Places to Visit in Istanbul
Ultimate Itinerary for Trip to Istanbul
Coveted by empires and uniquely among world’s cities, Istanbul is one of the world’s great metropolises standing astride two continents – Europe and Asia. Founded around 1000 BC, without any doubt, Istanbul is one of the beautiful spots to visit in the world. The city remains vibrant cultural, economic and intellectual heart of modern Turkey. This magical place of East and West has more drawer attractions than it has minarets. The city is scattered with amazing remnants of its long and illustrious history, and sightseeing will impress visitors. With its oriental-fantasy skyline of minarets and domes and its narrow cobbled streets lined with wooden houses, this is ancient city originally founded by Greeks. Mentioned below are some of best places to add in your Istanbul itinerary:
- Aya Sofya
Formerly known as Hagia Sophia, Aya Sofya was once Greek Orthodox Christian basilica, later an imperial mosque and is now a museum in Istanbul. It is one the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Its interior is decorated with marble and mosaics pillars with coverings of great artistic value. Its influence, both liturgically and architecturally, was widespread in Eastern Orthodox. Its nave is covered by central dome which at its maximum is 55.6 m from floor level and rests on 40 arched windows. Its interior surfaces are sheathed with polychrome marbles, white and green with gold mosaics.
- Topkapı Palace
Built in 1459, Topkapi Palace is a large museum which has served as main residence and administrative headquarters of Ottoman sultans. It was originally known as ‘New Palace’ to distinguish it from Old Palace in Beyazit Square. Its name means Cannon Gate which was changed in 19th century. The palace complex consists of many small buildings and four main courtyards. The main street to palace is Byzantine processional Mese Avenue which is today known as Divan Yolu. Imperial Gate is the main entrance into First Courtyard. This gate was originally built in 1478 and is now covered in 19th century marble.
- Blue Mosque
Also known as Sultan Ahmet Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Blue Mosque is historic mosque and popular tourist site to visit alone. Constructed between 1609 and 1616, the mosque caused furor in Muslim world as it had six minarets. The mosque gets its current name from its interior decoration of tens of thousands of Iznik tiles. The color effect of the interior makes the mosque one of the best achievements of Ottoman architecture. Behind this mosque, there is Arasta Bazaar which is great place for shopping. Additionally, there is Great Palace Mosaic Museum, which is tucked between mosque and Arasta Bazaar.
- Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is largest of various ancient cisterns that lie beneath city of Istanbul and is one of the most surprising tourist attractions. This cistern was built in 6th century during reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. This palace-like underground hall is supported by 336 columns in 12 rows and once stored imperial water supply. This cistern has capacity to store 100,000 tons of water and is empty today. It provided a water filtration system for Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings in 1453. Additionally, its ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns and each 9 meters high.
Construction was begun in AD 203 and was completed in AD 330, Hippodrome was center of Byzantine public life. It was an ancient Grecian stadium for chariot racing and horse racing. It was set out on the slope of hill, and its one end was semicircular and other end has extensive portico. On northwest side is fountain, presented to Ottoman sultan by German Emperor William II. Heading to southwest are three ancient monuments, namely 20-meter high Egyptian obelisk; stone obelisk and Serpent Column brought from Delphi.
- Grand Bazaar
Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. The market covers 61 streets with more than 4,000 shops, and attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. The market was voted as world’s most-visited tourist attraction with 91,250,000 visitors annually. Additionally, this market is often known as one of the first shopping malls of the world. Entrance to the bazaar is through one of 11 gates from where shops and stall selling every Turkish souvenir are lined. The market has wide range of things to purchase and you may need your travel credit card here.
- Chora Church
Originally built as part of monastery complex, Chora Church is a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox church which is preserved as Chora Museum. Its interior is covered with some of finest and oldest surviving Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. The building is divided into three main sections: main body of church, entrance hall and side chapel.