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8 Iconic Places in Istanbul

Jun, 06 || No Comments | Tags: , , , , ,

Home to over 14 million people, Istanbul is a city that stretches on two continents – Europe and Asia. The city used to be the capital of Eastern Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, traces of which are seen in every part of the city. Here is the list of places you must not miss when visiting Istanbul a.k.a. Constantinople a.k.a. Byzantium.

Hagia Sophia

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Built in 537AD, this monumental building has a tremendous history. Aya Sofya was originally intended to be a Christian church.  The crowning of Byzantine emperors was taking place there until 1453, when the whole city of Constantinople fell under the Ottoman Empire.  With its capital under Ottoman Turk, the Byzantine Empire fell apart. Constantinople became Istanbul and the Aya Sofya church had become a mosque. Almost five centuries later, in 1935, Turkish government led by Kemal Ataturk turned Aya Sofya into a museum, which today is one of the greatest monuments of the world’s civilization and is protected by UNESCO.

The biggest reminder of Byzantine culture stays 50 meters tall in the center of Istanbul. The pillars supporting the dome are hidden so it looks like the top of the church is hanging from the sky. Finest materials that could’ve been found are used in the construction of this building. Stone was brought from as far as South Africa and the proof for the quality is that Aya Sofya is still standing proud in all its glory. Many different cultures have left their trail on Aya Sofya, so now we can see Christian frescoes and Islamic ornaments in one place of worship.

Topkapi Palace

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For almost 4 centuries, Torkapi Palace was the main headquarters of Ottoman emperors. The name Torkapi translates from Turkish as ‘Cannon Gate’. Its construction started in 1459, on the spot where the walls of Constantinople were destroyed by the Ottoman artillery five years before.

In the times when the Ottoman Empire reached its peak, the Torkapi Palace was a kind of city within the city of Istanbul. As a part of this complex were a state treasury, huge library, mosque, and even a harem. Many artifacts from that period are preserved and are now on display in this museum. The most valuable item in the Torkapi Palace Museum is the sword of the prophet Muhammad, one of the most important relics of the Muslim world.

Grand Bazaar

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With estimated 400,000 visitors per day, the Grand Bazaar is one of the biggest covered markets in the world. It has 60 streets and more than 5,000 shops organized by categories. From tropical fruit, homemade souvenirs to designer clothing and fast food, the Grand Bazaar merchants have it. And it’s been like that for more than five centuries.

Located in the inner part of the old city, this marketplace is an unavoidable spot for many tourists. The most popular items proved to be golden jewelry and leather. If you go to the Grand Bazaar, don’t forget to bargain. That became a sort of local custom and the sellers are willing to lower their prices drastically, if you’re a good negotiator.

Blue Mosque

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The Sultan Ahmet Mosque is truly an impressive building. It has six minarets and its domes are placed to form a pyramidal structure. The ceramics used on the facade are blue, giving this building a nickname, the Blue Mosque. The inside of the mosque is rich with many works of art of famous artists from the Ottoman period.

Unlike Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque is still used as a place of worship. Hundreds of believers come five times a day to pray in this mosque, so it’s closed for tourists during those periods. Also, being a holy place for Muslims, the dress codes are strict. Everyone must take their shoes off before entering the Blue Mosque and women should wear head coverings.

Galata Tower

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On the top of the Galata hill raises the medieval tower, making the panoramic view of the Istanbul utterly impressive. The Galata tower is tall more than 60 meters and on its top is located a restaurant and a night club. As the Tower is built near the Bosporus canal, on the very border between Europe and Asia, the view from it gives you  Istambul from a 360° angle.

The tower was built in the early 6th century, but was destroyed in the Fourth Crusade. When the Genovese Republic took control of the city, they rebuilt the tower using some of the material from the demolished one. In 1990, the Galata tower has finally opened for public and from that time is one of the greatest Istanbul attractions.

Bosphorus Canal

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The Bosphorus canal separates two continents, Europe and Asia, making the boat trip there an unforgettable experience. The 31 kilometers long canal connects the Black and the Marmara Sea, cutting on its way right through the city of Istanbul. That is why sometimes the Bosporus canal is referred as the Istanbul Strait.

The ferry goes along the Bosphorus every day at 10.35am. You can watch from the boat some of the most recognizable attractions of Istanbul. Torkapi Palace is on the waterfront, so you’ll have a unique opportunity to see it in its all beauty. With the guidance of ferry staff, you’ll find about some interesting stories from the city’s past.

Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami

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In the times of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire extended to the Central Europe. With such wealth in their hands, the warlords from this period could afford extensive luxury.

Kilik means sword in Turkish and that was the nickname Ali Pasha earning in his military endeavors. In his honor, the greatest architect of the time Sinan, constructed these Turkish baths. Locals call this type of baths Hamami, so the name Kilic Ali Pasha Hamami stayed linked to this place forever.

Kadirga Hamam

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Hamam is a type of baths, all around the world known as Turkish baths. During the Ottoman era, these were one of the most important parts of their culture. Nowadays, hamams remain an important part of social life in Turkey.

Kadirga Hamam is located in the very center of Istanbul, in the Sultanahmet area. It’s a perfect place for relaxing after long walks around the old city. Besides improving your mood, this type of sauna has various other health benefits.

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