Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı)
One of the most outstanding and popular places to visit in Istanbul is Topkapi Palace, the symbolic and political centre of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. It stands on the tip of land where the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus come together, and is a maze of buildings centered around a series of courtyards, typical of Islamic tradition.
Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya)
Hagia Sophia, the “Church of Holy Wisdom”, was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It was, for nearly a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world’s most important architectural monuments. More than 1400 years old, Haghia Sophia covers a total area of 7570 square meters and is over 100 meters long. Never again did the Byzantines attempt to build anything approaching the scale of Haghia Sophia. After 916 years as a church, Haghia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453, shortly after the conquest. In 1935 the church was transformed into a museum.
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii)
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historical mosque in Istanbul, popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.
It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.
The design of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. It incorporates some Byzantine elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.
Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı)
Kapali Carsi means Closed/Covered Bazaar in Turkish. It is the oldest and biggest closed bazaar in the world and has around 4000 shops and over 60 alleyways, covering a huge labyrinth in the city centre.
The original two structures, covered with a series of domes and remains of the 15th century walls, became a shopping area by covering the surrounding streets and adding to it over the following centuries. In Ottoman times this was the centre of trading, and a vital area of town.
Apart from the usual shops selling clothes, textiles, jewelry and carpets, there are small workshops where craftsmen cast and beat silver or brass.
Kız Kulesi (Leander’s Tower – Maiden Tower)
A 12th century stone tower erected on a rock at the entrance of the Bosphorus by Byzantine Emperor Manuel Komnenos. This tower, which has served as a prison and a lighthouse, became the source of many legends in ancient days. It soon will be opened to the public as a cafeteria and will host concerts and meetings. This unique tower with a history dating back 2500 years, has witnessed everything that the city has encountered throughout its history.
Galata Tower (Galata Kulesi)
A medieval stone tower Galata Kulesi was built by the Genoese as part of the wall surrounding their district of Galata directly opposite Byzantium (Constantinopolis). It was used for the surveillance of the harbor in the Golden Horn and was called Christea Turris (the Tower of Christ) by the Genoese.
One of the city’s most striking landmarks, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and affords a panoramic vista of Old Istanbul and its environs. The tower now houses a restaurant and a night club.
Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe Sarayı)
Dolmabahce Palace, built along the European coast of the Bosphorus by the brothers Nikagos and Karabet Balyan in 1853 for the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid II, was the most monumental work of the time.