Main places of interest for local and foreign visitors in Istanbul are summarized below. For further information, please visit the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism: istanbul.ktb.gov.tr/?_dil=2
The cistern was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565) to meet the water requirements of the Great Palace. Currently, the cistern is used as a museum and an exhibition hall that also hosts concerts and poetry recitations.
Ordered by Sultan Abdulaziz, the palace was constructed between 1863-1865 to be used both as a summer palace and a guest residence for visiting monarchs. There are two distinct sections in this construction: the Harem and the Selamlik, the last one richly decorated. The three entrance gates lead to 6 halls and 24 rooms. Beylerbeyi Palace, now a museum, is the biggest and the most famous palace on the Asian side of Istanbul.
The Ottoman imperial palace was built by order of Sultan Abdulmecid I between 1843 and 1856. The palace has been open to the visitors as a museum-palace since 1984. The palace has an area of 45.000 m2 and contains 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths, and 68 toilets. Although the palace layout and decoration reflect the increasing influence of European style, it also retains elements of traditional Ottoman palace life and features of traditional Turkish homes. The palace is also decorated with beautiful Baccarat Chandeliers, European furniture, European and Far Eastern porcelains and glasses, and Hereke carpets. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, also resided at the palace during his late years.
Galata Tower is a medieval stone tower in Galata, just to the north of the Golden Horn. One of the city’s most striking landmarks, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and affords a panoramic view of Old İstanbul and its environs.
Built in the 15th century, the huge bazaar is located in the middle of Istanbul's historical centre with its streets lying beneath high domes. It is one of the oldest and biggest closed bazaar in the world with more than 58 covered streets and over 1,200 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
At the heart of Istanbul, Istiklal Street is a 24-hour live zone. The street is visited by hundreds of people both during daytime and at night. The street houses cafes, restaurants, shops, art galleries and night clubs. Istiklal Street would be an option for those who would like to experience daily life in Istanbul.
Maiden’s Tower or Leander’s Tower, is built up on a rock facing Uskudar at the mouth of the Bosphorus. The tower dates back to 340 BC and houses several myths along with its old age. This tower has been in service as a lighthouse, watchtower, traffic control centre and prison in its lifetime. After its restoration, now it is open as a tourist attraction with an observation terrace, gift store, a small Bosphorus Museum, tea/coffee house and restaurant.
Miniaturk, the first miniature park in Turkey, spans an area of approximately 60.000 m² with 15.000 m² designated for miniature models, 40.000 m² for green field, 3.500 m² for closed space, and 2.000 m² for pool and waterway. The park features models of selected monuments from Turkish and other Anatolian antique civilizations. All the monuments are accurate and detailed copies of the originals at a scale of 1/25. Apart from the miniature models, Miniaturk also contains a cafeteria, restaurant, shopping centre, library, bookstore, movie theatre and exhibition hall. There are also special activities for children such as the express train and playground featuring the Trojan Horse, the Ottoman fort and the gallery.
Ortakoy Square is a popular tourist attraction at the European side of the Bosphorus with its famous view of Ortakoy Mosque and the 15 July Martyrs Bridge (Bosphorus Bridge). The streets leading to the square are filled with cafes, restaurants, and street vendors mostly selling jewellery and all sorts of handmade crafts. The variety of people creates a lively scene. There is also a church, a mosque and a synagogue in Ortakoy that have existed side by side for hundreds of years.
Pierre Loti Cafe on Eyup hillside is a significant residential area with its natural beauties, religious structures, and excellent view of Halic (Golden Horn). It is named after the author Pierre Loti, who admired the Ottoman culture and life style. Its calm and relaxed atmosphere makes Pierre Loti Cafe a popular destination
Rumeli Hisari (Rumelian Castle) is a fortress located in Sariyer, at the European side of the Bosphorus. It was built by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451-1452 before he conquered Constantinople. The castle is now used as a museum and an open-air theatre for various concerts in summer.
The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. Sultanahmet Mosque has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in İstanbul.
Chora was first built as a church in the 6th century, after which it had to be renovated and rebuilt a few times over the years. Chora was used as a mosque from 1511 onwards until it was turned into a museum in 1945. It is considered as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. Mosaics and frescoes held by Chora are considered as some of the best examples of the late East Roman art.
Galata Dervish Lodge, built in 1491, is the first lodge used by Mevlevi dervishes in Istanbul. It is used as a museum that presents the visitors the details of a Mevlevi dervish life with their clothing, food, music, art and worship rituals. Whirling dervishes hold ritual performance at the lodge occasionally.
Hagia Eirene Museum, contained within the courtyard of Topkapi Palace, is the first church built in Istanbul. It was built in the 4th century. It is not just the largest church of the Byzantine era but is also the only church with atrium that has survived up to the present. It is currently used as a concert hall and can only be visited otherwise with the permission of the Hagia Sophia Museum Directorship.
Hagia Sophia, built nearly a thousand years ago, is the largest enclosed space in the world. It is still seen as one of the world’s most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey’s most popular attractions with its size, architecture, mosaics and art. Hagia Sophia is a unique architectural monument being a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque and now a museum.
The museums contain the historical relics collected during the Ottoman rule that were sent to the capital by the governors from different provinces at the time. This large collection is displayed in the Museum of Oriental Antiquities, the Tiled Pavilion and the main building of the Archaeological Museum, collectively known as Istanbul Archaeological Museums. The museum was awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize in 1991, at its 100th anniversary.
The museum located in the converted warehouse in Tophane, on the Bosphorus, is the first of its kind in Turkey. The museum houses exhibitions on two floors. The permanent exhibition, along with the shop and the restaurant, is located on the top floor. Temporary exhibitions are located on the lower floor along with the cinema and library. Both exhibitions present the works of leading Turkish artists.
The museum was founded by the Turkish poet and novelist, Sunay Akin, in 2005. Currently, the museum contains 4,000 toys and miniatures on display from Turkey and abroad. Many of the exhibits are antiques, some of which are nearly 200 years old. The first floor of the museum was used as Eyup Toy Shop, the famous toy shop that closed down in the 1950’s.
The museum is located in Gulhane Park (Rose Garden) that used to be part of Topkapi Palace during the Ottoman Period. It extends over 3500 m² along the old palace wall, on the former stables of the palace. Many years of intensive scientific and historical studies on Arabic-Islamic writings have laid the groundwork for the works exhibited in this museum that present the visitors a unique scientific journey today. The works reflecting the scientific and technical developments of 9th-17th centuries are exhibited in the museum. The fields of astronomy, geography, navigation, time measurement, geometry, optics, medicine, chemistry, mineralogy, physics, architecture and war technology are exhibited systematically.
The museum is located in Arasta Bazaar within the Sultanahmet Mosque compound. The museum was constituted in such a way that it would contain the mosaics of the partially intact northeast section of the arcaded yard of the Great Palace of East-Roman period. Mosaics exhibited date back to AD 450-550 and are magnificent in terms of both art and richness of portrayal scenes. The main themes portrayed are scenes from daily life and nature such as a gryphon eating a lizard, a fight between an elephant and a lion, children herding geese, a man milking a goat, a child feeding his donkey, a young girl carrying a pot, apple-eating bears, and the fight of a hunter and a tiger.
The museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is the last museum to be opened in the era of the Ottoman Empire and also the first Turkish museum to bring together Turkish and Islamic works. It is located in Ibrahim Pasha Palace, which is one of the most important buildings of the 16th century Ottoman civil architecture. It is situated in Istanbul’s famous historical site, the Hippodrome, rising up over its old tiers. The collections of the museum are extremely diverse, hosting a vast selection of works from the earliest period of Islamic art up to the 20th century, including items from the Umayyad, Abbasid, North African (Moorish), Andalusian, Fatimid, Seljuk, Ayyubid, Ilkhanid, Mamluk, Timurid and Safavid dynasties, the beylik and Ottoman periods and from various countries of the Caucasus.
Topkapi Palace was constructed between 1460-1478 as the imperial palace after the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Located where the oldest acropolis in Istanbul originally stood, the palace grew gradually by new buildings added by various sultans. It served as the seat of imperial rule and the official residence of Ottoman sultans for 380 years until Sultan Abdulmecit relocated the centre of administration to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace. With the holy Islamic relics displayed in a renovated pavilion, with its unique jewellery, weaponry, books, manuscript and garment collections it is the most frequently visited museum of Istanbul.
This historic park is situated right beside the Bosphorus in the beautiful suburb of Emirgan. The Park is especially well-known for its vibrant collection of tulips, which appear on mass every April.
Fethi Pasa Grove is located on the Asian Side of the Bosphorus with an area of 13 hectares. The grove not only provides its visitors walking/jogging tracks but also restaurants and different spots from which they can enjoy the scenery.
The park spans an area of 15.5 hectares on Macka Valley. The cable car above the park not only provides a faster transportation but also allows the visitors to observe the natural beauties from above. The park also contains children’s playgrounds, cafes/restaurants, an artificial island and artificial pools.
This relatively new park, established in 2011, expands to an area of 20 hectares in Kanlica providing beautiful views of the Bosphorus.
This picturesque park in Besiktas is one of the largest urban parks in Istanbul. The park spans 37 hectares and features flowers, trees and other plants that were collected from all around the world during the Ottoman Period. The park also houses Cadir and Malta Pavilions that are currently used as restaurants and for special occasions.