One of the world’s great cities, Istanbul, a vast and an ever-changing metropolis, blends a rich imperial past with an exciting contemporary buzz. It offers a dazzling and endless variety of historical sights and attractions among which we propose the following most essential selections for both first time as well as repeat visitors.One of the world’s great cities, Istanbul, a vast and an ever-changing metropolis, blends a rich imperial past with an exciting contemporary buzz. It offers a dazzling and endless variety of historical sights and attractions among which we propose the following most essential selections for both first time as well as repeat visitors.
Hagia Sophia Museum
One of the world’s foremost architectural achievements, Haghia Sophia was originally built 1400 years ago as “The Church of the Holy Wisdom”. Now a museum, it stands as a testament of Byzantine grandeur.
Built between 1609-16 and famous for its six minarets and priceless Iznik tiles the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, better known as Blue Mosque, is one of Istanbul’s most spectacular landmarks.
Byzantine Constantinople’s once prominent stadium is now a prominent public square and home to the Serpentine Column (479 BC), Column of Constantine (10th Century AD) and the Egyptian Obelisk (1500 BC) that originally stood in Luxor until emperor Constantine brought it to his capital.
Topkapi Palace Museum
This sprawling palace, seat of Ottoman sultans for nearly four centuries, is a must-see for all first-time visitors to Istanbul. With its unique collection of ceramics, glass and silverware, arms and armor, imperial costumes, miniatures and manuscripts, Topkapi Palace is also famed for The Harem quarters, the residence of the sultan’s wives, concubines and children.
A wonder of Byzantine engineering, this vast and cavernous underground cistern was built in the 6th century AD by emperor Justinian. It is a fascinating spot to visit, notable for its reversed Medusa head bases on which columns rest.
Istanbul Archeological Museum
Launched in 1891 and located within the picturesque Gülhane Park, this neo-classical structure by famous Istanbul-born French architect Alexander Vallaury is home to many marble statues, busts and edifices from Asia Minor’s rich Greek and Roman heritage, including a sarcophagus thought to be that of Alexander the Great.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art
Built in the 15th century and formerly the palace of İbrahim Pasha, a grand vizier of Süleyman the Magnificent era, this museum is home to an important collection of Islamic calligraphy, tiles and carpets, as well as depictions and works of Turkish nomadic people.
Architect “the great” Sinan’s undisputed masterpiece and arguably a rival masterwork to Ayasofya, this is Istanbul’s most important mosque, built in the name of its founder Süleyman the Magnificent during the years 1550-1557.
Built in the 11th century in what must have been a rural setting just above the Golden Horn and near the Land Walls of (then) Constantinople, the “Church of St. Savior in Chora” boasts interior mosaics and fresco decorations that are considered to be masterpieces of Byzantine Renaissance art.
Dolmabahçe Palace Museum
The latter-day home of Ottoman Sultans, this imposing palace features over 250 rooms and nearly 50 halls. Built in the mid-1850’s it dominates the seafront of the city’s European shores at the very outset of the Bosporus.
A short ferry ride away from the mainland, these four residential and verdant islands offer a pleasant break from the city’s hectic pace. Ornate villas and gardens dot the landscape where the only means of transportation are bicycles and horse carriages.
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