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 Turkey Travel Guide 

 Best Places to Visit in Istanbul

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     Overview  Topkapi Palace  The Grand Mosques   Hagia Sofia  The Yerebatan Cistern and Hippodrome Area    The Bazaars   Dolmabahaçe Palace   The Bosporus

 

Overview  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Istanbul Airport Private Arrival Transfer

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Istanbul Ottoman Relics Half-Day Tour: Topkapi Palace, Rustem Pasha Mosque, Grand Bazaar

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

Istanbul is Turkey's largest city with a  population estimated at approximately fourteen million.  It is divided into two sections  by the Bosporus, a narrow, 18 mile long, channel that links the Black Sea to the north with the Sea of Mamara to the south, which is subsequently connected to the Aegean Sea by a historically famous straight known as the Dardanelles..  The western shore of the Bosporus marks the eastern edge of Europe while its eastern shore is considered part of Asia. . The majority of Istanbul's population and popular attractions are found on the European side of the city.

Istanbul is a city of historical  aliases.  It was known as Constantinople when it was the site of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, although originally it was called Byzantium when founded in 330 AD.  In1453 Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans and, eventually, was renamed Istanbul.  The  Emperor Mehmet, the Conqueror, made the city the new capital of the Ottoman Empire (replacing Edirne) and Istanbul became the home of the most powerful Islamic empire in world history. 

After reaching its peak power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman dynasty slowly deteriorated and was a shell of its former glory by the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Ottoman Empire was abolished in 1922 after the war of Turkish Independence. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who led the victorious forces in the War of Independence, is regarded as the “father of modern Turkey” and remains a popular historical figure for the Turkish people to this day.  He moved the capital for Turkey to Ankara and  Istanbul did not regain its global importance until the 1950s.

The majority of the celebrated antiquities of Istanbul are found on the “European” or western  side of the Bosporus and concentrated to the south of the famous "Golden Horn", an 8 km (4.8 miles) long, natural port located on a deep, freshwater estuary.

There is some debate as to whether the name of the Golden Horn derives from the shape of the estuary or the fertile soil and  abundant fishing that was associated with this area in the past.   Although modern boats can dock here with ease, in Byzantine times the entrance to the Golden Horn was blocked by a chain that was used to deny access to enemies or those in disfavor with the emperor.

The Golden horn separates  the Old City (Sultanahmet) from the more modern Beyoglu.  You will want to spend the majority of your time in the Old City, but you will find that major shopping areas, many of the best restaurants, and the Dolmbahce Palace are to the north across the Galata Bridge in Beyoglu.

Travel using conventional taxi’s or water taxis is common.  Istanbul offers plenty of scenic areas for walking, but the different sections of the city are relatively far apart.  Do not hesitate to grab a taxi when the day grows hot or the distance to walk back to your hotel is too long.  Eventually you are going to want to see the eastern side of the city and a water taxi is just the ticket. 

Arriving in Istanbul usually equates with sensory overload, as it is truly the place where East meets West.  If you arrive by boat, the view from the docks is a feast for the eyes, as the combination of modern and historical architectural styles assault the senses.

While one expects mosques to abound in Istanbul, the profile of the Old City, dominated by massive domes and minarets reaching for the sky, is spectacular. It is hard to arrive in Istanbul without feeling that you have arrived at a place of significant historic and modern importance.

 

 

The Suleymaniye mosque viewed from the Golden Horn

When docking in Istanbul on a cruise, you will see the beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Istanbul City Hop-on Hop-off Tour

From Viator Tours

 

 

Best Places to Visit in Istanbul Top of Page
 

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) was built by Mehmet the Conqueror and dates from 15th century.   It served as the primary royal palace for the Sultans and royal families of the Ottoman Empire until  the mid-19th century.

Topkapi Palace, sits on the edge of the old city overlooking both the Bosporus and the Golden Horn.  Although Topkapi was extended, remodeled and rebuilt several times during the Ottoman reign, the architectural styles make for a pleasant blend.  The Palace is the one site in Istanbul that seems to capture the imagination of all visitors to the City.  It is, also, the most popular attraction in Istanbul.

The Palace complex, which is surrounded by over five kilometers of walls, was established when the capital of the Ottoman Empire was moved here following the conquest of the city in 1453. The Palace was abandoned in 1853 when the Dolmabahaçe Palace was constructed.  Topkapi was converted to a public museum in the 1920s, shortly after the War of Turkish Independence.

   A room in the Harem, showning the luxury and comfort provided the royal family

View of one of the  rooms in the Harem at Topkapi Palace.  Entry is limited and  the interior of the Harem can be seen only if you take the Harem tour. İThereArePlaces or Its Suppliers

The palace was used for state occasions but also served as the private residence of the sultans and their harems (their wives, families and various staff).  Because of this relationship, Topkapi offers the visitor a number of unique perspectives on the lives of the Ottoman sultans.

Topkapi houses fine collections of Ottoman artifacts including imperial jewels, porcelain, armor and weapons (although some are so jewel encrusted (for example to famous and gorgeous Topkapi Dagger) that  it is doubtful they were used for fighting.  In addition, the Topkapi museum includes holy relics of the Prophet Mohammed that are revered throughout the Islamic world.

Note that there is a great interest in the are of the Palace known as the Harem and, if you intend on visiting areas once shared by the royal family, you must buy a ticket for the Harem tour.  Entry to the Harem is limited and you should attempt to make a reservation to visit as soon as you arrive in Istanbul.

Topkapi is open from 19:00 to 17:00 every day except Tuesday with the ticket booths closing an hour earlier.  Note that the hours can vary by season so check locally.  As noted above, the Harem is a separate tour and ticket.  See the official website for detailed information on visiting.

         

  

Everywhere you look in Topkapi Palace you will see signs of luxury and the immense wealth of the Ottoman Empire.  The decorative detail  is splendid and worth a quick study .  İThereArePlaces or Its Suppliers

For the next page in our Istanbul Guide, click here

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The Topkapi Palace has numerous beautiful views of Istanbul

Looking toward the "New City" from Topkapi Palace

 

 

 

The Harem one of the most interesting sections of Topkapi Palace

A view of the warren of rooms that comprise the interior of the Harem

 

 

 

 
More Istanbul

Grand Mosques
Hagia Sofia
The Bazaars
Yerebatan Cistern
Dolmabahaçe Palace
The Bosporus

Best Places to Visit in Turkey

 

 

 

Looking towards Hagia Sophia from the Topkapi Palace

 

 

 

 

 

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