Discover the Historical Peninsula: 15 Places to See in Istanbul

Istanbul, called with many different names in the past such as Byzantion, Nova Roma, Konstantinopolis, Konstantiniyye and Islambol, is the biggest city of Republic of Turkey. Istanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world, whose the history dates back to the thousands of years, served as the capital of several empires during the history such as the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and finally the Ottoman Empire.

The geopolitical importance of Istanbul is very high due to the fact that it hosts the Bosphorus which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara through three bridges and separates Asia and Europe on the other hand. After this general background about the city, I’m willing to introduce the most visited and touristic places in Istanbul that I compiled. Firsty, you should consider that the starting point is very important to visit the places satisfactorily. Because this huge city hosts over than 10 million people. So, it is better to start off from the old town in some way.

15. Moda Coast

The Moda district and the Moda Coast are between the center of Kadıköy and Yoğurtçu Park. It is on the route of the Nostalgic Tram, which departs from Kadikoy. It is famous for its ice cream and tea gardens. You can also hang out and drink something with your friends in the long and nice coast.

14. Maiden Tower

The Maiden Tower, which is told about various narratives, is a building built on a small islet on the outskirts of Salacak, near the Sea of Marmara in the Bosphorus. The tower, which has become the symbol of Üsküdar, is the only artifact left in Üsküdar from the Byzantine period and has a historical past dating back to 24 BC.

13. Ortaköy Mosque

Ortaköy Mosque (or Büyük Mecidiye Mosque) which is a very elegant building is a neo-baroque mosque in Beşiktaş district of Istanbul. Sultan Abdülmecid made Architect Nigoğos Balyan to build the mosque in 1853. The mosque, is in Baroque style. It is also visible from the Bosphorus and beside the First Bridge. Around the mosque, you can find beautiful places to eat something.

12. Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, on the European coast of the Bosphorus, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and 1909 to 1922. During a Bosphorus tour, you can also watch the beauty of the palace.

11. Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street, where Istanbul’s Beyoglu district is, which extends between the tunnel and Taksim Square since the late 19th century to protect the characteristic of being one of Turkey’s most famous streets. The center of the 1400-meter-long street is considered to be the place where the Galatasaray High School and the 50th Anniversary Monument are located. It is the main axis of the district of Beyoğlu together with the Tarlabaşı Boulevard. Around 3 million people are thought to pass by the street.

10. Galata Tower

Galata Tower is a tower located in the Galata district of Istanbul. The building, which was built in 528, is one of the important symbols of the city. The Bosphorus and the Golden Horn can be viewed from the tower in a panoramic view. In 2013, UNESCO included the tower in the World Heritage List.

9. Süleymaniye Mosque

Süleymaniye Mosque, taken the name of Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent), built by the imperial artichtect Mimar Sinan. This magnificent mosque has a big importance to visit thanks to its amazing stained-glasses, handwritings on the dome, spacious garden and unique view to take a photo.

8. Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar is located behind Yeni Mosque in Eminönü. It is the second, most famous and covered shopping center after Grand Bazaar. It is known as “Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı)” in Turkish because of the Egyptian products and revenues brought to the capital of Ottomans.

7. Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar , built in 15th century and extended in 16th century, is one of the most visited places of Istanbul. There are approximately 4000 shops inside the bazaar. It attracts millions of tourists to find many different type of products there per year.

6. Gülhane Park

Gülhane Park, served as the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace before, is located near the Bosphorus. It is adviced that it should be especially visited in the spring because of the tulip gardens inside the park which evoke the magnicifent Ottoman ruling.

5. Istanbul Archeological Museums

Istanbul Archeological Museums, established in 19th century by Osman Hamdi Beg as an imperial museum (called Müze-i Hümâyûn) contains a large diversity of historical artifacts from Ancient Greek to the Arabic Peninsula.

4. Basilica Cistern

The Cistern, erected during Byzantium period in the 6th century is located quite near of Hagia Sophia. It served as a big water resorvior for the city for many centuries. This cistern is also known as “Yerebatan” among the public because of the marble columns. “The head of Medusa“, one of the most popular things should be seen, also stays in this cistern.

3. Topkapı Palace

Topkapi Palace, located in a perfect place crossing the Bosphorus and Golden Horne is the residence of the Ottoman sultans, the administration and education center of the state. The palace was built by Mehmed II (Conquerer of Istanbul also known as Fatih Sultan Mehmed) between 1460-1478 and some additions were made in time. The Ottoman sultans and the people of the palace lived until the middle of the 19th century. The Palace is easily visible from many different points in the city.

2. Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Ahmed Camii in Turkish,was erected by Ottoman architect Sedefkar Mehmed Agha during the reign of Ahmed I between 1609-1617. Because the mosque is decorated with blue, green and white colored Iznik tiles, and its half domes and large dome are also decorated with blue weighted pencil works, it is called the Blue Mosque. With the ransformation of Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum in 1935, it became the main mosque of Istanbul. It is the first mosque of Turkey with six minarets.

1. Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia is a historical museum in Istanbul. It was a basilica planned cathedral built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I between 532-537 in the old city center on the historical peninsula of Istanbul, and was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 when Istanbul was taken by the Ottomans. After the republic was proclaimed, the status of Hagia Sophia was changed into museum by order of Atatürk in 1935.


Some Useful Tips about Transportation:

Just think about that there are many places to see around only Golden Horn (Haliç in Turkish) and Bosphorus (Boğaz). Using an online or old-school map can be helpful for your during your trip.

Istanbul has a developing railway system. You can take one of them to reach many places.

And also, you can find the bus schedules here.

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