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Top 12 Historical and Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

Best Places to visit in Istanbul

Extending to Europe and Asia for centuries, Istanbul is a favorite of empires and one of the largest metropolises in the world. Founded around 1000 BC, the Byzantine colony turned into Constantinople, the great capital of the Byzantine Empire, and preserved its glorious position as the center of the empire after the Ottoman conquest of the city.

The city is filled with magnificent remnants of its long and glorious history, and its sights will impress even the most monumental weary visitor. Apart from the Big Four (Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar), leave enough time to explore other places to visit in Istanbul.

Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Istanbul and make your trip enjoyable.

Top 12 Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

Here are top 12 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Istanbul:

1. Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) Mosque

When he first entered the church built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 536 AD, he said, “Thank God, I am worthy of such a job. O Süleyman, I am beyond you!” he said to have cried.
Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia in Turkish) was the impudent words of the emperor to show the world the wealth and technological power of his empire.
Tradition holds that inside the church the area around the emperor’s throne is the official center of the world.
Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman army’s conquest of Istanbul, further converted into a museum in the 20th century, and rebuilt as an active mosque in 2020, remains one of Istanbul’s most beloved landmarks.
Address: Hagia Sophia Square, Sultanahmet
Official website: https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/ayasofya

2. Topkapi Palace

Built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, this magnificent palace is located on the shore of the Bosphorus, where the Ottoman sultans lived and ruled. The enormous complex showcases a dazzling display of Islamic art, with ornate courtyards lined with exquisite hand-painted tiles connecting the richly decorated rooms, all surrounded by crenelated walls and towers.

Among the many highlights here, the most popular are the Harem complex (where many sultans’ concubines and children would spend their days) and; Second Courtyard, where you can walk through the vast palace kitchen and admire the Empire. The Room is the Third Courtyard, which contains the Sultan’s private chamber.

The Third Courtyard also displays an impressive collection of the Prophet Muhammad’s relics in the Sacred Custody Chamber, which houses the imperial treasury, where you’ll find a wealth of shimmering gold objects and precious stones to keep you entertained.
You need at least half a day to see Topkapi Palace fully.
Address: Babihümayun Street, Gulhane Park
Official website: https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/topkapi

3. Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque)

Sultan Ahmed I’s greatest architectural gift to the capital was this beautiful mosque, commonly known today as the Blue Mosque. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque caused a sensation in the Muslim world when it was completed, as it had six minarets (the same number as the Mecca Mosque). The seventh minaret was eventually given to Mecca to curb opposition.

The nickname of the mosque comes from its internal structure, which consists of tens of thousands of Iznik tiles. The overall spatial and color effects of the interior make the mosque one of the best achievements of Ottoman architecture.

One of the pleasures of a trip to Istanbul is to wander through the gardens between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and experience the duels of the twin magnificent domes.
Come at dusk for extra ambiance as the call to prayer resounds.

Just behind the Blue Mosque is the Arasta Bazaar; The craft shops here sell quality souvenirs and are a great place to shop. You can visit the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, located between the Arasta Bazaar and the Mosque, even if you are not interested in visiting it.
This small museum displays 250 square feet of mosaic flooring pieces unearthed here in the 1950s. Excellent information panel explaining the restoration and subsequent recovery of mosaic floors.

4. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıçı)

The Basilica Cistern is one of the most surprising tourist attractions in Istanbul.
Supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, this massive, palatial underground hall once stored the royal water supply for Byzantine emperors.

The project was started by Constantine the Great but completed by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Most of the columns used in the building are derived from earlier classical structures and have decorative carvings.
The most famous of these is the pedestal in the northwest corner, known as the Medusa stone, with the head of Medusa engraved on it. A visit here is very atmospheric, with brightly lit pillars and a soft, steady trickle all around.
Address: Yerebatan Caddesi, Sultanahmet
Official website: https://www.yerebatan.com/en

5. Hippodrome

The ancient arena was started by Septimius Severus in 203 and completed by Constantine the Great in 330 AD. It was the center of Byzantine public life, the place of exciting games and chariot races, and the place of factional clashes.

Today, there is not much to see in the arena except for a small section of the gallery walls on the south facade, but the Horse Square (park) on the site now hosts various monuments.

On the northwest side, in 1898, the German Emperor II. There is a fountain that was gifted to the Ottoman Sultan by Wilhelm.
Then to the southwest are three ancient ruins: a 20-meter high Egyptian obelisk (from Heliopolis); a column of serpents brought from Delphi by Constantine; and a stone obelisk, originally a gilded bronze finish, was stolen by soldiers. 1204 Fourth Crusade.

6. Istanbul Archeology Museum

Just a hop, skip and hop from Topkapi Palace and then easily accessible, this important museum complex brings together a collection of artifacts from Turkey and the Middle East covering the region’s vast history.

The museum complex is divided into three separate sections, each worth seeing.
The Museum of the Ancient East presents a collection focusing on pre-Islamic art and heritage in the Middle East.

The main archaeological museum houses statues and tombs, including the famous sarcophagus from Sidon, Lebanon, unearthed by Ottoman architect Osman Hamdi Bey. You’ll also find Istanbul’s Historical Exhibition Hall, which helps you visualize the city’s vast and epic history.
The third building of the museum is the tile pavilion built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, which houses a collection of various ceramic arts.

Address: Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu Street, Gulhane Park
Official website: https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/archeology

7. Shopping at the Grand Bazaar

For many tourists, visiting Istanbul is a mix of shopping, museums and monumental attractions, and the Grand Bazaar is where everyone comes to. Basically the world’s first shopping mall, this grand covered bazaar is located between Nuruosmanıye Mosque and Beyazıt Mosque, surrounded by thick walls that cover the entire city.

Beyazıt Mosque (built 1498-1505) occupies the site of Theodosius I Forum and its architecture was inspired by Hagia Sophia. The bazaar is entered through one of 11 doors, and from there is a maze of vaulted ceiling strips lined with shops and stalls selling every imaginable Turkish souvenir and handicraft.

The various deals are still largely segmented, making it easy to browse. There are burnt columns near the Divanyolu Street entrance of the bazaar. The slab of this porphyry column (still 40 meters high) was installed by Constantine the Great in his forum. Until 1105, there was no bronze statue of Constantine.

8. Suleymaniye Mosque

Located on a hill above the Sultanahmet district, the Süleymaniye Mosque is one of Istanbul’s best-known landmarks. By the famous Ottoman architect Sinan, Sultan I, who was responsible for many famous Ottoman-era monuments of Turkey, including the Eddie Selimiye Mosque in Erne.

The 53-meter-high dome, which stands out with its harmonious proportions and uniform design, dominates the interior of the Süleymaniye Mosque. Outside the peaceful garden area is an interesting Ottoman-era cemetery, which also houses the mausoleums (tombs) of Sultan Suleiman and his wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan.

9. Taste Turkish Products at the Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar is your gourmet feasting on Turkish delight, dried fruits, nuts, herbs and of course, spices. Most of the money that helped build it came from the Ottoman government’s taxes on products made in Egypt, hence its Turkish name (Egyptian Bazaar) meaning “Egyptian market”.
The Spice Bazaar is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul, and cruise ships that dock at certain times of the day are packed with large groups of tourists.
Try to avoid crowds before 11 am or after 4 pm.

Right next to the main entrance of the Spice Bazaar is the magnificent Yeni Mosque (New Mosque), the “new” for Istanbul, whose construction began in 1615 and was completed in 1663. While touring the area, it’s worth taking a look inside because of the rich use of tiles and gold leaves.
Address: Yenicami Square, Eminönü

10. Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace shows the clear influence of 19th century European decoration and architecture on the Ottoman Empire. It was built in 1854 by Sultan Abdülmesid I on the site of Topkapı Palace, which was the main residence of the Sultan.

Dolmabahçe Palace was also used as an official residence during the founding of the Turkish Republic, where Atatürk (the founder of modern Turkey) died in 1938. The formal gardens are dotted with fountains, ornamental basins, and blooming flower beds.

Inside, it combines Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical and Ottoman elements with massive crystal chandeliers, heavy use of gold, French furniture and frescoed ceilings, creating a dazzling Turkish Renaissance-inspired splendor and grandeur.
Location: Dolmabahce Street, Besiktas
Official website: http://www.millisaraylar.gov.tr/

11. Chora Church (Kariye Cami)

Chora means “country” in Greek, and this beautiful church (originally called the Church of the Holy Savior of Chora) is located just outside the old city walls of Constantinople.
The first Chora church may have been built in the 5th century, but what you see now is the 6th reconstruction of the building, as it was completely destroyed in the 9th century and saw several renovations between the 11th and 14th centuries.

The church was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul and became a museum in 1945. In 2020, it was rebuilt into a working mosque. Famous for its vibrant 14th-century mosaics, the monument is nearly intact in the two vestibules, well preserved in the nave, and frescoes on the walls and dome.

These incredible examples of Byzantine art cover a wide variety of topics, from the genealogy of Jesus to New Testament stories.
Location: Kariye Mosque Street, Edirnekapi

12. Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum

Located in the palace of İbrahim Pasha, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the museum is a must-see for anyone interested in Ottoman and Islamic art. The range of rugs on display here is extensive and has been praised by textile experts as the best in the world.

Before embarking on a shopping quest to purchase your own floors, this is the best place to spy a dizzying array of Turkish (and Caucasian and Persian rugs) from centuries past. There are also exhibits of fine pottery, calligraphy and woodcarving from the 9th to 19th centuries AD.
Address: Sultan Ahmet Meydan Caddesi
Official website: https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/tiem

Conclusion:

Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Istanbul. If you think there are some more best and beautiful places to visit in Istanbul, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.

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