Visiting Istanbul Turkey: Historical & Culture Tourist Attractions in Istanbul
Turkey has so many wonderful destinations to explore but by far the
most popular destination for international tourists is Istanbul, the
country's largest city. Over 8 million tourists come to Istanbul every
year and it's easy to see why: Istanbul is an exceptional city, unique
and like no other in the world, and whether you enjoy the cityscape or
not, this is a city that has to be experienced at least once in your
But why is Istanbul such a magical city? Maybe itâ€™s the
fabulous variety that you can experience here. The city will appeal if
you enjoy ancient history, but this isn't the only reason why people
come; Istanbul has a very modern side too that actually surprises many
visitors. Away from the historic peninsula there's a vibrant, modern
and cosmopolitan face to this city that includes tall, modern buildings
and the largest shopping mall in Europe. Despite Istanbul's vast size
and population there are still places that you can get away from the
hustle and bustle too, cruising down the Bosphorus, or by taking the
ferry to the Princes' Islands.
Many of Istanbul's visitors will come
first and foremost to experience the historical side of the city, with
the rest being a wonderful and unexpected bonus!
Try to imagine Istanbul in the year 660BC when the city was
first established as Byzantium by ancient Greeks. Other civilizations
came and went too, but most significant were the Romans and then the
Ottomans, the latter of whom came in 1453 and had the largest influence
on the area of the city now known as the Sultanahmet (or historic)
For history lovers this is where you will concentrate most of
your time because it's home to many of the defining images of Istanbul:
Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar, are
all located here, and there are remnants of Roman times too.
Aya Sofya (also known as Hagia Sophia) offers more than 1,400
years of history. It served as a cathedral and was the largest in the
world for almost 1,000 years, then as a mosque, and now as a museum.
Its vast size is awe inspiring especially considering it was built in
just five years, between the years 532 and 537.
Just across a beautiful square of greenery and fountains is
another vast landmark of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque. Officially named
the Sultan Ahmet Mosque it is around 400 years old and is still used
today as one of 3,000 working mosques in the city. Non-Muslims are
allowed to enter the mosque outside of prayer times, provided you dress
appropriately, and a tour of the building and huge inner courtyard is
Topkapi Palace sits on the tip of this historic peninsula and
like the other two major landmarks in this part of Istanbul, the palace
is vast too! It was built from 1459 and served as the home of the
Ottoman sultans for an amazing 400 years. Today it is preserved as an
important piece of history and its hundreds of rooms and courtyards can
Though there are numerous other attractions in the historic
heart of Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is the most popular. It is set a
little up the hill from the three landmarks mentioned above, and can be
reached on foot or by using the tram. The Grand Bazaar really presents
the best opportunity to step back in time with its 61 covered "streets"
and thousands of stores, it hasn't changed much at all since it was
first built over 500 years ago. Whether you want to shop for souvenirs,
designer clothes and accessories, Turkish rugs, porcelain, or anything
else for that matter, you can find them all here, in one of the largest
and oldest covered markets in the world!
Enjoying the Bosphorus
The Bosphorus, also known as the Istanbul Strait, helps create
Istanbul's magical setting and forms the divide between Europe and
Asia. There are two impressive bridges spanning this divide and ferries
dart back and forth between the continents. The ferries are a very
reasonable form of travel and can be used to go up and down the
Bosphorus too, to a certain extent, or there are specific boat cruise
companies who provide tours with live commentaries.
Ferries also operate to the Princes' Islands and if you want to
enjoy an escape from the city for a day, this is the place to come.
Situated in the Sea of Marmara, life here heralds back to days gone by;
there are no motor vehicles, only horse and carts to get you around, so
this really is a peaceful place if you can try to ignore the fact that
hundreds of tourists like yourself have come to relax and enjoy the
peace and quiet too!
Written by Claire Bolgil
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