Top 10 Attractions in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

Straddling two continents, Istanbul, Turkey, is a city steeped in history, rich in culture, and brimming with an energetic amalgam of traditions and modernity.

Once known as Byzantium and later Constantinople, Istanbul has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape through its landmarks, cuisine, and vibrant street life.

From the echoing steps within ancient Byzantine churches to the rhythmic calls to prayer from Ottoman mosques, Istanbul is a sensory mosaic waiting to be explored.

  • Hagia Sophia

    The Hagia Sophia is a testament to Istanbul's layered history.

    Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, this architectural marvel has stood the test of time for over 1,500 years.

    A pinnacle of Byzantine architecture, it was built by Emperor Justinian I in 537 AD and is famed for its massive dome and stunning mosaics, which gleam with the reflections of its checkered past.

  • Topkapi Palace

    Overlooking the Bosphorus Strait, Topkapi Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for nearly four centuries.

    This vast complex, with its lush courtyards and exquisite pavilions, reveals the opulent lifestyle of the Ottoman elite.

    It houses significant collections, including imperial treasures, religious relics such as the Prophet Muhammad's cloak and sword, and one of the world's finest collections of ceramics and manuscripts.

  • The Blue Mosque

    Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known globally as the Blue Mosque for its beautiful blue Iznik tiles adorning its interior, is an active house of worship that epitomizes Istanbul's Islamic heritage.

    Built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I, its six minarets, grand dome, and semi-domes form an integral part of the city's skyline.

    Inside, the mosque is illuminated by 260 windows, which were originally filled with 17th-century stained glass.

  • Grand Bazaar

    The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, an immense labyrinth where you can literally shop till you drop.

    With over 4,000 shops spread across 60 streets, the bazaar is the perfect place to experience the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.

    From spices, dried fruits, and nuts to textiles, ceramics, and fine jewelry, the kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and sounds creates an enchanting atmosphere that seems unchanged since the Ottoman era.

  • Basilica Cistern

    A stone's throw away from the Hagia Sophia lies the Basilica Cistern, an ancient marvel of engineering and a testament to the Byzantine Empire's mastery of water systems.

    Built in the 6th century, it is the largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul, designed to store fresh water for the palace and nearby buildings.

    The cistern's dim lighting and tranquil ambiance create an otherworldly experience, enhanced by the hauntingly beautiful sounds of water dripping and the sight of enormous, ornate Medusa head column bases that reside in the water, a shadowy reference to Greek mythology amidst the city's historical tapestry..

  • Galata Tower

    Dominating the skyline of the Galata district, the medieval stone Galata Tower has become one of Istanbul's most iconic landmarks.

    Originally called Christea Turris (Tower of Christ) by the Genoese, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that offers a panoramic vista of Istanbul and the Golden Horn.

    The nine-story tower is a former prison, observatory, and now a popular tourist attraction.

  • Süleymaniye Mosque

    The Süleymaniye Mosque, built on one of Istanbul's seven hills, is one of the most magnificent mosques in the city.

    Commissioned by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and masterfully crafted by the famed Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, it is a stunning example of Islamic architecture and the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire.

    The mosque complex included schools, a hospital, a library, and a kitchen that served the poor, exemplifying the social, cultural, and religious center that mosques represented in Ottoman society.

  • Chora Church

    The Chora Church, or Kariye Museum, boasts some of the finest surviving examples of Byzantine artistry.

    Its name meaning 'in the country,' relates to its location outside of the original walls of Constantinople.

    Chora is renowned for its intricate mosaics and frescoes, which depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

  • Dolmabahçe Palace

    Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the European shore of the Bosphorus, served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    A stark contrast to the traditional Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe shines with European-influenced Neoclassical, Baroque, and Rococo styles.

    The opulent interiors boast the grandeur of the Crystal Staircase, an ornate Baccarat crystal chandelier, and the ceremonial hall with its 56 columns.

  • Spice Bazaar

    The Spice Bazaar, or Egyptian Bazaar, is a culinary haven located in the Eminönü quarter of Istanbul.

    Built in 1660, the bazaar is an L-shaped, covered market that entices with aromas of cinnamon, saffron, mint, thyme, and every imaginable herb and spice.

    It was traditionally the last stop for the camel caravans that traveled the Silk Road from China, India, and Persia.