Istanbul Travel Guide

Why Should We Go to Istanbul?

Istanbul Travel Guide. Building a bridge between Europe and Asia, Istanbul has a magnificent historical heritage. The prestigious history of this city, which was once the capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, has left us with many historical artifacts that should be treasured. You can find its past and present together, as it has a unique mix of architecture. Next to the Byzantine church, you can see a glass skyscraper or a colorful bazaar in the shadow of a shopping mall. The natural landscape is also impressive. The Bosphorus, a narrow strait, divides the city in two and connects the Sea of ​​Marmara in the south to the Black Sea in the north. Visitors can see the silhouette of domes, towers and modern towers from the blue waters.

Although Istanbul may seem serene from afar, the interior atmosphere is extraordinarily lively. Explore the bustling streets and crowded bazaar stalls that have characterized the city for hundreds of years. You will have a hard time digesting all the sights, sounds and smells. Speaking of scents… during your explorations, you can taste the distinctive Turkish delicacies on the streets, including the fast food version of Istanbul, doner kebab. Istanbul, which has been at the crossroads of civilizations and continents for centuries, surprises visitors with its fast pace, ancient history and current culture.

 

Places to Visit in Istanbul

Touring Istanbul’s magnificent places of worship and palaces can take history buffs and culture hunters weeks. The most interesting places are concentrated in the Fatih district, but districts such as Beyoğlu and Beşiktaş are just as exciting as the Fatih district. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum are important, but just exploring the street traffic and observing the daily life here is equally fascinating. Food is a central part of culture. While looking for souvenirs, you can wander around the many bazaars in the city, but if you have limited time, you can only visit the Grand Bazaar, the largest and most famous of the shopping malls.

 

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque  was built by Sultan Ahmet I in the 17th century by  Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa , one of the students trained  by Mimar Sinan .
 The mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque , as there are intense blue colored Iznik tiles on the walls of the mosque  . There are 21 thousand 43 eye-catching  Iznik tiles  on the walls of the mosque.
Due to the fact that Sultan Ahmet, who had the mosque built on the minarets , was the 16th Ottoman Sultan, there are 16 balconies. Together with the Sultan Ahmet Mosque complex, it is one of the largest building complexes in Istanbul.
This complex consists of a mosque, madrasahs, sultan’s pavilion, arasta, shops, Turkish bath, fountain, public fountains, tomb, hospital, primary school, almshouse and rental rooms. The tomb of Sultan Ahmet I was built adjacent to the mosque garden.

Sultan Ahmed I was determined to build a mosque to rival the nearby Hagia Sophia, and most agree that he succeeded, or at least came close to it. The Blue Mosque has been a must-see since the early 1600s, with a series of domes, half domes, and minarets. It is also one of the biggest tourist attractions in Istanbul. This mosque offers a “stunning architecture inside and out”.

 

Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque

Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque
Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque

Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque  is among the most important monuments in the history of world architecture that have survived until today. Once the largest cathedral in the world, Hagia Sophia is considered a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. It is a symbol of Istanbul’s magnificent history, with the building’s magnificent Islamic calligraphy as well as beautiful Christian mosaics.

Structure; It has an important place in the art world with its architecture, magnificence, size and functionality.

This magnificent work is the largest church built by the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul and was built three times in the same place. It was called  Megale Ekklesia (Great Church) when it was first built, and it was called Hagia Sophia  (Sacred Wisdom) from the  5th century until the conquest of Istanbul  . Megale Ekklesia, which was built by Emperor Konstantios in 360 and Emperor II. The church, which Theodosis rebuilt in 415, was destroyed in the popular uprisings.

The building, which was open to worship as a church for 916 years, was converted into a mosque when Fatih Sultan Mehmed conquered Istanbul in 1453. Right after the conquest, the building was strengthened and preserved in the best way, and it continued to exist as a mosque with the additions of the Ottoman Period.

The minarets, madrasah, primary school, muvakkithane, fountain, fountains, sundials, board of trustees and the  Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque , which were built outside the building in different periods, were transformed into a complex structure during the Ottoman Period.

Hagia Sophia-i Kebir Mosque  was converted into a museum in 1934 and served as a museum until 2020. In 2020, it gained the status of a mosque again.

 

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

The Süleymaniye Mosque , which Mimar Sinan  describes as a  journeyman’s work, was built between 1551 and 1558 by the order of the Ottoman Sultan  Suleiman the Magnificent. Süleymaniye Mosque is  one of the most important examples of Classical Ottoman Architecture . The dome of the mosque, which has four minarets, two with three balconies and two with two balconies, is 53 meters high. It is rumored that the first stone of the temple, which was started to be built in one of the most beautiful places in Istanbul, was laid by the great scholar  Şeyhülislam Ebussuud Efendi .

Located in Istanbul’s historic Fatih district, next to the Golden Horn, Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar, the Süleymaniye Mosque is considered one of the city’s most impressive Ottoman mosques. This grand structure features multiple gardens and a large dome, as well as high-end finishes such as mother-of-pearl window shutters, painted cornices, traditional ceramic tiles and stained glass. The Süleymaniye Mosque is as fascinating as the Blue Mosque, with its “magnificent” and “peaceful” environment.

The mosque garden, which has an area of ​​approximately 6 thousand square meters, has 11 gates. Around the garden  , seven madrasahs, five of which are at high school level, one of which is a faculty and one of which are specialized departments, which are famous as Süleymaniye Madrasahs  , were established.The buildings on the right side of the mosque were the Evvel and Sani madrasahs and the Sibyan School, and later on, they were converted to the Süleymaniye Library, and a part of it became a children’s library. The medical school on the corner serves as a maternity home, while the bimarhane opposite it is a military printing house, it now serves as a girls’ Quran course. The buildings on the northern side of the mosque were used as an almshouse at first, then as a museum of Turkish-Islamic Works and were transferred to the Süleymaniye Library in 1984.

 

Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace Museum

Topkapi Palace served as the residence of the Ottoman Sultans from 1478 to 1856 and is one of the most popular attractions in Istanbul. It officially became a museum in 1924, shortly after the end of the Ottoman era, and boasts magnificent architecture, well-kept courtyards, and extensive collections of weapons, porcelain, cutlery, art, and fabrics.

The Ottoman state philosophy and the Palace-subject relations played a major role in determining the plan of the Topkapı Palace, which developed and grew for centuries. Also, in the period when Topkapı was first built, Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s father, Sultan II. It is known that the Edirne Palace , which was built by Murad on the edge of the Tunca River and whose ruins have survived to the present day,  was inspired by its grandeur as well as its plan.

Topkapi Palace is a modest palace; The great expenditures of the empire were mostly made for magnificent mosques, barracks, bridges, caravanserais and accommodation facilities. Even Mimar Sinan , the famous architect of the 16th century,   built only one section in this palace. But its location in Sarayburnu gives it a natural beauty and splendor, as well as the unique buildings, exquisite tiles and nature of the palace.

The extraordinarily rich collections of Topkapi Palace and its history woven with extremely interesting stories make this palace one of the most worth seeing in the world. Imperial Treasury, European Porcelains and Glass, Copper and Tombak Kitchenware, Chinese and Japanese Porcelains, Silvers, Cardigan-i Felicity and Sacred Relics, Istanbul Glass and Porcelain, Sultan Dresses, Sultan portraits and painting collection, Weapons are among the valuable collections exhibited in the museum. .

 

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Located within walking distance of must-see places such as the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern and the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered shopping arcades in the world. A wide range of products, from carpets and clothing to art and chessboards, restaurants, cafes and even two Turkish baths can be found here.

Located in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city  , the history of the Grand Bazaar goes back to the middle of the 15th century, during the  reign of Mehmet the Conqueror . According to the foundation system, which is one of the most important practices that kept the Ottoman institutions alive, another income-generating structure was created in order to meet the various needs of mosques such as repair and maintenance costs. The most important of these income generating structures are the bazaars and  Hagia Sophia was built by Fatih Sultan Mehmet.The foundation of the Grand Bazaar was laid in 1461 with the structures built to generate income for the city, and it grew gradually with the additions made over the years. Over time, the Grand Bazaar, which became the most important commercial center of the entire region, hosted the richest tradesmen in Istanbul, and where jewelery and precious jewels from all over the world were traded, also served as a bank and financial center in these years.

At the same time, since it is seen as one of the places that best reflects Istanbul and the Eastern life in the eyes of Europeans, the fact that it is featured in many travel books and paintings by painters also proves the historical and cultural importance of the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar, which is defined as not only the oldest but also the largest shopping center in the world, is built on an area of ​​45 thousand square meters and houses 3,600 shops. The Grand Bazaar, which was the heart of the economy in the Ottoman Period, when it had more than this number of shops and covered a wider area, is the first stopover point for those who come to Istanbul and want to shop today. The number of visitors sometimes even reaches 500 thousand people a day.

 

Istanbul Archeology Museums

Istanbul Archeology Museums

In the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, you will find more than a million ancient artifacts exhibited in three buildings, namely the Archeology Museum, the Ancient Oriental Artifacts Museum and the Tiled Kiosk Museum. Artifacts found inside include Islamic coins, three sarcophagi and a first-century funerary monument.

Istanbul Archeology Museums  are examples of the first museology studies in our country. The traces of the works of collecting historical artifacts in the Ottoman Empire date  back to the period of Fatih Sultan Mehmet  . However, the institutional emergence of museology in a systematic way was with the establishment of the Istanbul Archeology Museum in 1869 under the name of ‘ Museum-i Hümayun ‘.

The Museum-i Hümayun, which consists of archaeological artifacts collected in the Hagia Eirene Church until that date,  forms the basis of today’s Istanbul Archaeological Museums. When the Hagia Irene Church was insufficient, a search was made for a new place. Instead of constructing a new building due to financial inadequacy, the  Tiled Kiosk  is converted into a museum.

Istanbul Archeology Museums  are examples of the first museology studies in our country. The traces of the works of collecting historical artifacts in the Ottoman Empire date  back to the period of Fatih Sultan Mehmet  . However, the institutional emergence of museology in a systematic way was with the establishment of the Istanbul Archeology Museum in 1869 under the name of ‘ Museum-i Hümayun ‘.

The Museum-i Hümayun, which consists of archaeological artifacts collected in the Hagia Eirene Church until that date,  forms the basis of today’s Istanbul Archaeological Museums. When the Hagia Irene Church was insufficient, a search was made for a new place. Instead of constructing a new building due to financial inadequacy, the  Tiled Kiosk  is converted into a museum.

Kariye Mosque

Kariye Mosque

Kariye Mosque  is a church structure dedicated to Jesus, forming the center of the Chora Monastery ,  which was a large building complex during  the Eastern Roman Empire . Since it is outside the city walls of Istanbul (Konstantinos), the name Khora, which means outside the city and rural area in Greek, was deemed appropriate for the building. Kariye is the Turkish version of this name.

Although the exact date of construction cannot be estimated,  it is known that it was rebuilt by Emperor Justiniaus  (527-565) in the 6th century on the site of a ruined chapel outside the city. During the Kommenos period ,  the church was used as a palace chapel in important religious ceremonies, as it was close to the Blackhernal Palace .

The building, which was not damaged during the conquest of Istanbul, was built by  Sultan II.  It was converted into a mosque in 1511 by the Grand Vizier Hadım Ali Pasha during the Beyazid  period  and a madrasah was added next to it. Kariye Mosque was converted into a museum in 1945 by the decision of the Council of Ministers.

The building, which was destroyed by the destruction of the monastic structures outside the church, draws attention in Eastern Roman art with its architecture, mosaics and frescoes.

The building, which was destroyed by the destruction of the monastic structures outside the church, draws attention in Eastern Roman art with its architecture, mosaics and frescoes.

 

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul and one of its most unique historical sites. It once supplied water to the Great Palace of Constantinople, a grand palace that served as the main residence of local emperors for centuries. Although the palace no longer exists, the cistern, rediscovered in 1545, was restored in 1985 to welcome visitors. Its most notable feature is a pair of Medusa heads standing upside down at the base of the two pillars.

The Basilica Cistern  , which was built by  Emperor Justinian in 532,  is also known as the Basilica Cistern  because it is  located under the Stoa Basilica  . The cistern is a giant structure covering a rectangular area of ​​140 meters in length and 70 meters in width. There are 336 columns, each 9 meters high, inside the cistern, which is descended by a 52-step stone staircase. These columns, erected at intervals of 4.80 meters from each other, form 28 rows of 12 in each row.

These pillars rising in the water remind of a vast forest and impress the visitor as soon as they enter the cistern. The ceiling weight of the cistern was transferred to the columns by means of round cruciform vaults and arches. Most of the columns, most of which are understood to have been collected from older structures and carved from granite of various types of marble, consist of one piece and some of them are two pieces on top of each other. The headings of these columns have different features from place to place. This cistern, which has a total area of ​​9,800 square meters, has a water storage capacity of approximately 100 thousand tons.

The Basilica Cistern was used for a while after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453 and  water was supplied to the gardens of Topkapi Palace , where the sultans lived. The cistern, which was understood to be not used by the Ottomans, who preferred tap water instead of still water, that is, running water, after establishing their own water facilities in the city, was rediscovered by the Dutch traveler P. Gyllius, who came to Istanbul in 1544-1550 to investigate the Byzantine ruins.

 

Dolmabahçe Palace

Galata tower

Located on the Bosphorus shore, next to the Kabataş tram stop and Beşiktaş ferry port, the stunning beauty and historical importance of Dolmabahçe Palace fascinates those who see it. Built in the 19th century, the palace was used as a residence and administrative seat by the last Ottoman sultans. The interior and exterior architecture showcases a mix of European and Arabian designs that can only be found at this global crossroads.

Evliya Çelebi  writes that Yavuz Sultan Selim had a mansion built on the present site of Dolmabahçe Palace . During the reign of Ahmet I, the space was filled with stones and the pavilion was enlarged. The name of the palace and settlement comes from here. In the 19th century, II. Mahmut has a new palace built in the same place. The current structure was built by Abdulmecit I in 1842 by  Karabet Balyan . The palace, whose construction continued until 1853, is the place where Abdülmecit lived, as well as where he saw official works. After Abdülmecit, his brother Abdülaziz also lived in this palace. Dolmabahçe Palace, which was the Presidential Residence of Atatürk in Istanbul after the proclamation of the Republic, has a special importance in the history of the Republic as it is the place where Atatürk died on November 10, 1938.

 

Galata Tower

Galata tower

Galata Tower , which is considered among the oldest towers in the world and one of the symbols of Istanbul  , was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2013. Galata Tower, one of the most important structures forming the silhouette of Istanbul, was used as a long-term fire watchtower and was named Galata Fire Tower.

It is known that interest in the tower increased gradually after Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi completed his flight in Üsküdar, which he carried out by attaching wooden wings to his back from the Galata Tower, where he tried to fly, in the seventeenth century  .

Galata Tower was first  built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian  in 507-508 AD. The present-day tower was rebuilt by the Genoese in 1348-49. The tower was raised between 1445 and 46. It was damaged by the earthquake in the 1500s and  was repaired by Architect Murad bin Hayreddin  . III. After the tower was repaired during the Selim period, a bay window was added to the upper floor of the tower. In 1831, the tower suffers another fire, II. Mahmut rises two more floors above the tower and the top of the tower is covered with the famous cone-shaped roof cover. The tower, which was repaired in 1967, will be restored in 2020.

The round arched window above the door was the watchtower of the soldiers. It is a nine-storey building after the high ground floor. The windows on its cylindrical body are round arched with brickwork. The development of the last two floors just below the cone roof is emphasized by the profiled moldings surrounding the cylindrical body. There is a meshed viewing balcony with metal ornaments surrounding the floor under the cone roof. On the lower floor, there are round arches sitting on deep niches and windows with round arches made of bricks.

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