The detailed explanation is below the pictures.
Located in the center of the Old World, Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities famous for its historical monuments and magnificent scenic beauties. It is the only city in the world which spreads over two continents: it lies at a point where Asia and Europe are separated by a narrow strait – the Bosphorus. Istanbul has a history of over 2,500 years, and ever since its establishment on this strategic junction of lands and seas, the city has been a crucial trade center. The historic city of Istanbul is situated on a peninsula flanked on three sides by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. It has been the capital of three great empires, the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and for more than 1,600 years over 120 emperors and sultans ruled the world from here. No other city in the world can claim such a distinction.
Home to one of the richest collections of Classical articacts in the world, the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul is well worth a visit, and also contains important treasures from pre-Classical times. The museum houses 20 separate galleries, so plan on taking some time to view the pieces of history on display here, spanning over 5,000 years. Especially worth examining are the sarcophogi, with friezes depicting Alexander the Great, an inspiring gallery on “Istanbul Through the Ages,” and the Treaty of Kadesh- the original tablet containing the words of the world’s oldest surviving peace treaty, signed in 1269 BC by the Egyptians and Hittites, with clauses for a cessation of hostilities, and for the return of political refugees.
This Baroque Palace on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus was built in 1860-65 by Sultan Abdul Aziz as a summer residence and was used by heads of state to entertain important visitors. One such occasion was in 1869, when the Empress Eugenie of France, in Istanbul on her way to the opening of the Suez Canal, was slapped across the face by the sultan’s mother for daring to enter the palace arm-in-arm with Abdul Aziz. Undeterred and nonetheless impressed, the Empress later had a copy of the window in the Beylerbeyi guestroom made for her own bedroom in Paris. Perhaps no greater endorsement of the elegance of the palace needs to be given.
It’s hard to miss the Dolmabahce Palace, an enormous walled palace guarded in by handsomely dressed, rigidly disciplined Turkish soldiers. Sitting on the shores of the Bosphorus in Besiktas, the Palace was built by Sultan Abdul Mecit in 1856. Often, visiting heads of state would be greeted by the Turkish Sultan or President, who would stand awaiting them on the docks of Dolmabahce. Once inside, marvel at the extravagance of the design, the seeming fragility of the crystal staircase, the beauty of the Imperial gardens, the stunning views of the Bosphorus from the alabaster-lined bathroom, and the grandeur of the Ceremonial Hall, where the heaviest chandelier in the world hangs pendulously from the ceiling. Also, take some time to notice the clocks- they are all stopped at 9:05, the exact time when on the morning of November 10, 1938, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, died in his bedroom here.
This 65 meter (205 ft) tower forms a distinctive silhouette high above the Galata (Beyoglu) side of the Golden Horn. Built in 1348 by the Genoese and called the “Tower of Christ”, its most obvious function was as a defensive watchtower. It was also the launching pad for a notable eccentric, Ahmed Hazerfan Celebi, who in the 17th century built himself a pair of wings and flew off the tower, much to the delight of the sultan, who watched along with other astonished Istanbulites. Today, the panoramic views of passing ships are admired by tourists, rather than guards or flying bird-men, and the top two floors have been converted into a restaurant and nightclub.
The Haghia Sophia is one of the most famous structures in the world, and if any one building can be said to give a real sense of Istanbul’s history, then this is it. Built nearly 1,500 years ago and completed in 537 under Emperor Justinian, this towering, beautiful edifice has seen the changing fortunes of the city from earthquakes, to torching by rebels, to the plundering and desecration of marauding Crusaders. Once the largest enclosed space in the world, it was built as a cathedral by the Byzantines to illustrate the strength and wealth of the empire, and it still stands today as a fantastic testament to their accomplishments. Later Ottoman architects, including the most famous, Mimar Sinan, spent most of their careers trying to emulate the technology and proportions of this enormous building. Nowadays, while standing and gazing upwards into the massive dome with daylight piercing through the small windows, visitors, catching glimpses of the sparkling mosaics, can easily understand why the Haghia Sophia remains one of the most inspiring buildings in the world.
Dating from the early 12th century, the former Church of The Saviour in Chora contains some of Istanbul’s finest Byzantine frescoes and mosaics, depicting the life of Christ, which are superbly preserved and tremendously evocative. Plastered over during the 18th century when the Chora became a mosque, these vibrant and important pieces of Byzantine art were originally commissioned in 1315 by philosopher, theologian and senior Byzantine official Theodore Metochites. The frescoes were not brought to light until W.W.II, when they were discovered by American archaeologists Wittemore and Underwood. The frescoes and mosaics you will see here at Kariye are not only truly amazing works of art, but are significant, moving pieces of history.
There are two equally compelling myths surrounding the names of this ancient tower on a tiny islet just offshore of Uskudar. In Turkish it is known as the “Maiden’s Tower”, after a legendary princess who was confined here by her father after a prophesy foretold that she would die of a snakebite. Not surprisingly, she did not outdo fate, and was bitten by a snake lying hidden in a basket of fruit. The other myth is that of Leander, a Greek who was said to have swum the Hellespont (actually located a bit further south, today the Dardanelles) each night to visit his lover Hero. In more recent years this storied, unmistakable monument has served as a quarantine tower, a lighthouse, a customs point, a toll center, and a movie set for the James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Today, reservations are necessary for the café/restaurant which now occupies this little island sitting in the middle of the Bosphorus.
Massive, impressive and possessing a stoic beauty, this fortress situated at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus was built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 as a first step in his conquest of Byzantine Constantinople. In just four months, this imposing structure, virtually unchanged in over five centuries, was constructed under the supervision of three Generals, each under pain of death if they didn’t complete it on time. Known as The Fortress of Europe, its cannons were trained on foreign ships sailing from the North. After the sinking of a Venetian vessel, the Bosphorus was blocked and the city cut off from re-supply. This was accomplished by stretching an enormous chain, the “throat cutter,” with links the size of a small car across the Bosphorus, isolating the city and making Mehmet’s conquest markedly easier. Today, during summer days, a quite different atmosphere pervades, as live concerts are held within the walls, Asia just across the water serving as a dramatic backdrop.
Rustem Pasa Mosque
This unassuming little mosque is easy to miss, but may come as a welcome respite from the tempo of modern Istanbul. Here, once you enter an ordinary archway and leave behind the crowds of the street below, you are carried away into the flow of another time. The mosque was built in 1561 by the great imperial architect Mimar Sinan, and is a perfect illustration of the city’s paradoxical beauty- the fast-paced bustle of modernity coexisting with an other-worldly spiritual simplicity.
Sadberk Hanim Museum
You’ll have to take a trip up the Bosphorus to visit this museum, past curving harbors dotted by waterfront mansions, colossal official buildings and consulates, and picturesque little seaside cafés. The first private museum to open in Turkey (1981), the Sadberk Hanim Museum’s collection spans the length of two typical Bosphorus yalis, or waterfront mansions. Exhibits here include artificacts arranged chronologically from the late Neolithic period (5400 BC) onward, including large displays of Roman gold jewellery, a beautifully arranged ethnography section, Byzantine crosses, Greek and Phrygian metalwork and pottery, and Assyrian cuneiform tablets. If you have already visited the Grand Bazaar, you may be delighted to hear that many of the treasures on display were found hidden there and at other Istanbul markets. If not, maybe this great collection will give you an idea of what to look for.
If you approach Istanbul by sea, this great mosque, commissioned in 1550 by Suleyman the Magnificent, the richest and most powerful of the Ottoman sultans, will probably be your first impression of the city. Suleymanie Mosque stands at the crest of a large ridge on the Golden Horn, where even amongst the skyscrapers of today’s Istanbul, it still dominates the city’s skyline, as it has for nearly four and a half centuries. Inside, the mosque impresses both with its awesome size, and with its sacred simplicity, which is undisturbed except by gorgeous stained-glass windows done by a glazier of much renown, and known as “Ibrahim the Drunkard.” Mimar Sinan, the greatest of the Ottoman architects, said after seven years of construction on this project, “I have built thee, O emperor, a mosque which will remain on the face of the earth until judgement day.” Sinan, who lived on the grounds for many years and met his own judgement day at the grand old age of 97, was buried in a small tomb in the courtyard outside the mosque, where you can pay your respects to him. Not far from the mosque you will see a walled garden, which Sultan Suleyman “the Magnificent” and his crafty wife Roxelana, the inspiration for many a royal scandal, chose as their own final resting places.
The Blue Mosque
You may wonder why this marvellous structure (Sultan Ahmet Camii in Turkish) built directly opposite the Haghia Sofia is known to Westerners as the Blue Mosque. The reason becomes obvious once you step inside (you’ll be obliged to take off your shoes), where you will see that much of the interior is covered by spectacular Iznik tiles, which are overwhelmingly blue. With its awesome size and six towering minarets this mosque was originally seen as a controversial and sacrilegious attempt to rival the architectural grandeur of Mecca. You really must go inside to experience the inexplicable feeling of peace that resonates through this marvellously spacious and beautifully decorated mosque. A glorious structure indeed, the Blue Mosque is nearly 1000 years newer than the Haghia Sofia, yet the exquisite harmony of these two sacred structures facing one another across a large courtyard is an experience not to be missed on any trip to Istanbul.
Mark Twain once waxed lyrical about approaching Istanbul by sea. He was right, nothing quite matches the sight of the elegant domes and minarets appearing majestically on the shoreline of the Bosphorus. This shimmering stretch of water really gives the city a sense of space and by joining the continents of Asia and Europe, the Bosphorus magically transforms the city. Tiny fishing boats bobbing in the wake of huge ships, freshly fried fish served at the water’s edge and children diving in to cool off in the heat of summer all add to the timeless attraction of this historical seaway. Taking the same route as did Jason in his quest for the Golden fleece, a boat trip from the Old City, where jostling buildings compete for space, towards the wide open Black Sea, is the best way to see Istanbul’s elegant side as the journey reveals grand old wooden houses, towering fortresses and picturesque coves.
The Grand Bazaar
An unbelievable place… The Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi, or Covered Bazaar in Turkish) is the largest retail space of its type in the world. Big enough, in fact, that it contains within its labyrinth of streets a school, a police station, banks, restaurants, several mosques, and an estimated 25,000 employees working at literally thousands of shops. The complex was built by Sultan Mehmet II and covers several city blocks, each of them filled with salesmen who will do their best to entice you away from the savvy competition. Spare some time, prepare to bargain, and plan to immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere.
Once the location of a gigantic stadium holding an estimated 100,000 people, the Hippodrome was not just the scene of chariot races, but was the political epicenter of Byzantine Constantinople. Here in 532 AD the rivalry between the upper class Blues and the working class Greens manifested itself in a full scale riot, with the massacre of over 30,000 and much of the city being destroyed in the process. For over 1,300 years the Hippodrome became the barometer for rulers of the Empire. If things were going badly a restless crowd would gather, growing to a disturbance, and often ending up in a revolution. Not much of the original site is left, but an array of relics gives a sense of its glorious past, such as the Serpentine Column, (minus of course the snakes’ heads that were knocked off by a drunken Polish nobleman in the 18th century), and the Egyptian obelisk which once stood in Luxor nearly four millennia ago.
The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts
Many say that if you only have time for one museum in Istanbul, it should be the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. Housing over 40,000 artifacts, this museum is located on the Hippodrome across from the Blue Mosque. With fascinating displays from the Mamluk, Seldjuk, and Ottoman periods, this engaging museum will give you some deep insights into the profound religious and cultural history of Turkey. The visiting exhibitions on the first floor are invariably of high quality, and the upstairs café is a great place to relax your tired feet and look out across the Sultanahment area.
The Princes Islands
These once favourite haunts for exiled Royal women, dethroned Emperors, pirates and even a fleeing Leon Trotsky, are now, on summer mornings, the destinations for ferries full of people heading for the tranquil respite of nine beautiful islands lying a mere 45-minute journey offshore from Istanbul. The red-cliffed islands are dotted with beautiful monasteries, ancient convents, Greek Orthodox churches, temples, and synagogues. Four of the larger islands are worth a visit and come as a welcome contrast to the bustle of the city, with not a car in sight- they’re banned! The mode of transport is strictly horse and carriage, and really there’s no better way to explore these lovely islands. With a decidedly 19th century ambience, all ice-creams, elegant buildings and promenades, the peaceful atmosphere makes for a relaxing visit while giving a stunning view of the city in the distance.
The Spice Bazaar
Find the flavor of Istanbul here… Known as the Egyptian Bazaar in Turkish (Misir Carsisi), this is of one of the best places from which to take a taste of the city home with you. One of numerous markets in Istanbul, this is a great one to stroll through, sampling the aromatic air of spices from across Turkey, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. You will also probably be enticed by other shops of all flavors and types, selling goods ranging from sweets and spices to clothes, watches, Turkish souvenirs, exotic aphrodisiacs, Iranian caviar and Turkish saffron.
Walk in the footsteps of Courtesans and Eunuchs, Grand Viziers and Sultans, and glimpse a way of life that redefines decadence. Topkapi Palace, powerful seat of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, is a sprawling complex that tells the story of a tenuous balance of power where everyone watched his or her own back. Today you can only imagine the activities of the cast of characters who played a part in one of the world’s most powerful dynasties. You can, however, feast your eyes on where they lived, on gilded swords, ornate crowns, over 12,000 pieces of porcelain, and ravishing displays of jewellery, including one of the world’s biggest diamonds. Wander around the Harem, gaze at sacred religious relics including hand-written letters from the Prophet Mohammed as well as his cloak, swords, and hairs from his beard, the rod of Moses and the sword of David, peek into the circumcision room, or simply sit in the peaceful gardens and contemplate the majesty of it all.
Rahmi Koc Museum
The first major museum in
Turkey dedicated to the history of transportation, industry and communication, Rahmi Koc Museum contains thousands upon thousands of items from dolls’ house miniatures to a full sized submarine. As the museum collection has been expanding, today the museum covers 27.000 square meters space and consists of three main parts:
- Historical Lengerhane Building
- Historical Haskoy Dockyard
- Open Air Exhibition Area
Established on an area of 60,000 square meters Miniaturk, 15,000 square feet of space models, 40,000 square feet of green and open area, 3.500 square meters covered area of 2,000 square meters swimming pool and flume, 500-car parking lot is located.