From palaces to bazaars, and mosques to monuments, Istanbul has anything and everything a traveler would wish to visit in a city. Istanbul, the most populous city in Turkey, is unique in that it separates Europe and Asia at the Black Sea. Also known for its vital role in history, the city has changed names numerous times over the years. Originally, from its first settlement in 660 BC, the city was known as Byzantium, eventually becoming Constantinople and when finally taken over by the Ottoman Empire changed again to Istanbul, where it’s remained ever since. The complex history of Istanbul has culminated into a vibrant city, full of culture, entertainment and remarkable attractions.
1. Topkapi Palace
Start off the day at one of Istanbul’s most historical attractions, Topkapi Palace. Built in the 15th century as a royal residence for the Ottoman Empire, the palace overlooks the Sea of Marmara and has been a museum since 1924. Surrounded by walls, gardens, and gates, the massive palace is constantly guarded by the Turkish Military, signifying the cultural importance of the building. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the palace are the Harem Apartments, which are comprised of more than 300 rooms that housed the Ottoman Sultan’s wives, children, and other family members.
2. Istanbul Archaeology Museums
Located directly behind Topkapi Palace are the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. The museums are comprised of three buildings: Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. With Istanbul being a city comprised of great historical value, the museum houses some of the most magnificent artifacts in the entire world. Out of the million artifacts and objects within the museum some of the most famous include the Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, fragments from the temple of Athena, and tablets of the Egyptian-Hittite peace treaty which dates back to 1,258 BC.
3. Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Also located within the historical section of Istanbul is Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya as it is known in Turkish. An architectural masterpiece, with its massive dome and beautiful interior design, the building has had a tremendous amount of religious history. With the continuous turnover within the city since its first settlement, the church had changed religions numerous times from Eastern Orthodox, to Roman Catholic, and then back to Eastern Orthodox. From the 15th century to the early 1930s, it was a mosque until it was finally turned into a museum.
4. Grand Bazaar
Just a 15-minute walk north and you will find yourself immersed in one of the busiest marketplaces in the entire world. Grand Bazaar, which covers 60 streets with over 4,000 shops can be a tricky place for visitors if you’re not prepared. Before going, you should definitely be aware of a few things. Having a map to navigate through the complex network of shops is key and don’t fall prey to any shop owners forcing you into a deal. Instead, don’t be fooled as you can bargain for a good deal. The Grand Bazaar is famous for its jewelry, handbags, and antiques, which are usually sold at inexpensive prices.