Things To Do in Istanbul


Istanbul's history dates back thousands of years there is an array of attractions that bring it vividly to life. This guide will give you the chance to discover the history of Istanbul. Istanbul is a city surrounded by a wreath of water.

History of Istanbul

Described by the historian Procopius as the city surrounded by a wreath of water, Istanbul boasts an exquisite geographical position and deep roots in history.

With a history going back 8500 years, Istanbul is an ancient city that is simultaneously modern and fresh. Old world and modern world, Islamic and Mediterranean coexist in its captivating atmosphere. The distinctive characteristic skyline of the city, combining monumental minarets with modern skyscrapers, is perhaps the best proof.

The outstanding universal value of Istanbul resides in its unique unification of diverse architectural styles of many eras and civilizations. Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, Venetian towers, Ottoman palaces, modern buildings and contemporary plazas give the city its matchless beauty.

Istanbul's Tourist Attractions

Istiklal Street

You are in the hearth of Istanbul. It is the most active street of Istanbul and there are numerous shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, book shops on Istiklal Street which is rather crowded at any time of the day and year.
All shops cafes etc are open till late hours. This street lay between the most popular and busy square of Istanbul, Taksim and Tunel (underground). If you go to Istiklal Street for shopping The Aznavur Arcade, Atlas Arcade and Markiz Arcade are must sees.

While you are walking, also you will be surprised how many small passages seem to be hidden on the way. One of those passages is "Cicek Pasaji" or "Flower passage" on a rococo style erected at 1876 which is famous with its restaurants, fish market and small shops.


Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia was choosen a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.

Rebuilt by the orders of Emperor Justinian in 537, for 900 years Hagia Sophia had been the center of Orthodox Christianity until 1453 when the city was concurred by Ottomans. 500 years following the conquest of Muslims, it became a jewel for the Muslim world and as the grand mosque of the sultans.

In 1935, Hagia Sophia had been converted into a museum of Turkish Republic by the orders of Ataturk, and became one of the most significant monuments not only in Turkey but on earth with its architecture and its historical richness.


Topkapı Palace

Topkapı Palace is built atop the Byzantine acropolis on Sarayburnu at the tip of the Istanbul peninsula. It is surrounded by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. On the land side, the palace is surrounded by 1,400-meter-long high encircling walls-known as the “Royal Walls” (Sûr-ı Sultânî)-while on the side facing the sea it is surrounded by Byzantine walls. The palace covers an area of approximately 700,000 square meters, a major part of which area is set aside for the Royal Gardens (Hasbahçe). The court of Topkapı Palace proper is made up of two basic organizations: the Outer Palace (Bîrûn) and the Inner Palace (Enderûn); the Harem was a part of the latter. The design of residences, ceremonies and ceremonial spaces, and all of the many palace facilities were set out according to this basic organizational principle.


Basilica Cistern

One of the magnificent ancient buildings of İstanbul is the Basilica Cistern located in the southwest of Hagia Sofia. Constructed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), this big underground water reservoir is called as “Yerebatan Cistern” among the public because of the underground marble columns. As there used to be a basilica in the place of the cistern, it is also called Basilica Cistern.

Except couple of the edged and grooved columns of the cistern, majority of them are shaped as a cylinder. Two Medusa heads, which are used as supports under the two columns at the northwest edge of the cistern, are the great work of art from the Roman period. What attracts most attention from the visitors is that the structure from which the Medusa heads have been taken is unknown. The researchers often consider that it has been brought for being used as supports to the column at the time of construction of the cistern. However, this has not prevented myths for the heads of Medusa.


Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the walls of interior design.Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 years, during the rule of Ahmed I. just like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice.Besides still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.

Besides being tourist attraction, it's also a active mosque, so it's closed to non worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers. Best way to see great architecture of the Blue Mosque is to approach it from the Hippodrome. (West side of the mosque) As if you are non-Muslim visitor, you also have to use same direction to enter the Mosque.


Grand Bazaar

One of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world, the Grand Bazaar is 30,700 square meters with over 60 streets and alleys and 4,000 shops. The original historical core of the bazaar, İç Bedesten, was completed by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461. A “bedesten” refers to an indoor arcade with shops and there are several areas within the bazaar referred to by this name.

Over the years, the Grand Bazaar expanded from this core of two bedestens to become a sprawling roofed complex of thousands of shops, fringed by the tradesmen’s inns and workshops known as hans. According to the Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname, by the seventeenth century the Kapalı Çarşı (or the Çarşı-yı-Kebir as it was known at the time) had reached its present size, with over 4,000 shops and nearly 500 stalls known in Turkish as dolap(literally translated to “cupboard”).


Çırağan Palace

The palace, built by Sultan Abdul-Aziz, between 1863 and 1867. This was a period in which all Ottoman sultans used to build their own palaces rather than using those of their ancestors. Nowadays, used as one of the most popular social events venue of Istanbul.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahce Palace built in 19 th century is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world. It was the administrative center of the late Ottoman Empire with the last of Ottoman Sultans was residing there. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic in Ankara, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk transferred all government functions to the youthful capital but on his visits to Istanbul Ataturk occupied only a small room at Dolmabahce Palace as his own. He stayed, welcomed his foreign guests and made a practical center for national, historical and language congress and for international conferences.


Istanbul Modern Art Museum

Istanbul Modern was founded in 2004 as Turkey’s first museum of modern and contemporary art. Committed to sharing Turkey’s artistic creativity and cultural identity with the local and international art worlds, the museum hosts a broad array of interdisciplinary activities.

Istanbul Modern embraces a global vision to collect, preserve, document and exhibit works of modern and contemporary art and make them accessible to the public at large. The museum offers a variety of cultural activities in its permanent and temporary exhibition halls, photography gallery, spaces for educational and social programs, library, cinema, café, and store.


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