The 35 best sights of Istanbul – description, photo, map

The 35 best sights of Istanbul

A truly unique city in the world, embodying 4 ancient cultures, Istanbul enjoys a huge attention of 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 built 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.

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
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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 connects 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. He allocated money for the construction 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.

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 outbuildings were erected – the mosque, the pavilion of circumcision, the checkroom.

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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 with the Sea of Marmara. The T1 tramway stop, 100 meters from the museum entrance, is right next to 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.

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 it is open 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 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.

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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 palaces 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 reed 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.

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.

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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 received the Sultan’s permission to marry.

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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The Grand Bazaar is rightly considered a landmark of Istanbul – it is one of the largest covered markets in the world. Its area is almost 30 thousand square meters and is a maze of 60 streets, 5 thousand stores and 40 hotels. It is not difficult to get lost here, because it is visited by half a million people a day. Tourists usually buy oriental sweets, spices and tea at this market. Everything else is better to buy in other cheaper markets.

Cevahir Trade Center

Cevahir Trade Center

The Cevahir Shopping Center is the goal of every shopaholic in Istanbul, because it is considered one of the largest in Europe. It is impossible to walk around the many stores and restaurants on 620 thousand square meters in an entire day. Two hundred thousand people a day doing shopping here, ranging from food to luxury furniture. To get to the sales or promotions, you can use their official website.

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13. Vialland


Vialland is a children’s amusement park. The play, history and adventure areas are for all ages and will not only be fun, but educational as well. In the history room wax figures represent scenes from the siege of Constantinople in 1453 and look very realistic, all episodes are accompanied by explanations of Russian-speaking guide. And the crazy rides, boat rafting and dungeon scare room will suit even adults.

14. Aqua Marine

Aqua Marine

Aqua Marine is a water park on the coast of the Sea of Marmara can take 3 thousand visitors at a time. The park has a beach, sun loungers, slides and other water attractions. You can also visit the dolphinarium and swim with them for a price of $100 for 10 minutes of swimming.

15. Istanbul Zoo

Zoo Istanbul

Istanbul Zoo began as a small collection of a Turkish biologist professor and now boasts 3,000 animals from all over the world. The zoo is kept in excellent conditions, so you always have the opportunity to observe the cubs. Today the area of the park occupies 200 thousand square meters.

16. Museum of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art takes up two floors with the area of 8 thousand square meters. On the second floor are international exhibitions, while the first floor is a permanent exhibition hall with works of art arranged in chronological order.

Paintings, sculptures, video installations, photo galleries and conceptual shows show the development of art in Turkey from its inception to the present day. The interior of the museum is very unusual – books hang from the ceiling – and beautiful – numerous windows offer views of the Bosphorus Strait and other sights of Istanbul.

17. International Museum of UFOs

International UFO Museum

The International Museum of UFOs opened its doors in 2002 and immediately became immensely popular, because there are only 4 such museums around the world, dedicated to extraterrestrial civilizations! Of course, the real exhibits are not found here, but the collection is based on photographs and paintings as well as models of flying vehicles and aliens themselves, which were designed according to stories of eyewitnesses.

18. Ataturk House Museum


Ataturk House Museum is dedicated to the man who stood at the origins of the formation of the Turkish Republic. The museum exhibits personal belongings, military uniforms, decorations and secret documents of the president. The interior of the house has been restored and now everything here is in the position it was when the revolutionary lived here with his mother and sister.

19. Museum of Innocence

Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence has a very romantic history. Its creator named Kemal was engaged when he met another girl. They started a relationship, but when this girl found out about his engagement, she disappeared from Kemal’s life. He searched for his beloved for a very long time until he found out that she had died in a plane crash.

Since then, he began collecting and carefully preserving her belongings, from the pencil she used to take notes to her stomping shoes. The museum is in the house that Kemal bought from the girl’s mother and became popular after the release of the book of the same name about their affair. Since this love story took place between 1960 and 1990, unique household items from those times can be found in the house.

20. Toy Museum

Toy Museum

Toy Museum will be fascinating not only for children, but also allow you to plunge into the world of childhood for adults. In the old mansion, a Turkish collector has collected over 4 thousand items, including collections of railroads, toy soldiers, doll houses and music boxes. Puppet theaters play folk Turkish fairy tales, and a children’s cafe sells ice cream and traditional Turkish sweets.

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