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Istanbul

Istanbul

The splendid city of Istanbul has many unique and fascinating features. It is the only city in the world reaching across two continents, with its old city in Europe and modern Istanbul situated in Asia, separated by the Bosphorus Strait. It is also unique in having had capital status during two successive empires, Christian Byzantine and Islamic Ottoman, and the legacy from both is visible in the modern city today.

Istanbul’s location on the water made it a much coveted site as a commercial shipping port and military lookout, and as capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, as it was known, became extremely desirable as a centre of world trade, until Mehmet the Conqueror claimed it for the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and it became the imperial seat of the sultans. After the War of Independence the capital was moved to Ankara, but Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural heart of Turkey today.

The charm and character of Istanbul lies in its endless variety and jumble of contradictions. Its fascinating history has bequeathed the city a vivid inheritance of Byzantine ruins, splendid palaces, ancient mosques and churches, hamams (bath-houses) and exotic bazaars. Modern Istanbul exudes trendy bars and nightclubs, western boutiques, office blocks, and elegant suburbs. The call to prayer heralds the start of each day and the city comes to life with over 11 million residents forming a chaotic social and cultural mix of unscrupulous carpet merchants, wealthy shoppers, religiously veiled women and destitute beggars. Joining the noisy throng are over-awed tourists and those capitalizing on the tourist trade.

Topkapi Palace
Overlooking the Istanbul Bogazi and the Marmara Sea stands amaze of buildings that was once the great palace of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the I9th centuries. The first courtyard is a magnificent wooded garden. To the right of the second court, shaded by cypress and plane trees is the palace kitchen, now housing an exquisite collection of crystal, silver, and Chinese porcelain, while on the left is the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives and concubines of the sultan. The third court contains the Audience Hall of the sultan, the Library of Sultan Ahmet III, an exhibition of robes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the Imperial Treasury’ and finally, an exhibition of miniatures. In the center of the third court is the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle, enshrining relics of the Prophet Mohammed. (Open every day except Tuesday.) Topkapi Palace Museum Facebook Page

Dolmabahce Palace
Built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit, it has an impressive 600-meter frontage on the Istanbul Bogazi. The most important part is the vast reception salon, with 56 columns and a huge 750-bulb crystal chandelier weighing 4,5 ions. The architecture of the Harem is in stark contrast to that of the rest of the palace. The Bird Pavilion, where birds from all over the world were once kept is unique to this palace. Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, died here on November 10. 1938. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Beylerbeyi Palace
On the Asian side of the Istanbul Bogazi, this palace was built of white marble by Sultan Abdulaziz in the 19th century. It possesses a beautiful garden with magnolia trees and was used as a summer residence of the sultans and as a guest house for visiting foreign dignitaries. (Open every’ day except Monday and Thursday.)

Yildiz Palace
This palace includes a complex of pavilions and a mosque which were built over a long period and finally completed by Abdulhamit II at the end of the 19th century, The Sale, the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reflects the life of luxury of over a century ago. Yildiz Palace is set in a huge park with plants and trees brought from ever}’ part of the world. Situated on the top of a hill. it has one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Istanbul Bogazi. At present only the Sale and park are open to the public. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday.)

Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque (Blue Mosque)
Across from St. Sophia is the supremely elegant, imperial, six-minaret mosque of Sultanahmet I. Built between 1609 and 1616 by the architect Mehmet, it is known as the Blue Mosque because of its magnificent interior decoration of blue Iznik tiles. During the summer months, there is a light and sound show in the evening.

Suleymaniye Imperial Mosque
The mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, where he and his wife, Hurrem Sultan (Roxelane), are buried, is considered the most beautiful of all imperial mosques in Istanbul. It was built between 1550 and 1557 by the famous architect Sinan whose wish was to surpass the builders of St. Sophia. Erected on the crest of a hill, it is conspicuous from its great size, emphasized by the four minarets rising one from each comer of the courtyard. Inside, the mihrab (prayer niche showing the direction to Mecca) and the mimber (pulpit) are of finely carved white marble, and there are fine stained glass windows, Adjoining the mosque were theological schools, a school of medicine, a soup kitchen and hospice for the poor, a caravanserai and a Turkish bath.

Rustem Pasa Mosque
Another skilful accomplishment of the architect Sinan, this mosque was built in 1561 on the orders of Rustem Pasa, Grand Vizier and son-in-law of Suleyman the Magnificient. The exquisite interior is covered with some of the finest examples of Iznik tiles.

Imperial Fatih Mosque
This imperial mosque, constructed between 1463 and 1470, hears the name of the conqueror of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and Is the site of his mausoleum. Standing on top ol one of the hills of Istanbul, it is notable for its vast size and the great complex of religious buildings surrounding it: theological schools, hospices, a hospital, baths, a caravanserai and a library.

Eyup Mosque
The Great Mosque of Eyup is situated outside the city walls near the Golden Horn where Eyup, standard-bearer of the Prophet Mohammed, died in an assault on Constantinople in 670 A,D. His tomb is greatly venerated and attracts many pilgrims. This was the first mosque built after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul,

Yeni Mosque
Built between 1597 and 1663, this mosque, located at Eminonu, is one of the best known sights of Istanbul. An elegant fountain for ritual ablutions stands in the large courtyard and the sultan’s section is decorated with marvellous Iznik tiles.

Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosque
This 16th-century mosque, constructed on the slope of a hill below Sultanahmet Square, is one of the most beautiful examples of classical Turkish architecture and is a masterpiece of the architect Sinan. The pulpit and prayer niches are of special interest being covered with beautiful Iznik tiles.

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque (Edirnekapi)
This mosque was also designed by Sinan and built in 1555 by Mihrimah Sultana, the daughter of Suleyman the Magnificent, This majestic mosque has 161 windows (some with stained glass) in three rows on each side, filling this mosque with an abundance of light.

Ayasofya Museum (Saint Sophia)
This ancient basilica, built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, is one of the architectural marvels of all time- Its immense dome rises 55 meters above the ground and is 31 meters in diameter. The beautiful decorations include stunning Byzantine mosaics. (Open every day except Friday.)

Kariye Museum
The 1th-century church of “St. Saviour” in Chora is, after St. Sophia, the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul. The walls are decorated with superb 14th century frescoes and mosaics on a gold background. The church is a remarkable museum of Byzantine that influenced the European Renaissance, Here you will find a quiet, carefully tended garden facing old wooden houses where you can enjoy tea or coffee. (Open every day except Tuesday.) www.choramuseum.com

Yerebatan Sarnici
Close to St. Sophia 1s the 6th-century Byzantine cistern known as the Yerebatan Sarnici, Fine brick vaulting is supported by 336 Corinthian columns. (Open everyday except Tuesday.)

Archaeological Museums
These are situated on the perimeter of the first court of Topkapi Palace. The very rich collection of classical antiquities in the Archaeological Museum includes the celebrated Alexander Sarcophagus, and the Athena Temple from Assos. The Museum of the Ancient Orient displays antiquities from the Sumerian, Babylonian. Assyrian, Haiti and Hittite civilizations, (Open everyday except Monday.)

Cinili Kosk (The Museum of Turkish Ceramics)
This kosk, or pavilion, was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century. It contains beautiful Iznik tiles from the 16th century and fine examples of Seljuk and Ottoman tiles and ceramics. (Open everyday except Monday).

St. Irene Museum
St. Irene was the first church in Istanbul built by Constantine in the 4th century and rebuilt by Justinian. It is reputedly the site of a pre-Christian temple (Open everyday except Monday but by appointment only.)

Ibrahim Pasa Palace
(The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art) Built in 1524 by Ibrahim Pasa, Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent, it was the grandest private residence ever built in the Ottoman Empire. It is now used as a museum for many beautiful Turkish and Persian miniatures, Seljuk tiles. Korans and antique carpets. (Open everyday except Thursday.)

Military Museum
The exhibits from Ottoman military history include the great field tents used on campaigns. There are performances by the Mehter Takimi (the Ottoman military band) between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. (Open everyday except Monday and Tuesday.)

Sadberk Hanim Museum
A charming museum housed in two restored wooden villas. The museum is dedicated to old Turkish arts and handicrafts and includes an archaeological section, It is situated on the Istanbul Bogazi at Buyukdere. (Open everyday except Wednesday.)

Museum of Fine Arts
Located in Besiktas, it is one of the best museums in Turkey for paintings and sculptures from the end of the 19th century to the present. (Open everyday except Monday and Tuesday.)

Museum of Turkish Carpets
A museum near the Sultanahmet Mosque which contains a fine collection of Turkish carpets and kilims, including some very old ones. (Open everyday except Sunday and Monday.)

Mosaic Museum
This museum was built to preserve “insitu” the exceptionaly fine mosaic pavements from the 5th and 6th centuries which ” were in the Great Palace of The Byzantine” Emperor. (Open everyday except Monday.)

Sehir (City) Museum
This museum houses a collection of objects dating from the Turkish conquest of Istanbul to the present day. The entrance is by the Yildiz Palace Garden. (Open everyday except Thursday.)

Yildiz Palace Theatre and the Historic Stage
Costumes Museum with their rich scenery, full- size stage and exquisite costumes, are located within the garden of the palace. (Open every day except Monday.)

Museum of Industry (Rahmi Koc Industry Museum)
Located in the suburb ol Haskoy on the coast of the Golden Horn, this 18th-century Ottoman iron and steel works building (formerly known as Lengerhane, “iron works”), has exhibits tracing industrial development. (Open every day except Monday).

Caricature Museum
This museum in the Fatih quarter is in the 16th-century Gazanler Aga Medrese. (Open weekdays 09:00-18:00).

Sultanahmet Square
In front of the Blue Mosque is the site of the ancient Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life. Of the monuments which once adorned it, only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. Remains from the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen to the south of the three monuments. Today, it is the center of historical, cultural and touristic activities. The square, with its surrounding area resembles an open-air museum. The 18th-century houses on Sogukcesme Street, delightfully restored, are now guest houses for tourists and also contain a fascinating library of books on Istanbul.

Ahmet III Fountain
Situated at the entrance to Topkapi Palace and built in 1729 as a gift to Ahmet III. it is one of the most magnificent free standing fountains. Highly ornamented and covered with a generous pointed roof, it is a fine example of fountain architecture.

Rumeli Hisari
The Rumelian Fortress, built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 prior to the conquest of Istanbul, was completed in only four months, and is one of the most beautiful works of military architecture anywhere in the world. Its amphitheater is now used as the setting for some ol the events in the Istanbul Music Festival, (Open every day except Mondays.)

Galata Tower
This huge tower, built by the Genoese in 1348 is 62 meters high. From the top, there is a wonderful view of the Golden Horn and the Istanbul Bogazi. It houses, a restaurant, nightclub and bar now.

Beyazit Tower
Located on the grounds of Istanbul University, it was built by Mahmut 11 in 1828 as a fire lower, and is 85 meters high.

The Istanbul Walls
Built in the 5th century by the Emperor Theodosius II, the walls (with some sections completely restored) stretch 7 km from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. With many towers and bastions, they were once the mightiest fortifications in Europe. UNESCO has declared die walls and the area which they enclose cultural heritages of the world.

Bozdogan-Valens Aqueduct
Built by the Emperor Valens in 368 A,D., this aqueduct supplied first the Byzantine and later the Ottoman palaces with water. About 900 meters of the doubletier arches remain.

Kiz Kulesi (The Tower of Leander)
Kiz Kulesi is one of the romantic symbols of Istanbul. First constructed in the 12th century on a tiny islet at the entrance to Istanbul Harbour, the present building dates from the 18th century.

Grand Bazaar
The oldest and biggest enclosed bazaar in the world, also known as the Grand Bazaar, is one of the most enticing and mesmerizing attractions in Istanbul. Consisting of a vast labyrinth of 65 twisting streets crammed with more than 4,000 shops, teahouses, Hamams.

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