Historically, also known as Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul is the most populous city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural, and historic hub. With its long history at the center of empires, Istanbul offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in.
The Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. The bulk of these ancient monuments, dating back to Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and Basilica Cistern.
You can see Istanbul’s top sights in a rush on an overnight stay, but it is preferable to stay for at least 2 days to do them justice, and 3 or 4 days to really get a sense of the city. Since, many of the major attractions of Istanbul such as Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome are in or near Sultanahemet, it is recommended that you get a hotel somewhere nearby. The tram system is an especially handy way to get around.
Do find time to taste Turkish Tea, smoke nargile and taste fish sandwiches if you do not want to the miss the quintessential Turkish experience!
Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi, Grand Bazaar, Meshur Eminonu Balikcisi, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Sehir Hatlari Cruise
Currency: Turkish lira
Cuisine: Ottoman cuisine
Markets: The Grand Bazaar
Blue Mosque- Hagia Sophia Museum- Basilica Cistern- Topkapi Palace- Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi- Grand Bazaar
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, is a historic mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. The name comes from the many blue tiles adorning its walls, as well as its giant blue stained glass windows and blue painted ceilings.
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The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Sultanahmet Mosque adorn the skyline of the city. The 400-years old mosque has extraordinary exteriors featuring a cascade of domes and six slender minarets.
Hagia Sophia Museum
Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum at the Turkish Republic, Hagia Sophia is a charming monument. It is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world. The museum has two floors centered on a giant nave that has a great dome ceiling, along with smaller domes, towering above.
The largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, is a 143 meters long and 65 meters wide underground cistern. Accidentally rediscovered by the Frenchman Peter Gyllius in 1545, the cistern is now a major tourist attraction in Istanbul.
The Topkapı Palace also known as the Seraglio is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul. Built in between 1466 and 1478, the Palace was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Just down the hill to the west of the palace, you can visit the Istanbul Archeological Museums, or take a walk in the shady Gulhane Park.
Corlulu Ali Pasa Medreses
A hookah cafe hidden in a 300-year-old alleyway near Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, Corlulu Ali Pasa Medreses also offers traditional tea and Turkish coffee. Hundreds of lamps hang from the ceiling at Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi to make the atmosphere more vibrant and warm. You can choose from a menu of tobacco flavors like apple and strawberry and smoke nargile.
The Grand Bazar
With 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.
The bazaar, also known as Kapali Caris, offers beautiful Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, apparel made of leather, cotton and wool, meerschaum pipes, alabaster bookends and ashtrays, and all sorts of other things.
This is the most that you can humanly cover in 24 hours in Istanbul. If you have more than a day, feel free to soak in the atmosphere of this erstwhile Ottoman empire and make the most of your stay in this Golden city.