IMPORTANT SITES IN ISTANBUL

Istanbul is one of the most amazing cities, having been the capital of three great empires, the Roman, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) and the Ottoman, and was the largest and wealthiest city in the world for more than a thousand years. It has an incredible history, unmatched monuments and a speechless beauty.
Istanbul is where the largest church in the world existed for about 1,100 years. This is where the first cafe in the world was opened.. This is where the tulips originated.. where Mozart imagined when he composed his "Turkish March" and "Abduction from the Seraglio".. where Jason and the Argonauts sailed through.. where the largest covered marketplace in the world exists.. where the finest carpets and textiles in the world are made.. where the most delicious food is cooked.. where millions of Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace for centuries.. where magnificent palaces, mosques and churches decorate the hills and waterfront.. where Europe and Asia meet, being the only city in the world in two continents..  And this is where Ataturk gave his last breath leaving a grand legacy to the world..
             "If the World was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital."
                                                   Napoleon Bonaparte
Some of the important sites in Istanbul are as follows:
( Eger sayfanin cok asagi inecegini ve hos olmayacagini dusunuyorsan, Cappadocia sayfasinda oldugu gibi asagiya sadece ana basliklari ekleyip, her bir muze icin ayri bir sayfa yapabiliriz)

 

TOPKAPI PALACE

The Topkapi Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. It was built in between 1466 and 1478 by the sultan Mehmet II on top of a hill in a small peninsula, dominating the Golden Horn to the north, the Sea of Marmara to the south, and the Bosphorus strait to the north east, with great views of the Asian side as well. The palace was the political center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, until they built Dolmabahce Palace by the waterside.

Topkapı is a classical example of Turkish palace architecture. It consists of tree- shaded courtyards, each serving a different purpose and opening onto one another with monumental gates. The courtyards are surrounded by functional buildings. From the time of its construction, the palace developed constantly with alterations and additions made by each sultan.

The palace was opened to the public as a museum in 1924 by the order of Ataturk. There are many sections in the Topkapi Palace which can be visited today, these are exhibition halls and doesn't contain any furniture. Some of the exhibition halls are closed for restorations but still the visit of the palace would take a half day for an interested person. Please note that in some of the exhibition halls you're not permitted to take any photographs, such as Treasury, Sultans' costumes, and the Holly Relics.
On exhibitions are the imperial collections of crystal, silver and Chinese porcelain; imperial handmade costumes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury; the richest collection of clocks in the world; the sacred relics of Islam including the swords of Muhammed, his bow and his mantle; priceless collection of miniatures and many other priceless objects. One of the largest diamonds in the world, the Spoonseller Diamond, is displayed in a special showcase in the hall. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and tiled.

 

Topkapi Palace is open daily between 09:00 – 17:00 except on Tuesdays. During the summer period it has longer opening hours (until 19:00 usually) and might be open 7 days a week, depending on the high tourist request. The museum is closed to visitors in the morning of the first day of religious holidays. As of 2008-2009 season, the admission to the palace costs 20 TL for adults and another 15 TL to the Harem.

 

DOLMABAHCE PALACE

Dolmabahce Palace was built between 1843 and 1856 by Karabet Balyan, the best-known member of Armenian architect family, the chief architect of Sultan Abdulmecit. The three-storied palace, including the basement floor, built on a symmetrical plan and there is 45 thousand square meters of usable floor area so it has 285 rooms and 46 halls , 6 Turkish baths, 1427 windows, 68 toilets and carpets covering a floor. The facade of Palace stretches for 600 meters along the European shore of the Bosphorus. It is one of the most glamorous palaces in the world.

The palace has survived intact with its original decorations, furniture, and the silk carpets and curtains. It surpasses all other palaces in the world in wealth and magnificence.

The walls and the ceilings are covered with paintings by the famous artists of the age and decorations made using tons of gold. All the furnishings in the important rooms and halls are in different shades of the same color. The ornate wooden floors have different designs in each room, and they are covered with the famous silk and wool carpets of Hereke, some of the finest examples of Turkish art.

Dolmabahce palace has a great meaning for Turkish people since the supreme leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had used the palace as a residence and spent the most serious period of his illness and he passed away in this palace on 10 th of November 1938 at 9:05 AM, all the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time. Later on it was converted into a museum. It is wandered with a special sense of respect.
Dolmabahce Palace is open daily between 09:00 - 16:00 except Mondays and Thursdays. The admission fee is 20 Lira per person for visiting both the Selamlik and the Harem. There are also some charges for smaller exhibitions and kiosks in the palace grounds (between 2-4 Lira). You're not allowed to take any photos or film inside the palace buildings. The visit is based on a guided tour usually every 10-15 minutes.

 

HAGIA SOPHIA (AYA SOFYA)

Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.

Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 A.D. on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.

In 1453 when the city was concurred by Ottomans, the basilica was converted in to a mosque and it became a jewel for the Muslim world and as the grand mosque of the sultans.

In 1935, Hagia Sophia had been converted into a museum of Turkish Republic by the orders of Ataturk, and became one of the most significant monuments not only in Turkey but on earth with its architecture and its historical richness. It is considered as a World Heritage by UNESCO.

Hagia Sophia Museum is open daily between 09:00 - 16:30 except on Mondays, with longer opening hours during the summer months. The admission fee is 20 TL per person.

 

BLUE MOSQUE (SULTANAHMET MOSQUE)

Istanbul's Blue Mosque, also known as the 'Sultan Ahmet Mosque' by local people, commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I as a rival to Hagia Sophia and designed by architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, better known as a student of Sinan (the greatest architect ever seen in the Ottoman Empire). Construction on the mosque began in 1609 and took seven years. Sultan Ahmet died only a year after the completion of his masterpiece, at the age of 27. He is buried just outside the mosque with his wife and three sons.
One of the most notable features of the Blue Mosque is visible from far away: its six minarets. This is very unique, as most mosques have four, two or just one minaret. According to one account, the Sultan directed his architect to make gold (altin) minarets, which was misunderstood as six (alti) minarets.
Whatever the origins of the unique feature, the six minarets caused quite a scandal, as the Haram Mosque in Mecca (the holiest in the world) also had six minarets. In the end, the problem was solved by adding a seventh minaret to Mecca's mosque.
The other striking feature of the exterior is the beautifully-arranged cascade of domes that seem to spill down from the great central dome. The arcades running beneath each dome add further visual rhythm. None of the exterior is blue - the name "Blue Mosque" comes from the blue tiles inside.
The interior's high ceiling is lined with about 20,000 blue tiles that give the mosque its popular name. Fine examples of 16th-century Iznik design, the tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns. The overall effect is one of the most beautiful sights in Istanbul.
The mosque is generally open to the visitors during the day, but closed for a short time during the prayers. If possible, a small donation is accepted at the exit of the mosque, which is used for repair and maintenance works.

ST SAVIOR IN CHORA (KARIYE) MUSEUM
This museum, which is considered by some to be the most interesting Byzantine Church in Istanbul due to its magnificent mosaics and frecoes, was originally built in the late 11th century by Maria Doukaina , the mother in law of Emperor Alexius I Commenus, on the remains of and earlier Byzantine church.
It was converted into a mosque in 1511 by the Grand Vezir Atik Ali Pacha during the reign of Sultan Beyazid II, and the mosaics were subsequently plastered over.
In the 1948 the mosque was turned into a museum and between the years 1947-1952, a team of American restoration experts uncovered the valuable mosaics which had been for centuries covered with plaster. These mosaics are among the greatest examples of Byzantine art in existence today.Many mosaics in the narthex and inner narthex describe the life of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary, with citations from the Old and New Testaments. In the Paraclesion, which is the side corridor, you can view great frescoes such as the Resurrection (Anastasis) or the last judgment (Deesis). In the nave, the Dormition of the Virgin (Koimesis) mosaic is impressive. During the visit of the church you're not allowed to use flash while taking photographs.
The museum is open between 09:00 - 16:30 except on Wednesdays, but it has longer opening hours during summer months. Admission fee is 15 YTL.

 

YEREBATAN  CISTERN (BASILICA CISTERN)
The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that still lie beneath the city of Istanbul, former Constantinople. The cistern, located in the historical peninsula of Istanbul next to the Hagia Sophia, was built during the reign of emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, the age of glory of Eastern Rome, also called the Byzantine Empire.
This underground structure was known as the “Basilica Cistern” as its was built underneath the Stoa Basilica, a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine had already constructed a structure, which was rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532. It provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times..
Yerebatan Sarayi is a cathedral sized underground cistern which is 143 by 65 meters and it is capable of holding up to 80,000 cubic meters of water. The huge space was broken up by 336 marble columns, mostly in Ionic or Corinthian styles, each measuring 9 meters in length. Two of these columns based on a recycled blocks carved with the head of Medusa. Another well known supporting pillars found in the cistern is the column of tears because it has been carved with symbols similar to tears.

 

LEANDERS (Maidens) TOWER

Buit on a small rocky island in the middle of the sea near Uskudar, where the Marmara sea meets the Bosphorus, the Leanders Tower - also called as Maidens Tower - has been used for a variety of purposes since its first construction. First, this small island was used to control the navy traffic and as a customs office in 411 B.C.. In the 12th century, the Byzantines used to protect the Bosphorus and they built a defence tower on the island. Although the Ottoman Empire continued to use it for the same reason after the conquest of Istanbul, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror replaced the old tower with a new one.
During the golden years of Ottoman Empire, the tower was used as a light house, and on special occasions, was used to salute the guests of the Sultans with gun shots.
The tower was completely destroyed by a fire in 1716. The Prime Minister Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pacha built today’s tower in 1725.
With its white color and its sliced Baroque dome with a flagstaff on the top of the dome, it’s a very striking spectacle.
It has become symbol of Istanbul, and is one of the first things which comes to one’s mind about this city and has been subject of many paintings and pictures. It has recentyl been renovated and opened for sightseeing.

 

HIPPODROME
The Hippodrome served as an ancient racetrack where ancient chariot races, athletic competitions were held, and was centrally decorated with the Egyptian Obelisk and other famous  columns. Its construction began in 203 by the Emperor Septimus Severus and it was subsequently enlarged by Constantine the Great. According to one estimation, it had a capacity of 100.000 people.
After the Nika riots in 532, the chariot races lost their importance and in 1204, during the fourth crusade, it was greatly damaged. After the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the area served as one for horse trading. For that reason, the area is named At Meydani (horse square) today.
There are three important monuments in the area:
1. The Egyptian Obelisk -
Built in the 16th century BC by the Pharaoh Tutmosis in Egypt. It was brought to Istanbul by boat in the 4th century AD.
2. The Serpentine's Column -
Originally erected in the Temple of Delphi in Greece, but taken to Istanbul. Until the 17th century there were three bronze snake heads projecting from the column, but they have since been lost. One can be seen in the archaeological museum.
3. The Column of Constantine -
Although it is believed that this dates from the 10th century, evidence shows that it was built earlier than that. Until 1204, it was covered by bronze and silver. When the Crusaders came to the area, they pulled off the bronze and silver, melted them down and made coins out of them.
THE GRAND BAZAAR
The world famous Covered bazaar (Kapali Carsi) is, owing to its architecture, history, location, and sheer variety of marchandise, one of Istanbul's most significant tourist sites. The Bazaar has eight different entrances, each of them facing one of the city's most important historic monuments. These include Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Çemberlitas, the Beyazıt Complex, Istanbul University and the Second Hand Book Bazaar. Built at the command of SultanMehmed the, Conqueror in 1461, the Bazaar initially consisted of just two warehouses (bedesten). In time, merchants began to set up their own stalls and workshops in the surrounding area. Dignitaries furthered the expansion with the addition of numerous caravanserais, so that the soon place had become a focus for trading goods from all over   the  empire.
It has more than 58 streets and 4000 shops. It is well known for its spice, jewelry, leather, meerschaum pipes, copper & brassware, tiles & pottery, carpet shops and all sorts of other things.
The Grand Bazaar is open daily between 09:00-19.00 except on Sundays and during public or religious holidays.
THE EGYPTION  BAZAAR
The Egyptian Bazaar (Misir Carsisi in Turkish) is also known as Spice Market. It's located just behind the Yeni Mosque at Eminonu neighborhood, at the entrance of the Golden Horn. The Bazaar was originally made of wood in mid-17th century by the architect Kazim Aga, and got its final restorations during mid-forties. The name comes from the fact that Egyptians used to sell their spices here and that it once received income from taxes levied on Egypt. Instead the English name comes from the days when the Bazaar was specialized on selling spices and herbs, medicinal plants and drugs. Lately, there are also shops selling stuff other than spices but you can still see and smell many interesting spices, dried fruits and nuts, teas, oils and essences, sweets, honeycombs, and aphrodisiacs.
For centuries, the Turkish have been coming to the Spice Bazaars instead of the doctors for centuries old remedies, and even for modern day illnesses. Herbal remedies can often alleviate symptoms for diseases like cancer and remedies for infertility, weight loss.
The Spice Bazaar spills into the Grand Bazaar and it is a centre for bustle and activity. It's a giant covered market with all the same items stalls placed together. The architecture is a simple Ottoman design of arched eyvans, each accompanied by a shop. The jars of spices and drugs originally would be displayed in the front Eyvan of the shop.

 

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