ISTANBUL TRAVEL GUIDE

ISTANBUL ATTRACTIONS

Hagia Sophia, for almost a thousand years was a triumph of Christianity & the symbol of Byzantium & until the 16th century, maintained its status as the largest Christian church in the world. After the conquest of the city in 1453, the great house of worship became a mosque.

Blue Mosque, is one of the great & defining features of Istanbul’s skyline. Constructed in 1616 by Sultan Ahmet, who was not only driven by a desire to leave behind an imperial mosque & also to build a monument to rival the St. Sophia. The overall effect is one of such great harmony, grace & power.

Topkapi Palace, residence of the Sultans & administrative seat of the Ottoman Empire for almost 400 years & the source of legend on life in the harem. Built by Mehmet the Conqueror over the ruins of Constantine’s Imperial Palace, Topkapi Palace occupies one of the seven hills of the city.

The Bosphorus, is the strait between the Black Sea & the Sea of Marmara, one of the world’s most strategic waterways. Literally this is where east meets west, the shores of Asia & Europe are parallel for 34 kms. There are two suspension toll bridges on this strait & its shores are dotted with mansions.

Taksim Beyoglu, this is the culture, art & entertainment center of Istanbul. Taksim is the intersecting point of roads flowing to various places in the city, Taksim distributes Istanbul life to the rest of the city. It’s all here; restaurants, theatres, opera, art galleries, hotels, cafes, bars, night clubs…

Grand Bazaar (Kapalicarsi), remains a true Turkish delight, a shopaholic’s colourful fantasy that is also a photographer’s dream. Whether you are after a Hereke carpet or a pair of silk slippers, you will find just about anything in 1 of the 4000 stores in the bazaar at the western end of the Silk Road.

Galata Tower, one of the city’s most distinctive sights, the tower was built in 1348 by the Genoese, as part of their fortification of Galata. Since then, the tower has been restored many times. A lift climbs to a viewing balcony, nightclub & restaurant on the top floor with amazing views of the the city.

The Süleymaniye Mosque, built on the order of Sultan Süleyman (Süleyman the Magnificent), was fortunate to be able to draw on the talents of the architectural genius of Mimar Sinan. The design of the Süleymaniye also plays on Suleyman’s self-conscious representation of himself as a ‘second Solomon.’

Chora Church was originally built as part of a monastery complex outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. Literally translated, the church’s full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country.

Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul’s most surprising tourist attractions. This huge, palace-like underground hall, supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, once stored the imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors. The project was begun by Constantine the Great, but finished by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century.

Hippodrome was begun by Septimus Severus in AD 203 and completed by Constantine the Great in AD 330. This was the centre of Byzantine public life and the scene of splendid games and chariot races but also factional conflicts.

Spice Bazaar is the place to get your foodie fix of lokum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, nuts, herbs and of course spice. Much of the money that helped construct it came from the taxes the Ottoman government levied on Egyptian-made products which is why it’s name in Turkish (Mısır Çarşısı) means “Egyptian Market”.

Housed in the palace of İbrahim Paşa, who was Grand Vizier for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, this Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Ottoman art.

Little Hagia Sophia: Before Emperor Justinian built the Hagia Sophia he had to test out if the building would work structurally, so he built this miniature version first. Its original name was the Church of Sergius and Bacchus.

Everyone interested in history should head to the Archeological Museum. There can be long lines of visitors waiting to get in in, and it can be crowded inside, but if you have the possibility to plan your visit out of peak time, it is really worth the entrance fee.

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