Istanbul top tourist attractions city travel maps
Map of top 10 attractions in Istanbul
The typical top ten attractions are listed below. You can find the detailed locations of these places on the maps above.
- Visit the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) - This landmark mosque assumes a stance of authority over Sultanahmet Park. Just under the dome, hundreds of stained-glass windows sparkle like jewels until you are convinced that you're in the presence of a celestial being. The blue of the mosque actually changes to yellow, orange, and red, depending on the time of day and the entrance you choose to use.
- Visit Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia) - When faced with the dome of this masterpiece, it's tempting to mimic the actions of Mehmet the Conqueror almost 600 years ago and drop to your knees in a gesture of utter humility. The sensation is intensified by the low level of filtered light that finds its way in, temporarily blinding you to everything except the source of illumination.
- Take a hamam - The Turkish bath, rising out of the Islamic requirement of cleanliness, is not just practical; it's relaxing as well. A good hamam experience includes the proper traditional ambience and a heavy-handed scrubbing. For historical value and pomp, you can't beat the Cemberlitas Hamami and the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam, or for luxury, one of the many deluxe hotel accommodation hamams.
- Discover the Grand Bazaar (Covered Bazaar or Kapalicarsi) - Nobody should pass through Turkey without spending a day at the mother of all shopping malls. The atmosphere crackles with the electricity of the hunt - but are you the hunter or the hunted? The excitement is tangible, even if you're on the trail of a simple pair of elf shoes or an evil-eye talisman. When the salesman turns away from you in disgust, you've learned the bottom price for an item.
- Taki a boat ferry cruise ride up the Bosphorus - Nowhere else in the world can you cross to another continent every 15 minutes. Connecting trade routes from the East to the West, it's no surprise that any conqueror who was anybody had his sights set on the Bosphorus.
- Visit the Topkapi Palace - This was once somebody's house. Actually, it was the home of a whole lot of people - up to 5,000 at a time, all in the service of one man. The sultan surrounded himself with the most beautiful women in the world. He collected the most precious treasures of the East. He assembled the most sacred relics of the Muslim faith under this roof. Six hundred years of Ottoman history lies behind these grand ornamental gates.
- Take a journey back in time in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum - This is one of those must-see museums that all too many overlook. It's actually the largest museum in the country, chronicling in stone both the lives of Byzantium's emperors and of Istanbul.
- Cross the Galata Bridge on foot - Fishermen line the railings above, while dinner (or tea, or backgammon) is served below as the majestic and inspiring silhouettes of the Suleymaniye Mosque, Rustem Pasa, and Yeni Camii loom in the distance. If you wait until after sunset, you get to see the seagulls circling the minarets.
- Stroll through the subterranean Basilica Cistern water reservoir - Your visit to the dimly lit, cavernous chamber includes two stone Medusa heads recycled from earlier Roman structures. The cistern also hosts occasional concerts of traditional Turkish and classical Western music.
- Visit the Suleymaniye Mosque - The architect Sinan's 14th-century masterpiece, known for its serene interior and the tombs of Süleyman and his wife Roxelana.
What are some interesting facts about Istanbul?
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents but still worth mentioning. The historic centre lies on the European side of the city. The Bosphorus Strait divides the European and Asian sides and is the link between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
Istanbul, which used to be known as Constantinople thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, is built on seven hills to match the seven hills of Rome.
Under the Ottoman Empire, the city was renowned for having more than 1,400 public toilets.
The Grand Bazaar is the biggest old covered bazaar in the world, with over 3,000 shops.
British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel 'Murder on the Orient Express' at Pera Palas Hotel in Istanbul.
Istanbul has been the capital of some of the biggest empires: Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman. It is now Turkey's largest city with over 13 million people – more than the population of Belgium – and the second largest in the world by population within city limits. However, it's not Turkey's capital. Ankara has been the capital since Turkey was proclaimed a republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
The Blue Mosque is the only mosque in the city with six minarets. Legend has it that when it was built, it had one minaret more than the Grand Mosque in Mecca (four was the common maximum at that time) and this was considered disrespectful in the Muslim world. In order to solve the issue, one more minaret had to be added to the Grand Mosque.
Hagia Sophia was the largest church in the world for about 900 years until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. It was also one of the 20 finalists for the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The four bronze horses decorating the San Marco Cathedral in Venice were taken from Istanbul (Constantinople at that time) by the crusaders in the 13th century.
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