|41° 0′ 49″ N
28° 57′ 18″ E
Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the largest city in Turkey. It is the main port and trade and economic center, and was the capital of all empires.
During my five-day trip, I had the opportunity to visit all the main sights. You can find all the information about what to visit in Istanbul in the article. I did not have enough time to visit the museums, nor did I visit the Asian part of the city, but there are still plenty of locations to visit. The weather in May was quite good; most days in Istanbul were sunny, but there were sometimes cold, strong winds with rain. Keep in mind that this is a good time of year to visit this city.
If you have any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to post them on the comments and discussion page.
The Topkapi Palace was the main palace of the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century. Located in the historical center of Istanbul, on the Sarayburnu Cape at the confluence of the Bosporus and the Golden Horn in the Sea of Marmara, all Ottoman sultans lived and ruled at this palace.
Inside the palace, one can find beautiful architecture with its own special oriental design. However, the queue to buy tickets is quite long and it takes about an hour to get tickets. Inside the palace, there is also a long queue to view artifacts (swords, utensils, etc.), but I do not think it is worth it as there is nothing special to see. Next to the palace, there is a park with its beautiful trees, fountains, waterfalls, and flowers where one can walk. On the coast of the park, there is a beautiful panorama of the Bosphorus.
The building of the Topkapi Palace was begun in 1460 by order of Sultan Fatih after the conquest of Constantinople. The location for construction was chosen next to the Hagia Sophia mosque, and construction was completed in 1478. Afterwards, the palace was used as the administrative, educational, and artistic center of the Ottoman Empire for the next four centuries. Topkapi Palace is surrounded by Gulhane Park, which hides it from urban structures. The total area of the palace is small, only 30 hectares, and four Topkapi courtyards, protected by walls, are located on this territory. In the middle of the 19th century, the Sultan's dynasty moved to the more modern Dolmabahce Palace, and the old Topkapi Palace lost its functions on April 3, 1924, becoming the first museum of the Republic of Turkey. The collection of 300,000 items in the museum has unique cultural values, including items made of porcelain, silver, and gold, portraits, weapons, decorations, and gifts, as well as the imperial treasury.
Hagia Sophia is a former patriarchal Orthodox cathedral that later became a mosque and is now a museum, a world-famous monument of Byzantine architecture and a symbol of the "golden age" of Byzantium. The official name of the monument today is the Hagia Sophia Museum.
This is one of the main attractions of the city, a very beautiful and majestic temple connected with the story of the Byzantine Empire and then the Ottoman Empire. Inside are works of mosaics and drawings of the Orthodox religion. The authorities of the Ottoman Empire did not destroy parts of the Christian culture, and it is said that after the conquest of Constantinople, the sultans established a dialogue with local priests so that the surviving population would not rebel. In other words, the temple is beautiful and it is worth visiting to admire its appearance and interior decoration.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque
Sultanahmet Mosque is the first mosque in Istanbul and is an outstanding example of Islamic and world architecture. Located on the shore of the Sea of Marmara in the Sultanahmet district, it is opposite the Aya-Sofia Museum and is one of the symbols of the city. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in the historic center of Istanbul.
The history of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque began in 1609 due to unfavorable circumstances. A series of defeats in major wars and unrest in the state had undermined Turkey's international authority. In addition, no ruler had built such buildings in the city for the past 40 years. In order to appease Allah and perpetuate his name, Ahmed ordered the construction of a grandiose structure. It was a serious task to choose a location for the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and it was built opposite the Hagia Sophia. This was done for two reasons: first, to surpass the magnificence of the temple, and second, due to its proximity to Topkapi. This place had a symbolic meaning. The complex, built on the ruins of the Hippodrome and the Imperial Palace, towers over the city from the south, reminding of the greatness of Turkey.
Suleymaniye Mosque is the second most significant mosque after Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul. Approximately 5,000 believers can be inside of it. The mosque is located in the old part of the city, in the Vefa area. Everyone is welcome to go inside of the mosque, regardless of their religion. When you enter the mosque, you can walk on a soft carpet without shoes and admire its decoration and architecture.
The Süleymaniye Mosque was built in the middle of the 16th century by order of the Turkish Sultan Suleiman I the Great, also known as "the Legislator". The famous architect of Istanbul, Mimar Sinan, was chosen to plan the construction of the Mosque. The Mosque's architectural complex is impressive in its lines and sizes, as well as in its use of special technologies that have allowed it to survive 89 earthquakes over 450 years without any consequences. It has never been destroyed or collapsed during devastating earthquakes, thanks to its foundation filled with water. In 1985, the building was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Nowadays, the Mosque is used as a religious building.
It is recommended to visit one of the four Adalar Islands located in the Sea of Marmara a few kilometers away from Istanbul. The largest island, Adalar, takes about 1.5 hours to reach. There are many cafes and restaurants on the coast of the island where you can order delicious Turkish meals made from fish. You can also take a tour in a carriage drawn by two horses around the island, but it is expensive. It is better to rent a bike, which is much cheaper, and go around the island for two hours. This is more fun as you can stop anywhere and enjoy the amazing view of the sea.
Find out the schedule of departure and return of ferries prior to the tour to the islands. Especially, you need to keep in mind the return of the last ferry to Istanbul - if you miss it, you will have to spend the night on the island, awaiting the first morning ferry.