Istanbul is a rich city in history and culture. Great empires took place here, leaving behind many historical treasures in Istanbul, each representing a different culture. UNESCO recognized most of these landmarks as World Heritage Sites.
Here are the 10 best Istanbul landmarks:
1. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia was built between 532 – 537. Its large dome structure gives it an attractive and imposing appearance from the outside. The interior architecture provides a unique and exciting visual feast at certain hours of the day due to the sunlight’s angles. Ayasofya is built as a patriarchal cathedral with a basilica plan, it’s been used as a mosque since 1453. It is one of the most visited Istanbul monuments in 2022.
Hagia Sophia became a mosque again in 2020 with the Presidential decree. On 24th of July, 2020, Friday prayers were performed again after 86 years. Visitors wish to see the Hagia Sophia can enter without an entrance fee from now on. Please keep in mind that there are five prayer times for a day, you might want to visit the Hagia Sophia besides these times. Don’t forget that now it’s a mosque again women and men have to wear according to Islamic rules. For men and women, legs and arms need to be covered, no shorts or skirts above the ankle. Also, your clothes should not be tight fitting. And women have to cover their heads.
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2. Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)
There are many religious structures in Istanbul due to the importance of religion in the history of the city. Blue Mosque, built between 1609 – 1617, is one of the most important architectural works of the Ottoman period. It gets its “blue” name from the interior decoration of İznik tiles. Anyone interested in the history of religion or architecture will find a visit here fascinating. Built by architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, this is one of the most visited historical buildings in Istanbul in 2022. Blue Mosque is a must spot to add your Istanbul sightseeing list.
3. Galata Tower
Famous Galata Tower, located in the center of the city, will provide you with an excellent panoramic view of Istanbul. It’s very popular with photographers who come to Istanbul for the Bosphorus view, and its ancient streets and buildings. As a recommended Istanbul activity in 2022, climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the fantastic view. Since it is a very popular sight, don’t forget to go there early to not wait in the long lines. This tower was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Temporary List in 2013.
4. Taksim Square and Istiklal Street
To get to know a city, you must experience its streets and squares. Taksim Square is the most famous place that you can witness both the exotic and the modern styles of Istanbul at the same time. It is at the top of many visitors’ lists of places to see. It’s also very popular with locals and has been the scene of many historic events in the city. There are various activities, workshops and shopping days held in the square.
When you look at photos of Istanbul online, you’ll often be looking at Istiklal Street, starting from Taksim Square. This historic 1.4km street is the entertainment center of the region. Crammed with shops and nightclubs, and with many side streets leading to other points of interest, it literally has something for everyone. There’s even a ‘nostalgic tram’ on Istiklal Street still in 2022, which has a gorgeous romantic atmosphere – especially in winter. If you are feeling a bit tired, take the nostalgic tram and check it off in your Istanbul activity list.
5. Topkapi Palace
After the conquest of Istanbul, Fatih Sultan Mehmet requested the construction of the Topkapı Palace in 1460. It was enlarged with additions until the 19th century. It is the first museum of the Turkish Republic and one of the most important parts of the history. The most attractive highlights of the palace are the Harem, where the sultan’s concubines and children would spend their time, the Second Court, where you can see the Palace Kitchens and the glamorous interior of the Imperial Council Chamber, and lastly the Third Court which has the sultan’s private rooms. It is one of the most important Istanbul sightseeing activities, you’ll spend half of your day in it.
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6. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı)
It’s one of the most exciting places in Istanbul, located underground and built to provide water in Byzantine times. It is a huge, palace-like underground hall with 336 columns and the most famous of these are Medusa stones in the northwest corner. It is a unique experience to feel the atmosphere, it’ll change your mood suddenly when you step into the Basilica Cistern. There are some concerts and events organized here from time to time, it would be a perfect Istanbul activity to experience the music and the history together.
7. Beylerbeyi Palace
This highly aesthetic work of art, built by Sultan Abdulaziz during the Ottoman period, is one of Istanbul’s treasures. Beylerbeyi means “Lord of the lords”, it was built to be a summer house for Ottoman sultans. Built between 1861-1865, it’s one of the most important examples of Western-style Gothic architecture in Istanbul. Its location by the sea fascinates many people, and if you join the Bosphorus Tour as a part of your Istanbul city tour, you’ll have the chance to view it from the sea.
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Miniatürk is one of the most interesting places to visit in Istanbul in 2022. Surrounded by miniature versions of Türkiye’s top monuments and buildings, you’ll feel as if you are in a fairy tale. Built on a total area of 60,000 square meters, it’s the largest miniature park in the world. It is a must-do Istanbul activity to have a quick look at every monuments in Türkiye.
9. Büyükada (Prince Islands)
The Adalar region is a great place to find some peace and catch your breath. The Prince Islands area is perfect for swimming and chilling, and there are some exquisite places to dine out too. The Prince Islands, also known as Prinkipos, spread over a total area of 5.4 square kilometers. Although tourists frequently visit the island there are also residents living there permanently. Going to the Prince Islands is a good escape to make a day trip from Istanbul.
10. Dolmabahçe Palace
Dolmabahçe Palace is one of the largest palaces in Istanbul. Spread over an area of 250,000 square meters, Dolmabahçe was built for important meetings during the Ottoman period. Besides, some points are very close to the seashore. Dolmabahçe Palace witnessed important moments in the history of the republic. It hasn’t changed much since the old times, so you can still see its original decorations, carpets, and furniture in 2022. The world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier sparkles with 750 lamps, is placed in this glamorous palace which was a gift from Queen Victoria.
11. The Grand Bazaar
How about visiting an impressive area that will allow you to experience the exotic ambiance of Istanbul? The best in Istanbul to buy gifts for your loved ones, the Grand Bazaar has over 4000 shops and there are around 25,000 artisans working here. It’s the best place to find local products, jewelry, exotic clothing, sweets, and coffee. You should definitely add the Grand Bazar to your list as a must-see Istanbul activity.
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