Istanbul – where to start? While many visitors come for the food alone, others find the architecture to be the main attraction. Still other connoisseurs find the art and artifacts to be unmissable – though history buffs say that all that has transpired in the cosmopolis of Constantinople is what makes Istanbul unique.
Fortunately, whatever your passion – art and architecture, music and cinema, fashion and food, to name but a few – Istanbul has so much to offer. Here are just a few of the most popular points of interest for your stay in Istanbul:
Hagia Sophia – Any visit to Istanbul is incomplete without seeing the building that changed the course of European architecture. The Hagia Sophia has been an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a Roman Catholic Cathedral and a mosque. Built in 360 B.C.E., its landmark construction blends Eastern and Western influences, reflecting the city’s role in world history and its unique geography.
Süleymaniye Mosque – Designed by the great Ottoman-era architect Sinan for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Süleymaniye dominates Istanbul’s skyline. It has recently been restored to its original splendor and is considered the finest of the 42 surviving mosques that the legendary architect designed for the city.
Galata Tower -The Galata Tower is an impressive sight as you amble down the cobblestone street from the famous Taksim Square in Beyoglu – but the most impressive view is from its summit. Built in the 14th century by the Genoese colonizers, it now offers to the public a breathtaking panorama over the city.
Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque – Only a handful of mosques in the world can claim this sort of opulence: six minarets, along with its main dome and eight secondary domes. This opulent mosque is also known for the fine cerulean İznik tiles that line its interior, giving it its colorful sobriquet. Among Turks it is even more famous as the tomb of the great Sultan Ahmed I, the leader who lent his name to the mosque and the surrounding neighbourhood.
Topkapi Palace – Retro film buffs will recall the Topkapi Palace as the scene of the legendary film by director Jules Dassin, which starred Melina Mercouri and Sir Peter Ustinov. It is, of course, not just a film set – but an exquisite palace that housed generations of Ottoman sultans. Topkapi also includes a maze of lush green courtyards, opulent architecture and delicate kiosks – along with its treasury of crown jewels and exquisite views over the Sea of Marmara, Bosphorus and Golden Horn.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum – Housed in the former home of Ibrahim Pasha, a favored grand vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, this fascinating museum shows magnificent examples of carpets from all over the country. Its basement features reconstructions of a number of Turkish artistic masterpieces.
Basilica Cistern – This underground marvel was constructed in the sixth century B.C.E then paved over, plundered over, and built over – to be finally rediscovered after centuries of subterranean disrepair. It is one of the city’s most unusual and interesting sites to visit, as it originally served as part of a massive and complex water storage and transportation system. If you love quirky, you’ll love the cistern. Just one example is a massive, upside-down head of Medusa left over by the Romans, then foraged and recycled by the cistern’s architects just a few centuries later.
These are just a taste of all Istanbul has to offer – book your stay at Hotel Büyük Keban and come discover your own Istanbul today!