Istanbul was the capital of 2 great and important empires, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. Today it is a major city in Turkey spread over 2 continents, Europe and Asia.

The old city center Sultanahmet reflects cultural influences of the empires that once ruled there.

You can see the Hagia Sophia from the Byzantine era, the Hippodrome from the Roman era, the Blue Mosque from the Ottoman era as well as many monuments brought from abroad like the Egyptian obelisk or the German fountain.

The new city center Taksim attacts with its shopping streets surrounded by beautiful buildings, amazing churches.

Along the Bosphorus, that seperates Europe from Asia, are many historical palaces, beautiful mansions and fortresses.

Here are some of the most interesting places in the Old City Center of Istanbul.


Please keep in mind that mosques can be visit at any time except praying times.

Hagia Sophia - The 8th Wonder of the World

The Hagia Sophia (means "Holy Wisdom") was designed as a Christian basilica in the 6th century by Anthemios of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletus. Its 31m diameter dome made it the world's most spectacular church for centuries. The church of Hagia Sophia first dedicated in 360 by Emperor Constantius. The Hagia Sophia was a center of religious, political, and artistic life for the Byzantine world. Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he designated the structure a mosque. In 1934, the Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared the Hagia Sophia a museum. In 2020, it re-opened as a mosque.

Suleymaniye Mosque

The construction of the Suleymaniye Mosque started in 1550 and ended in 1557. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient was beyond impressed with Sinan's works that he decided to have him design a mosque after himself. This mosque would represent the eminence of the Ottoman Empire.

Like all big and important mosques of that period, the Suleymaniye Mosque was built as a complex including a hospital, hospice for the poor, hamam, madrasa, library, kitchen and shops. A masterpiece of architect Sinan and one of the best examples of Ottoman Islamic architecture in Istanbul.

Blue Mosque

Sultan Ahmet I requested architect Sedefkar Mehmet Agha to built a mosque for him right opposite the Hagia Sophia. His mosque should be bigger and more impressive than the Hagia Sophia itself. Architect Sedefkar Mehmet Agha built the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, more popular under the name Blue Mosque, between 1609 and 1616. It dominates Istanbul's majestic skyline with its elegant composition of ascending domes and six slender soaring minarets.

Even though the Blue Mosque is a tourist hotspot because of its tradition and importance to the history of the Ottoman Empire and the city of Istanbul, it is still operating as a mosque.


Topkapi Palace

Topkapı Palace was built in 1460 after the conquer of Constantinople by Fatih Sultan Mehmed and completed in 1478, making it the Ottomans' secound palace in Istanbul. This Palace was the imperial residence of Ottoman sultans and home to his court and harem until the middle of 19th century. It was the center of the state administration.

The Topkapı Palace Museum is notable for its architecture and collections as well as for the history and culture of the Ottoman Empire.

Underground Cistern

According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian in 532.

The cistern was built to meet the water needs of the Great Palace.  It has a giant structure covering a rectangular area of 140 meters in length and 70 meters in width. It is covering a total area of 9.800 m2. and has a storage capacity of approximately 100.000 tons of water. 

The entrance to the Basilica Cistern of Istanbul is across the street from the Hagia Sophia.

Great Palace Museum

The complex of palaces was rebuilt and expanded several times during its history. Much of the complex was destroyed during the Nika riots of 532 and was rebuilt lavishly by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century and used by later emperors until the 12th century.

The Great Palace of Constantinople was the magnificent residence of Byzantine emperors and their court officials including a golden throne room with wondrous mechanical devices, chapels, treasury, reception halls and gardens.

Turkish & Islamic Art Museum

The Turkish & Islamic Art Museum located in Sultanahmet Square. It was contructed in 1524 and once the palace of Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha, the second grand vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent. The museum displays fine examples of Islamic calligraphy, tiles, and rugs as well as ethnographic from various cultures in Turkey, particularly nomad groups.

Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam

The museum is located in the former Imperial Stables Building in Gülhane Park and opened on 25 May 2008. It displays replicas of 9th and 16th century scientific instruments of Muslim scholars such as a copy of the World Map drawn by Al-Idrisi based on the map of Caliph al-Me; the Elephant Clock and Hacamati, from the book of Al-Cezeri (from the year 1200); the Ibn-i Sinai’s Al-Qa’n fi’t Tıbb Medical Book. On a 3,500m2 exhibition area it shows a total of 570 samples of tools and devices, as well as model collections. Most of these examples of copies were made by the Institute for the History of Arab-Islamic Sciences at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt.

Archeoplogical Museum

Dating back to 1869, the Istanbul Archaeology Museums was first founded as the Imperial Museum with archaeological items. It consits of 3 museums, the Archaeological Museum itself, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Museum of Islamic Art. Istanbul Archaeology Museum houses over one million immense collection from various civilizations such as Assyrian, Hittite, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations that deeply effected throughout the history.  


Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Carşı = Covered Market)

The Grand Bazaar was built between 1455-1461 after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and was part of a broader initiative to stimulate economic prosperity in Istanbul. It covers an area of 30,700 m2. With its  61 covered streets, over 4,000 shops  several squares used for the daily prayers, 5 mosques, 7 fountains and 18 gates which were opened each day in the morning and closed in the evening, it is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It may has been one of the first shopping malls of the world.

Spice Market (Mısır Çarşı = Egyptian Market)

The Egyptian Market was built with the revenues from the Ottoman eyalet of Egypt in 1660 and completed in 1664. The bazaar was (and still is) the center for spice trade in Istanbul, but in recent years shops of other types are gradually replacing the sellers of spices.