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Sights in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is a major city in Turkey and was actually the capital until 1923. It has a rich history dating back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and is home to renowned museums, historic sites, beautiful mosques, and landmarks such as Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

  • Ahrida Synagogue—Istanbul’s oldest synagogue located within Balat, the city’s historic Jewish district, that dates back to the 1430s and was renovated in 1992 to an Ottoman baroque style with a boat-shape reading platform inside; Kurkcu Cesmesi Sok 7
  • Topkapi Palace—an historic palace with a rich history that was the court of the Ottoman empire between the 15th and 19th centuries with the rococo-style Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III outside in the square; inside are four courts featuring:
    • First Court or Court of the Janissaries with the Byzantine church of Hagia Eirene
    • Second Court or Middle Gate which was used to run the empire and is a park-like setting with a series of pavilions, kitchens, barracks, audience chambers, kiosks, and sleeping quarters and a collection of Chinese celadon porcelain used to detect poison in food, clocks, and a large collection of Ottoman and European arms and armor
    • Harem or the imperial family quarters where concubines were taught Islamic and Turkish culture and language, makeup, dress, behavior, music, reading, writing, embroidery, and dancing and featuring a floor with 16th and 17th century Iznik tiles
    • Third Court which was the sultan’s private area and consists of an audience chamber where important officials and foreign ambassadors conducted state business; the Library of Ahmet III built in 1719; the Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force with a large collection of imperial robes, kaftans, and uniforms; Dormitory of the Privy Chamber with an exhibit of portraits of 36 sultans; the Imperial Treasury with a great collection of objects designed or decorated with gold, silver, rubies, emeralds, jade, pearls, and diamonds
    • Fourth Court where pleasure pavilions were housed and has a Turkish restaurant

Location: Babihumayun Caddesi

  • Suleymaniye Mosque—one of the grandest and most beautiful Ottoman mosques with gardens; a three-sided forecourt with a central domed ablutions fountain; four minarets with ten balconies; an interior featuring iznik tiles and décor such as window shutters inlaid with mother of pearl, stained-glass, painted honey-comb corbels and a persimmon-colored carpet and medallions with fine calligraphy and an exterior with a tea garden and café; Professor Siddik Sami Onar Caddesi
  • Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom)—a landmark in Byzantine architectural design that was completed in 537 AD and was the world’s largest and most significant religious monument for almost a thousand years with an impressive dome that is almost 18 stories high and over 100 feet across and an interior featuring four minarets, a prayer niche, imam’s pulpit, and large black medallions inscribed with the names of Allah, Muhammad, and the early caliphs; it was transformed into a museum in 1935 and extensively restored with galleries featuring imperial portraits and intricate mosaics; Aya Sofya Square
  • Beylerbeyi Palace (Beylerbeyi Sarayi)—the former summer residence of Sultan Abdulaziz with ornate painted ceilings, baccarat crystal chandeliers, gold-topped marble columns, and carved wooden furniture; Cayirbasi Duragi
  • Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)—a beautiful mosque with an interior featuring 20,000 blue-green Iznik tiles interspersed with 260 stained glass windows and calligraphy and floral patterns on the ceiling; Sultanahmet Square
  • Borusan Contemporary—a mix between an office building and an art gallery open to the public on weekends and featuring the company owners’ collection of contemporary art and temporary exhibitions that highlight multimedia works; Baltalimani Hisar Cad. 5
  • Dolmabache Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi)—a grand palace built during the reign of Abdulmecid I whose spending bankrupted the Ottoman empire that is a mix of Turkish and European architectural and decorative styles with rococo marble columns with gilt Corinthian capitals, large mirrors, finely painted ceilings, parquet floors, and rich brocade and formal gardens, a conservatory, and clock museum outside; Dolmabache Cad
  • Galata Mevlevihanesi (Galata Mevlevi Lodge Museum)—Istanbul’s oldest whirling dervishes lodge that is now a museum with displays of dervish clothing, handicrafts, and artifacts along with information about the Mevlevi order and Sufism, exhibits on calligraphy, marbling art, and musical instruments; Galip Dede Cad
  • Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)—a massive shopping district with 65 winding covered streets filled with 4,000 small shops, cafes, restaurants, mosques, and courtyards with shops selling leather goods; carpets; fabric; clothing; brassware; ceramics; and jewelry; Yeniceriler Cad and Cadircilar Cad
  • Great Palace Mosaic Museum—a small museum with a display of early Byzantine mosaics from the Great Palace of Byzantium some dating back to the 6th century and include images of animals, flowers, hunting scenes, and mythological characters; Torun Sok
  • Gulhane Parki—a park that was once the private gardens of the adjacent Topkapi Palace with tall plane trees, paved walkways, grassy areas, gazebos, and flowers; Alemdar Cad
  • Istanbul Archaeology Museums—a three-building complex located in a forecourt of Topkapi Palace that illustrates the history of the various civilizations that have existed in Turkey with artifacts such as the Alexander Sarcophagus, a piece found in Lebanon carved with scenes from Alexander the Great’s battles; artifacts found during excavations at Troy including gold jewelry; ceramics from the early Seljuk and Ottoman empires and tiles from Iznik, the renowned city that produced some of the best ceramics in the world during the 16th and 17th centuries; reliefs from the ancient city of Babylon; and pieces from Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and other parts of the Arabic world; located at Alemdar Cad
  • Istanbul Modern—an art museum located in a converted warehouse along the Bosphorus that features contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, and other works from Turkey and around the world with a permanent collection that provides an overview of Turkish art from the late 19th century to the present; Meclis-i-Mebusan Cad
  • Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam—a museum located within the former stables of Topkapi Palace that discusses the role played by medieval Muslim scientists, inventors, and physicians in advancing scientific knowledge and technology during the Dark Ages; Gulhane Parki
  • Jewish Museum of Turkey—a small museum located in the Zulfaris Synagogue that provides an overview of the history of the Jews in Turkey with museum exhibits featuring photographs, documents, and ethnographic information; Karakoy Meydani
  • Kariye Muzesi (Kariye Museum or Church of the Holy Savior in Chora)—a beautiful former church filled with mosaics and frescoes considered to be some of the best Byzantine works in the world with some of the mosaics dating back to the 14th century featuring scenes from the New Testament; Kariye Turbesi Sok
  • Military Museum—a large and interesting museum with an impressive collection of swords, daggers, armor, and other weaponry and exhibits on the history of Turkic armies, the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, and recent Turkish military activities; Harbiye, Valikonagi Cad
  • Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts—a museum located within a large stone palace that was built for Ibrahim Pasha, a grand vizier, that has a large collection of Islamic art and artifacts dating from the 7th to 20th centuries with illustrated Qurans, calligraphic manuscripts, metalwork, wood and stone carvings, ceramics, religious relics and artifacts, and antique carpets; Atmeydani 46
  • Naval Museum—a recently renovated museum that was founded in 1861 and has been at its current location since 1961 and features over a dozen kayiks or long slim wooden boats rowed by oarsmen that were the main method of transportation for royals in Istanbul for several hundred years decorated with patterns and intricate carvings as well as an underground level with several exhibits of paintings, naval coats of arms, and other objects; Besiktas Cad
  • Pera Museum—a private museum situated within a former hotel built in 1893 that is known for its permanent collection of Orientalist paintings by European and Ottoman artists dating from the 17th to 19th centuries and also features smaller permanent exhibits on Kutahya ceramics and tiles and the history of Anatolian weights and measures from the Hittite period to the early 20th century; Mesrutiyet Cad 65
  • Rahmi M. Koc Museum—a museum located on the grounds of a former Ottoman-era shipyard with a collection acquired by one of the country’s top industrialists that includes aircraft, boats, a submarine, a tank, trucks, trains, a horse-drawn tram, engines, and antique cars as well as interactive displays on science and technology; Haskoy Cad
  • Sakip Sabanci Museum—a private museum located within an historic villa that overlooks the water with a permanent collection of late 19th century Orientalist and Republican Turkish paintings, Ottoman calligraphy, and antique furnishings and temporary installations that have included retrospectives on Picasso, contemporary artwork, exhibits on Anatolian archaeology and masterpieces, and masterpieces of Islamic art; Sakip Sabanci Cad
  • Yerebatan Sarnici—a system of aqueducts and cisterns built during the reign of Justinian in the 6th century that takes visitors through dimly lit walkways that are surrounded by 336 marble Byzantine columns; Yerebatan Cad
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