Published on : Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Istanbul is a city filled with Byzantine and Ottoman-era landmarks, vibrant bazaars and imperial mosques. The city captivates the minds for its unique architecture, fresh and flavoursome foods and supporting local communities which make the city the world’s most favoured megalopolis connecting Europe and Asia.
Home of 3000 mosques, Istanbul has lots of mysteries to discover. The marbles of Hagia Sophia are taken from ancient temples at Baalbec, Heliopolis, Athens and Ephesus. The dome is figured with monstrous inscriptions in Turkish characters embedded with gold and mosaic. On the chandeliers, ostrich eggs are found to evade cobwebs inside the mosque by repelling spiders.
Points of Interest
A trip to Istanbul without a visit to the Blue Mosque would be identical to a trip to London without visiting Trafalgar Square. The Blue Mosque gets its name from the 20,000 İznik styled blue ceramic tiles in various tulip and floral designs and 200 stained glass windows, all with elaborate designs, surrounding the walls of the interior.
These look spectacular if you approach it from the Hippodrome, which is on the western side. Built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I, the intricate interior decoration includes the calligraphy of Holy Quran by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, who was the greatest calligrapher of that time.
Once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal basilica, later an imperial Ottoman mosque and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is a premium paradigm of Byzantine and Islamic (Ottoman) art, sculpture and architecture. It has seen the rise of many civilisations with regal elegance and charm. Served as the principal cathedral for 1000 years until the establishment of Seville Cathedral, it is the first masterpiece of architectural intelligence made up of mosaics that shows the sophistication of Byzantine Iconoclasm. In 1453, after the downfall of Byzantines by Ottoman forces, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. But in 1935, the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk transformed the building into a museum. This mosque is also alluring for the fact that the interior of the nave is brightened by the reflection of lights from its 40 windows, which also lower the weight of the dome.
The greatest example of Ottoman architecture, Topkapi Palace is now a museum showcasing Turkish history right from its beginning. The museum has a rich collection of Ottoman clothing, weapons, armour, miniatures, religious relics and illuminated manuscripts. A visit to this place will surely inspire you to peep into the royal lives of Turkey. Built after 1453, Topkapi has opulent pavilions and an architectural treasure, which even is mesmerising.
Known as the second-largest imperial mosque in Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque has the blended form of Islamic and Byzantine architecture, marked by four minarets. Located on the Third Hill, the outside architectural magnificence marks as the signature landmark of Istanbul. Feel amazed when you sit inside the prayer hall under the starry chandeliers to feel the divinity.
It is a medieval cylindrical Romanesque styled stone tower constructed in 1348 that offers 360-degree magnificent view of Istanbul’s peninsula and its environs. Also known as the “Tower of Christ”, it is now the best place for cafes, restaurants and nightclubs.
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarniçi)
The Basilica Cistern is Istanbul’s one of the most surprising tourist attractions. This huge, palace-like underground hall is supported by 336 columns in 12 rows. This cistern was once stored as the imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors.
The ancient Hippodrome in Istanbul was begun by Septimius Severus in AD 203 and completed by Constantine the Great in AD 330. It was noted as the centre of Byzantine public life and the scene of splendid games and chariot races.
Istanbul Archaeology Museum
Istanbul Archaeology Museum is one of the most important museum complexes that brings a staggering array of artefacts from Turkey and throughout the Middle East. This museum sweeps through the vast breadth of history in this region.
Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi)
Grand Bazar is one of the much about shopping destinations in Turkey. This bazaar serves as a museum and monumental attraction. This massive covered market in Istanbul carries a heritage status. And it is noted as world’s first shopping mall, taking up a whole city quarter, surrounded by thick walls, between the Nure Osmaniye Mosque and Beyazit Mosque.
Spice Bazaar (Misir Çarsisi)
Spice Bazaar is one of the most popular attractions for tourists to visit. This is one of the certain times of the day that gets ridiculously crowded with huge tour groups from the docked cruise ships.
Dolmabahçe Palace is a sumptuous and ornate place that shows the clear influence of European sculpture and architecture on the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Built by Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1854, it replaced Topkapi Palace as the main palace of the medieval rulers.
Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi)
Chora Church is a beautiful Church located just outside old Constantinople’s city walls. The first Chora Church was probably built here in the 5th century.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi)
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is housed in the palace of Ibrahim Pasa, who was Grand Vizier for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. This museum is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in Ottoman and Islamic art.
Little Aya Sofya (Küçük Aya Sofya)
Before Emperor Justinian built the Aya Sofya, he had to test out if the building would work structurally, so he built this miniature version first. The original name was the Church of Sergius and Bacchus, but the obvious architectural parallels with the Aya Sofya led to its long-held nickname becoming the building’s official title. During the Ottoman era, Little Aya Sofya (Küçük Aya Sofya) was converted into a mosque and it still functions as a working mosque today.
Rüstem Pasa Mosque
Rüstem Pasa Mosque is an abode of the stunningly preserved Iznik tile panels in the city. Sure the Blue Mosque may get all the glory, but it’s here, covering both the exterior courtyard walls and the mosque interior itself.
Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hisari)
Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hisari) was built in the 5th century by Emperor Theodosius II. This fortress was made up of the southern section of Constantinople’s defensive walls. The mammoth arch was known as Porta Aurea (Golden Gate), with doors plated in gold. When the Ottomans conquered the city, they used the fortress for defence, and later as a prison and execution place.
Carpet Museum carries an incredible heritage and artistry of carpets. Housed in one of the outer buildings of the Aya Sofya complex, Carpet Museum has three galleries and tourists can walk through the history of Turkish carpets. This museum has dazzling array of motifs and styles from different regions of the country.
Built atop a hill, so its multiple domes and minarets soar above the district, Fatih Mosque is a grandly imposing building.
Pera Museum is a place for art hounds head to drink in one of the finest collections of Ottoman-era paintings in the world. As well as the art, tourists can make time to wander through the rest of their collection, which includes plenty of ceramics along with other Ottoman period artefacts.