In addition to being Turkey’s most famous city, Istanbul is a historical city with its 2650 years old past. History is deeply rooted in Istanbul’s mosques, churches, and museums.
In order to grasp Istanbul’s rich history and enjoy it thoroughly, you are highly recommended to Visit Istanbul with a tourist guide.
Let’s have a look at the places to visit in Istanbul alongside the history of the city and some nice photos.
Byzantium, the First Name of Istanbul
The official history of Istanbul dates back to 638 B.C. King Byzas and his entourage, which immigrated from the Megara colony of Greece, arrived at Istanbul that was a fishing town back then and he founded the basis of the city by calling it Byzantium. When Byzantium became a developed city, it was already one of the most beautiful cities in the area.
The Roman City Constantinople
The city that Byzas founded existed as an ancient Greek city for around 800 years and it came under the rule of Roman Empire in 195 A.D. Constantine the Great, a famous Roman emperor, decided to move out of Rome in 330 and found a new capital for the empire.
Despite having a lot of choices, his decision was Istanbul and he re-built the city entirely. Naturally, the Bosphorus and the beauty it brought to Istanbul were important factors too. The city was built with glorious and huge Roman works and it was renamed as Constantinople and became the new capital of the Roman Empire.
After the division of Roman Empire into two, Istanbul became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. While Rome and the Western Roman Empire became history as early as 476, Constantinople existed until 1453.
Ottoman Empire Era
The Ottomans arrived at the city following Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Istanbul in 1453 and they established the city as their capital. It would take too long to make a list of the monuments they built in Istanbul during the ages they dominated the city.
The Ottoman Empire continued developing the city until the empire fell. Galata, Beyoglu, Besiktas and other neighborhoods at the Bosphorus that shaped today’s Istanbul and became center of attention were built during the Ottoman era.
Top 10 Historical Places in Istanbul
Here are the best ten places to visit in Istanbul. Spring is the best time to visit this beautiful city by the way.
Hagia Sophia is a glamorous monument with its 1500 years old history and it was the spiritual center of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. Hagia Sophia served as a church for 900 years and mosque for 500 years. Today, it’s a majestic historical monument that symbolizes the heritage of both religions.
Hagia Sophia has been seen as a holy structure and it became the center of a lot of legends. Therefore, you are highly suggested to take a private tour guide in Istanbul and explore Hagia Sophia thoroughly.
Topkapi Palace was built in 1461 and it served as the main residence of the Ottoman sultans between 1461-1856.
The most famous Ottoman Sultans such as Sultan Mehmed II, Selim I, and Sultan Suleiman resided in this palace. In addition to having a very deep and interesting history, it’s also one of the best spots to enjoy an amazing Bosphorus view.
It’s one of the countless basilicas of Istanbul. This basilica was built by Emperor Justinian in 540 and it was designed to serve as the biggest water depot of the city. The columns inside the basilica are older than this 1500 years old structure as they were collected from ancient Greek cities to build it.
The reason why this mosque is known as Blue Mosque is the blue and elegant Iznik tiles that were used to decorate it. The mosque was built in 1616 and the best decoration items were used while the best calligraphists worked in building it.
Suleymaniye Mosque is regarded as the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul by many architects, professors of art history and guides. The main reason is because this mosque was built by Mimar Sinan and it has a huge and majestic 47 meters high dome that boasts a top view of Istanbul.
In short, visiting Suleymaniye Mosque is one of the best things to do in Istanbul if you are staying more than one day.
Istanbul Archeology Museum
Istanbul Archeology Museum reflects the cultural heritage of Turkey that has a magnificent history. It was founded by a famous Ottoman painter Osman Hamdi Bey in the late Ottoman era. There are highly important works like the Eternal Treaty (between the Egyptians and Hittites), the first written treaty in the world and Alexandar Sarcophagus in the collection of Istanbul Archeology Museum.
Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
The building that serves as Turkish and Islamic Art Museum used to belong to Pargali Ibrahim Pasha. He was both the prime minister of Sultan Suleiman and his son-in-law as he was married to Sultan Suleiman’s daughter, Hatice and he resided in this palace for a long time.
Today, the building is a museum and the oldest carpets in Turkish history and hand-written books are displayed here.
Unfortunately, Chora Museum is a place that many visitors miss while they visit many other historical locations and monuments in Istanbul.
Mostly, when tourists prefer to visit Istanbul in 1-2 days, they generally focus on Sultanahmet and Beyoglu neighborhood or take a boat tour at the Bosphorus.
However, Chora Museum is a secret gem and it’s definitely worth visiting. Chora Museum is one of the oldest monuments in Istanbul and it boasts a 700 years old Byzantine mosaics collection.
Galata neighborhood was resided by the Genoese trade colony both in the Byzantine and Ottoman era and the Latins lived here.
These Italian merchants adopted themselves to the authentic culture of Istanbul and they also contributed to this culture by building such monuments as Galata Tower and Yoros Castle. It’s a unique experience to climb up Galata Tower and enjoy a breathtaking Istanbul view there.
Grand Bazaar began to come to life following the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 and it became bigger and bigger in ages and it is a huge bazaar as of today. Grand Bazaar is composed of thousands of shops and tens of streets. Therefore, it’s highly likely that you will get lost on its streets and you will have a more fun shopping experience. Grand Bazaar is also one of the oldest bazaars in the world.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Of course, this list doesn’t cover every place worth visiting in Istanbul. There are a lot more to see in this huge city. You can make a plan and organize your trip to Istanbul with your tour guide for a pleasing holiday.
The Other Cities in Turkey Worth Visiting
There are some other amazing places to visit in Turkey. The most important of them are Cappadocia, Ephesus Ancient City, and Pamukkale.
I suggest you visit these destinations via a reliable travel agency and a skilled and knowledgeable tour guide. By searching the keywords like private tour guides of Turkey on platforms such as TripAdvisor, you can find the best travel agencies in the region you are interested in visiting and experience an unforgettable tour.
If you love sea, sand, and the sun, you can visit places like Bodrum, Cesme, Foca, and Fethiye on the Western coast while you can visit Kas, Olympos, Kemer and Belek in the south of Turkey.
Turkey meets your expectations fully whether you are interested in culture, history or the sea. Moreover, as Turkish Lira is quite undervalued compared to currencies like Euro and USD, it’s an ideal place for a cheap holiday.