With one foot firmly anchored in Europe and another in Asia, Istanbul represents an incredible heritage. You’ll discover exotic mosques, markets, museums and foreign culinary treats here.
Join a Bosphorus Sunset Cruise to take in Europe and Asia simultaneously from a unique perspective. Don’t miss your opportunity to stroll through Grand Bazaar and practice bargaining skills!
1. Topkapi Palace
Topkapi Palace boasts more colorful tales than many of the world’s museums can. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers and cunning eunuchs all lived here between the 15th and 19th centuries – as evidenced by its expansive gardens and four courtyards.
Palaces with their elegant awnings, stained-glass windows and century-old hand-painted tiles are truly captivating, but its true magic lies in the atmosphere that emanates from within them. A sultan’s library, for example, boasts low lounges with mesmerising ceilings that evoke thoughts of infinite possibility above your head.
Treasures such as the Topkapi dagger (the 4th largest gem of its type, weighing 86 carats) can be seen here in the Treasury, along with numerous Islamic treasures and Old Testament relics – some more plausible than others – such as Abraham’s cooking pot or Moses’ staff.
2. Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) stands as an iconic landmark of Istanbul, thanks to its interior decor. Decorated with thousands of blue and turquoise ceramic tiles known as Iznik tiles – which represented Ottoman ceramic excellence at their time – its name derives from this reason alone.
The Proconnesian marble mihrab features two panels with Quranic verses inscribed upon them and boasts 260 windows to provide natural lighting to its interior.
Remind visitors that both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are active places of worship, and that visitors should dress accordingly and behave respectfully when visiting. A private tour led by an experienced guide is highly recommended in order to fully appreciate their cultural significance – skip-the-line tickets are also available for both structures.
3. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia stands as an engineering masterpiece and art masterpiece in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia district, its incredible building an engineering marvel and aesthetic masterpiece. The central dome features windows that let light from all directions shine into its chambers and illuminates the golden mosaic decoration on ceilings and walls alike.
Church decorations originally included silver, red porphyry and green marble decor as well as millions of golden tesserae, but later Byzantine emperors commissioned the addition of mosaics depicting new Christian themes such as Mary known as Deesis.
As soon as the Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1553, they converted its church into a mosque while keeping many of its icons. Since Islam prohibits worshipping images directly, however, most original Orthodox-themed mosaics were covered up with plaster for protection until secular Turkish rule was reinstated some time in the early 20th century and they could finally be exposed again.
4. Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul’s top attractions with over 2.2 million annual visitors to this unique landmark located on Sarayburnu peninsula. Distinguished for its underground cathedral-shaped structure with two Medusa head base pillars, it attracts over two and a half million people each year.
Built during Emperor Justinian’s rule to supply water for the Great Palace, it features 336 marble columns of various styles and sizes that stand 9 meters high, spaced four meters apart, each 9 meters tall with an enormous ceiling capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water.
Tickets and tours that include entry to the cistern are now available, enabling travelers to bypass long lines and gain priority entry at this popular attraction. Visitors can enjoy expert insight into its history as well as intriguing tales about its construction and use.
5. Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar is an explosion of sights, sounds, smells and flavors – an unmissable experience! As one of the world’s most celebrated covered markets and shopping meccas, millions visit every year. Established in 15th-century by Sultan Mehmet II and divided into 61 streets containing 4,000 shops for exploration – for maximum pleasure make sure to take your time in each shop as much as possible! To get the most from your experience consider exploring it slowly, taking time at each one before moving onto another!
Paizo could have done enough with this supplement to simply offer merchant-themed gear and plot hooks; they went above and beyond by including numerous character options as well as new Ancestries such as Captivator that boost Charm abilities as well as Devotions dedicated solely to snake charmers!
6. Sultanahmet Mosque
Popularly known as the Blue Mosque, this masterpiece of Ottoman architecture stands as an epitome of its kind. At first glance, its walls and pillars boast vibrant tulip designs while at gallery level they become geometric bands and organic medallions.
As it remains an active place of worship, visitors to the mosque must show respect by covering their heads during prayer times and being considerate when entering. However, tourists are allowed inside and can often be seen visiting regularly.
Take a stroll across this fountain-dotted square and be amazed by how Hagia Sophia stands on one side while Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) dominates on the other. This juxtaposition between centuries old buildings is what makes Istanbul such an exceptional city.
7. Bosphorus Cruise
An excursion along the Bosphorus is more than a sightseeing activity; it is an immersive cultural experience that bridges continents, cultures and generations. Gliding along its shimmering waters will allow you to appreciate grand palaces, majestic fortresses and charming waterfront mansions that showcase Ottoman and modern architectural styles seamlessly blended together.
Your guide will share exciting stories and historical insight, enriching your experience and bringing the sights alive. Choose between daytime or evening cruises depending on your preferences.
TurYol provides a nonstop 90-minute cruise departing from Eminonu via the Galata Bridge to Fatih Bridge and back for just TL15, passing many city landmarks under natural lighting as well as seeing an illuminated Bosphorus Bridge.