10 Places to Visit in Istanbul, Tourist Places & Top Attractions
Galata Tower
Image Credit : Image by Sinasi Muldur from Pixabay
The Galata Tower, called Christea Turris by the Genoese, is a medieval tower in the Galata Quarter of Istanbul, Turkey , which was built in 1348. It is a high cone capped, cylindrical tower that offers a 360 degree view of the historic town of Istanbul.

The tower has nine stories and is 66.90 m or 219 ft high and was the city’s tallest structure when it was built. Located close to the main junction of Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, it is the ideal place to see Istanbul’s peninsula and the surroundings from a different perspective.

Originally named as the Tower of Christ, Galata Kulesi has so much to offer to its tourists. With scintillating vistas, narrow cobbled streets filled with cafes, restaurants and small art galleries, the area around Galata is zestful all day long.

Entertain yourself with a nightclub on the upper floors of the tower which host a Turkish show. Also relish the scenic Golden Horn, visit highlights like the Eyup Sultan Mosque and enjoy a traditional Turkish coffee with mouth-watering baklava at the hilltop Pierre Loti Café.
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Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is one of the treasured heritage monuments in Istanbul that reminisces of the Byzantine era of architecture. It had been a multi-faceted monument with first being a Greek orthodoxy cathedral, then a mosque and now, a museum.

The exhibition hall is home to a huge collection of mosaics, coverings and marble pillars that age back to several centuries. Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty in Istanbul that stands as a testimony to the glorious past.

Hagia Sophia was built in 532 AD and it was considered the largest cathedral in the whole world for almost a millennium up until 1520. It served as a cathedral for Greeks until 1935 and was then converted into Ayasofya Museum by the president Kemal Ataturk.

At that point of time, the carpets from the floor were removed and it was the first time the intricate design works on the floor came into the limelight. The work of mosaics and frescoes will keep anyone stunned by their majestic and marvellous presence.

Being tourists you would certainly fall in love with some of the points of interest in this monument like the marble door, wishing column and loge of the empress. The museum has been subjected to several renovation and restoration work by the government of Turkey to preserve this heritage building and make it a centre of tourist attraction in the country.

Zillions of tourists have been visiting this architectural marvel year over year. If you are planning to visit Istanbul during your holiday vacation, then do not miss out on visiting this place and getting inspired by the engineering and architecture of the bygone times.
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Princes' Islands
Princes' Islands are a cluster of nine beautiful islands in the Marmara Sea off the Asian coast of Istanbul. Out of these nine islands, only four are famous and operative, to which many fast and regular paced ferries carry thousands of people every day from the neighbouring cities of Turkey.

The names of the famous four islands are Buyukada, Heybeliada, Burgazada and Kinaliada. Earlier used as a place of exile, the Princes' Islands today have become one of the most famous tourist spots for a nice and peaceful excursion from the everyday chaotic urban lives. Its prohibition of vehicles allows it to become one of the most peaceful weekend getaways.

Since the only modes of transportation on these islands are horse carts (fayton) and bicycles, it instantly takes you back to the good old days. The large monasteries and museums, like St Yorgi Monastery and Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum, attract large numbers of art and history lovers who don't mind exploring its hidden treasures along with being close to nature.

The beaches on these islands offer the feeling of serenity and a sight to behold. Many youngsters come all the way to enjoy their adventure sports like wall climbing, beach surfing, motorboating, etc. Along with that, the beachside brunch of Turkish seafood acts as their icing on the cake.
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Topkapi Palace
Located in Istanbul, Turkey, Topkapi Palace is a vibrant and picturesque reminder of the grandeur of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire of Turkey. It literally meant “Cannon Gate” in Turkish and was built in 1459 by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.

It was of great importance in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was used by the Sultan and his bevy of concubines. In fact, even now, the Imperial Harem is one of the top attractions here! When the sun came down on the Ottoman Empire, Topkapi Palace was converted by the government into a museum, reminiscent of the magnificent Ottoman Empire.

The top two places that have recorded maximum tourist footfall in the palace are the Ottoman Imperial Harem and the treasury of the sultans. It is here that the world-famous Spoonmaker’s diamond and Topkapi dagger are housed!

The lesser-known items which are equally beautiful are the armor, clothing, and manuscripts found here dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries! On account of its age, beauty, and the volumes it tells us about the lives of the flamboyant sultans of the Ottoman empire, it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is one of the largest and most popular cisterns located in Istanbul. Among the hundreds of cisterns, Basilica Cistern is the largest one open to the public. It lies in the prominent peninsula that is also home to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Built by the infamous Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the year 542, the structure was used to meet the water needs of the palaces.

The Basilica Cistern is a famous historical site that brings millions of tourists every year. It is approximately 140 meters in length and 70 meters in breadth, spanning across an area of 9,800 square meters. The grand cistern consists of 336 columns, 9 meters long and placed 4.8 meters away.

Each of the columns is different from one another. The most noteworthy part of the Basilica Cistern is the two Medusa heads. The two heads bespoke the marvellous Roman architecture and are believed to be taken from a famous antique building. Located on the north-western side of the cistern, the two heads form the base of two pillars.

It could hold 80,000 cubic meters of water that was filtered and sent to the Great Palace of Constantinople and other important buildings on the First Hill. The Basilica Cistern was opened to tourists in 1987 after the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality made extensive repairs. Also known as the Subterranean Palace, the grand structure of marble pillars makes for a great tourist experience.
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Dolmabahçe Palace
Regionally greeted as Dolmabahçe Sarayı, Dolmabahce Palace is a luxuriant villa in Istanbul positioned along the picturesque European shore of the Bosphorus Strait. This majestic imperial villa is the true emblem of Ottoman architectural fascination that is praised as the most expensive mansion in the world ($1.5 billion in current estimation).

Certainly, the most attractive sites to visit in Istanbul, Dolmabahce Palace proudly flaunts its ancient glory through the structural finishing ornamented with a myriad of expensive gemstones, gold, and everything vibrant that add charm to each nook and crack of the building.

Situated between Harem and Mabeyn Muayede, Dolmabahce Palace formerly operated as the prime administrative office of the Ottoman kingdom. The palace was commissioned by Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid and modeled by architects Garabet Balyan along with his son Evanis Kalfa and Nigoğayos Balyan.

Established between the years 1843 and 1856 (13 years of craftsmanship), Dolmabahçe Palace owns three symmetrically projected floors incorporating 285 cabins, 44 galleries, 68 toilets, and 6 Turkish baths. The central decoration is exclusively dripped in lavishness through the influx of extremely high-priced Doma furnishings, artifacts, and other varieties of ornamental pieces that assuredly transmit the visitors in an awestruck state of mind, all credit goes to French artist M.Sechan.

The name of the palace "Dolmabahce" itself implies ‘filled-in garden’ and that completely makes sense when one realizes the inside and the outside sections of the mansion are beautified with innumerable diverse flowers, approached by the profound  Italian artists of the time.

The blissful charm of the whole inside-outside panorama of the palace is waiting to astonish your eyes and soul with the most breath-taking vistas that seem to transcend beyond the evanescent realm.
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Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, also famously known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the most visited tourist places and applauded for its great architecture. The mosque shines like a blue diamond at night due to the beautiful reflection it creates from the falling lights from minarets.

The interiors consist of hand painted blue tiles and a beautiful combination of the Turkish (Ottoman) empire, Byzantine empire and traditional Islamic architecture. The mosque’s foundation site is the palace site of the Byzantine emperor and in front of the famous museum Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet square.

It is a functioning mosque and the complex contains Sultan Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and an infirmary constructed between 1609 – 1616. With the capacity to accommodate 10,000 at a time and the only mosque in Istanbul with six minarets, this mosque is a UNESCO world heritage site and a major tourist destination.
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Taksim Square
One of Istanbul’s most visited tourist destinations, Taksim Square is situated in Beyoğlu in the European part of the city in Turkey. It serves as the transfer point for locals where one can meet and truly experience the place filled with shops of every kind, legendary buildings, and cultural centers.

Taksim is an ideal tourist destination famed for its Turkish restaurants, luxury hotels, and historical significance. The famous Republic Monument stands in the heart of this square, was hand-crafted by Pietro Canonica, which commemorates the formation of the Turkish Republic.

The square used to be the epicenter of main water lines from the north of the city, where the water collected was branched off to other parts of it. When you are walking down Istiklal Street, the main street parallel to Taksim Square, you will see many forms of color and life that will reflect the culture and the people of Istanbul.

The streets are filled with shops, food joints, restaurants, hotels where you can interact and experience the destination in your way. Entertainment in Taksim Square can come in many forms. It can be a smile of an innocent child or a Turkish Ice-Cream performance.

With its lively surroundings, the area around the square is alive from dawn to dusk, and dawn again. Browse through different shops and discover local talent embedded in their handmade products ranging from clothing to utilities.

Discover hidden food stores and many more places by interacting with locals. You can also plan your own route to get lost in Taksim Square’s special passages through nostalgic trams. Give yourself up to Istanbul’s culture as you take a stroll around the block, and witness many talented buskers showcasing their art.
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Grand Bazaar
The world’s oldest and largest covered market is located in the heart of Istanbul! The popular and historical Grand Bazaar attracts thousands of visitors and shoppers every day from across the world. Grand Bazaar stays true to its name as the market space sprawls over an area of 30,700 thousand square metres.

It harbours over 4,000 shops, lined along 62 covered lanes that sell everything from apparels and home decor to edibles and items specific to the Turkish culture and cuisine. It is also considered as one of the very first shopping malls in the world and was once a booming hub and centre of the world’s trade and commerce. 

The world-known bazaar is associated with a rich background of history in terms of its conception. The first structure of the bazaar, Cevahir Bedesten was ordered to be built by Sultan Mehmed II for the sole purpose of trading of textiles and jewels, in order to collect income for Hagia Sophia.

In the present day, Grand Bazaar epitomises the Turkish architecture at its best and is one of the most appealing tourist spots Istanbul. It’s enormous structure is an eye-catching edifice in itself, reeling in people’s attention and curiosity from around the world.

Exploring the market through its many lanes serves as an experience that can only be regarded as unique, pertaining to its chic boutiques, range of shopping items and the massive size and variety it offers. The bazaar is as gigantic as a labyrinth, which is what astounds first-time visitors and holds their intrigue in every way.

The market remains open from 10 AM to 7 PM and stays closed on Sunday. It sells a variety of items, from carpets and ceramic items to hammam soaps and traditional confections. The magical Turkish lamps and jewellery also make a good part of the items sold at the shops here. Grand Bazaar has been one of the primary areas of attraction for tourists and continues to be so.
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Hippodrome
The Hippodrome was a venue for sporting events and social centre in the capital city of Byzantine Empire of Constantinople. During ancient times, in the Byzantine era, people used to spend time watching various races that included horse racing and chariot racing.

Hippodrome of Constantinople was an arena that mainly organised chariot races. The term hippodrome derives from two Greek words Hippo (horse) and dromos (way). For this very reason, in Turkish, the place is still sometimes referred to as Atmeydanı, which translates to Horse Square.

The arena was in operation during the Roman period from 203-330 CE, Byzantine period from 330-1453 CE, and the Ottoman period from 1453-1922. Today a busy city has been built around the remains of the original structure, naming the square as Sultanahmet Meydani (Sultan Ahmed Square).

The city of Istanbul has very intelligently incorporated the circus, the statues, the obelisks, with the modern landscape and turned into one of the most prominent and lively places. The Hippodrome was the second-largest track for horse racing in ancient times, following Circus Maxima in Rome.

 In place of what used to be racetracks, an arena for many other kinds of entertainment for the emperors, today stands an open-air museum that displays relics of ancient times. Today only small parts of Sphendone, a semicircular southern end, exist amidst the busy city of Istanbul.

The galleries, central spine, and starting boxes have all been destroyed during the Fourth Crusade and dismantled completely during the Ottoman period. It started as a circus, but with time it proceeded to be a steadfast part of the residents of the region.
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