Located at the crossroads of civilizations, in the renowned Silk Route, Istanbul is shot through with all the cultures that have pervaded it over its millennial history. This is the reason why it abounds in historic monuments relating to Greek, Roman, Persian and Ottoman eras. Watching Istanbul’s beautiful and breathtaking skyline is like reading a well-illustrated history book, which takes you all the way down the city’s history. This is a place where history and modernity make up a stunning kaleidoscopic mix, which make you want to return here every year!
Top 10 Sights in Istanbul
Aya Sofya is one of the most monumental examples of Byzantine architectural thought in Istanbul, if not the entire country. The traditional belief that the Emperor’s throne was the center of the world seems to have been taken into consideration during construction. Although the church has undergone several reconstructions, as the city changed hands, it is still one of Istanbul’s biggest gems.
The Blue Mosque is the pride of the Muslim world, and competes in grandeur with as big a gem as the Great Mosque of Mecca. Its interior features an interior blue tile decoration, and later the name stuck. The interior is performed in line with Ottoman architectural traditions.
This is just another striking incarnation of Byzantine architectural and engineering thought. The object includes a huge hall with 336 columns arranged in 12 rows, and it functioned as a water supply system. Today, many columns feature decorative carvings, including Medusa stones.
Istanbul Archaeology Museum
This museum showcases a huge collection of artifacts gathered in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere in the Middle East. The complex includes three buildings: the Museum of the Ancient Orient, the main Archaeology Museum and the Tiled Pavilion.
Here you can see the remains of the ancient Hippodrome, once Byzantine biggest entertainment facility, where contests and races were held. Today the site has several monuments and historic objects, which include the Serpent Column, the Egyptian obelisk, the gallery walls and the At Meydani park.
Bazaars are must-visit places in cities like Istanbul, and the Grand Bazaar is no exception. This market is thought to be the world’s first trade center, as it occupies a whole block and located between two mosques. The market is fenced off with a thick wall with 11 entrances. Here you can buy all sorts of food and souvenirs.
The Spice Bazaar is also referred to as the ‘Egyptian Market,’ since a significant part of the money invested in it was obtained by taxing products imported from Egypt. The market is so popular that it gets overcrowded by midday. Here you can buy dried fruits, various types of tea, herbs, lokum and spices.
After its erection in the 19th century, the Dolmabahçe Palace was used by sultans as their main residence. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens with numerous flower beds and various architectural ornamental elements. The interior presents a powerful mix of European and Ottoman décor.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
This museum holds an extensive collection of rugs, carpets, items featuring unique Islamic calligraphy, various decorative elements, etc. The museum is housed in what used to be the Palace of Pargali Ibrahim Pasha, a grand vizier to Suleiman the Magnificent.
The Yedikule Fortress is part of what was Constantinople’s defensive wall, and it has been around since the 5th century. Later, the Ottomans used it as a stronghold and as a prison. Now it is possible to climb o the top and admire the scenic view of the Sea of Marmara.
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When to Visit Istanbul
Istanbul is attractive almost year round except winter, when the tourist flow ebbs. However, some people choose winter because prices go down and accommodation services become less extortionate. It is most advisable to visit Istanbul in April through mid-June and September-through-October, when days are relatively long and it does not get extremely hot or cold.
Where Istanbul is Located
Istanbul straddles two continents – Europe and Asia and functions as a strong connection link between them. Located in the northwest of Turkey, on the banks of the Bosphorus strait, it boasts a status of the only city whose parts stand on different continents. Geologically, it stands near the borderline between the Eurasian and African plates.