Istanbul formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople is one of the most famous and popular cities in Turkey. Having its rich history and culture, Istanbul has occupied a special place in various scriptures, with its strategic position between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Istanbul is a part of ancient Silk Road. With its population of over 15 million, Istanbul is one of the world’s populous city and one of Europe’s 4th largest city.
Founded under the name of Byzantion during 660BCE this city has been a capital of various kingdoms. This city grew in size and influence due to its rulers and has been occupied a special place in history books. During Roman/Byzantine empires, the civilians in this city mostly followed Christianity and after Ottoman Turks captured the city, Islamic influence started to rise.
With over 13 million tourists visiting Istanbul every year, it offers its tourists many places to visit and has occupied a special place in the eyes of its visitors. Below are some of the places which are worth your visit while you stay in the beautiful city of Istanbul
1) Topkapı Palace
Topkapı Palace is one attraction which you should not miss once you visit Istanbul. In the 15th Century, Topkapı Palace served as the main residence and official administration headquarters of Ottoman Sultans. In 1923 after the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Palace came under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Turkey and was converted into a museum. This palace has over 100 rooms and chambers but some are accessible to the public and there are many collections on display here. The museum collection includes Ottoman Clothing, Weapons, Armors and Manuscripts. Perhaps the priced possession on display here is Spoonmaker’s Diamond and Topkapı Dagger\
It is one of most picturesque place in Istanbul to visit considering views of Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
- Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Sultan Ahmet Mosque or popularly called as The Blue Mosque is one of important tourist attraction place in Istanbul. Constructed by Ahmed I of The Ottoman Empire, this is said to be one of beautiful mosque constructed during the reign of Ahmed I. The mosque contains the tomb of Ahmed I, Madrasa and hospice. The exotic feature of this mosque is that it is said to be constructed with interiors having hand-painted blue tiles. At night, the mosque is visible in bright blue colour along with 5 main domes, 8 secondary domes and 6 minarets. This place is such a popular tourist attraction that the visitors are controlled to preserve the sacred atmosphere. Also, Keep in mind that this mosque is closed 6 times a day during prayers and only worshipers are allowed to visit the mosque from the north entrance, visitors need to visit this mosque through the south entrance and there are signs provided.
- Basilica Cistern
Built around 532 AD, Basilica Cistern is known as the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in İstanbul. It has around 336 columns, sadly most of them are in ruins now. It lays underneath Stoa Basilica which can store over 80,000cu meter of water. This was one of the main aqua-duct places during the Byzantine Empire however it was forgotten once the emperors of the Byzantine Empire relocated from Great Palace. But in 1545 when locals were speaking about these aqua-ducts and which interested scholar Petrus Gyllius who further researched more about this place and explored. This exploration led to the discovery of Underground Palace through one of the basements. In the year 1985, the Cistern was taken over by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and was opened to the public in the year 1987.
- Hagia Sophia
Located just next to Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Hagia Sophia is a Greek Orthodox Christian Cathedral built during middle ages, around 537AD. It is considered as one of the largest and epitome of a building during the Byzantine period. This place was a place of worship for many years for Christian until the year 1453 when Constantinople (Istanbul) was captured by Ottoman Turks who converted the Cathedral to a mosque. This Church was destroyed to convert it as a mosque by the Ottomans which saw the Bells, Relics and Mosaic structure of Jesus, his mother Mary and other Christian Missionaries getting destroyed and later replaced by Islamic writings with minarets which depict mosque. This place acted like mosque until 1931 where it was closed to the public. It was later reopened in the year 1935 under the government of Turkey which was later converted to Museum. According to data by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Hagia Sophia is one of the second most visited tourist attraction in Turkey.
- Galata Tower
Galata Tower or Galata Kulesi in Turkish is one of medieval watchtower situated in Galata quarter of Turkey. Located just north of Golden Horn junction the view from the top of the tower is majestic. Built around 1348 when there was an expansion of Genose Colony in Constantinople. The top of the tower is shaped conical which was destroyed by natural calamity and was subsequently restored. The tower has come under fire several times and has been restored in coming years and the year 1960’s, the wooden interiors were replaced by steel and concrete. This is a nine-storey tower of the height of 66.9m and was city’s tallest structure when it was built. This contains an observational deck at the top where one of the famous French painter, Pierre Prévost painted a Panorama de Constantinople. Currently, there is a restaurant, cafe and night club at the top of the tower which is connected by 2 elevators.
- Grand Bazaar
A visit to Istanbul is not complete without a visit to Grand Bazaar. One of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the world this bazaar has over 60 streets and 5000+ shops said to be completed in the year 1461 by Mehmet the Conqueror. This grand bazaar has various shops in its 60+ streets, they have 24 entrances where once you enter prepare to get lost with a variety of items that can be shopped here. This one of its kind place offers you a variety of products such as Jewellery, Antiques, Carpets and Other Textiles. One of the main reason to visit this place is customarily made to order services provided here where the shopkeepers handcraft the design right in front of you. You have a lot to explore this bazaar once you enter that it might take you minimum a day to explore the shops and during this period you need to have lunch or short snack where Grand Bazaar has various restaurants serving traditional Turkish dishes and coffee which will be scrumptious and worth a visit to this amazing place. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is often regarded as one of the world’s first shopping mall.
There are many historical places of visit in Istanbul that can be visited during your period of stay however the above-mentioned places takes a top position in must-visit places.