Wearing its rich heritage and culture on the sleeves, Istanbul is one city that offers a perfect blend of both contemporary and traditional attractions for its tourists from all parts of the globe. With its roots from the Neolithic times, Istanbul perfectly exudes historical charm through its mosques, cathedrals, basilicas, and the ancient souks (bazaars).
Here are the top tourist attractions of Istanbul you must visit while you are there.
Church of St. Savior in Chora
Built as a Byzantine church originally, this church was later converted to mosque. Now it is converted into a museum. This structure is beautifully built with mesmerizing mosaics and frescos. Belonging to the 11th century AD, some parts of this structure were supposedly built in 400 AD. Though the mosaics were covered with plaster when it was transformed into a mosque, the plasters were removed when it was converted into a museum in 1958. Located approximately 3 miles to the northwest of Sultan Ahmet this museum is open every day of the week except on Wednesdays.
A vibrant and modern neighborhood in the European part of Istanbul, this place has many bars and scores of restaurants. Apart from big names like Ceylan Intercontinental and Grand Hyatt, this place also has outlets for fast-food junkies. The Republic Monument built in 1923 to celebrate the creation of Turkish republic is situated on the western side of the square. Taksim is also an important transport hub with a bus terminal and subway station.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque
One of the most photogenic buildings of Istanbul, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is also known as the Blue Mosque. Offering a perfect insight to the Turkish architecture and Islamic art, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque boasts of being the only mosque that was originally built with all six minarets. The mosque was built in the early 16th century when Istanbul could be viewed from the sea at a distance, Sultan Ahmet Mosque was a part of the majestic view. It includes 20000 ceramic tiles in tulip designs and 200 stained glass windows with designs so beautiful and intricate, it is sure to amaze.
Famous in Istanbul as a nightlife hub for the trendy and wealthy, Ortakoy is a place with fancy bard and crowded restaurants. You can enjoy sumptuous food and delicious drinks while enjoying the view of Bosphorous- a strait that is the part of boundary between Asia and Europe. The actual fun of nightlife begins at about midnight. So have a good sleep before you visit this place. Reina is a famous attraction of Ortakoy. Reina which means queen is a popular club right on water. During the day you can explore and enjoy shopping in the narrow streets of Ortakoy.
Also known as the church of holy wisdom, Hagia Sophia was built in the early 6th century by the then ruler Justinian I. Regarded as one of the greatest Byzantine monuments of the world, it is a delight for every visitor. Built in an unbelievable short time of just 6 years, Hagia Sophia depicts marvelous architecture and engineering brilliance of the 6th century. Although, a strong earthquake caused its partial collapse, it was rebuilt in the 14th century. The ground of Hagia Sophia has witnessed the thundering of earth, the loots of crusaders and withstood the wars and destruction over centuries but still stands with proud of the bygone era and exudes pride with which it was built in the early era.
The largest of Istanbul and the oldest palace of the world to have survived till the day, the magnificent Topkapi palace, now a museum houses the most unique pieces from the ancient era. Everything about the Topkapi palace, right from the tiles, architecture, woodwork and the carvings, display the amazing style and art of the old era. The palace served as a royal residence for sultans of the Ottoman Empire that lasted for a good 622 years. The palace during the reign has great political importance and was more than just a residence of the Sultan.
One of the largest and covered markets in the world, the grand bazaar boasts of approximately 4000 shops and has around 61 streets. Such is the attraction and craze of the bazaar that it is still visited by close to 4 lac visitors daily. In 2014, the grand bazaar was the most visited attraction of the world with over 91 lac visitors in the year. It offers unique artifacts and everyday use items for one and all. Once isolated in the early centuries, the grand bazaar today employs over 26000 people and is a major tourist attraction in Istanbul.
The cylindrical Galata tower with an iconic cap is the tallest of all other buildings on the east bank of golden Horn. Offering a great beauty to the city skyline, the Galata tower was originally built in the early 13th century and was known by the name of “Tower of Christ”. Following the start of Ottoman reign, it became the naval and prison depot and further in the 19th century, it served as the fire lookout tower to detect fire anywhere in the city. Today it stands tall as a city landmark and is visited by tourists from all over the world.
For the people who have not visited Istanbul, it may be any other tourist destination. But for the people who have seen the grandeur, elegance and learnt the rich history of the place, for them it is a lifetime experience and a connection that gets invariably made with the history of the city. Almost every attraction of the city has a background of astounding history and leaves you wondering what would have been the life during that era.
Istanbul today boasts of many contemporary attractions but is still thronged by tourists with a thirst of knowing the history and visiting the ancient monuments of this beautiful city.