Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, has a lengthy and storied history dating back before the Roman Emperor Constantine made it his capital. Following the downfall of the empire, it was the centerpiece of the Byzantine Empire. In modern times, it became Istanbul and is the largest city in Turkey and still a great center for trade and commerce. There are many attractions in and around this great city, so it is not easy to come up with a best ten, but here goes. Look for the photo album which will follow shortly.
1. Hagia Sophia – This church-turned-mosque-turned-museum was built in the 6th century and was the largest church in the world until the construction of the Cathedral of Seville, in Spain. The Roman Emperor Justinian was responsible for its construction and it is still considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. It is particularly prized for its mosaics which were covered up when the building became a mosque, but have now been restored.
2. Topkapi Palace – This huge palace complex was the principal residence of Ottoman sultans for about 400 years, beginning in the 12th century. Now it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of Istanbul. Located at the junction of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus, and looking out over the Sea of Marmara, this cluster of buildings displays an incredible collection of Ottoman jewelry, Chinese porcelain, and many other items. Several of its buildings are especially popular — these include the Harem, the Imperial Council, and the Imperial Treasury.
3. Blue Mosque – Also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this beautiful religious building is noted and named for it blue ceramic tiles which adorn the interior. It was built on the site of the great palace of the Byzantine Emperors in the early 1600’s. It is one of only a few mosques with six (6) minarets.
4. Grand Bazaar – Also known as the Covered Bazaar, this is one of the largest covered markets in the world, with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. Over a quarter of a million people visit the bazaar daily.
5. Spice Bazaar – Also known as the Egyptian Bazaar, since many of the spices used to come via Cairo, this colorful market was built in the 17th century and remains a popular destination for tourists and residents alike.
6. Hippodrome – The Hippodrome was originally a horse-racing track in the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, beginning in 324 AD. What’s left of the original structure is now Sultanahmet Square and is graced today with three monuments. The Serpent Column was once the base of the Tripod of Plataea which used to adorn the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The Obelisk of Thutmosis III was erected in 1590 BC and originally sat in the Temple of Karnak at Luxor. Finally the Walled Obelisk was added in the 10th century AD by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus.
7. Beylerbeyi Palace – This summer palace on the Asian side of the Bosporus was built in the 19th century in Baroque style. The crystal chandeliers are largely Bohemian and the woodwork is spectacular.
8. Dolmabahce Palace – This elaborate European-style palace has 285 rooms, 46 halls, and fourteen tons of gold on its ceilings. It also contains the largest Bohemian crystal chandelier in the world with 750 lights. Rulers moved from the Topkapi Palace to here in the mid-1800’s because of the better facilities.
9. Bosporus Cruise – One of the most popular activities for visitors to Istanbul is a cruise on the Bosporus, the busy waterway which connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. There are stunning views of the city and stops at some of the major neighborhoods of Istanbul.
10. Istiklal Caddesi – This pedestrian street is jammed with people during almost anytime of the day and night. It is the major shopping street of Istanbul and also features many restaurants. It is located in the neighborhood of Beyoglu and ends at Taksim Square, one of the city’s busiest.
Other sights considered:
10. Istiklal Caddesi –
Other sights considered:
Sunken Palace (Basilica Cistern)