Istanbul travel guide
Istanbul, Turkey, known as the timeless city, is a truly modern world city. Its skyline is studded with ascending domes and minarets. It is hard to describe this beautiful city spread on seven hills unless you see it with your own eyes. It is a fascinating blend of Eastern and Western culture, a vibrant city with a unique identity that has been capital of three different empires. The city's names have been changed from Byzantium to Constantinople, and finally to Istanbul as the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Today, Istanbul remains Turkey's cultural and business centre.
The Bosphorus divides the city into European and Asian sections. No wonder it is fascinating visitors as the three empires have left their own marks on the city. There are charming places to visit in Istanbul; palaces, mosques, churches, castles, monuments and more. Today's Istanbul offers world-class accommodation in its hotels, best historical sites, fascinating tourist attractions, restaurants, cafés, bars and more to enjoy.
On a cape at the confluence of the Bosporus and the Golden Horn is Topkapi Palace, a maze of structures in the centre of the Ottoman Empire between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. In these opulent surroundings, the sultans lived and ruled the Ottoman Empire.
Built in the mid-nineteenth century by Sultan Abdülmecit I, the facade of the Palace of Dolmabahçe stretches along 600 meters at the European shore of the Bosporus. Impressive is the reception hall with 56 columns and a huge crystal chandelier, which weighs four tons and a half and contains 750 bulbs.
The Beylerbeyi Palace is situated in the Asian side of the Bosporus. It was built in white marble by Sultan Abdulaziz in the nineteenth century. It has a magnificent garden bursting with magnolias. The palace was used as a summer residence of the sultans and as a guesthouse for foreign dignitaries.
Other palaces are noteworthy: Yildiz Palace, Göksu Palace, the Ihlamur Palace, Merasim or Maiyet, and the Summer Palace of Maslak, conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as flags of hunting, superb examples of Ottoman decorative style of late nineteenth century.
Facing St. Sophia stands the supreme elegance of the Imperial Sultanahmet Mosque with six minarets. Built between 1609 and 1616 by architect Mehmet, is better known as the Blue Mosque because its interior is covered with a magnificent empanelado of Iznik tiles of blue and white.
The staggered domes and four slender minarets of the Imperial Süleymaniye Mosque dominate the skyline on the western shore of the Golden Horn. Considered the most beautiful imperial mosques of Istanbul, was built between 1550 and 1557 by Sinan, the famous architect of the Ottoman Golden Age.
The Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasa of the sixteenth century was a masterpiece of the architect Sinan. Inside there is an impressive set of blue, green, purple and red coloured tiles, the elegant designs from Iznik (Nicea).
Glass panels cover the four huge arches that support the central dome of the Mosque of Mihrimah Sultan. 161 windows illuminate this mosque, built in 1555 by Sinan for Mihrimah Sultana, sister of Soliman the Magnificent.
The Grand Bazaar:
The Grand Bazaar, located in the historic area, was the first building built in the spirit world with an exclusively commercial reason, and is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 6,000 shops that met all the unions of the time. Currently, the Grand Bazaar contains the different characteristics of the different periods of history in Turkey. The traveller will find there all you want to purchase as a souvenir from a country where history and the blending of cultures have offered an exotic attraction that is still obvious in the city of Istanbul. It is the Egyptian Bazaar (Turkish: 'Mısır Çarşısı') that attracts us with its aromas and perfumes, more popularly known as the Spice Bazaar, which was devoted to trade since ancient times, where the most exotic and fine spices of the Orient were sold. It was also the site where they sold very useful elements in antiquity, such as Gunpowder.
The Hagia Sophia (sometimes referred to as Saint Sophia) is undoubtedly one of the most fantastic buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, its ascending dome rises 55 meters above the ground, with a diameter of 31 meters.
The Archaeological Museums are within the first courtyard of the Topkapi Palace and comprise two different sections: the museum of antiquities, where the famous Sarcophagus of Alexander sits among the treasures of the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines, and the Museum of Ancient Orient, which sets objects of civilizations Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite and Hattie.
Like the Ayasofya Museum, the Museum of St. Irene was also a church in its origins. In fact, it is considered the first church built in Istanbul.
The Chora Museum (Kariya Museum), the XI century church of San Salvador of Chora, after Hagia Sophia, is the most important Byzantine monuments in Istanbul. An extraordinary architecture, its interior walls are decorated with magnificent frescoes and mosaics of the fourteenth century.
Monuments and Historic Sites:
The ancient Hippodrome, the scene of racing cars and centre of Byzantine civic life, is outdoors in front of the Blue Mosque, in an area now called Sultanahmet. Only three monuments remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. The Fountain of Ahmet III, built in 1729, is located at the entrance f the Topkapi Palace. This fountain with its large ornaments is a superb example of the late Ottoman style. The Aqueduct (Bozdogan Kemeri), built in 368 CE, supplying water to the Byzantine palaces and then the Ottomans.
The walls of Istanbul, once an impenetrable fortress, stretching along seven miles from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn is dating back to the V century and the reign of Emperor Theodosius II.
The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction of 1348, raising to 62 meters above the Golden Horn, from whose top you can see a wonderful panorama of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus.
The neighbourhoods of Ortaköy and Nişantaşı:
The bohemian district of Ortaköy, under the bridge over the Bosporus and the European shore, is a neighbourhood of small streets, antique shops, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants with terraces on the shores of the Bosporus and breathtaking views of extraordinary beauty. The neighbourhood of Nişantaşı, is one of the modern neighbourhoods where you can find all the businesses of most prestigious international brands in the world.
The best way to see the Bosporus (the winding strait that separates Europe from Asia), is aboard one of the cruise ships that travel its shores.
The Bosporus Bridge is one of the world's largest suspension bridges, linking Europe and Asia. The wonderful Beylerbeyi Palace is located after the bridge in the Asian section.
Since Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Bosporus. Below Duatepe is the wonderful Emirgan Park.
The Haliç (Golden Horn) is a sanctuary in the form of horn that divides European Istanbul. Regarded as one of the best natural harbours in the world, was where the Byzantine and Ottoman fleet and the interests of commercial shipping concentrated.
The outskirts of Istanbul:
Princes Islands are an archipelago composed of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, which were places of exile for the Byzantine princes. The largest of these islands is Buyukada; the other popular islands are Kinali, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeli. These are connected by ferry in the European and Asian shores.
The Belgrade Forest, inland from the Black Sea, in the European section, is the largest forest around Istanbul. Seven ancient reservoirs and a series of natural springs cool the air. Majestic Ottoman aqueducts awarded to the natural environment.
In the Black Sea, 70 km from Uskudar, the fine sandy beaches, hotels and fish restaurants of Sile turn this city into one of the most delicious summer enclaves in the vicinity of Istanbul. Istanbul is the great start for Holidays to Turkey.