Sightseeing & Places of Interest in İstanbul
Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which was constructed by the 14th Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I, who ruled between 1603-1617, is the greatest and the most splendid mosque of Istanbul. The construction of the mosque started in 1609 by architect Mehmet Agha who was a student of Architect Sinan who undertook the architectural works of the structure and the construction. It was completed in 1616. The premises consisted of a madrasah, a hospital, an Arasta Bazaar, a school, a mausoleum, a caravansaray and a public fountain together with the mosque. The hospital and the caravansaray were damaged in 19th century. It is also famous for its blue tiles and six minarets.
Haghia Sophia Museum
Ever since it was built, people have been awed by the splendid decoration of Haghia Sophia, one of Istanbul's foremost historical monuments, and above all by the sheer scale of interior, with its soaring central dome. When the church was built the bold construction of this great dome was ascribed to supernatural forces, and it became an important symbol of mysticism. According to the ecclesiastical historian Socrates, who lived in Istanbul between 380 and 440 A.D., the first church on the site was erected by the Emperor Constantine I and dedicated to Sacred Wisdom, or the Holy Ghost of the Christian trinity, it was named Haghia Sophia. The church lived through a succession of rebellions, emperors and governments before entering a new era with the capture of the city by the Ottoman armies under the command of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453. Haghia Sophia is today a museum.
Topkapı Palace Museum
After his conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II built Topkapı Palace as his principal residence. It was conceived as a series of Pavilions. The palace served as the seat of government and contained a school in which civil servants and soldiers were trained. It was the legendary palace of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Low buildings set in a series of courtyards. Topkapı is quite unlike a Western palace. In addition to its historical and architectural interest, it houses extraordinary collections of porcelains, armors, fabrics, jewelers, miniatures, calligraphy and many precious objects and works of art that once belonged to the sultans and their court.
Dolmabahce Palace is the winter residence of 19th century Ottoman Sultans. This ornate palace reflects a synthesis of late Baroque and Rococo styles with 228 rooms and 22 reception rooms. Its wonderful gardens stretching along the Bosphorus delight the eye. The palace houses a good collection of Europe antiques and furniture and is famous for its 4.5-ton chandelier. The most famous attractions of the palace are the vast reception hall supported by 56 columns and a huge crystal chandelier carrying 750 lamps, weighing four and half tons. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died there on November 10th, 1938.
Haghia Irene's Church
The second largest Byzantine church after Haghia Sophia stands in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace. It is believed that the church was built by order of Constantine I (324- 337 A.D.) at the beginning of the 4th century, making use of the ruins of ancient Roman temples. For several years now, St. Irene has been a venue for classical music concerts during festivals in Istanbul.
The Khedive's Summer House
The Khedive's Summer House in Çubuklu, with its superb views and green gardens, is a villa built by the khedive of Egypt Abbas Hilmi Paşa. Designed in the Art Nouveau style by the architect Delfo Seminati in 1907, it is now open to the public.
Yerebatan (Basilica) Cistern
Built in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian to meet the city's water needs this ancient cistern has been restored three times, in 1068, 1985 and 1987. Yerebatan Cistern is one of the architectural examples that could survive to our age from the early period of the historical peninsula of Istanbul.
Hippodrome, today named Sultanahmet Square, is the hearth of the Old Town. The ancient works in the middle of this square and the structures arranged in a line around the square are the most spectacular historical remains of Istanbul. The Hippodrome's construction was started in 203 during the reign of Septimus Severus just after Roman conquest of the city. It was finally completed on May 11, 330 for the ceremonies of Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great, who wished to make this city a second capital for the Roman Empire.
Süleymaniye Mosque (Mosque of Süleyman the Magnificient)
Architect Sinan, the most famous architect of Ottoman history, constructed the mosques with the order of Süleyman the Magnificient. Its general architectural elegance and size of the complex built in integrity with the mosque is much superior than all the buildings built before and after Süleymaniye. Usually non-Moslems were settled in this valuable region that is on the third of seven hills within the city walls. The mosque is at the slope of this hill facing the Golden Horn.
The Chora Church of St. Savior in Chora
Some of the very finest Byzantine mosaics and frescoes are found in the Church of St. Savior in Chora. Little is known of early history of the church, although its name is "in Chora", which means "in the country", suggests that church originally stood in a rural setting. The present church dates from 11th century.
The museum was created by roofing a part of the Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors, and was discovered in 1930's. The surviving mosaic floor shows a lively variety of wild and domestic beasts. It is thought to have adorned the colonnade leading from the royal apartments to the imperial enclosure beside Hippodrome and dates from the 5th century A.D.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Over 40,000 items are on display in the former palace of İbrahim Paşa, the most gifted of Süleyman's many grand viziers. The collection was begun in the 19th century and ranges from the earliest period of Islam under Omayyad caliphate (661-750) to modern times.
Museum of Fine Arts
Formerly the Crown Prince Pavilion, this building, adjacent to Dolmabahçe Palace, houses a fine collection of 19th- 20th century paintings and sculpture.
The Archeological Museum was founded as the Ottoman Imperial Museum by Osman Hamdi Bey and completed in three successive stages over 1891- 1902 and 1908, when it was known as the Museum of Antiquity. Stone sculpture and mosaics of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine era are displayed on the ground floor. The first floor is reserved for the minor arts of the prehistoric to Byzantine periods. Some 45000 objects are on display or in storerooms. Among the museum's unique objects are the Mourning Maidens Sarcophagus, the Alexander Sarcophagus, the Alexander bust, and the Sidamara Sarcophagus. On the second floor of the museum are exhibited gold objects and treasure.
The Maiden's Tower
Kız Kulesi, the Maiden's Tower; is Istanbul's best-known landmark. This attractive small building set on a rocky islet at the mouth of the Bosphorus has been used over the centuries as a watchtower and lighthouse. Today, however, it houses a café and restaurant with unsurpassed views. Some western writers have referred to it as Leander's Tower in reference to the legend of Leander who swam to the tower every night to reach his beloved Hero. Another story relates that once upon a time an emperor of Istanbul dreamed that his daughter would be poisoned by a snake, and to save her from this fate locked her up in this tower. But destiny was not to be avoided, and an adder concealed in a basket of fruit brought about the girl's death.
A mini Turkey theme park has been established in Istanbul. This project has led by Istanbul Municipality and Kültür A.Ş. and settled on Golden Horn. The establishment contains more than 100 miniatures of important cultural sites in Turkey. The Miniatürk theme park project contains 50 architectural sites, which are resembled in 1/25 scala from Istanbul, and from Ephesus, Nemrut Temple, Aspendos Amphitheatre, İshakpaşa Palace, and Cappadocia.
Turkish Bath (Hamam)
One of the truly unique experiences of a trip to Turkey is a visit to the hamam. Like the harem, this Roman and Byzantine tradition was adopted and then perfected by the Seljuk Turks, for whom the public bath took on an important role. It was not merely a place where believers could fulfill the Islamic precept of cleanliness, it was a place in which to mingle, socialize and gossip. Women would proceed from their harem to the hamam with great ceremony; accompanied by servants heavily laden with delicacies to tide the ladies over for the hours they would spend lounging in the steam. Cagaloglu Hamamı, a 18th century historic bath, was built by the Great Turkish Architect Sinan and was used only by the Sultans, important people of the palace and high class of the society. Some famous characters that visited this bath were King Edward VIII, Kaiser Wilhelm, Franz Liszt, and Florence Nightingale. A traditional Turkish bath party is a unique experience. Lie back and relax on the heated, huge marble slab while steaming water runs in the marble basins in the arched alcoves. A massage, a scrub with a special glove, is wonderfully relaxing and pleasing.
One of the most beautiful sights in the world, the Bosphorus, is a strait that runs a winding course between the two continents from one sea to another. Witness to great loves since mythological times when Zeus pursued Io over the seas; this 19-miles long strait between Asia and Europe is also a celebration to nature and architecture. Motorboats are cruising along the Bosphorus and visiting the shores of both Europe and Asia with all the summer palaces, old wooden houses and fortresses.
The Princes' Islands
These nine islands opposite Bostancı, one of the largest districts on the Asian shore, became known as the Princes' islands because princes and other members of the aristocracy were exiled here in Byzantine times. As well as the permanent residents of Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kınalı and Sedef islands, many Istanbul residents traditionally spend the summer here. Today, the islands are one of the most popular places in Istanbul for summer stays and day trips.
İstiklal Street in Beyoğlu
In the 16th century, Aloiso Gritti, son of the Venetian Doge Andrea Gritti, was granted permission by Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent to construct a residence in Galata. That was how it came to the name Beyoğlu (son of a lord). Western embassies were built in the same area during the same century. The main street here was known in Ottoman times as Cadde-i Kebir (The Great Avenue), now İstiklal Street with lots of shops, cafes and bars.