Spanning Asia and Europe, Istanbul is one of the most popular cities in the world visited by millions of tourists every year. Filled with fascinating history, Istanbul has much to offer to its visitors. This incredible city is home to some of the world’s best historical attractions including museums, mosques, and palaces. One must need at least a week to completely explore this city but if you are going to stay here for a short time period, these are the top 5 things which you don’t want to miss in Istanbul:
1. Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia Museum is the only place in the world that has served three religions in history. This 1400 years old iconic museum was first built as a Greek Eastern Orthodox Basilica which later served as a Roman Church for six decades before it was converted into a mosque in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed of that time. In 1935, it was converted into museum and since then, it has been attracting the attention of millions of visitors each year. Once you enter the museum, you’ll notice its interior representing both Islamic and Byzantine architecture. The museum is famous for its Christian Frescoes all over the museum and the Islamic Hangings in the dome.
2. Blue Mosque
Also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this mosque is located just near Hagia Sophia in the Sultan Ahmet district. The Blue Mosque is Istanbul’s most beautiful tourist attraction. The magnificent mosque interior is a true depiction of the Ottoman architecture. The mosque’s interior features thousands of blue Iznik tiles and hand-painted stained glass windows making it one of the finest places to visit. Even though the mosque is open to all visitors, it is closed 5 times a day during prayer time. All the visitors must dress appropriately to enter the mosque and women must cover themselves. You can get a scarf and cape from the entrance of mosque for free.
3. Topkapi Palace
You cannot leave Istanbul without visiting this Ottoman masterpiece. Built by Mehmet in the 15th century, Topkapi palace has been a main residential place for Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. This vast palace features huge parks, courtyards, halls, chambers, rooms and most popular Harem where Sultan’s mother, wife, and children used to live. There is also a small museum known as the Imperial Treasury inside the palace where all precious ornaments are kept and a Sacred Safekeeping Room where the sacred relics are preserved. Photography is strictly prohibited in these two areas.
4. Grand Bazar
The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in the world. This historic bazaar features more than 5000 shops selling all kinds of products including souvenirs, traditional jewelry, carpets and lamps. Inside the bazaar, you’ll also find hamams, cafes and mosques. Although you must visit this incredible bazaar, make sure to try out your bargaining skills when you decide to buy some products as prices are higher for the tourists. You can also take recommendations from locals for the best shops inside bazaar.
5. Istiklal Street
Last but not the least on the list is Istiklal Street or Avenue, the most crowded place in Istanbul which is visited by around 3 million people every day. This amazing street begins at the Taksim Square and stretches all all the way to the iconic Galata Tower of Istanbul. There is a lot to do on Istiklal Street which is home to some of the best bars, cafes, Turkish restaurants, shops, malls, museums, churches and the most popular street art. Don’t forget to take a ride in its iconic tramway that runs from the Taksim Square through the Istiklal Street.