Istanbul sights

Istanbul sights

The directory contains the main sights of Istanbul with photos, videos and descriptions, as well as a map of Istanbul sights. Names are given in Russian, and opening hours and prices are given for museums. From the article you will learn what to see in Istanbul on your own in 3 days and where to take your children.

If all the roads in southern Europe lead to Rome, the roads of Asia Minor converge in Istanbul. Istanbul can be reached by any means available: by bus, plane, ferry, and rail.

The city stretches on both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, which geographically divides it into Europe and Asia, and this division is well felt: to the west stretches modern, progressive Turkey, to the east of the Bosphorus Strait – endless Arabian steppes and deserts with traditional settlements.

The ancient Istanbul stands proudly at the crossroads of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. In different centuries the city was ruled by several empires, the sights of which still coexist on the same land.

Undoubtedly, the most important and most visited attractions of Istanbul are those that connect the city with its history and tell the story of the times of the Sultanate. Since 1475 and for 400 years the main residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire was the Topkapi Palace. Later, in the mid-1950s the Dolmabahce Palace became the new residence of the rulers with the Clock Tower on their right. The Topkapi Palace complex includes the Church of St. Irene. In fact, it is the only church from the Byzantine period that has survived to this day.

The symbol of the city is the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), which since 1616 is located in the heart of the old part of the city. The building of incredible beauty is the main Turkish shrine and has its own feature – 6 minarets. In addition to Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque, on Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome Square) and close to it are located the main attractions of the city: the Hagia Sophia (Hagia Sophia), the Basilica, the German Fountain, the obelisks of Theodosius and Constantine, the famous museum of Turkish and Islamic art, the museum of mosaics of the Grand Palace and much more. We can say that in the area of Eminönü, where this square is located, are the most important iconic places.

Istanbul sights

Another important landmark is the Süleymaniye Mosque, built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Suleiman himself, his children and beloved wife Hürrem Sultan rest in a mausoleum near the mosque.

It is hard not to notice the Galata Tower, which rises 61 meters and is one of the most important tourist attractions and former strategic points of the city. The tower was built in the 14th century. Nowadays, there is an observation deck at the top of the Galata Tower, which offers a beautiful view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. Another no less noticeable and important construction is the Maiden’s Tower, built on a small island of natural origin. The first annalistic information about the tower appeared in 1453, and about the island in the 5th century B.C. The Maiden’s Tower itself has a rich history and is covered with ancient legends.

The Beilerbey palace complex was built later, in the 1860s. Its architecture skillfully combines notes of tradition with European influences. It is also interesting to visit the palaces of Yildiz, Ykhlamur, Chiragan and the ruins of Tekfur Palace, which in Byzantine times was called the Small Vlaherna Palace.

One of the most important monuments of the rule of all empires are the city walls of Istanbul or Theodosius Walls. Erected in the second half of the 4th century AD under the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, the walls protected the city from invaders. With the change of ruling empires the walls were subjected to changes. Thus, the most important Golden Gate of Altyn Kapa was erected in the 4th century, the Byzantines brought in the construction of the Tower Yedikule (Yedikule). A huge role in history was played by the Topkapi Gate, where in 1453 the bloodiest battle took place, which marked the fall of Constantinople.

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Lovers of antiquities should certainly visit the ancient fortress Rumelihisar (Rumel Fortress) and the Genoese fortress Yoros, which served as a fortress and trading post at the Phoenicians and the ancient Greeks. The Roman Empire left its mark in the form of the Aqueduct of Valentus, which has survived to this day largely intact.

The building of Haydarpaşa railway station, built in the very beginning of the 20th century in the neo-classical style, is a later architectural monument. This architectural monument is best revealed from the water: a boat tour offers an excellent view of the building.

Both parts of the city are connected by several bridges, the most picturesque of which are the Bosphorus Bridge and the Galata Bridge. For the record, after the failed military coup attempts on July 15, 2016, the Bosphorus Bridge was renamed the “Bridge of the Martyrs of July 15.”

Undoubtedly, speaking of the sights of Istanbul, it is impossible not to mention the religious component of the city. In addition to the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye, the architectural ensemble and the mosque of Mihrimah Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, are very popular among tourists in Istanbul. Not far from Süleymaniye, close to the Golden Horn Bay, is the mosque of Rustem Pasha, the Sultan’s son-in-law. The magnificent statue is the work of the most famous and revered architect of the empire, Mimar Sinan. Rustem Pasha himself rests near the Shehzade Mosque, which is also a famous creation of Sinan.

Other visited shrines and architectural monuments include the Fatih Mosque, Ortaköy, Bayezid (Bayazit), Dolmabahce, Eyüp Sultan Mosque and the Byzantine monastery Chora.

Numerous museums of Istanbul tell about the history, culture, traditions and modernity of the city. Museum exhibits include absolutely different topics and find a visitor of interest. History buffs should head to the Archaeological Museum with over a million exhibits that belonged to different empires. Also about the past centuries can be found in the City Museum, Tanzimat era museum, War Museum and Ataturk Museum.

The famous Innocence Museum of Nobel Prize winner and writer Orhan Pamuk is very popular among tourists. This museum was created along with the writing of the novel of the same name.

Museum of Rahmi M. Koç acquaints visitors with the history of industry and transport of the city. It is also a great place to visit the Istanbul Maritime Museum and the Museum of Retro Cars, which fascinates even children.

Art and culture connoisseurs will find a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, the Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express, the Press Museum, the Museum of Caricatures and Madame Tussauds entertaining. The Museum of Spinning Dervishes, the Museum of Turkish Calligraphy, the Carpet Museum, and the Porcelain Factory Museum will tell you more about the identity of the Turkish people.

The 35 Best Sights of Istanbul

A truly unique city in the world, embodying 4 ancient cultures, Istanbul enjoys huge attention from tourists. In its beautiful appearance intertwined Greek Byzantine, Roman – Constantinople, Byzantine and Ottoman features. It is impossible not to admire the majestic architecture of Christian churches, mosques, palaces, grandiose bridges of the metropolis. Located on the coast of the Bosphorus Strait Istanbul connects two continents – Europe and Asia.

The European part of the 15 million metropolis is divided into two parts by the world-famous Golden Horn Bay. South of the bay is the Old City (Eminenu), a center of magnificent historical and cultural monuments. The most famous landmarks of Istanbul, which always attract tourists from all parts of the world, are located here.

Haydarpaşa Station

Haydarpaşa Station, Istanbul

Station which is the central station of the Istanbul-Baghdad train. It is located in the Kadıköy district, on the Asian side of Istanbul. The construction of the station building began on May 30, 1906 and was completed on August 19, 1908. The official opening took place on November 4, 1909.

The complex was erected by a German company in Neo-Renaissance style. In addition, the Germans built a breakwater complex, on which cars from Asia were reloaded onto merchant ships and ferries. The structure was a gift from Emperor William II to Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. Haidarpasha Station was damaged and repaired three times. The first time was in 1917, when a fire broke out in an ammunition depot.

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On November 15, 1979, a dry cargo ship and a tanker collided 800 meters from the station. The explosions and fire that resulted from the accident caused serious damage to the train harbor building. Its repairs were fully completed in 1983. On November 28, 2010, a fire broke out on the roof of the structure and it collapsed. Restoration work after this incident lasted about a year.

Near the station there is a railway workers’ mosque with the same name. It was built on the site of the destroyed Gregorian church in 1874. The temple is decorated in Baroque style and decorated with 2 minarets. Boats that carry passengers across the Bosphorus dock near the station. Also at the pier unload car ferries of the Ilyichevsk-Istanbul line. You can get to the Hadarpaşa Station by boat from the piers of Bostanji, Jenikapı and Kadıköy, as well as by metro trains on the M4 line (Ayrılıkçeşme stop).

Galata Tower

Galata Tower, Istanbul

A landmark visible from any part of the city. It was erected on the hill of the same name in the 14th century. The construction was built by the Genoese, who inhabited one of the districts of Constantinople. At the time of completion of the construction Galata Tower was the largest building of the Byzantine capital.

In the early 16th century Galata was used as a prison for Christian prisoners of war, and in the middle of the century an astronomical observatory was housed on its upper platform. In 1578 the latter was closed. In 1632, the scientist Hezarfen Ahmet Chelebi fashioned eagle-like wings and jumped off the tower.

He flew over the Bosporus Strait and came down to earth in the Asian part of the city. The sultan first rewarded the daredevil and later sent him to Algeria. The flight aroused great interest in Europe. It was repeatedly painted by the best artists of the Old World.

In 1791, 1832 and 1875 the tower was repaired. It served as an observation post from which soldiers watched for fires and disturbances in the European part of the city. In 1964-1967 Galata underwent restoration and acquired modern look and a dome was erected on top of it. At the beginning of 2000’s an elevator was built in the building. Several dozen people have committed suicide from the walls of the tower.

  • The height is 69.9 meters.
  • Thickness of the walls – 3.75 meters
  • Diameter of the outside – 16.45 meters
  • Weight (according to calculations) – about 1,000 tons

The Galata Tower works:

The museum is open from 9 to 20 hours. There are dozens of accommodation and catering establishments within 100 meters radius of the structure. You can reach the Galata Tower on foot or by car. There is a cable car that goes from the old city of Sultanahmet to Meshrutiyet Street, 200 meters away from the structure. There is also the Sishane station of the M2 metro line.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

It was built in 1609-1616 by the order of the 14th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The money for the construction he allocated from his treasury. To build the mosque some palaces of the higher dignitaries of the state and the big palace of the Byzantine emperors had been destroyed. The architecture of the temple is a combination of the best features of the Ottoman and Byzantine styles.

The domes of the mosque are decorated with tiles of heavenly color. For such a design it is called blue. The six minarets are special details of the temple. Four of them are oriented to the sides of the world, and two stand in the outer courtyard of the structure. More towers are built only near the Masjid-al-Haram mosque in Mecca. The interior rooms of Sultanahmet are decorated with floral ornaments. The central hall of the structure has a length of 53 meters and a width of 51 meters. The dome above it has a diameter of 23.5 meters.

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In the recess of the wall, which faces Mecca, a black stone from the city holy to Muslims is kept. In the western part of the mosque, a special entrance is made for the sultan with a chain. The bow made by the ruler to pass under it symbolized his insignificance before God. The mosque is a whole complex of buildings. Its buildings include a temple, a primary and a religious school, a nursing home, the tomb of Sultan Ahmet, baths, stores, and fountains. Some of the buildings are rented to private enterprises.

During its 400-year history the mosque has been damaged many times by fires and popular unrest. Each time the rulers of Turkey allocated money for its restoration. In 1826 the headquarters of the Grand Vizier who suppressed the Janissary rebellion and liquidated the Janissary Corps was located in the temple. The mosque is open to visitors from 8:30 to 12:30, from 14:00 to 16:45 and from 17:45 to 18:30 daily. On Fridays (day off for Muslims) the mosque is closed. Entrance is always free. You can take the express streetcar line T1. Get off at the Sultanahmet stop.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

The complex of buildings which for 380 years was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire and home to its powerful rulers. It was home to 25 sultans. In 1854 Sultan Abdul-Medjid I moved to Dolmabahce Palace. In 1923 by order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the residence of the head of state was moved from Topkapi to Yildiz Palace. At the same time a museum was established in the complex.

The total number of its exhibits exceeds 600,000. The construction of the palace began in 1465 by order of Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Istanbul. Each ruler who lived in the residence rebuilt it and added new elements and decorations to its design. The palace is a mixture of several architectural styles that evolved between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Topkapi consists of 4 gates and courtyards, each of which represents a separate set of structures. The first of them, the lord’s gate, contained the service rooms. In the second – the Gates of Welcome – there were the Divan (cabinet of ministers) and the Treasury, in the third – the Gate of Happiness – there were the harem, the Sultan’s bedchamber and the elite school of leaders, in the fourth the religious and ancillary buildings were erected – the mosque, the pavilion of circumcision, the checkroom.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in summer (April 15 to October 30) and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter (October 30 to April 15). On the territory of the complex there are 2 cafes and 1 restaurant. The palace is located on Cape Sarayburnu, at the junction of Golden Horn Bay and the Sea of Marmara. The T1 line streetcar stops, 100 meters from the museum entrance, reach the Gulhane stop. Sikerji Train Station is 1 km away.

Hagia Sophia Cathedral.

Hagia Sophia Cathedral, Istanbul

Architects of Kievan Rus and the Russian Empire tried to copy it several times. The architectural solutions used in the design of the cathedral are still used today. Since 1985 Hagia Sophia Cathedral has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The temple was built in the middle of VI century AD by order of Emperor Constantine. For the construction of the building were brought the best materials from all over the Byzantine Empire. Marble and columns were taken from the ruins of ancient cities in Syria, Egypt, Athos and North Africa. At St. Sophia Cathedral, in 1054, the legates of the Pope announced the deposition of the Constantinople patriarch Kirularius, which split the Christian church into Orthodox and Catholic.

Until 1204 in the temple kept Shroud of Turin – a piece of cloth, which was wrapped up the body of Christ after the crucifixion. After the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, the shroud disappeared without a trace and was only found 150 years later. In 1453, after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, the cathedral was turned into a mosque and for about 100 years was the main temple of the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

In accordance with Islam’s prohibition on depicting people, the frescoes and mosaics were plastered over. It is thanks to this that they have survived to this day and now delight the eyes of visitors to the building. A small room for Muslim prayers is still active there.

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In 1935, the cathedral of St. Sophia was declared a museum. From April 15 to October 25 it is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., from October 25 to April 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To get to Hagia Sophia you need to take a streetcar line T1 and go to the stop “Sultanahmet”. From there walk about 200 meters to the temple.

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet Palace

The main square of the city. It was used as a hippodrome for racing, chariot races, athletic competitions and battles of gladiators since the 4th century AD. It was 400 meters long and 150 meters wide. The structure had a seating capacity of about 100 000 spectators. The stadium was adorned with a quadriga of gilded bronze. After the destruction of Constantinople by the knights in 1204 it was taken to the Cathedral of St. Mark’s in Venice, where it is kept to this day.

Among other ceremonies, the circumcision of the sons of Suleiman the Magnificent and Roksolana Hürrem was performed at the hippodrome. The hippodrome was finally destroyed in the 17th century. The building is depicted on 500 lire banknotes which were in circulation from 1953 to 1976. On the square there are 3 monuments: the serpent column, the obelisk of Constantine and the German fountain.

The first one is a symbol of the victory of Greeks over Persians in V century B.C. The second was erected in honor of Emperor Basil I by his grandson Constantine VII. The column is 21 metres high. According to the annals, it was lined with sheets of copper, which were stolen by crusader knights. The fountain was a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm. On the inside it is decorated with gold mosaics and monograms of the rulers of Germany and Turkey.

In 1826 on Sultanahmet Square were executed Janissaries who, like the Streltsy in Russia, rebelled against the reforms of their ruler. Also from this place began the uprising that led to the overthrow of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II in 1909. In 1950-1951 there were excavations of the former hippodrome area. During the investigations, many artifacts from the Byzantine and early Ottoman period were found. You can see them in the museums. Sultanahmet Square is located in the historical center of the Sultanahmet square. The T1 streetcar line stops next to it.

Beilerbey Palace

Beylerbey Palace, Istanbul

Was erected in 1861-1865 by Armenian architects Hagop and Sarkis Balyans. The name of the building in translation means “lord of lords. The title Beilerbey was awarded only to the best generals, naval commanders and governors of Turkey. The Beylerbey was designed by Sarkis Balian in the style of the Second French Empire. The palace seems rather modest compared to the chambers of Dolmabahce or Kucuksu. One of the most beautiful decorations of Beylerbey is the reception hall with a pool and fountain.

The cold water in it plays the role of a thirst quencher, a natural conditioner and an interior detail. Egyptian cane mats and khereke-type carpets are used as floor coverings. The palace is equipped with chandeliers of Bohemian crystal. In the alleys of the garden there are Japanese, Chinese, and Turkish porcelain vases.

The best way to look at the palace is from the side of the Bosphorus during a boat trip. From there you can see the two bathing pavilions of the complex: male and female. They are decorated with floral ornaments in the Turkish style. The palace was used to accommodate the guests of the Turkish rulers. In 1869 the Empress of France Eugenie visited it.

She was delighted by the elegance of the building’s interiors and how skillfully the architects and designers created a copy of her bedroom from the Tuileries castle. In the building the empress met with the valide (the sultan’s mother). The Duke and Duchess of Windsor also visited Beilerbey. Sultan Abdul-Hamid II was kept and died in the castle in 1912-1918.

The palace is open every day except Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a ferry dock next to the palace on the Bosphorus Line 1.

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Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul

Dolmabahce Palace was the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1853-1889 and 1909-1922. Dolmabahce was the first sultan’s palace built in the European style. It was built for 11 years from 1842 to 1953. The main architect of the construction was the Armenian Karabet Balyan. The cost of the palace was equal to the price of 35 tons of gold (about 1 billion 180 million dollars in modern money).

Materials were brought from all over the world for the construction. Marble came from the island of Marmara, alabaster from Egpita and porphyry from Pergamum. The total area of the structure is 45,000 m2. There are 285 rooms, 46 corridors, 6 bathrooms, 68 toilets and 1427 windows.

The main decoration of the Palace – a huge crystal chandelier with 750 candles weighing 4 tons. It was a gift from Queen Victoria of England. The palace houses the largest collection of candle chandeliers in the world.

There is also a Russian trace in Dolmabahce. On one of its walls hangs a polar bear skin, which the Turks repainted brown to protect it from dust. Ivan Aivazovsky painted 40 Bosphorian landscapes for the palace. In addition to money, the artist was awarded the Order of Osman – the highest award of the empire.

Eight sultans of the Ottoman Empire lived and worked in the palace. Also Mustafa Kemal Ataturk lived there. The bed on which the reformer died on November 10, 1938 is still preserved in the building. It is an object of worship for most Turkish citizens. All the chronometers in the structure show the time of his death as 9:5 a.m. In 1887, the German Emperor Wilhelm II visited the palace.

The palace is open to visitors every day except Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can take the Macka Cable Car or the Besiktas Ferry.

Maiden’s Tower

Maiden Tower, Istanbul

The structure on a small island in the Bosphorus, near the Uskudar district of the Asian part of Istanbul. It is one of the symbols of the city. There are legends connected with both names of the tower. According to one of them, the young man Leander crossed the Bosphorus every night and found his way by the fire lit by the girl Hero. One day the wind blew out the flame and Leander died.

In the morning Hero saw his body and jumped from the tower to be always with her beloved. According to a Turkish tale, there once lived a good sultan who performed five obligatory and five extra prayers every day. A dervish who appeared in a dream told the ruler that his beloved odalisque would soon give him a daughter and the girl would be bitten by a snake. The wanderer advised the sultan to build a tower on the Bosphorus where his daughter would be safe.

The Persian prince, who wanted to marry her, went to the flower seller. The sultan agreed to show the plants to the girl, on condition that the merchant’s daughter would deliver them. The prince disguised himself in women’s clothes and presented the beautiful girl with the bouquet. But a snake crawled out of the flowers and bit the girl. The Persian fell on his beloved’s wound and sucked out the poison. As a reward, he got the Sultan’s permission for the wedding.

The Maiden’s Tower is depicted on Aivazovsky’s painting “View of Leandrova Tower in Constantinople” and on the 10 lire bill, which was in circulation in 1966-1981. The Maiden Tower was built during the Byzantine Empire as a small fort at the entrance to the Golden Horn harbor. During its long history, it was used as a lighthouse, prison, and isolation ward for the sick.

More than once the structure was burned out and destroyed by earthquakes. But there was always a nobleman who gave money to rebuild the structure. In 1999, the tower was reconstructed and opened to tourists. Now it has a restaurant, an observation deck and gift store. There are boat rides from the piers of Katabaş and Yusküdar to the tower.

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