Istanbul’s must-visit sites

21 May 2019

Istanbul is considered one of the most significant touristic centers in the world as the only city stretching over two continents, Europe and Asia. It holds so much history and culture. It has many attractions to visit including historical buildings, palaces and cultural districts. Travelers who come to Istanbul for the first time are mainly drawn to its massive history dating back to the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires.

Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmad is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul showcasing a stunning interior and a beautiful external architecture. It is located in the Sultanahmet area in Fatih district. Close to it is Aya Sofya, which one of Istanbul’s most praised sights. It was a church in 536 A.D. when the Byzantine Emperor named, Justinian built it and the area around it was considered the center of the world back then. Many years later the “Aya Sofya”, previously called, “Hagia Sophia” was converted to a Mosque after the Ottomans captured Constantinople and then in the 20th Century, it became a museum. 

The Basilica Cistern, is one stunning landmark in Istanbul that nobody should miss out on. It is a huge underground, lying under the city of Istanbul built by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor located in the southwest of Aya Sofya under what was back then a “Basilica”, church. It was first established as a water reservoir for the palace storing up to 80.000 cubic meters, maintained by 336 marble columns lined in 12 rows. The most mesmerizing part about visiting this site, is that the columns are all beautifully lit and the projection of the upside down medusa head carved on a stone. 

Topkapi Palace was a home to many Sultans during the Ottoman empire since 1459. It overlooks the Golden Horn where the Marmara Sea and Bosphorus trait meet. This must visit site is only meters away from the Sultan Ahmed mosque. Hence visitors who visit Sultanahmet area are drawn to visit all four attractions the same day, spending the day over there and enjoying a dazzling sunset view. 

Another significant site in Istanbul is, the Dolmabahçe palace built by Sultan Abdulmecid in the 19th century. This palace represents how Ottomans were very influenced by European interiors. Its interior is a blend of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical with the touch of Ottoman traditional style including gold elements and ornamented chandeliers. This palace was officially known as the Sultans’ palace replacing TopKapi palace dating back to the 15th Century, built under the order of Mehmet the Conqueror. It is located in Dolmabahçe Street in Besiktas and overlooks the Bosphorus.

For those who love souvenirs and Turkish delights, “Grand Bazaar” is the place to meet their needs. The Grand Bazaar is a massive covered market and a shopping destination for many travelers located between two mosques, Nuruosmaniye and Beyazit, in the Fatih district. It includes many shops selling handcrafted jewelry, carpets, decorative furniture and Turkish famous delights. 

The Galata Tower is another beautiful site that Istanbul visitors must see. It was built in the 14th century is 206 feet high, once visitors go to the area of Galata, where all the friendly coffee shops and boutique hotels are, they can’t overlook this medieval stone tower. The Galata tower was built to protect the city from invasions, soldiers used it to watch over the city. Once you are inside the tower, you can have a tour to explore its interior first then visit the upper balconies to enjoy a panoramic view of Istanbul and its surroundings. 

Only meters away from the area of Galata, lies Beyoglu, a beautiful district holding many historical buildings turned into hotels and museums. A note worthy place to visit over there is the Istanbul modern, showcasing a collection of modern arts that belong to local and international artists. Another important place to visit in that area is the Pera museum, which is considered a cultural center and Turkey’s most famous art gallery, offering a diverse range of art collections and many objects that were preserved from the Ottoman times.

Istanbul holds many more places to visit that meet all travelers tastes from modern to traditional museums and palaces to old mosques and churches. There are countless historical sites that simply entice tourists and drive them to visit Istanbul more than once.