Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, has a glorious past and was conquered and reined by some of the greatest empires in the world. Founded 3000 years ago, Istanbul was once named Constantinople when the Byzantine Empire thrived. And then after the Ottoman conquest, the city became the heart of a glorious empire once more. Today, an amazing blend of its ancient history and culture with the modern lifestyle can be found on its mosques, basilicas, cathedrals, and bazaars. With charm and intrigue waiting in every corner, the city has much to offer the tourists from around the globe. Here are the 10 top tourist attractions in Istanbul:
10. Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a must visit to get a glimpse of the civic life of Turkey. One of the largest and oldest markets under a roof, the grand Bazaar has an astounding total of 61 covered streets inside its walls. Here, over 3000 shops attend to the needs of 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. One can find many different commodities inside the bazaar including food, jewelries, furniture, carpets, clothing and many more. The origin of the bazaar dates back to 1456. It has been listed as one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world and surely one of the must visit tourist attractions in Istanbul.
09. Galata Tower
Towering over the city of Istanbul, Galata Tower in the Galata quarters of the city is a medieval stone tower. The tower was built in 1348 and was once the tallest structure in Istanbul. It is a nine story tower with a length of 66.90 meters. The top of the tower is cone-capped cylinder which looks majestic from any corner of the city. Visitors can get a startling panoramic view of the city from the top of the tower. With a café, a restaurant and a night club on the upper stories, the tower does not fail to entertain its visitors. Thus, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul.
Dolmabahçe Palace, located at the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, is one of the finest relics of the Great Ottoman Empire of Turkey. Built by the 31st sultan of the empire, Abdülmecid I in the mid-18th century, its architecture displays amazing Turkish Renaissance style. Replacing Topkapı palace, Dolmabahçe Palace served the as the residence of the sultans for a long time. Among many spectacular palaces in entire turkey, it stands out as the largest with an area of 45,000 square meters. Filled with Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical elements the palace is captivating in design. So, Dolmabahçe Palace is one of the fascinating tourist attractions in Istanbul.
07. Istanbul Archaeology Museum
The Istanbul Archaeology Museum is actually a collection of three separate Museums; the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Museum of Islamic Art. They are located near the Gülhane Park in the Eminönü district of Istanbul. Nearly 1 million pieces of artifacts can be found in three museums combined. The collection include the famous Lycian sarcophagus, Ancient Greek statues like Alexander the Great, a monumental Lycian tomb and many other artifacts from ancient civilizations around the world. It was established in 1891 and today has become a grand treat for the tourists from all around the world.
Located on the third hill of Istanbul is the grand splendor known as the Suleymaniye Mosque which is one of the largest mosques in the city. Built by the order of Sultan Süleyman “the magnificent” in the year 1558, the mosque is a brilliant feat of architecture. Blending the Islamic and Byzantine styles together, the Suleymaniye Mosque never fails to impress the eyes of the travelers from around the world. The gigantic dome of the mosque was once the highest in all of turkey and the mosque is marked by four minarets to indicate that it was built by a sultan. The intricate designs and carvings on the mosque walls are absolutely stunning to look at and one of the best that Istanbul has to offer, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in Istanbul.
Hippodrome, also known as the “Hippodrome of Constantinople”, was once the center of public life and the capital of Byzantine Empire. It used to be a great venue for horse racing and chariot racing. The construction of the hippodrome was started by Septimus Severus in AD 203 and was completed by Constantine the Great in AD 330. It exists only in ruins today with just the small section of the gallery of the stadium on the south being visible. Here among the most prominent ruins are the Obelisk of Thutmose III, Walled Obelisk, Serpent Column andStatues of Porphyrios.
04. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern, also known as the Sunken Palace, is an amazing ancient Cistern that was built to store fresh water. Capable of storing up to 2.8 million cubic feet of water, the Basilica Cistern is the largest among the many ancient underground cisterns located throughout the city of Istanbul. The Cistern was built during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It is called Basilica Cistern because it was built on the site of a 3rd century basilica, very close to the famous Blue Mosque. Tourists from all walks of life appreciate and love the splendor of Basilica Cistern. This is surely one of the top tourist attractions in Istanbul.
03. Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, is a spectacular architecture and a historic landmark in the heart of Istanbul. It is decorated with charming blue tiles in the interior and the dome and thus been dubbed as blue mosque. Still an active house of worship for the Muslims, the mosque was built in the early 16th century during the reign of Sultan Ahmed the 1st. Today the interior of the mosque is adorned with 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles and over 200 stained glass windows with chandeliers and many written verses from the holy Quran. It is a blessing for the eye and a very peaceful place to be, making it one of the sure visit tourist attractions in Istanbul.
02. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi palace is one of the many intriguing palaces in the city of Istanbul and was the primary residence of Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years. Established in the 14th century, it was once home to 4000 people. Today it has been turned into a fascinating museum that has many historic elements of the great Ottoman Empire. Surrounded by five kilometers of stone walls with 27 towers inside, the palace contains four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. The palace museum also contains many holy relics of the Muslim world such as Muhammad’s cloak and sword. It is a marvelous place to get a glimpse of the true culture of Istanbul and Turkey. Topkapi palace is must in any list of tourist attractions in Istanbul.
01. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, a holy sanctuary in the heart of Istanbul, has been a silent observer of many historical periods for nearly 1500 years. It was established in the year 537 as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, and then it became a Roman Catholic cathedral and then a Mosque. And today, it has been turned into a grand museum. The most unique feature of the building is its massive dome and it is considered one of the most intriguing Byzantine architectures in the world. It held the position of world’s largest cathedral for a thousand years until 1520. It served as an inspiration for other great mosques that are present in the city. Its significance in architecture, history and religious values has made it undoubtedly the greatest tourist attraction that the city of Istanbul has to offer.
Please comment below and let us know what other tourist attractions in Istanbul should have made this list. Suggest an edit if you find any wrong information.
Author: Tajirul Haque
Tajirul Haque is a travel enthusiast and freelance travel writer on Upwork. Having written hundreds of travel articles on so many travel destinations around the world for his clients, Tajirul started Top Travel Lists back in September 2014. Travel writing is his passion and he always loves to write about a new destination as it allows him to know about more beautiful places the planet has to offer. He is always available for freelance travel writing opportunities.