Istanbul Best places to visit on Holiday

Top 10 Places to Visit in Istanbul

1.   Hagia Sophia

When it comes to the list of the best places to visit in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia often tops the list. As the city's best-known landmark, Hagia Sophia should be on everyone's itinerary. Its soaring domes and vibrant minarets dominating above the Old City attract millions of travellers who come here to discover the mosque's 1,500 years of history. Hagia Sophia was the heart of Byzantium and the oldest structure in the Sultanahmet area.

The current structure of the Hagia Sophia is the third to be built in the area. Riots and fire have destroyed the two previous buildings. When you visit the mosque, you'll discover centuries of Islamic and Christian history with icons of both religions displayed side by side. Some of the fascinating treasures in Hagia Sophia include the Tomb of the Princes, the Viking Alphabets, the weeping column, and more!

2.   The Bosphorus River

What makes Istanbul unique is that it occupies two continents - Europe and Asia, divided by the Bosphorus Strait. One of the most popular activities in Istanbul is cruising along the Bosphorus River, which is also a great way to admire both sides of the city.

Most cruises will start slightly to the east of the famous Galata Bridge before travelling to Anadolu Kavagi, a beautiful finishing village and the entrance to the Black Sea. On some cruises, you can have lunch in this village. From here, walk uphill to reach Yoros Castle, where you can marvel at the panoramic views of the Black Sea.

You will also find a range of boat cruises departing from the ports of Eminonu, Kabatas, or Besiktas. It's also possible to book a private boat tour for special celebrations, such as birthdays and anniversaries. The boat will make numerous sightseeing stops along the way.

3.   Grand Bazaar

One of the highlights of your trip to Istanbul is shopping at the world-famous Grand Bazaar, one of the world's oldest and largest covered markets, home to more than 4,000 shops. The Grand Bazaar is one of Istanbul's top tourist destinations where you can shop for some souvenirs and everything else.

Occupying an area of 47,000 square meters, the Grand Bazaar consists of a dizzying labyrinth of streets and narrow passageways. Here, you can shop for silky shawls, scarves, antiques, traditional items, leather goods, carpets, handicrafts, and more!

While most people would come here to shop, the Grand Bazaar is not only a place for shopping. It's a historical site where you can experience the local culture and history. The massive market is also home to a historical coffee house where you can sample the tastiest Turkish coffee cooked on a coal fire. Make sure you check out the wide selection of Turkish delights!

4.   The Blue Mosque

One of the top places to visit in Istanbul is the Sultanahmet Camii or the Blue Mosque. It's called "blue mosque" due to the intricate blue tile work covering the building interiors. Built in 1616, Blue Mosque is one of Turkey's most fascinating buildings. It was built as an imperial show of strength, complementing the nearby Hagia Sophia, which faces the Sultanahmet Square just across the Blue Mosque.

Four elephant foot pillars support the Blue Mosque, while the central dome is surrounded by four semi-domes, making it almost a square in shape. The ceramic Iznik tiles decorating its interiors are handmade, featuring designs of different flowers, such as roses, tulips, and carnations.

It's free to enter the Blue Mosque. But since it's a working mosque, it is closed to tourists during prayer time. Also, there are general to follow when entering the mosque. One of these is to dress respectfully, although shawls and outer garments are available if necessary.

5.   Topkapi Palace Museum

The Topkapi Palace used to be the administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire. It was used for four hundred years until the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace during the mid-1800s. One of the best places to see in the Topkapi Palace is the Harem, the dwelling place of the mother of the sultan, his concubines, and wives.

The Topkapi Palace is truly impressive, making it one of the top places to see in Istanbul. Its walls feature exquisite tile work that looks very attractive. And if you visit during springtime, you'll find the gardens filled with colourful hyacinths and tulips. Plus, you can enjoy panoramic views of Istanbul from here.

As you explore the palace, you will also learn about the lives of the Ottoman Sultans and see their actual clothes and accessories. You will also experience some aspects of Ottoman architecture.

6.   Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern is the largest of all the ancient cisterns lying underneath Istanbul. Built around the 6the Century under the order of Emperor Justinian, the underground structure features more than 300 columns, many of which came from ruined temples with finely carved capitals. The cistern's sheer grandeur is breathtaking, and its cavernous depths can make for a great respite during hot summer days.

Like most sites in Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern has a strange history. The reason behind is name is because it lies below the Stoa Basilica. The cistern's main purpose is to serve the Great Palace and the surrounding buildings, capable of storing up to 80,000 cubic meters of water delivered through 20km of aqueducts from a reservoir close to the Black Sea.

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality cleaned and renovated the Basilica Cistern in 1985 and opened it to the public in 1987. It's now one of Istanbul's top places to visit.

7.   Istiklal Street

Set within the Taksim neighbourhood, Istiklal Street is a 1.5 km stretch of pedestrian-friendly street lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes. It runs towards the famous Taksim Square, another popular spot for tourists. Istiklal is always bustling with tourists day and night, with thousands of people walking through it every day.

You'll also find a few historical sites at Istiklal Street, such as the Hagia Triada Church, which you will recognize by its towering dome and twin bell towers. It was built in the 1880s and renovated recently. It is now the Greek Church of the Holy Trinity.

Another beautiful building you'll find along Istiklal Street is the French Consulate building. It's a cultural centre offering French events and festivals. You will also find the Armenian Catholic Surp Voskeperan Church right behind the consulate.

8.   Galata Tower

Topped with a distinctive roof resembling a witch hat, Galata Tower is one of Istanbul's most famous landmarks. It's an old Genoese tower dating back to the 14th century, overlooking the beautiful city of Istanbul. One of its most distinctive features is the massive cone-shaped structure built about 38 meters above sea level.

The Galata Tower was the first tower constructed closer to the sea under the order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 528. However, it was demolished by Latin Crusaders late on. Then in 1348, the Genoese constructed a beautiful tower on the site known as the Tower of Christ.

The Galata Tower is now considered one of the top places to visit in Istanbul. Most tourists would come here for the observatory deck, which has a 360-degree view of Istanbul. There are two elevators at the entrance taking you to the top.

9.   Dolmabahçe Palace

Featuring European Baroque style architecture, the Dolmabahce Palace Museum is one of Istanbul's most magnificent buildings, situated at the banks of the Bosphorus. It used to be the residence of the last six Ottoman Sultans, including Ataturk, who founded the Turkish Republic.

Glass and crystals are the palace's main features. It has beautiful staircases made of marble. You will also find giant crystal chandeliers, lush carpets, and British candelabras all over the palace.

Unlike the Topkapi Palace, the Dolmabahce Palace is a single large building with several pavilions and a sprawling garden surrounding the main building. It has high walls on the land side with two main gates, while the seaside entrance has five ports.

10. Sultanahmet Square

Also called the Hippodrome Square, Sultanahmet Square is a famous square in Istanbul. It's often full of life and lined with historical sites within walking distance away from each other. The bustling square is fun to explore on foot, where you'll find restaurants, shops, cafes, and a few attractions.

Nowadays, Sultanahmet Square is one of Istanbul's most popular sites to meet and a good starting point for exploring the many sights nearby. It also has a historical significance, built around the III Century AD under the order of the Byzantine Emperor.

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