For its fantastic interior design with 24.000 blue tiles, Sultanahmet Mosque has a reputation as Blue Mosque all around the world. Blue mosque is an excellent example of Turkish-Islamic architecture, which brought an extra point of view to Ottoman mosque design. The mosque was completed in 1616 by the order of Sultan Ahmed I. The architect is a student of Sinan the Architect who was a genius from Suleiman the Magnificent’s era. Sultan himself worked in construction.
Sultanahmet mosque is the first and only 6 minaret mosque in Ottoman origin. Sultan was highly criticized for building exact same number of minarets with Makkah Mosque, thus he sponsored another minaret in there to solve the problem. Mosque is a vast complex with its bazaar behind, a madrasah, kitchen, royal tombs and more.
Following Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453, construction of Topkapi Palace started in 1460 and completed in 1478. The palace is in Historical Peninsula between the Marmara Sea, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. Palace, which was the administrative center of Ottoman Empire for 400 years, was the house for 30 sultans. The palace became a museum in 1924 with the establishment of the Republic. It is one of the leading palace-museums in the world with its architectural structures, collections, special items of sultans, sacred relics, archival documents and the famous Diamond of Spoons.
Hagia Sophia, which has a significant role in history of architecture for its size and design, is the top must-see museum in the city. It is one of the most important monuments that survived 1500 years until today. Hagia Sophia makes up an important place in terms of functionality in the art world. It is the biggest church built by Eastern Roman Empire. Constructed 3 times in same location, first church had the name Megale Ekklesia, which means Big Church. From 5th century and more it was called Hagia Sophia “Holy Wisdom”.
Hagia Sophia is an important building, where the Roman Emperors’ coronations took place throughout the Eastern Roman Empire history, served as the cathedral and the largest church of empire. Justinian sent orders to all states in his empire to get the most beautiful architectural pieces collected in order to have a more magnificent and flamboyant church. Therefore, the marble and columns used in structure were brought from Syria, Aspendos, Ephesus, Baalbek, Tarsus. Hagia Sophia, which was converted to a mosque after Ottoman conquest, opened as a museum in 1935 by the will of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Latest news: Year 2020 Hagia Sophia is converted into a mosque again.
It seems like debates about what exactly Hagia Sophia is never going to end…
The building, which was an enormous building complex during the Eastern Roman Empire, is a church structure dedicated to Jesus. Building was named Chora, meaning “rural area” or “extra-urban”, because of its location out of Constantinople city walls. The exact construction date of the building is unknown, but according to the narration of the writer Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, the relics of St. Babylas and his 84 martyred disciples were buried here in the beginning of the 4th century. It is obvious that the region where the Khora Monastery was located, started to gain importance as a sacred cemetery area (necropolis) after.
In Chora Monastery, today’s Chora Museum, we can see the best examples of mosaic and fresco style decoration techniques together commonly used in Eastern Roman religious painting art. Outhern narthex exhibits Life of Jesus Christ and his miracles and inner narthex is decorated with mosaics depicting Virgin Mary’s life. Parekklesion has frescoes of religious stories from Old Testament such as Judgment Day(Deisis), resurrection.
The building has no damage during conquest of Istanbul and remained as a church until 1511, mosque until 1945 and a museum until today. This monumental museum is an extremely important structure that hosts the most beautiful examples of Eastern Roman art with its architecture, magnificent mosaics and frescoes.
Palace was built in 1853 by Sultan Abdülmecit in opulent European style for about 35 tons of gold cost. Once the palace was completed royal family moved here from Topkapı Palace.Sultans decorated all the halls of the palace with gifted furnitures from all around the world. Highlight of the palace, Main Hall, is located higher, and it is one of the few halls in the world in terms of its size and height. The giant crystal chandelier with 750 lamps weighting 4.500 kg in the hall is a gift of Victoria, queen of UK. Dolmabahçe Palace holds the biggest collection of Baccarat & Bohemian chandeliers.
Ataturk, founder and first president of Turkish Republic, occasionally stayed in the palace from 1927 until his death in 1938. Dolmabahçe hosted several governors such as Iran Shah, Lebanon, Irak and UK kings. The palace is open to visit as museum-palace since 1984.
Galata Tower, a symbol of Istanbul, was built in 528 by Roman Emperor Anastasius as a lighthouse. Damaged during Latin Crusade IV in 1204, the tower was additionally rebuilt with Galata walls by the Genoese in 1348. It was the tallest building in the town in this period. Later Ottomans used the tower as fire lookout tower and dungeon. According to some sources Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi flied from the tower with wooden eagle wings he created and landed to Üsküdar safe.
It’s one of the oldest towers in the world with 69.90m height. Golden Horn and Bosphorus view from the top of the tower is breathtaking. You can reach the top with an elevator. There’s a cozy restaurant and one of the best views in the city.
It’s biggest Roman cistern in the town. Usually people call it Underground City or Forest of Columns. Basilica Cistern was built on Stoa Basilica during Emperor Justian’s reign in 532. It has 100 thousand cubic meters of water capacity to provide enough water for the royal palace and building around. Ottomans used the cistern to water the plants, and it got forgotten by time until Dutch traveller Petrus Gyllius rediscover it in 1546. 336 columns carry the 9m ceiling above and 2 mysteries Medusa heads are placed inverse under the columns. After 1500 years Roman water system still brings water to the cistern. With the ambiance in the cistern and especially the chill in hot summer days, it’s the most interesting spot in the old town to discover.
Built by Suleiman the Magnificent, the mosque was completed in 1557. Talented architect Sinan describes it as his “journeymen piece of work”. Courtyard has the best view of the city. Suleiman the Magnificent got Sinan the Architect built this mosque on the third hill of Istanbul. Huge complex building has total 15 sections like schools, kitchen, hospital, watch house, etc. The building is such a compact town. Like the other works of Sinan, Süleymaniye Mosque is a temple that transformed simplicity into magnificence. The decoration used in the inscriptions of the mosque are already aesthetic marvels of their own. You can’t find better acoustics anywhere else than inside the mosque .
Grand Bazaar has been an important commercial center of Istanbul for over 500 years with its architecture, facilities, size and magnificence. Mehmed II ordered the construction in 1461 hence, we can accept this date for Grand bazaar history. Here we are talking about a marketplace that is over 550 years old. Ottoman sultans intended to have a critical center for their capital of big Empire. Grand bazaar has a big role in economy with its artisans and gold exchange.
It has total 45.000 square meter area and many gates to enter and exit. There are various products in 97 different industry categories.Its like a complete town with its hospitals, banks, restaurants, police station and gold stocks. Even though street signs set everywhere, there are many streets crossing each other, thus it’s hard to find whatever you’re looking for if you don’t know which way to go. In this case, it’s best to discover it with a professional guide who knows every corner without getting lost. Here you can join our shopping tour with a professional guide.
Should you wonder about daily life in metropolis city you should take a walk in Istiklal Street. Taksim Square and Istiklal Street is a center of modern city with famous contemporary art museums like Salt Beyoglu, Borusan Culture and Art Center. Along the street you can find modern shops selling local and foreign brands. Embassies, monumental buildings like Galatasaray High School and St. Antoan Church have fantastic architecture. Following the nostalgic tram will take you to Tunnel where you can easily walk to Galata Tower or Pera to visit Istanbul Modern.
If you want to discover the modern city without getting lost you can join my private guided modern city tour.
If you’re into authentic shopping you must visit Spice Market. Market was built by mother of Sultan Mehmet II., Hatice Turhan Sultan in 1661. In the historical place, in which the herbalists and cotton producers operated in the first periods, products of different categories, from spices to sweets, from textiles to various essences are sold today.
Mehmed II ordered the construction of a castle in 1452 to have full control over Bosphorus entrance from Black Sea. He not only achieved his goal but also left a beautiful touristic attraction for travelers to add on their bucket lists. Castle is also hosting many cultural and musical events in different periods of the year. Best way to see this beautiful structure is a Bosphorus cruise.
The Maiden Tower, which makes it much more enjoyable to watch the scenery from Üsküdar coast with its elegance, was built in 410 by the Athenian Alkibiades in order to provide control over the ships sailing on the Bosphorus Strait. Later Romans strengthened the building to support city defence.
With its tales told from generation to generation, Maiden Tower is one of the most romantic places in the city. Its restaurant inside and the view around provide amazing time for visitors and enchant local and foreign tourists.
Famous for its architecture, fish restaurants, ice cream shops, beach clubs and carriages, which have recently become one of the most important topics of discussion, Büyükada is a preferred place for both weekend getaways and long-term holidays. Aya Yorgi Church and Greek Orphanage are the top places to visit in the largest of the Prince Islands. Here you can check out my private guided tour service to Prince Islands.