On a spot of the land at the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn
and the Marmara sea, stands the Topkapi Palace. The maze of buildings
annexed to the palace are constructed between 15th and 19th centuries.
In these opulent surroundings, the sultans and their court entourage lived
and governed the empire. A magnificent wooded garden encircles the edifices
of palace. On the right of the second court, shaded by cypress and plane
trees, stand the palace kitchens, which are now converted to galleries
exhibiting the imperial collections of crystal, silver and Chinese porcelain
table wares. To the left, the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives,
concubines and children of the sultan, charms visitors with echoes of
the insidious intramural schemes of the centuries.
Built in mid-19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit , the facade of Dolmabahce
Palace stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus.
The vast reception salon, with 56 columns, and a huge crystal chandelier
weighing four and a half tons and lit by 750 lights, never fails to astonish
visitors. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in Dolmabahce
on the 10th of November 1938.
In the 19 th century, Sultan Abdulaziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace, a
fantasy in white marble amid magnolia-filled gardens, on the Bosphorus
Asian shore. Used as the Sultan’s summer residence, it was offered
to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries during their visits.
In addition to the state pavilions at the Yildiz Palace, the compound
includes a series of pavilions and a mosque. It was completed by Abdulhamit
II at the and of 19th century. The sale, largest and most exquisite of
the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the Sultans lived and entertained.
Set in a huge park of flowers, shrubs and trees, gathered from every part
of the world..
Facing St. Sophia, stands the supremely elegant, six-minaret, imperial
Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet. The building is more
familiarly known as the Blue Mosque because its interior ornamentation
gleams with a magnificent paneling of blue and white Iznik tiles.
The cascading domes and four slender minarets of Suleymaniye Mosque dominate
the skyline on the Golden Horn’s west bank. Considered the most
beautiful of all imperial mosques in Istanbul, it was built between 1550-1557
by architect Sinan. On the crest of hill, the building is conspicuous
by its great size. Inside the mihrab(prayer niche) and the mimber(pulpit)
are placed the finally carved white marble, fine stained glass windows
that color the incoming streams of light.
Another skillful accomplishment of the architect Sinan, the Rustem Pasa
Mosque was built in 1561 in compliance with the order of Rustem Pasa,
Grand Vizier and son-in-law of Suleyman the magnificent. Exquisite Iznik
tiles panel the small and superbly proportioned interior.
The imperial Fatih Mosque, constructed between 1463 and 1470, bears the
name of the Ottoman conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet and is
the site of his mausoleum. Standing atop another of Istanbul’s hills,
its vast size and great complex of religious buildings; medrese, hospices,
baths, a hospital, a caravanserai and a library.
The great Mosque of Eyup lies outside the city walls, near the Golden
Horn which is supposedly known as the place where Eyup, the standard bearer
of the prophet Mohammed, died in the Islamic assault on Constantinople
in 670 A.D.
Built between 1597 and 1663, the Yeni ( New ) Mosque hovers over the harbor
at Eminonu, greeting the incoming ferryboats and welcoming tourists to
the old city. Today its graceful domes and arches shelter hundreds of
pigeons who make this area their home.
The basilica of St. Sophia, now called the Ayasofya Museum Hagia Sophia, is unquestionably
one of the finest buildings of all time. Hagia Sophia built by Constantine the Great
and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its immense dome rises
55 meters above the ground and its diameter spans 31 meters. You should
linger here to absorb the building’s majestic serenity and after
which you will definitely admire the fine Byzantine mosaics. (Open every
day except Monday) ( For detail information about Hagia Sophia, read Hagia Sophia Facts )
The Archaeological Museums are found just inside the first court of Topkapi
Palace. Included among the displays are celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus
among its treasures of antiquity. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays
artifacts from the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hattie and Hittite
civilizations. (Open every day except Monday)
Originally built as a Kosk or pavilion by Mehmet Conqueror in 15 th century,
the Cinili Kosk which houses the museum of Turkish Ceramics, contains
beautiful Iznik wares from the 16 th century and fine example of Seljuk
and Ottoman pottery and tiles.( Open every day except Monday )
Like Ayasofya Museum, the St. Irene Museum was originally a church. It
ranks in fact as the first church built in Istanbul. Constantine commissioned
for the construction of it in the fourth century and Justinian later had
the church restored. Reputedly the buildings stand on the site of a pre-Christian
temple.( Open every day except Monday )
The dark stone building that houses the Museum of Turkish and Islamic
Art was built in 1524 by Ibrahim Pasa, Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent
as his residence. It was the biggest private residence ever built in the
Ottoman Empire. Today it holds a superb collection of ceramics, metalwork,
miniatures, calligraphy, textiles and woodwork as well as some of the
oldest carpets in the world.( Open every day day except Monday )
Across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa Palace is the Museum of Turkish
Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and rugs gathered from
all over Turkey.( Open every day except Monday )
Near St. Sophia is the sixth century Byzantine cistern known Yerebatan
Sarnici. Three hundred and thirty-six massive Corinthian columns support
the immense chamber’s fine brick vaulting. ( Open every day except
The Mosaic Museum stands in the site and it's exceptional for fine mosaic
pavements of the fifth and sixth centuries which remain from Great Palace
of Byzantine emperors.
( Open every day except Monday )
The Kariye Museum, the 11th century of “St. Savior” in Chora
is after St. Sophia the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul.
Unremarkable in its architecture, inside the walls are decorated with
superb 14th century frescoes and mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the
life of Christ and Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody
the vigor of Byzantine art. Restored wooden houses in the area surrounding
the church offer tea and coffee in a relaxed atmosphere far removed from
city’s hectic pace.( Open every day except Monday )
Aviation Museum ( Open every day except Monday )
Military Museum ( Open every day except Monday and Tuesday )
Ataturk Museum ( Open every day except Saturday and Sunday )
Naval Museum ( Open every day except Monday and Thursday )
Museum of Fine Arts ( Open every day except Monday and Tuesday )
City Museum ( Open every day except Thursday )
The ancient Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and center of Byzantine
civic life, stood in the open space in front of the Blue Mosque, an area
called Sultanahmet. Of the many monuments which once decorated it, only
three of them remained; the Obelisk of Theodosius, the Bronze Serpentine
Column and Column of Constantine. Remains from curved-end section of the
hippodrome’s wall can be seen on the southwest side of these three
monuments. Today the square forms the center of Istanbul’s historical,
cultural and touristic activities. You should take particular note of
the surrounding wooden houses, particularly the 18th century ones on Sogukcesme
The Ahmet III Fountain built in 179, stands at the entrance to Topkapi
Palace. Deep overhanging eaves shade the water spouts where a parched
passerby could stop for a cup of refreshing water. This highly ornate,
free-standing fountain is a superb example of the late Ottoman style.
Mahmut II built the Beyazit Tower (85 meters high) in 1828 as a fire tower.
Today It stands on the campus ground of Istanbul University.
The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction of 1348, rises 62 meters high
over the Golden Horn. From the top you see a marvelous panorama of the
Golden Horn and the Bosphorus.
Rumeli Hisari, or the European Fortress was built by Mehmet the Conqueror
in 1452 prior to his capture of Istanbul. Completed in only four months,
it is one of the most beautiful works of military architecture in the
world ( Open every day except Monday )
Known as Leander’s Tower , Kiz Kulesi is one of the most romantic
symbols of Istanbul. First constructed in 12th century on a tiny island
at the entrance to Istanbul’s harbor, the present building dates
back to 18th century.
A stay in Istanbul is not completed without the traditional and unforgettable
boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the winding strait that separates Europe
and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand
splendor and simple beauty.
The Golden Horn
This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural
harbors in the world, the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial
shipping interests were centered here. Today, lovely parks and promenades
line the shores where the setting sun dyes the water a golden color. At
Fener and Balat, neighborhoods midway up the Golden Horn, whole streets
of old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues date from Byzantine and
Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides here at Fener. Eyup a little
further up reflects the Ottoman style of architecture.
Art, Culture and Entertainment
Istanbul is an international art and cultural center. The International
Arts and Cultural Festivals is held each year in June and July with famous
artist coming from all over the world. These performances are held mostly
in the Ataturk Cultural Center. Those who enjoy classical music can get
what they are looking for at Cemal Resit Rey Hall. Operas, operettas,
ballets, film, concerts, exhibitions and conferences all contribute to
the cultural palette of the city. Istanbul also has a rich program of
light entertainment throughout dinner, ranging from a selection of Turkish
songs to the famous belly-dance. Alongside these activities, there are
modern discos, cabarets and jazz clubs in the Taksim Harbiye district.
In Sultanahmet there are a number of restaurants in restored Byzantine
and Ottoman buildings which offer a unique setting for an evening out.
Kumkapi with its many taverns, bars and fish restaurants is another attractive
district. People have been meeting for years in Beyoglu district’s
Cicek Pasaji for snacks and seafood specialties. Also in this district
the narrow Nevizade street, near Cicek Pasaji is the best place
In Istanbul for eating Turkish Specialties and drinking raki.
One could visit Istanbul for the shopping alone. The Kapali Carsi or Covered
Bazaar in the old city is logical place to start. This labyrinth of streets
and passages houses more than 4 000
shops. The names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter:
the goldsmith’s street, the carpet seller’s street, the street
of the skullcap makers. Still the commercial center of the old city, the
bazaar is the original shopping mall with something to suit every taste
Turkish crafts, the world-renowned carpets, brilliant hand painted ceramics,
copperware, brass ware and meerschaum pipes make charming souvenirs and
gifts. The gold jewelry in brilliant lit cases dazzles passerby. Leather
and suede goods of excellent quality make a relatively inexpensive purchase.
The Old Bedesten, in the heart of the bazaar, offers a curious assortment
of antiques. It is worth poking through the clutter of decades in the
hope of finding a treasure. The Misir Carsisi or spice Bazaar next to
the New Mosque at Eminonu, transports you to fantasies of mystical east.
The sophisticated shops of the Taksim - Nisantasi -Sisli districts contrast
with the chaos of the bazaar. Istanbul is a city where you can browse
peacefully in the most fashionable shops that sell elegant fashions ,high
quality textiles and gold goods
Ephesus from Istanbul
While you are visiting Istanbul, if you have time, you must visit Daily Ephesus, or Ephesus Overnight. You can arrange private Ephesus Tours from Istanbul. Private tours includes flight tickets, transfers, all entrances, private minivan, private guide and delicious lunch.