places to visit Istanbul

Places you need to visit in istanbul

Istanbul Has many places to visit. it. Istanbul Taksim Square, featuring the impressive Monument to the Republic, heads the parade into Beyoglu’s bohemian open-air museum past the Greek Orthodox Aya Triade Church and the French Consulate. A quaint old tramway carries passengers past the Rumeli Han, Cicek Pasaji, Cite de Pera, Atlas Pasaji, Galatasaray Lise, and several elegant consulates to the last stop in Tünel Square. Every year the International Istanbul Film, International Istanbul Music, International Istanbul Theatre and International Istanbul Film Jazz Festivals are held here and in nearby districts. Other annual events include the Bosphorus Festival, Roxy Music Days, Aksanat Jazz Festival and the Blues Festival


When planning your itinerary, please keep in mind

Closed Monday: Archaeological Museums, Ayasofya, Dolmabahçe Palace, Great Palace Mosaics Museum
Closed Tuesday: Topkapı Palace and Harem
Closed Wednesday: Chora Museum, Rumeli Fortress
Closed Thursday: Dolmabahçe Palace
Closed Sunday: Grand Bazaar

Hagia Sophia Istanbul

Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for Byzantine and for Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum at the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia has always been the precious of its time.

The mystical city Istanbul hosted many civilizations since centuries, of which Byzantium and Ottoman Empires were both the most famous ones. The city today carries the characteristics of these two different cultures and surely Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe both Ottoman and Byzantium effects under one great dome. When you join our Fullday istanbul historical guided tour you will be able to visit

Constantine’s Church

Known as the “Great Church” or “Magna Ecclesia” in Latin, the first church was built at the same location where there had been a pagan temple before. It was Constantius II who inaugurated Hagia Sophia on 15 February 360. From the chronicles of Socrates of Constantinople, we know that the church was built by the orders of Constantine the Great.

This first church was a wooden-roofed basilica with a nave flanked by two or four aisles, each carrying a gallery storey. It was preceded by an atrium. This church was largely burned down in 404 during riots since patriarch John Chrysostom was sent into exile by the Emperor Arcadius

Theodosius II’s Church

After the first church’s being destroyed, Theodosius II ordered it to be repaired and inaugurated the second church on 10 October 405.
Today we still don’t know whether the original fourth century plans remained unchanged or not. But still it consisted of standard architectural elements of the Byzantine period: an atrium, probably a narthex and a basilica with galleries.
The second church was completely destroyed during the tumult of the Nika Revolt in 13-14 January 532.

Today, some marble blocks from this second church are represented at the courtyard of the third church/ the museum.

Justinian’s Church

Only a short time after the destruction of the second church, Justinian the Great suppressed the riots, and set about rebuilding what was damaged and destroyed.
He commissioned two men, Anthemius of Tralles and the Elder Isidore of Miletus to build a third church at the same location which would be greater than its previous predecessors. Anthemius and Isidore were not referred as architects, but they were called “mechanikoi” which means the masters of the science of the mechanics. Indeed, Anthemius was a mathematician and physicist, and Isidore was a professor of geometry and mechanics. None of them is known to have any building experience before Hagia Sophia. However, they created one of the most significant monuments on earth.

The construction started only a short while after the end of the Nika Revolt. Many materials had been brought from all over the empire, including yellow stone from Syria, porphyry from Egypt and Hellenic Columns from the Artemis Temple in Ephesus. More than ten thousand people worked for the construction and the third church was inaugurated by the emperor on 27 December 537. The mosaics were finished later on, during the reign of Justin II (565-578).

Several earthquakes happened and gave damaged to Hagia Sophia. The earthquakes on August 553 and December 557 caused cracks in the main dome and the eastern half-dome, and with the earthquake on 7 May 558, the main dome collapsed completely while destroying the ambon, the altar and the ciborium over it. This time it was Isodorus the Younger, the nephew of Isidore of Miletus, who was going to rebuild the dome. He elevated the dome by 6,25 meters, which got its current height today , totally 55,6 meters. With the presidency of the Patriarch Eutcyhius, the cathedral opened again on 23 December 562. It became the seat of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, also imperial ceremonies were held there.

Mosque Istanbul

The prophet of God in Muslim religion, Muhammad, had prophesied that the first Muslim to pray in Hagia Sophia would go to paradise. Since then, it was a great ambition for Muslim leaders to get Hagia Sophia.

On 29 May 1453, The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II, conquered Constantinople after a 54 day siege. He directly went to the ancient Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia. When he saw a man hacking the stones of the church and saying that this was a temple for infidels, Mehmet II ordered the looting to be stopped and the church to be converted into a mosque.

With the following years, Sultans added something to the building. Sultan Bayezid ordered a new minaret changing the previous one of his fathers’. In the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent brought two colossal candles from Hungary to be placed on both sides of the mihrab. To the end of the 16th century during the reign of Selim II, famous architect Sinan strengthened the building by adding structural supports to its exterior. He also built two minarets on the western end of the building and the mausoleum of Selim II to the southeast of the building. In 1600s, two mausoleums were added next to Selim II’s: Murad III and Mehmed III.

Two restorations were done in Hagia Sophia at the following years. In 1739, during the reign of Mahmud I, a medrese, a kitchen to distribute poor, and a library, and in 1740 a fountain for ritual ablutions were built.


If any western visitors wanted to visit Hagia Sophia prior to Fossati restoration, they needed a “firman”, a special permit from the sultan which was difficult to obtain. During the restoration, travelers had a chance to see the work. In 1934, the founder of Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, ordered the building to be transformed into a museum.

The uncovering of mosaics had already begun in 1931 by the leadership of Thomas Whittemore. This time the white plasters covering the mosaics were pulled out, carpets on the floor were removed and the original marble décor could be seen for the first time in centuries. The museum opened in 1 February 1935


Hagia Sophia was beautifully decorated with mosaics within the centuries during Byzantine period. These mosaics depicted Virgin Mary, Jesus, saints and emperors or empresses. The history of the earliest mosaics is unknown as many of them were destroyed or covered during Iconoclasm. The known ones start from the reestablishment of orthodoxy and reach its height during the reigns of Basil I and Constantine VII.

During the fourth crusade in 1204, Latin Crusaders sacked many Byzantine buildings including Hagia Sophia. Many beautiful mosaics were removed and shipped to Venice. After the Ottoman occupation of Constantinople in 1453, with the transition of Hagia Sophia into mosque, the mosaics were covered whitewashed or plastered. With Fosatti brothers’ restoration in 1847, the mosaics got uncovered and were copied for record. But they still remained covered until 1931 when a restoration and recovery program began under the leadership of Thomas Whittemore.

In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered that Hagia Sophia would become a museum, the recovery and restoration expanded then. However, many of the great mosaics that Fosatti brothers recorded had disappeared probably with the earthquake in 1894

Imperial Door Mosaic

It is located on the tympanum above the imperial door leading to the narthex. This door was used only by emperors, and it was the most splendid entry to the church. The mosaics date back to 9 or 10th century. Emperor Leo VI with a halo over his head is giving proskynesis, an act of respect – to Christ, who is sitting on a jeweled throne. With his right hand, Christ is blessing the emperor, and his left hand is holding a book written “Peace be with you. I am the light of the world” on it. On both sides of Christ, there are figures in the roundels. One of them is His Mother Mary and the other is Archangel Gabriel. This image is intended to show the timeless power of emperor and his subjects blessed by Christ

Southwestern Vestibule

The entrance to Hagia Sophia from the south entrance is through a bronze gate to the vestibule with a doorway to the narthex. The mosaic is in the tympanum over the doorway and is dating back to 944. Virgin Mary is sitting on a backless throne decorated with jewels. Child Christ is sitting on her lap and he is holding a scroll. They are both flanked on the left by Justinian I, and on the right by Constantine the Great. Both emperors are in their Byzantine ceremonial dress. Emperor Justinian is offering a model of Hagia Sophia to Virgin Mary, and Emperor Constantine is offering a model of the city, the city that he had made his imperial’s capital giving his name after it. The mosaic presents the connection between the church and the empire and the church as the seat of imperial ritual

Topkapi Palace Istanbul

Topkapi Palace, on the Seraglio Peninsula, became a museum in 1924. The Harem, Baghdat Pavilion, Revan Pavilion, Sofa Pavilion, and the Audience Chamber distinguish themselves with their architectural assets, while other artifacts reflect palace life. Gülhane Park is located on the slopes below Topkapi Palace extending to the seashore, and is popular among Istanbul residents for picnicking and open-air concerts. In the park is the Gothic Column, known to have been one of the main obelisks of the Byzantines, and an as yet unclassified, and therefore unofficial, Byzantine ruin. Topkapi palace is a place which we will visit in our Fullday istanbul historical site tour

Exhibition Topkapi Palace

Collections of the Topkapi Palace Museum and th Breguet Museum are meeting for the first time at the Istanbul European Capital of Culture.”Ottoman Collection” of legendary Breguet clocks that ornaments the Ottoman and European Palaces are being exhibited for the first time at the Topkapı Palace Museum. , there is the clock known as the masterpiece of the world clocks named “Pendule Sympathique” among the masterpieces of the exhibition. Also in the exhibiton, there is the Sultan Portraits of the period and letters written between Seyid Ali Efendi who is the first Paris ambassador and Breguet.

Exhibition Topkapi palace

In the exhibition called “Russia in the Otoman Palace” , Ottoman objects at Russia and Russian objects at Otoman Palaces which some part of them have been presented to be visited at the exhibiton “Treasures of the Moscow Kremlin at the Topkapı Palace” are being together at the same place for the first time. These exhibitions which are indicators of the diplomatic and commercial relationships between two countries are also show the interaction of the culture and art

Daylight saving time

Daylight-saving time is going to be implemented in the Topkapı Palace Museum at the date Thursday the 15th, April 2010 which is the starting date for the “Tourism Week” that being celebrated every year. The Topkapı Palace Museum will be open to visit between the times 09:00 AM – 07:00 PM except tuesdays during the daylight saving time. Detailed information about this implementation can be found by clicking the “continue” link below.

Bab-ı Hümayun / The Imperial Gate

Sur-u Sultanî that is built together with the construction of the palace by Fatih Sultan Mehmed and seperates the palace from the city. It is entered through Bâb-ı Hümâyûn.

Another name for the Bâb-ı Hümâyûn is Imperial Gate. Above the door, there is a celi-sülüs style caligraphic inscription by Ali bin Yahya Sofî with a date of 1478. Seeing that there are Mahmut II and Abdülaziz The Sultan’s signatures below the inscription; we infer that the door has been repaired a few times.

At the both sides of Bâb-ı Hümâyûn, there are small rooms for the gatekeepers. Above the door, there used to be a manor house style small flat built by Fatih for himself which couldn’t survive to present day because of the fire in 1866. actual importance of the upstairs is its being used as Beytül mâl (Kapı arası hazinesi). The place which is related to the Muhalefat ( possession of the caliphate ) system; suggesting taking the possession of the legacy from decedent villeins of the sultan or the decedents who doesn’t have a heritor, has been used as to keep the goods which are not yet taken to the treasury of the sultan.

Sultanahmet region (old city)

Most people who come to Istanbul land feet first in Sultanahmet. This peninsular (known as Sarayburnu) juts out at the apex of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Rich in history, it’s a natural magnet to millions of tourists every year. The home of Topkapi Palace, Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Yerebatan, and the Hippodrome, Sultanahmet is filled to bursting with hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops as well as a plethora of fascinating museums, mosques, markets and historical sites. The main drag, Divan Yolu, is the heartbeat of the area and there are hundreds of tiny back streets and alleyways in which to explore and discover the history of the old city. The labyrinthine Covered Bazaar near Beyazit University is also on this street.

Princes Island Istanbul

Prince’s Islands: Also known as İstanbul Islands, there are eight within one hour from the city, in the Marmara Sea. Boats ply the islands from Sirkeci, Kabataş and Bostancı, with more services during the summer. These islands, on which monasteries were established during the Byzantine period, was a popular summer retreat for palace officials. It is still a popular escape from the city, with wealthier owning summer houses.

Princes Island will be visited by our princess island tour
Büyükada The largest and most popular one in İstanbul is Büyükada (the Great Island). Large wooden mansions still remain from the 19th century when wealthy Greek and Armenian bankers built them as a holiday villas. The island has always been a place predominantly inhabited by minorities.

Buyukada has long had a history of people coming here in exile or retreat; its most famous guest being Leon Trotsky, who stayed for four years writing ‘The History of the Russian Revolution’. The monastery of St George also played host to the granddaughter of Empress Irene, and the royal princess Zoe, in 1012.

The island consists of two hills, both surmounted by monasteries, with a valley between. Motor vehicles are banned, so getting around the island can be done by graceful horse and carriage, leaving from the main square off Isa Celebi Sokak. Bicycles can also be hired.

The southern hill, Yule Tepe, is the quieter of the two and also home of St George’s Monastery. It consists of a series of chapels on three levels, the site of which is a building dating back to the 12th century. In Byzantine times it was used as an asylum, with iron rings on the church floors used to restrain patients. On the northern hill is the monastery İsa Tepe, a 19th century house.

The entire island is lively and colourful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses and shops. There are very big well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas.

Burgazada It is a smaller and less infrastructured for tourists.The famous Turkish novelist, Sait Faik Abasıyanık lived there, and his house has been turned into a museum dedicated to his work, and retains a remarkable tranquil and hallowed atmosphere.

Heybeliada ‘Island of the Saddlebag’, because of its shape, is loved for its natural beauty and beaches. It also has a highly prestigious and fashionable watersports club in the northwest of the island. One of its best-known landmarks is the Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with an important collection of Byzantine manuscripts. The school sits loftily on the northern hill, but permission is needed to enter, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener. The Deniz Harp Okulu, the Naval High School, is on the east side of the waterfront near the jetty, which was originally the Naval War Academy set up in 1852, then a high school since 1985. Walking and cycling are popular here, plus isolated beaches as well as the public Yöruk Beach, set in a magnificent bay.

Ortakoy Region

Ortakoy was a resort for the Ottoman rulers because of its attractive location on the İstanbul strait, and is still a popular spot for residents and visitors. The village is within a triangle of a mosque, church and synagogue, and is near çirağan Palace, Kabataş High School, Feriye, Princess Hotel.
The name Ortaköy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life, when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed at weekends and holidays.

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