Explore the Iconic Sights and Top Attractions of Istanbul

Galata Tower

 

The tower which is named after the district it still stands now was originally an observation tower by the Genoese in 1348. After the conquest of Istanbul and the dissolution of Byzantium in 1453, the Ottomans assumed full control over the Genoese colony without any conflict. The tower then was repaired and the cross on top of the tower was changed with an Ottoman flag. The tower and the fortification around the tower were damaged in an earthquake in 1509 and the tower was erected again in 1510. The traces of the repair can still be seen in the layers of bricks on the second and third floors.

In the 16th Century, the tower was used as a dungeon, in the 17th Century as a storage for a shipyard and as an observation tower in the 18th Century. The tower maintained its function as a watchtower in the 19th Century and alongside being an observation tower it was used as a communication tower for the navy. The fire brigade and the navy continued to use the tower even after the establishment of modern Turkey in 1923. Since then, the tower saw several repairs and restorations the most recent of which was in 2020. Today, this iconic structure houses an exhibition hall, a museum on the mid floors and a restaurant on the top floor promising a breathtaking view of Istanbul.

 

Hagia Sophia 

 

Hagia Sofia (also called Church of the Holy Wisdom) is one of the most important monuments of the World let alone Istanbul’s. It was originally built as a Christian church and by the decree of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th Century between 532-537. Most of the building materials used for constructing this wonder was brought from several different religious structures that were spread across the Byzantine Empire which is claimed to have shortened the construction process. To be precise, this glamorous marvel is the 3rd structure bearing the same name and built on the very location where the two previous churches once existed.

The structure which once was the largest Christian church of the Byzantine Empire has transformed into a mosque in 1453. In 1935, the structure had gained the status of a museum and in 2020 it was transformed into a mosque again. However, everyone can still visit the structure with no exceptions.

 

Topkapı Palace

 

The construction of the palace began in 1460 in the following years of the conquest of Istanbul and it was completed in 1478. The palace was initially built on an area of 700.000 square meters on what once was a Byzantian compound in the palace is in the Sarayburnu district which is at the edge of the peninsula of Istanbul.

From the first day of its’ conception, the palace gained and maintained the utmost importance as the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire and its’ dynasty. The palace which was once the official residence of the Ottoman Empires shrank in population when the sultans moved into other palaces. However, the continuous residence of the state officials within the palace kept the palace relevant and important during the course of history. In 1924, after minor repairs, the palace opened its’ doors to visitors as a museum. Today the palace stands at 80.000 square meters and is home to invaluable pieces of history including the holy relics of Islam.

 

The Blue Mosque

 

The Blue Mosque is one of the most significant structures which adorns Istanbul. The majestic mosque’s aesthetic minarets and elegant architecture can easily be seen from most parts of the city. The undisputed attraction is visited by almost anyone who sets step on the historic peninsula of Istanbul which is practically an open-air museum. The architect of the mosque is Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, one of Mimar Sinan’s apprentices. The mosque began construction by in 1609 by the decree of Ahmed I and it took 7 years to complete. The mosque was opened for worship in 1617. The Sultan considered several locations for the mosque but finally decided on the location where once stood the Sokullu Mehmet Pasha. The mosque gained the title of “museum” in 1934 and began accepting visitors alongside worshippers. The mosque is adorned with İznik tiles similar to ones you can find in the oldest real estate in Istanbul and which are mostly blue, green and white which gave the name Blue Mosque. There are over 20.000 pieces of tiles used as adornments for the interiors of the mosque. In 1990 the interiors were restored to their original state and the mosque once more became worthy of the name Blue Mosque. The domes and the minarets of the mosque are covered with sheets of lead and the alems at the tip of the minarets are made from gold-plated copper. The mosque also has the privilege of being the only mosque in Istanbul with 6 minarets.

 

Nişantaşı District 

 

The legend has it that when sultans were practicing archery, an aiming stone was placed at the furthest point an arrow reaches.  The first of these aiming stones scattered around Istanbul was built between 1790-91 by Selim III and located in the courtyard of Teşvikiye Mosque. The Sultan Abdülmecid opened the region for settlement to encourage a population growth in the district and that is why the region where Nişantaşı is located in is called Teşvikiye (Eng.: encouragement). Four additional aiming stones were built in the region by the future sultans and that is why the district is being called Nişantaşı today. In the following years the region saw development and rise of new structures in neo-classic & neo-baroque style which is literally the most valuable and finest examples of Istanbul real estate. After the wave of settlement and development in the region, the sultan himself had shown interest for the region. It was even decided for his daughters to get married in Nişantaşı and the celebrations lasted 15 long days.

The proximity of Taksim, another popular region that attracts crowds also played a positive role in the growth of interest to Nişantaşı. Today, the popularity of Nişantaşı is still on the rise. With luxurious properties, exquisite restaurants, shops of international brands and historic taverns. Nişantaşı still continues to amaze and anyone can find something to take away from.

 

Taksim Square

 

The square is located in the District of Beyoğlu and it is one of the most recognizable places in Istanbul. A reservoir was built in the area known as Taksim Square today. In order to distribute the water kept in the reservoir to the surrounding neighborhoods, a small water distribution structure was built. This small structure was called “Taksim Maksemi” (trans. Taksim Water Distributor) and it was used for distributing the stored water of Galata-Beyoglu. The district that once was a narrow area with small houses was expanded and become the famous square it is now. The memorial called the Republic Monument is located in the middle of the square and the area around this famous monument in Taksim Square assumes the duty of being the focal point for hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to spend time or meet in the vicinity as well as a ceremonial ground for national days. There is also a nostalgic tramline still active today which can take you from the Republic Monument to the stop called Tünel (Eng. Tunnel).

The area around Taksim Square can also be considered as the heart of Turkey surrounded with entertainment, cultural as well as shopping venues and it holds the most valuable real estate in Istanbul. The area successfully combines one of the most famous exhibition halls, cafes, bars, malls, foreign institutions, churches, art galleries and cinemas there is. The square bustles with life in day and night. Some venues including nightclubs are open almost every hour of the day and people can easily swarm into Taksim Square thanks to the ease of transportation to and from Taksim.

 

Pierre Loti Hill

 


Pierro Loti is one of the most distinguished and reserved places in Istanbul. The place is not in sight for most of the people who visit Istanbul, but it becomes an irreplaceable choice once they visit Pierre Loti Hill. The hill is one of the seven hills Istanbul is famously known for and offers a spectacular view of the city and houses the well-preserved examples of Istanbul real estate. The hill is named after the French writer who frequently visited here. The writer whose real name was Julien Viaud loved the city and he considered the best view of the city can be viewed on the hill. He loved to visit the Rabia Kadın Kahvesi, a cafe on the slopes and allegedly wrote his novel called Aziyade here. That is why the city pays a permanent homage to the writer by giving his name to this district.  Of course, the view of Istanbul is not the only aspect that can be enjoyed in the district. The area also houses an old Islamic lodge, a nursery that dates back to the 1800s as well as a 500 years old shrine built for a sheik.

No matter what the reason is; either for a simple walk or a mere visit, Pierre Loti Hill is the go-to place to fall into the essence of old Istanbul.

 

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