bayezid II Mosque
Bayezid II Mosque in Istanbul Uğur Başak
The building began to be erected at the beginning of the 16th century. This is a wonderful and majestic monument of history and architecture, which even the best hotels in Istanbul cannot compare with in terms of luxury. Bayezid II, with its two beautiful minarets, is one of the largest mosques in the city.
11. Rumel Fortress
Rumel Fortress, Rumelihisar in Istanbul Joseph Kranak
The date of construction of the defensive structure is the 15th century. Powerful construction walls were created in a couple of months in order to protect Constantinople from the strait. After the Byzantine era came to an end, the fort became a customs post. In the 20th century, the country's authorities ordered its reconstruction.
Istanbul attractions: what else to visit in Istanbul?
We have listed the main attractions of Istanbul briefly for you. If you have already seen each of these objects, go to see such fascinating places as:
12. Emirgan Park
Emirgan Park in Istanbul Nevit Dilmen
In former times, instead of the current well-organized and landscaped area, there were impenetrable forests. Tulip festival is organized every spring in the park area. Various varieties and types of these flowers are combined into original ornaments and unique paintings. If you are planning to visit the capital of Turkey in April, where you should definitely go in Istanbul, you now know.
13. Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Istanbul Bollweevil
The building has a wonderful view – snow-white walls are decorated with blue ornaments. Initially, each vault was entirely covered with unique frescoes and golden mosaics. A brown background and Arabic calligraphy were used to decorate luxurious interiors.
Official website: http://tsenina.narod.
14. New Valide Sultan Mosque< /h3>
New Mosque or Sultan Valid Mosque in Istanbul Jorge Láscar
This mosque should be visited with an experienced guide – the attendant will tell you the story of the appearance of the temple: a legend associated with an influential Albanian named Safiye Sultan and her husband Murad the Third (ruler of the city).
15. Istanbul Archaeological Museum
Istanbul Archaeological Museum Homonihilis
The museum complex includes 3 large buildings that store over one million exhibition items, each of which demonstrates the history of human development. How did you manage to collect such an impressive number of exhibits? The fact is that at the end of the 19th century it was strictly forbidden to export cultural and historical monuments from the Ottoman Empire. In the exhibition halls you can see the rarest items, such as the world's first peace agreement.
Panorama of Miniaturk Park in Istanbul Terrible broom
On Miniature Square there are models of famous European and Turkish sights, created in a 1 to 25 format. The number of objects is more than a hundred: there is a seaport, a railway road, the cathedrals of Artemis and St. Sofia, Blue Mosque, etc.
17. Golden Horn Bay
The Golden Horn Bay within the Turkish city of Istanbul
One of the most famous bays in the world is located in Istanbul – this is the Golden Horn Bay, on the southern coast of which Byzantium was once founded. It was precisely the advantageous geographical position of the bay that the city owed the prosperity it eventually achieved. In past centuries, merchant ships of the Ottomans and Byzantines moored here, and today, landscaped parks and walking paths stretch along the coast of the bay, significant historical monuments are located. The harbor itself is a curved bay that goes deep into the land – since ancient times it was called a horn, due to the similarity of forms. And it probably became “golden” due to the beauty of the local views and the abundance of attractions. The best way to explore them today is to take a ferry cruise along the waters of the bay, from where you will have a breathtaking view of the majestic palaces, cathedrals and mosques, ancient coastal fortifications and ancient buildings.
The Bosphorus Bridge is the first suspension bridge across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul
Although winter Istanbul does not please with the warmth of the summer sun, the sights in the city do not become less because of this. In addition, in winter, guests of the city can enjoy the tranquility of the Turkish capital, free from crowds of tourists and queues to significant objects. If you are looking for what to see in Istanbul in winter, you can find quite interesting options by applying resourcefulness. For example, a great vacation idea is a sea cruise along the Bosphorus, which will provide an opportunity to relax after a busy day. On a fine day, you can come to the Eminonu pier, take a ferry and go up to its upper deck, take a cup of strong Turkish tea and just escape from the hustle and bustle for a couple of hours, sailing along the quiet surface of the strait and enjoying the contemplation of the beautiful views of Constantinople, with its ancient palaces, bridges, castles, mosques and mansions.
19. Dolmabahce Palace
View of the North Gate of the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul from the south
Luxurious park of the Dolmabahce palace complex on the European side of the Bosphorus in Istanbul
If you are looking for what to see in Istanbul in a week, you can find a completely informative travel option – a tour of the palaces that the Turkish capital is famous for. After all, the Ottoman Empire was once famous not only for its military power, but also for its luxurious palace buildings. One of the most famous today is the Dolmabahce Palace – the richest historical complex on the shores of the Bosphorus, built in a baroque style that is not at all typical for local architecture. Inside there are almost three hundred rooms, of which 44 are spacious majestic halls. Today, some of the rooms serve as exhibition areas, where rare items, art objects, and jewelry are displayed. A large collection of paintings by world-famous artists deserves special attention. And the Clock Museum contains all the exclusive watches that were once presented to the Sultan.
Official website: http://www.millisaraylar
20. Beylerbey Palace
The facade of the Beylerbey Palace on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus in Istanbul
The Beylerbey Palace in the French neo-Baroque style once served as the summer residence of the Turkish sultans, and was also intended to receive various high-ranking guests. It was first erected in 1829, but a fire destroyed it to the ground, and in 1865 a beautiful white marble structure grew in its place – this is exactly the kind that has survived to this day. The interior decoration contrasts with the exterior design – the interior reflects the traditional Ottoman style. Everything inside is symmetrical, the chambers are richly decorated and amaze with their wealth – the floor is covered with large Egyptian carpets, the ceiling is decorated with Arabic script, massive intricate chandeliers hang from above, the interior is decorated with porcelain vases. A vivid example of oriental luxury is demonstrated by the Hall of Celebrations, also called the Blue Hall.
Official website: http://www.millisarayla
21. Yildiz Saray
Interior decoration of the Yildiz Palace in Istanbul Dosseman
Built as an alternative to the Dolmabahce Palace, which was vulnerable to the enemy, Yildiz Palace served as the residence of Abdul-Hamid II for 33 years, and later passed to other sultans and was a reception place for important people. Inside there are dozens of lavishly decorated rooms and halls, among which the ceremonial hall stands out for its luxury, with its golden stars on the vault of the ceiling and a huge red and white hand-woven carpet. The decoration is complemented by marble staircases, inlaid doors, an abundance of oriental marble, patterns, mother-of-pearl, and lush upholstery. In one of the rooms there is a museum, which gives an idea of the history of the city and its inhabitants over the past 5 centuries – paintings, household items, kitchen utensils, silverware, porcelain and glassware are exhibited here. The Court Park welcomes you with exotic plants, fragrant flowers and unique buildings.
22. Hippodrome Square
Egyptian obelisk or obelisk of Theodosius XVI century BC. e. at the Hippodrome Square in Istanbul
Part of the territory of Istanbul's Sultanahmet Square occupies the place where the ancient hippodrome was once located. This building appeared in the distant 3rd century, when Istanbul was still Byzantium, and this territory was used for spectacular competitions of horse chariots. Today, four historical monuments represent the greatest value of the Hippodrome. So, the 32-meter obelisk of Constantine Porphyrogenitus does not have an exact history of origin, but it is named after the emperor who restored the monument in the 10th century. The serpentine column is a construction of the 5th century BC. in the form of intertwining snakes, made by ancient Greek masters in honor of the victory of the Greek army over the Persians. The ancient Egyptian obelisk, which is already 3.5 thousand years old, was brought as a gift to the Turkish emperor from Feodosia. Finally, a beautiful stone fountain from the 19th century is a gift addressed to the Sultan by the German Emperor Wilhelm.
23. Taksim Square
The 12-meter “Republic” monument in the center of Taksim Square in the central part of Istanbul Bertil Videt
In the very center of Istanbul, there is a square that has become the European heart of the city. Taksim is not just a square, but an entire entertainment and tourist area, which is famous for its shops, restaurants, hotels, and it is from here that the legendary lively Istiklal Street originates, with its many bars, nightclubs, cinemas and other recreational opportunities. The square itself is just as lively, because it is the epicenter of many important events – various social events are held here, concerts, parades, demonstrations are held, and on December 31, the urban population flocks here to celebrate the New Year. A worthy place on the square is occupied by a number of historical buildings of the 19th century, and a 12-meter monument “Republic”, dedicated to many heroes-liberators. The square also serves as a major transport hub, being the starting point for many types of urban transport.
24. Istiklal Street
Popular pedestrian street Istiklal in Beyoglu district in Istanbul G Da
There is a whole street in the Turkish capital that deserves to have the status of a landmark in Istanbul. The guide will tell you how to get to it, but guests of the city most often come here from the popular tourist area of Sultanahmet. We are talking about Istiklal – a street of amazing contrasts, where chic restaurants and eateries coexist in the neighborhood, temples of different faiths and trendy nightclubs, and Arabic and European motifs are intertwined in the architecture. There is no transport here – the street is completely reserved for walking, so you can walk slowly, breathing in the spirit of history, and admire the ancient buildings, among which are the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, the Galata Tower, the Flower Passage. You can look into one of the many shops, souvenir shops or take a retro ride on an old 19th century tram – the only transport allowed here.
25. Church of St. Irene
Ancient Church of Hagia Irene in the historical center of Istanbul in the Sultanahmet district
One of the oldest churches preserved in Istanbul is the Church of Aya Irina, or the Church of Saint Irene. According to historians, it is much older than the well-known Hagia Sophia, but these two churches, like sisters, are located on both sides of the Sultan's Topkapi Palace, only a few tens of meters away from each other. It is assumed that Aya Irina was erected at the beginning of the 4th century under Emperor Constantine, and before the appearance of the Hagia Sophia, it was he who was the main temple complex of Constantinople. Important religious forums were held within its walls, including the session of the Second Ecumenical Council. Externally, the building is a cross between a domed basilica and a cross church. The interior decoration is characterized by an abundance of ancient mosaics, and the main hall houses a sarcophagus with the remains of Emperor Constantine.
Official website: https://topkapisarayi
26. Kariye Museum
Kariye Museum in the Byzantine Church of Christ the Savior on the grounds of Chora Monastery in Istanbul
In a rather inconspicuous place in Istanbul, the ancient Kariye Church is comfortably located, the exact date of construction of which is not known for certain, but the first mention dates back to the 4th century. It is hard to imagine that inside a rather nondescript building one can see excellent decoration, representing the rarest collection of ancient Byzantine frescoes. Over the long history of its existence, the church was both a monastery and a mosque, and today it has begun to play the role of a museum. Upon entering, visitors are struck by the superbly decorated interior, entirely covered with mosaics, which can be called a real standard of medieval Byzantine art. This is a one-of-a-kind material that presents illustrations of Bible scenes in the form of wall mosaics: here are stories of Christ's childhood, and episodes of miracles performed by him, and images of St. Mary with a baby.
Official website:< /em> https://ayasofyamuzesi
27. Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art in a two-story building of the former port warehouse in Istanbul Arild Vågen
Exposition hall at the Museum of Modern Art in Istanbul
It is hard to believe that at the beginning of the 21st century, an atmosphere of “cultural drought” reigned in the multi-million Turkish metropolis, when the craving for contemporary art was just beginning to awaken. In the wake of growing interest, a museum dedicated to the art of recent decades was opened in 2004, which marked the beginning of the mass opening of other private museums and galleries. The exposition of the museum is an amazing symbiosis of different eras, from antiquity to the present day. On the ground floor of the two-story building of the former port warehouse there is a library with a collection of books on contemporary art, modern author's films are shown, and halls with temporary exhibitions are located. The second floor is entirely devoted to contemporary art, where works illustrating the main milestones in the development of national art, from ancient sculptures to the latest complex installations, are exhibited in chronological order.
Official website: https://www.istanbulmodern
28. Pera Museum
Eight-story building of the Pera Museum at night in Istanbul Free smyrnan
A collection of tiles and ceramics from Kutahya in the Pera Museum in Istanbul Tatiana Matlina
The once luxurious Victorian-style Hotel Bristol, located in the Beyoglu district, was a temporary haven for wealthy visitors to the city. In 2005, the Pera Private Museum was opened in a renovated building of the former hotel, where permanent and temporary exhibitions are located on 8 floors. The first three floors of the building are permanent exhibitions with collections of Anatolian measurements and weights, portraits by European Orientalists, ceramics, and paintings of the 17th-19th centuries. The pearl of the museum is a collection of paintings that combines the works of Turkish and European masters, with scenes from the life of the city. The next two floors are temporary exhibitions with world-famous paintings and collections representing famous museums in other countries with which Pera maintains contact. The ground floor and two basement levels are occupied by the administrative premises of the museum.
Official website: https://www.peramuseum
29. Whirling Dervish Museum
Ritual dance hall at the Whirling Museum dervishes in the Galata district of Istanbul Nevit Dilmen (talk)
The multifaceted and extraordinary culture of the Turkish people sometimes gives rise to very unusual sights of Istanbul. The presentation cannot leave without attention one more museum – the so-called “Abode of the Dervishes”. Once upon a time, new communities began to appear among Muslims – orders with their own charter, among which was the order of spinning Melevi dervishes. In general, dervishes in the Christian sense are ascetic monks who lived by wandering, renounced worldly goods and could not imagine their existence without a special prayer, expressed in the form of an intricate dance. Today, the legendary dance of monks in long skirts has gained new fame and has become an element of many spectacular shows in Muslim countries. The former monastery, which today has been turned into a museum, houses an exposition with everyday items of dervishes, and in its basement there is a lavishly decorated ritual dance hall.
30. Valens Aqueduct
Highway under the Valens Aqueduct on Atatürk Boulevard in the old part of Istanbul Amin
One of the greatest achievements that drastically changed the life of Constantinople was the creation of a water supply system. Valens is an ancient aqueduct that was part of this system, built in the 4th century at the behest of the Roman emperor Valens and named after him. The construction then reached a length of 1 kilometer and a height of 26 meters, and water was supplied with it to the Topkapi Palace and other points in the city. Today, only a fragment of the system 625 meters long has been preserved, and due to the rise in the soil level, the height has decreased by 6 meters. In general, this structure was part of a grand city system with a total length of 550 kilometers, which at one time became one of the greatest hydraulic systems in the world. Today, the aqueduct has become a valuable historical monument, fitting into the modern landscape of the city. The most beautiful two-story part of the bridge rises above Ataturk Boulevard.
31. City Walls of Constantinople
Aerial view of the ancient walls of Constantinople in Istanbul
The walls and towers of Constantinople are a kind of reminder that once the city did not belong to Turkey. Ancient Byzantium has always been attractive to other states, for this reason, Emperor Constantine in the 4th century ordered the construction of fortress walls, the purpose of which was to protect the city both from land and from water. With the coming to power of Emperor Theodosius, the fortifications were significantly expanded, their length was more than 5 kilometers, a thickness of about 5 meters, a height of about 12, and after a certain period towers were erected, only about a hundred. The remains of these fortifications are known today as the walls of Constantinople. Of all the towers with gates, only 12 have survived, and the examination of the walls can be started from the south, moving along the gates to the north. The most famous of these structures are the Golden Gates – it was through them that the emperors of Byzantium and foreign guests entered the city in triumph.
32. Haydarpaşa Station
General view of the Haydarpasa railway station on the Asian side of Istanbul User:Darwinek
On the Bosphorus peninsula, in the Kadikoy area, above the other buildings of the old city, Haydarpasa Station proudly rises, which has long attracted romantics and lovers. The magnificent building resembles a fairy-tale castle, overlooking the bay, and on fine days the sun breaks through the colored glass of its stained-glass windows. Marble steps lead to the central entrance of the building, and neat turrets with conical roofs are located on the sides. For the first time in the walls of this baroque building, the station began to operate in 1909, and throughout its history it has repeatedly witnessed many historical events, both joyful and sad. So, the explosion of 1917 during the First World War severely damaged its architecture. And since 2012, thorough restoration work has been underway, so at present the station functions only as a tourist site, which is recommended to visit during a walk along the forecourt.
33. Gulhane Park
Alley of Gulhane City Park in Eminonu district of Istanbul Harold Litwiler
When asked what to see in Istanbul in April, the answer immediately suggests itself – of course, to visit the Tulip Festival! This fabulous event turns the whole city, and especially its parks, into a flower masterpiece, striking the imagination with the diversity of spring colors. Gulhane Park looks simply amazing in April, impressing with a riot of thousands of tulips, bluebells, pansies and other spring flowers. And also this month, storks arrive in the park and, settling on sprawling plane trees, lay their eggs and raise their young. In addition, Gulhane has a rich history, a beautifully landscaped landscape and attracts with the comfort of sprawling alleys. It is so nice to relax here after a busy walk, sitting right on the grass in the shade of trees or visiting a tea house, from where a magnificent view of the Bosphorus opens, with scurrying seagulls and passing ferries.
34. Jevahir Shopping Center
Floors of the shopping center Cevahir in the business district in the European part of Istanbul CherryX
The largest shopping and entertainment center of Istanbul is located in the European part of the city, in the fashionable Sisli district. It was erected in 2005 and is a huge building of 6 floors with an area of more than 600 thousand square meters, which houses more than 3 hundred boutiques, restaurants, shops and cafes. About 200 thousand people visit the establishments of the complex every day, who come here not only for shopping, but also for the purpose of passing the time. The Jevahir project was developed back in 1987 by an American architect, which was originally much larger, included skyscrapers and huge areas, but after 10 years, investment funds began to dry up, as a result, only 6 floors were built, which, nevertheless, were enough for winning the title of the largest shopping complex in Europe. A remarkable touch of the building is the world's largest clock, the height of the numbers alone which is as much as 3 meters.
Official website: http://www.istanbulcevahir
35. Egyptian Bazaar
One of the galleries of the complex Egyptian Bazaar or Spice Market in the old part of Istanbul Marco Bellucci
The Egyptian bazaar seemed to come down to us from the pages of an oriental fairy tale. It is also called the Spice Market, and this name is fully justified by the impressive slides of seasonings poured on numerous counters. The air of the market is completely saturated with the aromas of these spices, and the fantastic abundance of fresh and dried fruits, which alternate with varieties of high-class Turkish tea and coffee, Turkish cheeses and fresh sour-milk products, complements the market flavor. All sorts of oriental sweets deserve special attention – Turkish delight with various fillings, baklava loose and in boxes. A little to the side are shops with silver and jewelry, further showcases with traditional Turkish shoes. The large-scale building of the market itself is a historical building, which began to be built in the 16th century and took 73 years to build. It has been repeatedly exposed to fires, restored, has lost some details, but has not lost its authenticity.
Official website: http://www.misircarsisi
We are sure that those sights of Istanbul, photos with names and descriptions of which we have given, will allow you to make an excellent excursion route. Read also about the sights of Marmaris and be inspired to travel further in Turkey.