Istanbul’s Top 20 Sights

Istanbul’s Best Sights

St. Sophia Museum

St. Sophia Museum

There are many important monuments in İstanbul, but this venerable structure – which was commissioned by the great Byzantine emperor Justinian, consecrated as a church in 537, converted to a mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 and declared a museum by Atatürk in 1935.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Topkapı is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world’s museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines and scheming eunuchs lived and worked here between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Istanbul’s most photogenic building was the grand project of Sultan Ahmet I , whose tomb is located on the north side of the site facing Sultanahmet Park. The mosque’s wonderfully curvaceous exterior features a cascade of domes and six slender minarets. Blue Iznik tiles adorn the interior.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

The colourful Grand Bazaar is the heart of Istanbul’s Old City.Starting as a small vaulted bedesten built by order of Mehmet the Conqueror, it grew to cover a vast area as lanes between the bedesten, neighbouring shops were roofed and the market assumed the sprawling, labyrinthine form that it retains today.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace

The crowds that throng to this imperial pleasure palace with its neoclassical exterior and over-the-top interior clearly don’t share that disdain, flocking here to visit its Selâmlık (Ceremonial Suites), Harem and Veliaht Dairesi (Apartments of the Crown Prince).

Suleymaniye Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque

The Suleymaniye crowns one of Istanbul’s seven hills and dominates the Golden Horn, providing a landmark for the entire city. Though it’s not the largest of the Ottoman mosques, it is certainly one of the grandest and most beautiful. It’s also unusual in that many of its original külliye.

Chora Church

Chora Church

Istanbul has more than its fair share of Byzantine monuments, but few are as drop-dead gorgeous as this mosaic- and fresco-laden church. Nestled in the shadow of Theodosius II’s monumental land walls and now a museum overseen by the curators of Saint Sophia Museum.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

This subterranean structure was commissioned by Emperor Justinian and built in 532. The largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul, it was constructed using 336 columns, many of which were salvaged from ruined temples and feature fine carved capitals.

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LIKE NO OTHER PLACE

Istanbul is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.

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