For a thousand years, from being the capital city of the world though the Roman Empire to the Turkish rule, Istanbul has never slept. This is the area where the continent of Asia meets with Europe, divided by the Galata Bridge.
There are so many places to visit in Istanbul you could spend a whole week here without regret. These are the top 5 places that I highly recommend to you guys.
1. Hagia sophia
Opening : Tuesday – Sunday from 9.00-19.00 Ticket office closes at 18.00
Fee : 25 Lira
It is huge, beautiful and has a long detailed history. This building used to be a church, but was turned into a mosque during Ottoman Empire. Now it is a museum with lots and lots of interesting facts and thousands of people come to visit here every day (except Monday). I don’t like to visit places which can get crowded but this place is a must see if you come to Istanbul.
2. Blue Mosque.
Opening : Every day 8.30-19.00 Fee : Free
The good thing about visiting a mosque is that there is no entry fee. Blue mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque is the biggest in Turkey. It has six pillars and it is considered to be the most important mosque in the country.
There are brilliant artworks inside the mosque, such as the 20,000 or more handmade ceramic tiles which were made at Iznik in over fifty different tulip designs. You could come and visit Blue mosque easily, it is directly opposite The Hagia Sophia.
- Basilica Cistern
Opening : Every day 9.00-17.30 Fee : 10 Lira.
On the road just opposite Hagia Sophia, you can walk a short distance to visit Basillica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie deep beneath the city of Istanbul.
This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 metres (453 ft) by 64.6 metres (212 ft) – about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area – capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns.
The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. It was discovered by accident when people learned that there were fishes swimming under their houses.
These facts amazed me and I send this place to the top of my list of places to visit in Istanbul.
4. Istanbul Archaeology Museums.
Opening : Tuesday-Sunday 9.00-18.00 Fee : 10 Lira. Located near Topkapi Palace.
If you visit only one museum in Turkey, I would highly recommend the “Istanbul Archaeology Museum” as it consists of three museums in one.
- Archaeological Museum (in the main building)
- Museum of the Ancient Orient
- Museum of Islamic Art
It houses over one million objects that represent almost all of the eras and civilizations in world history.
This building alone is worth the price of the whole ticket. An example of a very nice collection in the first building is The Kadesh Peace Treaty (1258 BCE), signed between Ramesses II of Egypt and Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire.
There are many more artifacts for you to explore in all three buildings so be prepared to have enough time to have a good look around (about one and a half hours at least).
5. Dolmabahçe Palace.
Opening : Every day , except Monday and Thursday. 9.00-16.00 Fee : 30 Lira.
Let’s move on to a European influence; an area which is referred to as the ‘new city’. Here there is very nice palace situated next to the Bosporus strait. This palace is huge and it’s construction cost five million Ottoman Mecidiye gold coins and 35 tons of gold, which is the equivalent of $1.5 billion in today’s (2013) values.
It was a residential area for six sultans, and Mr. Ataturk lived here until his death. Come early for a long queue of visitors.