Lamartine’s famous poetic line reveals a profound love for Istanbul, describing the embracing of two continents, with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe.”The god and human, nature and art are together in there, they have created such a perfect place that it is valuable to see.”  Road Runner Travel has a dedicated team of professionals. Our guides are all fully licenced and have a great passion for Istanbul and indeed their country.

Istanbul, once known as the capital of capital cities, has many unique features. It is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and the only one to have been a capital during two consecutive empires – Christian and Islamic. Once was capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul still remains the commercial, historical and cultural pulse of Turkey, and its beauty lies in its ability to embrace its contradictions. Ancient and modern, religious and secular, Asia and Europe, mystical and earthly all co-exist here.

Its variety is one of Istanbul’s greatest attractions: The ancient mosques, palaces, museums and bazaars reflect its diverse history. The thriving shopping area of Taksim buzzes with life and entertainment. And the serene beauty of the Istanbul strait, Princes Islands and parks bring a touch of peace to the otherwise chaotic metropolis.

The Istanbul strait

Sultanahmet: Many places of tourist interest are concentrated in Sultanahmet, in heart of the Imperial Centre of the Ottoman Empire. The most important places in this area, all of which are described in detail in the “Places of Interest” section, are Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya, Sultanahmet Mosgue (the Blue Mosque), the Hippodrome, Kapali Carşi (Covered Market), Yerebatan Sarnici and the Museum of Islamic Art.

In addition to this wonderful selection of historical and architectural sites, Sultanahmet also has a large concentration of carpet and souvenir shops, hotels and guesthouses, cafes, bars and restaurants, and travel agents.

Golden Horn: This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbours in the world, it was once the centre for the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests. Today, attractive parks and promenades line the shores, a picturesque scene especially as the sun goes down over the water. At Fener and Balat, neighbourhoods midway up the Golden Horn, there are entire streets filled with old wooden houses, churches, and synagogues dating from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides at Fener and a little further up the Golden Horn at Eyup, are some wonderful examples of Ottoman architecture. Muslim pilgrims from all over the world visit Eyup Mosgue and Tomb of Eyup, the Prophet Mohammed’s standard bearer, and it is one of the holiest places in Islam. The area is a still a popular burial place, and the hills above the mosque are dotted with modern gravestones interspersed with ornate Ottoman stones. The Pierre Loti Cafe, at the top of hill overlooking the shrine and the Golden Horn, is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.
Beyoğlu and Taksim: Beyoğlu is an interesting example of a district with European-influenced architecture, from a century before. Europe’s second oldest subway, Tunel was built by the French in 1875, must be also one of the shortest – offering a one-stop ride to start of Taksim. Near to Tunel is the Galata district, whose Galata Tower became a famous symbols of Istanbul, and the top of which offers a tremendous 180 degree view of the city.

From the Tunel area to Taksim square, is one of the city’s focal points for shopping, entertainment and urban promenading: İstiklal Caddesi is a fine example of the contrasts and compositions of Istanbul; fashion shops, bookshops, cinemas, markets, restaurants and even hand-carts selling trinkets and simit (sesame bread snack) ensure that the street is packed throughout the day until late into the night. The old tramcars re-entered into service, which shuttle up and down this fascinating street, and otherwise the street is entirely pedestrianised. There are old embassy buildings, Galatasaray High School, the colourful ambience of Balik Pazari (Fish Bazaar) and restaurants in Çiçek Pasaji (Flower Passage). Also on this street is the oldest church in the area, St Mary’s Draperis dating back to 1789, and the Franciscan Church of St Antoine, demolished and then rebuilt in 1913.

The street ends at Taksim Square, a big open plaza, the hub of modern Istanbul and always crowded, crowned with an imposing monument celebrating Ataturk and the War of Independence. The main terminal of the new subway is under the square, adjacent is a noisy bus terminal, and at the north end is the Ataturk Cultural Centre, one of the venues of the Istanbul Theatre Festival. Several five-star hotels are dotted around this area, like the Hyatt, Intercontinental and Hilton (the oldest of its kind in the city). North of the square is the Istanbul Military Museum.

Taksim and Beyoğlu have for centuries been the centre of nightlife, and now there are many lovely bars and clubs off Istiklal Cadesi, including some of the only gay venues in the city. Beyoğlu is also at the centre of the more bohemian arts scene.

Ortaköy: Ortakoy was a resort for the Ottoman rulers because of its attractive location on the Istanbul strait, and is still a popular spot for residents and visitors. The village is within a triangle of a mosque, church and synagogue, and is near çirağan Palace, Kabataş High School, Feriye, Princess Hotel.

The name Ortaköy reflects the university students and teachers who would gather to drink tea and discuss life, when it was just a small fishing village. These days, however, that scene has developed into a suburb with an increasing amount of expensive restaurants, bars, shops and a huge market. The fishing, however, lives on and the area is popular with local anglers, and there is now a huge waterfront tea-house which is crammed at weekends and holidays.

Sariyer: The first sight of Sariyer is where the Istanbul strait connects with the Black Sea, after the bend in the river after Tarabya. Around this area, old summer houses, embassies and fish restaurants line the river, and a narrow road which separates it from Büyükdere, continues along to the beaches of Kilyos.

Sariyer and Rumeli Kavaği are the final wharfs along the European side visited by the Istanbul strait boat trips. Both these districts, famous for their fish restaurants along with Anadolu Kavagi, get very crowded at weekends and holidays with Istanbul residents escaping the city.

After these points, the Istanbul strait is lined with tree-covered cliffs and little habitation. The Sadberk Hanim Museum, just before Sariyer, is an interesting place to visit; a collection of archaeological and ethnographic items, housed in two wooden houses. A few kilometres away is the huge Belgrade Forest, once a haunting ground of the Ottomans, and now a popular weekend retreat into the largest forest area in the city.

Üsküdar: Relatively unknown to tourists, the suburb of Üsküdar, on the Asian side of the Istanbul strait, is one of the most attractive suburbs. Religiously conservative in its background, it has a tranquil atmosphere and some fine examples of imperial and domestic architecture.

The Iskele, or Mihrimah Mosque is opposite the main ferry pier, on a high platform with a big covered porch in front, often occupied by older local men watching life around them. Opposite this is Yeni Valide Mosgue, built in 1710, and the Valide Sultan’s green tomb rather like a giant birdcage. The Çinili Mosque takes its name from the beautiful tiles which decorate the interior, and was built in 1640.

Apart from places of religious interest, Üsküdar is also well known as a shopping area, with old market streets selling traditional local products, and a good fleamarket with second hand furniture. There are plenty of good restaurants and cafes with a great views of the Istanbul strait and the rest of the city, along the quayside. In the direction of Haydarpaşa is the Karaca Ahmet Cemetery, which is the largest Muslim graveyard in Istanbul. The front of the Çamlica hills lie at the ridge of area and also offer great panoramic views of the islands and river.
Kadiköy: Further down to the south along, the Istanbul strait towards the Marmara sea, Kadiköy has developed into a lively area with up-market shopping, eating and entertainment making it popular especially with wealthy locals. Once prominent in the history of Christianity, the 5th century hosted important consul meetings here, but there are few reminders of that age. It is one of the improved districts of Istanbul over the last century, and fashionable area to promenade along the waterfront in the evenings, especially around the marinas and yacht clubs.

Bağdat Caddesi is one of the most trendy – and label-conscious – fashion shopping streets, and for more down-to-earth goods, the Gen Azim Gündüz Caddesi is the best place for clothes, and the bit pazari on Ozelellik Sokak is good for browsing through junk. The Benadam art gallery remains in Moda district with many other foreing cusines, restaurants and cafes.
Haydarpaşa: To the north of Kadikoy is Haydarpasa, and the train station built in 1908 with Prussian-style architecture which was the first stop along the Baghdad railway. Now it is the main station going to eastbound destinations both within Turkey, and international. There are tombs and monuments dedicated to the English and French soldiers who lost their lives during the Crimean War (1854-56), near the military hospital. The north-west wing of the 19th Century Selimiye Barracks once housed the hospital, used by Florence Nightingale to care for soldiers, and remains to honour her memory.
Polonezköy: Polonezköy, although still within the city, is 25 km. away from the centre and not easy to reach by public transport. Translated as “village of the Poles”, the village has a fascinating history: It was established in 1848 by Prince Czartorisky, leader of the Polish nationals who was granted exile in the Ottoman Empire to escape oppression in the Balkans. During his exile, he succeeded in establishing a community for the people of the Balkans, which still survives, on the plot of land sold to him by a local monastery.

Since the 1970s the village has become a popular place with local Istanbulites, who buy their pig meat there (pig being forbidden under Islamic law and therefore difficult to get elsewhere). All the Poles have since left the village, and the place is inhabited now by wealthy city people, living in the few remaining Central European style wooden houses with pretty balconies.

What attracts most visitors to Polonezkoy is its vast green expanse, which was designated Istanbul’s first national park, and the walks though forests with streams and wooden bridges. Because of its popularity, it gets crowded at weekends and the hotels are usually full.
Kilyos: Kilyos is the nearest beach resort to the city, on the Black Sea coast on the European side of the Istanbul strait. Once a Greek fishing village, it has quickly been developed as a holiday-home development, and gets very crowded in summer. Because of its ease to get there, 25km and plenty of public transport, it is good for a day trip, and is a popular weekend getaway with plenty of hotels, and a couple of campsites.
Şile: A pleasant, small holiday town, Şile lies 50km from Üsküdar on the Black Sea coast and some people even live there and commute into Istanbul. The white sandy beaches are easily accessible from the main highway, lying on the west, as well as a series of small beaches at the east end. The town itself if perched on a clifftop over looking the bay tiny island. There is an interesting French-built black-and-white striped lighthouse, and 14th century Genoese castle on the nearby island. Apart from its popular beaches, the town is also famous for its craft; Şile bezi, a white muslin fabric a little like cheesecloth, which the local women embroider and sell their products on the street, as well as all over Turkey.

The town has plenty of accommodation available, hotels, guest houses and pensions, although can get very crowded at weekends and holidays as it is very popular with people from Istanbul for a getaway, especially in the summer. There are small restaurants and bars in the town.
Prince’s Islands: Also known as Istanbul Islands, there are eight within one hour from the city, in the Marmara Sea. Boats ply the islands from Sirkeci, Kabataş and Bostanci, with more services during the summer. These islands, on which monasteries were established during the Byzantine period, was a popular summer retreat for palace officials. It is still a popular escape from the city, with wealthier owning summer houses.
Büyükada The largest and most popular one in Istanbul is Büyükada (the Great Island). Large wooden mansions still remain from the 19th century when wealthy Greek and Armenian bankers built them as a holiday villas. The island has always been a place predominantly inhabited by minorities.

Buyukada has long had a history of people coming here in exile or retreat; its most famous guest being Leon Trotsky, who stayed for four years writing ‘The History of the Russian Revolution’. The monastery of St George also played host to the granddaughter of Empress Irene, and the royal princess Zoe, in 1012.

The island consists of two hills, both surmounted by monasteries, with a valley between. Motor vehicles are banned, so getting around the island can be done by graceful horse and carriage, leaving from the main square off Isa Celebi Sokak. Bicycles can also be hired.

The southern hill, Yule Tepe, is the quieter of the two and also home of St George’s Monastery. It consists of a series of chapels on three levels, the site of which is a building dating back to the 12th century. In Byzantine times it was used as an asylum, with iron rings on the church floors used to restrain patients. On the northern hill is the monastery İsa Tepe, a 19th century house.

The entire island is lively and colourful, with many restaurants, hotels, tea houses and shops. There are very big well-kept houses, trim gardens, and pine groves, as well as plenty of beach and picnic areas.
Burgazada It is a smaller and less infrastructured for tourists.The famous Turkish novelist, Sait Faik Abasiyanik lived there, and his house has been turned into a museum dedicated to his work, and retains a remarkable tranquil and hallowed atmosphere.
Heybeliada ‘Island of the Saddlebag’, because of its shape, is loved for its natural beauty and beaches. It also has a highly prestigious and fashionable watersports club in the northwest of the island. One of its best-known landmarks is the Greek Orthodox School of Theology, with an important collection of Byzantine manuscripts. The school sits loftily on the northern hill, but permission is needed to enter, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Fener. The Deniz Harp Okulu, the Naval High School, is on the east side of the waterfront near the jetty, which was originally the Naval War Academy set up in 1852, then a high school since 1985. Walking and cycling are popular here, plus isolated beaches as well as the public Yöruk Beach, set in a magnificent bay.

There are plenty of good local restaurants and tea houses, especially along Ayyildiz Caddesi, and the atmosphere is one of a close community.
Environment: Wide beaches of Kilyos at European side of Black Sea at 25th km. outside the Istanbul, is attracting Istanbul residents during summer months. Belgrad Forest, inside from Black Sea, at European Side is the widest forest around Istanbul. Istanbul residents, at week ends, come here for family picnic with brazier at its shadows. 7 old water tank and some natural resources in the region compose a different atmosphere. Moğlova Aqueduct, which is constructed by Mimar Sinan during 16th century among Ottoman aqueducts, is the greatest one. 800 m. long Sultan Süleyman Aqueduct, which is passing over Golf Club, and also a piece of art of Mimar Sinan is one of the longest aqueducts within Turkey.

Polonezköy, which is 25 km. away from Istanbul, is founded at Asia coast during 19th century by Polish immigrants. Polonezköy, for walking in village atmosphere, travels by horse, and tasting traditional Polish meals served by relatives of initial settlers, is the resort point of Istanbul residents. Beaches, restaurants and hotels of Şile at Black Sea coast and 70 km. away from Üsküdar, are turning this place into one of the most cute holiday places of Istanbul. Region which is popular in connection with tourism, is the place where famous Şile cloth is produced.

Bayramoğlu – Darica Bird Paradise and Botanic Park is a unique resort place 38 km. away from Istanbul. This gargantuan park with its trekking roads, restaurants is full of bird species and plants, coming from various parts of the world.

Sweet Eskihisar fisherman borough, to whose marina can be anchored by yachtsmen after daily voyages in Marmara Sea is at south east of Istanbul. Turkey’s 19th century famous painter, Osman Hamdi Bey’s house in borough is turned into a museum. Hannibal’s tomb between Eskihisar and Gebze is one of the sites around a Byzantium castle.

There are lots of Istanbul residents’ summer houses in popular holiday place 65 km. away from Istanbul, Silivri. This is a huge holiday place with magnificent restaurants, sports and health centers. Conference center is also attracting businessmen, who are escaping rapid tempo of urban life for “cultural tourism” and business – holiday mixed activities. Scheduled sea bus service is connecting Istanbul to Silivri.

Islands within Marmara Sea, which is adorned with nine islands, was the banishing place of the Byzantium princes. Today they are now wealthy Istanbul residents’ escaping places for cool winds during summer months and 19th century smart houses. Biggest one of the islands is Büyükada. You can have a marvelous phaeton travel between pine trees or have a swim within one of the numerous bays around islands!

Other popular islands are Kinali, Sedef, Burgaz and Heybeliada. Regular ferry voyages are connecting islands to both Europe and Asia coasts. There is a rapid sea bus service from Kabataş during summers.

Where to Visit

A stay in Istanbul is not complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Istanbul Strait, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to yali (shore-front wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see the Istanbul Strait is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark at Eminönü and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The round-trip excursion, very reasonably priced, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, there are agencies that specialize in organizing day or night mini-cruises.

During the journey you pass the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of the Yildiz Palace. On the coastal edge of the parks stands the Çirağan Palace, refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz, and now restored as a grand hotel. For 300 meters along the Istanbul Strait shore its ornate marble facades reflect the swiftly moving water. At Ortaköy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery. The variety of people creates a lively scene. Sample a tasty morsel from one of the street vendors. In Ortaköy, there is a church, a mosque and a synagogue that have existed side by side for hundreds of years – a tribute to Turkish tolerance at the grass roots level. Overshadowing Istanbul’s traditional architecture is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, the Boğaziçi Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.

The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Çamlica Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. You can also drive here to admire a magnificent panorama of Istanbul as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutköy create a contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few kilometers farther along stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Anadolu Hisari facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city. The Göksu Palace, sometimes known as Küçüksü Palace graces the Asian shore next to the Anadolu Hisari. The second link between the two continents, is the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past these two fortresses.

From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Istanbul Strait. Below Duatepe, the beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when its tulips bloom in the spring. On the Asian shore is Kanlica, a fishing village that is now a favored suburb for wealthy Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlica and Çubuklu is the Beykoz Korusu (İbrahim Paşa Woods), a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants there you can enjoy the delightful scenery and clear, fresh air. Back on the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coastal road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sariyer and Büyükdere. Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and börek (pastries). On past Sariyer, the narrow strait widens and opens into the Black Sea.

Museums and Ancient Cities

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Museum : Ayasofya was built, for nearly a thousand years ago, is the largest enclosed space in the world, and still seen as one of the world’s most important architectural monuments. It is one of Turkey’s most popular attractions, drawn by the sheer spectacle of its size, architecture, mosaics and art.

It used to be a church for 916 years, then a mosque for 481 years, and since 1935 has been a museum. Thought to have been constructed by Emperor Konstantinos I (324 – 337) it was burned down during a revolt. Rebuilt by Emperor Theodosium II, it was opened for worship in 415 and once again was burned to the ground, during the Nika revolts of 532.

Emperor Iustanianus (527 – 565) wanted to construct something even bigger than the original two and appointed architects Isidoros from Miletos, and Anthemios from Tralles to build the Aya Sofya which still stands. Columns, heads, marble and coloured stones were imported to Istanbul from ancient cities in Anatolia for the purpose.

The construction began on 23 December 532, and was completed exactly five years later. The main, central section measured 100m x 70m, covered with a 55m high dome which was a mammoth 30m in diameter – appearing to be a great feat of design. The mosaics are of great importance, and the oldest ones are dominated by geometric and plant motifs decorated with gold.

The worst desecration of the church was in 1204, ransacked by Catholic soldiers during the Fourth Crusade. In 1453, after a failure of the Byzantine Church to fend off the Turks, Mehmet the Conqueror captured the city, rode into Aya Sofya and immediately turned it into a mosque. It was repaired several times, and İslamic ornamentation added, for example an extract of the Koran by calligrapher İzzet Efendi inscribed on the dome. The other reminders of its previous status as a mosque include huge wooden plaques bearing the names of Allah, the Prophet Mohammed and the first four caliphs.

The marble and mosaics remain the most interesting aspects today. The columns supporting the gallery are made from antique marble, and in the western gallery is the green marble which marks the position of the throne of the Empress. The impressive figurative mosaics include Virgin and Child flanked by two emperors, dating back to the late 10th century, and one depicting Christ, the Virgin, and St John the Baptists. Even though there is partial damage, the haunting images on their faces remain as strong as ever.

Hagia Sophia Museum – Mahmut I Library

It is located between two wall supports at the southern part of Ayasophia. It is an interesting product of Turkish construction and decorative arts. It was built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1739. The library consists of a reading room, the room where the books were kept under protection (hazine-i kütüb) and a corridor between these two sections. Reading room is separated from the main space of Ayasophia with a glass partition born by six colons with diamond shaped capitals and covered with a bronze mesh. The double doors of the entrance are also covered with a bronze mesh decorated with flowers and scrolling branches and have two handles engraved with “Ya Fettah”. The walls of the reading room are decorated with tiles and calligraphic friezes. On the wall opposite to the door, there is the porphyry monogram of Sultan Mahmud I, bordered with green tiles.

The corridor joining the reading room and the book storage is decorated with tile panels with flower, rose, carnation, tulip and cypress motives. These panels are unique in terms of color and form

The room of the books consists of two spaces separated by 4 columns and a platform. The first section is covered with a dome and the second with a vault. The dome rests on an octagonal ring. There is a wooden book cupboard at the centre of this space. On the inside of the door which is the entrance to this section from the corridor there is the monogram of Sultan Mahmud I and a 15 disyichs poems about the construction ending with the date h. 1152. (1739).

İznik, Kütahya and Tekfur palace tiles of 16 -17 -18th centuries were used in combination in the library. The 16th century İznik tiles in the book room and the flowered spring branches composition on the tiles of the corridor which are from the same century are among the best examples of the Turkish tile art.
Archaeology Museum

Neighbouring Cultures Of Istanbul (Thrakia-Bithynia) and Byzantium

The Directorate of Istanbul Archaeology Museums that is dependent on the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey is on the Osman Hamdi Bey Ascent that opens to the Topkapi Palace Museum from the right of the Gülhane Park Entry which is in the Sultanahmet district.

Istanbul Archaeology Museums consist of three museums. Those are Archaeology Museum, Old Eastern Works Museum and Enameled Kiosk Museum.
Istanbul Archaeology Museums, which were established as Müze-i Humayun (Empire Museum) by the famous artist and museum director Osman Hamdi Bey at the end of the 19th century, were opened to public on June 13, 1891. Besides its importance as the “first Turkish museum”, it has an importance and specialty of being one of the museum buildings that are constructed as a Museum in the World. Today, it still protects its outstanding place in the World’s biggest museums with its works more than a million belonging to various cultures.

In the museum collections, there are rich and very important works of art belonging to various civilizations from the regions from Balkans to Africa, from Anatolia and Mesopotamia to Arab Peninsula and Afghanistan that were in the borders of the Ottoman Empire.


The Archaeology Museum consists of two separate buildings.

Its construction was started in 1881 by Osman Hamdi Bey and with the additions in 1902 and 1908 it gained its latest form. Its architect is Alexander Vallaury. The outer face of the building was made by inspiring from the İskender Tomb and Crying Women tombs. It is a beautiful example of neoclassical buildings in Istanbul.

On the upper floor of the two storey building there are small stone works, pots and pans, small terracotta statues, the Treasure Department and approximately 800.000 Ottoman coins, seals, decorations, medals and Non-Muslim and Muslim Coin Cabinets, in which coin moulds were kept, and a Library with approximately 70.000 books.

On the bottom floor saloons of the building, famous tombs are displayed such as İskender Tomb, Crying Women Tomb, Satrap Tomb, Lykia Tomb, Tabnit Tomb that are in the Sayda king graveyard.

On the bottom floor, besides the display of tombs, there is Old Age Statuary display in which statues and reliefs from important antic cities and regions are displayed. In this display, the development of the art of statuary from the Archaic Period to the Byzantium Period is displayed in chronological order with outstanding examples.


The additional building attached to the southeast of the main building is of 6 storeys. There are depots in the two storeys under the ground floor.
The four storeys of the building are arranged as exhibition saloons. There is an inscription “Istanbul for Ages” on the first floor of the building, “Anatolia and Troia for Ages” on the second floor and “Surrounding Cultures of Anatolia: Cyprus, Syria-Palestine” on the top floor. There is Infant Museum and architectural works display on the first floor of the additional building. The Thrakia-Bithynia and Byzantium display saloon, which was opened in August 1998, can be visited on the floor with the name of “Surrounding Cultures of Istanbul”.

The museum has received the European Council Museum Award in 1991, which is its 100. Establishment Anniversary, with the new arrangement made in the lower floor saloons and the Additional Building display.


The building, which was built by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1883 as Sanayi-i Nefise (Fine Arts School), was organized as a museum with the works made between 1917-1919 and 1932-1935. The building, which was closed for visits in 1963, was reopened again in 1974 with a new display by changing the inner parts.

On the upper floor of the two-storey building, Anatolian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Arabic works of art are displayed. Statue of Naramsin, the king of Akad, the Kadeş Agreement and Zincirli statue are the unique works of art in the museum.

Moreover, in this museum there is a “Tablet Archive” in which 75.000 documents with cuneiform writings are kept.


The kiosk that has been made by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1472 is one of the oldest examples of Ottoman civil architecture in Istanbul. It has been used as Müze-i Hümayun (Empire Museum) in between 1875-1891. It was opened to public in 1953 with the name of Fatih Museum where Turkish and Islamic works of art were displayed and it was transferred to Istanbul Archaeology Museums due to its site.

The entrance façade of the kiosk is single-flat and the back façade is of two-storeyed. There is a marble porch of 14 columns in the entrance. The entrance exedra is decorated with mosaic enamels. Various chinaware and ceramics from the Seljuk and Ottoman period are displayed in the Kiosk that consists of 6 rooms and a middle saloon. There are approximately 2000 works of art in the museum and its depots.

Topkapi Palace Museum

It is located on the promontory of the historical peninsula in Istanbul which overlooks both the Marmara Sea and the Istanbul strait. The walls enclosing the palace grounds, the main gate on the land side and the first buildings were constructed during the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (the Conqueror) (1451 – 81). The palace has taken its present layout with the addition of new structures in the later centuries. Topkapi Palace was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans, starting with Fatih Sultan Mehmet until 1856, when Abdülmecid moved to the Dolmabahçe palace, functioned as the administrative centre of the state. The Enderun section also gained importance as a school.

The main exterior gate of the Topkapi Palace is the Imperial Gate (Bab-i Hümayun) which opens up to the Ayasofya Square. This gate leads to a garden known as the First Court. This court has the Aya Irini Church which was once used as an ammunition depot and behind the Church there is the mint. In the past various pavillions allocated to different services of the palace were located in the First Court. In later years these have been replaced with public buildings and schools. Some of these still exist. At the end of the 19th century Archaeology Museum and School of Fine Arts (now Oriental Works Museum) were built in the large garden which is to the northwest of the First Court. The oldest structure in this section is the Çinili Köşk built by Fatih, which is now used as the Museum of Turkish Tiles and Ceramics. On the walls of this outer garden facing Bab-i ali (the Imperial Gate), there is Alay Köşkü (procession Pavillion) where the Sultans used to watch the marching ceremonies. A section of the outer garden was planned by the municipality at the beginning of the 20th century and opened to the public. Known today as the Gülhane Park, the enterance has one of the largerst gates of the palace. After the First Court, there is the Second Court which contains the palace buildings. It is entered through a monumental gate called Bab’us-Selam or the Middle Gate. The buildings in this court form the outer section of the palace which is called Birun. On the right there are the instantly noticed palace kitchens with their domes and chimneys and the dormitories of those who worked there. The most important of the buildings on the left side of the court are the Kubbealti and the Inner Treasury. Behind Kubbealti rises the Justice Tower, which is one of the symbols of the Topkapi Palace. The Harem section, which comes all the way to the back of these buildings, is entered from the Third Court. Third Court is entered through the gate called Bab’üs Sa’ade (Gate of the White Eunuiches). This section of the palace is called Enderun, and it is the section where the sultans live with their extended families. Hence it is specially protected. The barracks of the Akağalar, which guard Bab’üs Sa’ade are on both sides of the gate. There are two structures. The first which is immediately opposite the gate is the Throne Room or the Audience Hall. Here the sultans receive the ambassadors and high ranking state officials such as Grand Visier or the Visiers. Right behind the Throne Room there is the library built by Ahmet III (1703 – 30). On the right side of the Third Court, there is the barracks of the Enderun and the Privy Treasury which is also known as the Mehmet the Conqueror Pavilion. On the side facing the Fourth Court, there is the Larder Barracks of the Enderun, the Treasury Chamber and the Chamber of the Sacred Relics. The left side starts with the Harem. The harem which covers a large part of the Palace consists of about 60 spaces of varying sizes. The main structures which are located in front of the Harem, facing the Third Court are Akağalar Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Barracks of the Sacred Relics Guards and Chambers of the Sacred Relics. Here, the sacred relics brought back by Sultan Yavuz Selim from Egypt in 1517 are kept. The Fourth Court is entered from a covered path going from both sides of the Treasury Room. Here the buildings are located in the first part of the court, which has two sections of different levels. On the left side of this section called Lala Garden or Lale Garden there is Mabeyn which is the beginning point of Harem’s access to the garden, terrace for the ladies with removable glass enclosure, Circumcission Room, Sultan İbrahim Patio and another one of the symbols of Topkapi palace, the İftariye (or Kameriye) and Baghdat Pavilion. This pavillion was built by Murad IV in 1640 to commemorate the Baghdat Campaign. At the centre of the first section of the Fourth Court, there is the Big Pool and Ravan Pavillion next to it. This pavillion was also built by Murad IV in 1629, to commemorate the Revan Campaign. The side facing the second section has Sofa Pavilion (Koca Mustafa Pasha Pavilion), Başbala Tower and Hekimbaşi (Chief Physician) Room. The Sofa Mosque and Esvap Chamber and the latest built Mecidye Pavilion are on the right hand side of the Fourth Court. Out of the pavillions built on the shore of the Marmara Sea, only Sepetciler Mansion has survived until the present.

During the 18th century when the Topkapi palace took its final shape, it was sheltering a population of more than 10.000 in its outer (Birun) and inner (Enderun) and Harem sections. It shows no archirectural unity as new parts were added in every period according to the needs. However, this enables us to follow the stages Ottoman Architecture went through from the 15th to the middle of the 19th century at the Topkapi Palace. The buildings of the 15th – 17th centuries are simpler and those of the 18th – 19th centuries, particularly in terms of exterior and interior ornamentation are more complex.
Topkapi Palace was converted to a museum in 1924. Parts of the Palace such as the Harem, Baghdat Pavilion, Revan Pavilion, Sofa Pavilion, and the Audiance Chamber distinguish themselves with their architectural assets,while in other sections artefacts are displayed which reflect the palace life. The museum also has collections from various donations and a library.

Fethiye Museum (Pammakaristos)

It is in Fatih – Çarşamba quarter of Istanbul. It is Pammakaristos monastery church constructed in Byzantine Period. A grave chapel has been added with the end of the Latin invasion in the 13th century.

After the conquest, it remained under the control of Christians and used as a women’s monastery, in 1455 patriarchate has been moved to this building and the building has been used as patriarchate until 1586.

This church has been converted into a mosque by Murat III (1574 – 1595) and the mosque has been named as Fethiye.

The northern church is still being used as a mosque. The walls of the additional church are ornamented with the beautiful mosaics of the 14th century. After being repaired between the years 1938 – 1940, it has been converted into a unit of Ayasofya Museum.

Museum of Classical Ottoman (Divan) Literature (Galata Mevlevi Lodge)

The Galata Mevlevi Lodge (mevlevihane) or as it is also known the Kulekapi Mevlevi Lodge which is now serving as a museum, is one of the institutions which reflect the culture of the era in the best possible way. The Mevlevi Lodges which for centuries combined scholarship with music had a great influence on the Turkish culture. A great number of those people who came together in a Mevlevi Lodge environment were educated in various areas of fine arts and their names were remembered for a long time as far as science and scholarship was concerned. The Mevlevi Lodge which is located at the top of the steep street going down to Yüksekkaldirim is the oldest Mevlevi Lodge of Istanbul. It was built in 1491, on the hunting grounds of İskender Pasha who was a governor – general during the times of Sultan Bayezid. Its first master was Mehmet Mehmed Sema-i Çelebi. The building was struck by fire during the reign of Sultan Mustafa III. (1766) but was replaced by the existing Mevlevi Lodge by the same Sultan. In later years, the building underwent repairs during the reigns of Sultans Selim III, Mahmud II and Abdüllmecid. The institution which carried out its activities until 1925 was once more restored between the years 1967 – 1972. The Mevlevi Lodge which was built as a complex contained rooms and spaces for pray chanting, dervish cells, the quarters of the master (şeyh), special prayer (namaz) area for the Sultan, the section for the female members, library, fountain for the public, clock room, kitchen, mausoleums and an enclosed graveyard.

Semahane (Ritual Prayer Hall)

On the entarence door of this wood structured section there is the restoration statement of Sultan Abdülmecid dated 1853. The building has an octagonal plan and a good sample of the baroque style of the 18th century. In this section Turkish musical instruments and works related to the Mevlevi culture are exhibited. In the upper section which is divided with wooden grills, the poems (divan) of the Classical Ottoman poets and manuscripts belonging to Şeyh Galib, İsmail Ankaravi, Esrar and Fasih Dedes and the poetess Leyla Hanim who were trained and educated at the Mevlevi Lodge are kept in chronological order. The quarters of the master (şeyh) and the special praying area for the Sultan are upstairs.
Dervish Cells

It is constructed with stone and consists of rooms in a row.


Şeyh Galib Mausoleum; It was built by Halet Said Efendi at the beginning of the 19th century. It has a square plan. Mehmed Ruhi, Hüseyin, İsa Selim, Şarih-, İsmail Ankaravi who first annotated the Mesnevi and Şeyh Galib Efendi are buried here.

Halet Said Efendi Mausoleum; it was built at the same time as the other mausoleum. Has a square plan. Inside, Şeyh Kudretullah, Ataullah Efendi, Halet Said Efendi and Emine Esma Hanim who is the wife of Ubeydullah Efendi are burried.

Fountain and the Clock Room

They are located to the right of the entrance. The masonary structure was built in the early 19th century.


It was built by Halet Said Efendi. It is on the top floor of the special prayer place and contains 3455 volumes.
Treasury (Graveyard)

Those who functioned as masters (şeyh) at the Mevlevi Lodge, their spouses, the “kudum” and “ney” playing musicians and poets who had “divans” (volume of collected poems) are burried here. The graves of Humbaraci Ahmed Pasha, İbrahim Müteeferrika who set up the first printing press in Turkey, the composer Vardakosta Seyyid Ahmet Ağa, Nayi Osman Dede, and the family members of Tepedelenli Ali Pasha are also here. The tomb stones are significant for their inscriptions and decorations.
Small St.Sofia Mosque – Saints. Sergius and Bacchus Church

Small St. Sofia Mosque is located between Cankurtaran and Kadirga quarters in Eminönü District, 20 km away from the southern seaside of Mediterranean ramparts. Although it is stated in some sources that there was a pavilion of Big Palace, which is known as Hormidas Palace, and a basically planned church established for Apostle Petrous and Pavlos near Small St. Sofia Mosque, there is no proof which determines their exact locations.

Small St. Sofia Mosque or St. Sergius and Bacchus church with its former name, which is the useable oldest structure of Istanbul today, was constructed between the years 527-536. According to the legends stated in the sources about the construction of the building (Millingen 1912), at the 1st Anastasyus Period, 1st Justiniaunus and his uncle 1st Justinos were condemned to death due to an allegation that they had a rebellion against the Emperor Anastasyus. One night before the execution, the Emperor Anastasyus sees the saints St. Sergius and Bacchus in his dream and the saints testifies in favour of 1st Justiniaunus and 1st Justinos. The emperor, who is affected by this dream, forgives them. When 1st Justiniaunus becomes emperor, he establishes St. Sergius and Bacchus church as a vow church in order to show his gratitude to these saints.

After the conquer of Istanbul, the building, which was used as a church for nearly 1000 years, was changed to a mosque by Hüseyin Agha, the Kapu Agha, in 1504 during the 2nd Bayezid period.
Architectural Description

The building is one of typical samples of central planned, first period Byzantine churches in the capital Constantinople. Narthex lies at the west and semi-hexagonal shaped apsis lies at the east side of the irregular, rectangular planned church. The octagonal planned centre area, which was placed in the irregular rectangle, was enlarged with semi-circle shaped niches called exedra. The location integrity has been ensured between the centre area and apsis by placing polygonal shaped pillars to the corners of this centre area and two each column among these pillars. In terms of plan, the building has the similar characteristics with Ravenna – St. Vitale, Aachen – Aix Le Chapella and Basra – Bacchus churches; but it is completely different in third dimension.

On the centre area, there is 16 sectioned dome carried by eight big pillars on its corners. Eight of these sections are plain and eight of them are concave. Arch shaped windows have been opened on the plain sections. The upper surface of the corridors providing passage from the centre area to rectangular form takes shape of a gallery at the upper floor. At the gallery floor, the upper surface of the exedras is furnished with semi – domes carried by three arches.

It is being supposed that the inner walls were ornamented with mosaics during construction, as seen in the buildings of the same period. But today there is no proof verifying this supposition; the inner surface of the building is fully plastered. The only ornament in the building belonging to Byzantine Period is an architrave formed with bunch of grapes and leaves having a slender workmanship at the gallery floor level, around the centre area. It is being asserted that the building was constructed on the area of a tempest made on behalf of Bakus, the God of wine, in idolatry period and the name Bacchus came accordingly.

Building Material

The building material used for St. Sergius and Bacchus church is stone, brick and plaster. Except the restored parts, the walls on northern, western and eastern fronts are made by reinforcement of bricks with stones arranged in wide intervals. The bricks of 70 x 35 x 5 cm are adhered together with plaster of 4 – 5 cm. On the southern front which is a 19th century structure there are irregular laid stones and bricks. Various lime types have been used for stone lines made for reinforcement of bricks. In the building, for the pillars, shelled limestone adhered with 4 cm plaster was used on the ground floor and brick was used on the gallery floor. Bricks were used as material for the vaults of the corridors and the gallery floor and for the central dome, and the bricks are laid in a manner to form radial pointing united at the centre of the vault.

The columns between the pillars are made of red and green serpatine, the head of columns and the architrave at the gallery floor level are made of Mediterranean marble. After the building was changed to a mosque, the pulpit muezzin gallery added to the building are also made of marble.
The Changes in the Building

According to the sources, the first damage and thus the first restoration in the building had been done after the Iconoclasm movements in the 9th century (Müller – Weiner 1977). And after the Latin invasion, the inner ornament needed to be restored (Paolesi 1961).

In 1054, Hüseyin Agha, the Kapu Agha, changed the building to a mosque and during this changing works all inner ornaments of the building were changed and some parts specific to a mosque were added to the building. These parts were a pulpit to south – east, a muezzin gallery to north – west in the inner side and a congregation area in front of the western wall in the outer side. Many windows at various dimensions were opened with ottoman architectural characteristics; and some of the existing windows were closed.

An independent minaret was established to the south – west corner of the building. The characteristic of the first minaret is not being known. It is being stated in the sources that a new minaret with Baroque style was made in the 18th century (S. Eyice 1978). The body of the Baroque style minaret was placed on an octagonal pulpit; the body climbs on the Baroque profile arches and joined to a minaret balcony with a bracelet part. The banister of the minaret balcony having baroque style ornaments was made of plain plates. The minaret having a lead coated classical spire was destroyed up to its pulpit in 1936 due to unknown reasons. The minaret, which remained ruined for a few years, was rebuilt in 1955.

Since 1600, 89 earthquakes with intensity bigger than 6, were observed in Istanbul, which is located on an important seismic zone. Thus, it is certain that Small St. Irene Mosque lived more earthquakes (N. Çamlibel 1991). It was stated that in Hüseyin Agha’s foundations (the Kapu Agha), the plasters fell and the windows at north and south were broken in the earthquake of 1968 and most part of the building was damaged in the earthquake of 1763; and the restoration works of the building were given to Ahmet Agha (S. Eyice, 1978).

In 1870 – 1871, a railway was established in the region between the building and the northern sea ramparts in a manner to pass 5 km away from the building. The railway, which is at an altitude of 1 m. from the ground level, served as single line for nearly 50 years. According to the sources, as the stones of the southern walls fell at each pass of the train, a wall in the Ottoman style was laid in 1877 (Mathews 1971). At the beginning of the 20th century, the railway was made double lined by increasing 3 m from the ground level.

The building, which was used as a sheltering place during Balkan War by the people who escaped from the war, was restored twice in 1937 and 1955, in the Republic Period (S. Eyice, 1978). The front of the building, which was known to be plastered and whitewashed, was restored after 1955 and brick and stone lays were made to be visible at all fronts except the drum of cupola.

There are some cracks at north – east and south – east sides, especially at exedras of the building, which is today used as a mosque. These continuous cracks begin from the cupola, pass the gallery vaults and go up to the outer walls of the building. The necessary activities should be carried out in order to find the occurring reason of these cracks and to repair them.

St. Irene (Aya İrini) : This ranks as the first church built in Istanbul . It was commissioned by Constantine in the 4th century, and Justinian later had it restored. The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple.

Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Built in 1524 by İbrahim Paşa, the Grand Vizier to Süleyman the Magnificent, this was originally a palace and the grandest private residences in the Ottoman Empire – and one of the few which have survived. Some of it, however, was destroyed and rebuilt in stone to the original designs in 1843.

Now home to the museum, this is considered one of the finest collections of Islamic art in the world, with a superb display of ceramics, metalwork, miniatures, calligraphy and textiles, as well as some of the oldest carpets in the world. Equally as impressive is the grace of the building, with the central courtyard giving something of an insight into the atmosphere of the residence.

Opposite is the Great Hall, which houses a collection of Turkish carpets, with exquisite antique carpets and kilims and one of the finest collections in the world, the oldest exhibit dating back to 13th century.

The Great Palace Mosaic Museum :The Mosaic Museum preserves its situation exceptionally fine 5th and 6th century mosaic pavements from the Grand Palace of the Byzantine emperors. Because of the way they are exhibited, it is easy to understand their size and scale especially because many of them can be viewed from a catwalk above.

Kariye (Caria) Museum : This is actually Kariye Mosque, once the 11th century church of St Saviour in Chora, is considered to be the most important Byzantine monument in Istanbul , after Aya Sofia. Whilst unremarkable in its architecture, the interior walls are decorated with superb 14th century mosaics. Illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, these brilliantly colored paintings embody the vigour of Byzantine art. The restored wooden houses in the surrounding area are a good place for relaxation and refreshment.

The church was probably built in the early 12th century, of which only the nave and central apse remain. Theodore Metochites rebuilt it between 1316 and 1321, the same years from which the mosaics and frescoes date, which depict the life of Christ in picture-book fashion. There is a series of mosaics in the form of devotional panels in the narthexes, the theme of which is reflected in the frescoes in the nave and funerary chapel.

Museum of Turkish Carpets : Across the street from the Ibrahim Pasa residence is the Museum of Turkish Carpets which contains exquisite antique carpets and kilims gathered from all over Turkey. Open days to visit: Everyday except Monday

Yerebatan Sarnici (Cistern) : Nearby Aya Sofia is the 6th century Byzantine underground Basilica cistern, with 335 massive Corinthian columns supporting the immense chamber’s fine brick vaulting. This is one of several buried into the city’s foundations, and the first to have been excavated and renovated. Thought to have been built in the 4th century by the emperor Constantine, then enlarged two centuries later, it was supplied with water from Belgrade Forest, amd supplied it to the Great Palace and Topkapi Palace.

It fell into disuse and was then restored in 1987 with the mud and water removed, and narrow raised pathways providing easy access for visitors. It is the largest covered cistern in the city, measuring 140 by 70 metres.

Aviation Museum : The Aviation Museum in Yesilkoy traces the development of flight in Turkey.
Closed Tuesdays.

Military Museum : Highlight of this museum is definitely the Mehter Takimi, the Ottoman military band, which performs every afternoon between 15.00 – 16.00. It also has a good collection of Ottoman military memorabilia, like the cotton and silk tents used by the sultans at war, and armour and weaponry like heavily decorated jambiyah daggers.

The band, which originated in 1289, became an institution which came to symbolise the power and independence of the Ottoman empire, and these musicians, who were janissaries, always accompanied the Sultans into battle. But quite apart from their benefit on the battlefield, they came to create new musical styles in Europe, and even influencing Mozart and Beethoven.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 17.00, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Maritime Museum : The collection is divided into two buildlings: The one facing the water has seagoing vessels, and the one opposite the road has exhibits relating to maritime history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. Highlights include items from Ataturk’s yacht, the huge wooden figureheads of tigers and swans, and the imperial caiques of the sultans, the largest dating back to 1648, which needed 144 oarsmen to power it.

Opening hours: 09.00 – 12.30 & 13.30 – 17.00, closed Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Atatürk Museum : Atatürk’s former residence in Şisli, 2 km from north of Taksim Square, now serves as the Atatürk Museum and displays his personal effects.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Naval Museum : The grand imperial caiques used by the sultans to cross the Istanbul strait are among the many many other interesting exhibits of Ottoman naval history that can be seen at the Naval Museum located in the Besiktas district. Open days to visit: Everyday except Saturday and Sunday.

Museum of Fine Arts This collection is in the east wing of Dolmabahce Palace, once the apartments of the heir to the throne. Although closed for some time following damage after the 1999 earthquake, it is best known for its late 19th century and early 20th century work, which gives an insight into the life of the late Ottoman Turks. Osman Hamdi is one of the best artists exhibited.
Opening hours: 12.30 – 16.30, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
City Museum : Located inside the gardens of Yildiz Palace, this museum preserves and documents the history of Istanbul  since the Ottoman conquest, including ornaments and paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries reflect the way of life. Also within the gardens are the Yildiz Palace Theatre, and the Yildiz Sarayi Theatre (Museum of Historical Stage Costumes), with richly decorated scenery, stage and costumes. Also exhibited are portraits of some of the stars who appeared here, including Sarah Bernhardt.
Opening hours: 09.00 – 16.30, Closed Mondays.

Rahmi Koç Industry Museum :
The museum is set in an Ottoman-period building, an 18th century factory which produced anchors and their chains. It was recently converted, although has retained many of its original features, and restored by Rahmi Koc, who is one of Turkey’s most powerful industrialists. It was essentially done so he could house his private collection of models, machines and vehicles which he had collected from all over Europe, and exhibits include original penny-farthing bicycles, a ship’s bridge, and an engine from the Kalender steam ferry. The museum is trying to raise the Australian navy’s first submarine sink of gallipoli in World War I.
Opening hours: 10.00 – 17.00, closed Mondays.

Sadberk Hanim Museum : Up the Istanbul strait and shortly before Buyukdere, the collection of an Armenian civil servant fills two charming 19th century wooden villas. The larger of the two villas belonged to the Armenian, who became a politician and died in the great Beyoğlu fire in 1922. His collection was put together in memory of Sadberk Hanim, wife of millionaire businessman Vehbi Koc.

A private museum which originally displayed only Turkish decorative arts, was recently expanded to include a new collection of archeological exhibits. This is the oldest section, and includes sixth-millenium BC mother goddesses. In the ethnography section, there are maternity and circumcision beds, clothing and jewellery.
Opening hours: 10.00 – 18.00, closed Wednesdays.

Suleymaniye Mosque

At one’s first glance there are two things that are particularly remarkable in the ancient monuments of the Ottomans: the choice of the site and the perfect unity of the whole. Whether or not it is in a ra~sed place, the site always has a view of vast open spaces and however far one may look, one may see the sky. The structure as a whole is broad and imposing. All details of the monument, howev- er charged with multiple ornaments it may be, simultaneously con- tribute to a general effect that is always simple and always unique.

İf, fmong all the masterpieces which are imbued with the genius of Master Sinan Master and of his pupils, there is one that fills more perfectly than the others these fundamental conditions of Ottoman architecture, it is undoubtedly the Süleymaniye. Situated at the top of a hill dominating the Kantarcilar district between the Ministry of Wlar and the Office of the Sheikhulislam, the Süleymaniye soars majestically towards the sky with nothing to hinder its ascent. From the vast platform of its enclosure, one captures at a single glance Europe and Asia, the two seas that bathe Istanbul, and the smiling Princes Isles. Further still, in the vaporous transparency of the horizon, the giant Bithynian Olympus takes shape against a pure sky, standing like an ever present witness to the memory of the cradle of ancient Ottoman power. Confronted by such a tableau, the spirit can conceive only noble ideas. Founded in year 964 of the Hegira (1556 of the Christian era) by Sultan Süleyman the Lawgiver, for whom history has also decreed the names of “the Great” and “the Magnificent’; the Süleymaniye is preceded by an interior court or square flanked by four minarets. By this number, according to tradition, the founder wanted to indicate that he was the  fourth  Ottoman  sovereign  since  the  aonquest  of Constantinople.  In the same way, the total number of the bal conies of its minarets indicates that he was the tenth sultan since Osman Ghazi, the glorious root of his line.

The two minarets located at the two sides of the facade have two balconies each, and the two other two, which are at the other end of the square on each side öf the porch, have three balconies each. The total number, for the four minarets, yields ten balconies, all with corbelling in stalactites. Three beautiful doors whose open- ings are formed of flattened curues are each surmounted by an ogee arch and give access through the frontage and the two other sides of the courtyard. A cloister of twenty four arcades runs around and is supported by an equal number of columns. The pair closest to the door in the facade are of porphyry;  of the remainder, twelve columns of pink granite alternate with ten of white marble. All are of the crystallized order. Their capitals are of white marble, and the edges of their stalactites heavily gilded.

Domes, which number twenty four, surmount the gallery of tbe cloister.  Their cupolas are paînted with ornaments and flowers on a ground, and the largest, located midway along the porch, in front of the entrance to the nave, is decorated with pendentives in white marble stalactites, with gilding on the edges of crystalliza- tions. The door of the nave is a niche decorated with stalactites, also fashioned from gilded white marble in a design of great puri- ty and aspect of true monumentality. The proportions are large. Two other smaller niches are located along each side at half the distance between the entrance to the nave and the courtyard wall. The windows of the porch have quadrangular bays surmounted by ogee arches lavishly decorated with glazed tiles that have a royal blue ground on which beautiful Arabic letters are inter.- laced, tracing out in pure white sacred verses from the Quran.

A very simple fountain, in the form of a parallelogram with four vertical faces and covered by a zinc roof, occupies the center of the square. Its decoration, sober and gracious, consists of a metal grill painted in emerald green and an openwork lattice of geometrical rosettes, above which runs a frieze of white marble carued with broad leaves whose hearts are slightly tinted aqua- marine. ~ The court is entirely paved with enormous flagstones of white marble, except for the passage which gives access, through the porch, inside the mosque. There, in front of.the main door, is placed a round monolithic flagstone of the richest porphyry with a diameter of approximately two meters. If we should believe a popular legend associated with this flagstone, it marks a tragic event and played a bloody role during the construction of the Süleymaniye courtyard.  Sultan Süleyman had himself chosen and indicated a sample of the most precious porphyry with which to enrich, the place before the mihrab inside mosque which indi cates the direction of Mecca towards which the faithful perform ~

their prostrations. He spelled out the particulars of size and finish to a skilful workman who knew the destination of the stone. This craftsman, who was a Christian, thought he would do a pious deed by carving on the flagstone a cross, perhaps hoping that merely by the sight of this emblem, all the Muslims would convert spontaneously. He had undoubtedly not re~l’ected, or perhaps he was unaware, that the Islamic religion absolutely proscribes plâces reserved for the worship of any image. The flagstone of porphyry became, by virtue of the fact that a cross had even been carved on it, unsuitable with the ornamentation of mosque.

Sultan Süleyman, indignant at seeing all his care thus rendered useless, was provoked, they say, into a violent rage. He condemned the workman to death, and ordered that it be carried out then and there, in front of his eyes.  T’hey thus brought into the courtyard a throne, on which the sovereign sat down to preside over the execu- tion. The sculptor was decapitated in his presence and to preserue at the same time the memory of this disobedience and its terrible punishment, they carued deeply into the block of the marble where the seat of the sultan had sat and where the head of the victim had fallen, two signs which vaguely represent the outline of a t.hrone and that of a head;  they are still to be seen there today. As for the porphyry, flagstone, so that it would not be completely wasted, they turned it over so that the cross was on the bottom and then installed it in front of the principal entrance to the nave with the result that, unbeknownst to themselves, all who pass over it are treading on the cross. It is thus fulfills a function quite contrary to the proselytical intentions of the executed sculptor. Nothing prevents us from believ- ing in this legend, which bears all the attributes characteristic of the truth, for it is known that leniency did not number among the  favorite virtues of Sultan Süleyman the Lawgiver. Moreover, at that time, tolerance and mercy were practiced no better in the ~est than th.ey were in the East. Francis I, the restorer of arts and the patron of literature, also had the philosopher and scholar Etienne Dolet publicly burned alive; Charles V formally took part in the “acts of faith” of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Islamic religion, at least, has never had an institution sim- ilar to the Holy Office. Be that as it may, afterpassing over the leg- endary porphyry flagstone, we enter the nave, where we first of all are overcome by our admiration of the lofty and vast cupola of the dome, painted in a wash of clear tones of blue, white, and gold. These three colors form the basis of the entire decorative harmony of the building: its paintings, sculptures, precious marbles, tiles, etc, both inside and out. Everywhere, the white and blue domi- nate-the white especially. A few pink granite and porphyry columns or insets, a few lines the color of blood, freshen the light without interrupting this harmony; the gildings of the stalactites are everywhere applied with a solemnity that does not disturb the tranquility.  The colossal vault is supported by four gigantic upright piers. Around the sides are columns that support the lat- eral galleries and the first landing, which contains the loges for the ladies and extends in a square around the nave. Three circu- lar galleries gird the central rotunda.  During the nights of Ramazan and on other holy days, splendid illuminations engulf the balustrades which circumscribe them, and highlight all the elegant details of the stars, flowers, foliage, and scrollwork in flame. The first of these reached by two staircases that are located conveniently close tö the entrance. The two uppergal- leries, the highest of which is at the same level as the great central cupola, is reached by wooden ladders placed on the roof outside the dome. In this last gallery, there is a curious acoustical effect: sounds made anywhere in the interior are concentrated here and even softly-spoken words uttered in the nave or the aisles may be distinctly heard here.

Another curiosity worthy of remark, and which could be pro- posed as an example to architects, is the following one:  tunnels dug in the ground and faced with solid masonry, lead from the interior of the mosque to external tanks that are used for the dis- tribution of water to all the dependencies of the Süleymaniye. The famous architect of this mosque, Master Sinan, combined this sup- ply so as to take advantage of it in order to maintain inside the nave a mild and uniform temperature. By means of wooden trap doors that are located all over the central part of the floor of the nave, the air contained in these underground tunnels is fed into the mosque, where, as a result, the temperature is always warm in winter and cool in summer. All the inscriptions that decorate the Süleymaniye were executed by the famous calligrapher Hasan Ç’elebi, who is buried beside his master in Sütlüce by the Sweet T~aters of Europe. Among the outstanding calligraphic ornamen- tation one should particularly mention the large rosettes of glazed tiles adorned with white letters on a royal blue ground and framed by borders of foliage executed in turquoise blue which decorate the two sides of the mihrab. Like thepulpitplaced to its left, the mihrab is made of white marble, cazved in stalactites that are gilded with gold.  ?’he marble plates composing the pulpit number only four.~ the gate and base are formed of single slabs and measure eight meters, one in its length and the other in its height. 2’hese are also the measurements of the niche in which the mihrab is set. The imperial loge, situated at the right, is also of white. It is supported by porphyry columns with capitals in the crystallized order that are fashioned of gilded white marble. There are two richly-deco- rated fountains that are intended for ablutions. The door of this loge is, like all the woodwork of the building, engulfed in carved geometric rosettes.  A kürsü (pulpit) abutting the pillar closer to the imperial loge is also worthy of mentioning for the remarkable excecution of work of this last kind,  in which walnut has been finely cut with open-work and carved with boldness and delica- cy. At the other end of the nave, on the pillar on the opposite side, the balcony of the muezzin is set. Simpler, but almost as beauti- ful as the imperial loge, it is also of the crystallized order. Behind the muezzin’s balcony along the low sides, is located~the library, separated from the nave by a superb screen of brass worked in rococo ornamentation. It was repaired during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I by his grand vizier, Mustafa Pasha. More recently, this screen was renovated by Ahmed Vefik Efendi.  .

Leaving the nave, one passes in front of external galleries with superimposed orders:  the lower is in the crystallized order and has ogival arcades in which broad and high arches alternate with low and narrow ones, The upper order is planar with a row of reg- ular arcades that are narrow and high. On the side of the mosque which looJzs towards Mecca there are cemeteries planted with rose bushes in the center of which have been erected several splendid tombs among which is that of the mosque’s benefactor. Among all these illustrious dead,  the architect of Süleymaniye does not appear; instead, Master Sinan built for himself a modest and charming mausoleum, located not far from there, at the intersec- tion of two streets, between the enclosure outside of the mosque and the Office of the Sheikhulislam, which in his day was the headquarters of the Janissaries.

It is known that this great artist was a member of that terrify- ing militia which, after having raised the military might of Turkey to its brightest apogee, then turned and because of its continued mutinies and the bloody tyranny that it exercised over the sover eigns themselves and all their subjects, its abolition became essen- tial for the advancement of the empire. During the entire course of his long and glorious life Master Sinan never ceased to receive the pay and pension due to the haseki ~privy household~ corps of Janissaries. The violent suppression of this turbulent and undisci- plined body, ordered by Sultan Mahmud II, continued until the very tomb leaving no trace nor any emblem that might remind posterity of its odious memory: even the stone turbans that distin- guished the burial places of these eternally proscribed militiamen were broken. In one honorable exception the tomb of Master Sinan was respected, and thus, thanks to the very special indul- gence of the sovereign, one may see still see standing over the slab of white marble, the grandmaster Ottoman architecture, the typi- cal turban of the haseki corps. The principal dependencies of the Süleymaniye are: a special college for the study of the oral tradi- tions of the Prophet;  four higher schools (medreses);  a prepara- tory college for the sciences;  a school of medicine;  a primary school;  a kitchen and hospice for students;  a great public bath; and a very famous asylum for lunatics.

The historian Peçevi (v 1, p 424) says that, according to what was appeared in the accounts of the director of construction, the expenditure for this building amounted to 896,.383 florins, which was worth 53, 782,900 aspers then, of which SO were equivalent’ to a gurush.  The gurush in the time of Sultan Süleyman is esti- mated by Mr Belin, in the Mecidiye currency to be worth SO pias- tres and 27 paras.

Sultanahmet Mosque

This mosque was built by Sultan Ahmet I during 1609-1616 in the square carrying his name in Istanbul. The architect is Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa. It is the only mosque in Turkey with six minarets. The mosque is 64 x 72 m in dimensions. The central dome is 43 m in height and is 33.4 m in diameter. 260 windows surround the mosque. Due to its beautiful blue, green and white tilings it has been named the “Blue Mosque” by Europeans. The inscriptions were made by Seyyid Kasim Gubari.

Palaces, Pavillions

Topkapi Palace

One of the most astounding and popular places to visit in Istanbul  is Topkapi Palace, the symbolic and political centre of the Ottoman Empire in between the 15th and 19th centuries. It stands on the tip of land where the Golden Horn, the Sea of Marmara and the Istanbul strait come together, and is a maze of buildings centered around a series of courtyards, typical of Islamic tradition. Such is the complexity of each building, it will take many hours in order to be explored properly.

It was built in between 1466 and 1478, a couple of years before the death of Fatih. Unlike any European Palace, its architecture is predominantly Middle Eastern in character. The initial construction was Cinili Mansion, a Glass Palace finished in 1472, and the imposing main gate facing Sultanahmet, Bab-I Humayun, and the Palace ramparts, were completed in 1478.

There were originally 750 residents of the Palace, during Fatih’s period, which became drastically more congested reaching 5000 during normal days and 10,000 during festivals. Extensions had to be built, and the harem was completed in 1595 during the third Sultan Murad’s era, after which the harem residents were moved in from the palace at Beyazit, with a total of 474 concubines. Special tours of the Harem are available. The Harem, literally meaning “forbidden” in Arabic, was the suite of apartments in the palace belonging to the wives, concubines and children of the head of the household.

Around the Harem there were, Circumcision Room, the apartments of the Chief Black Eunuch, and apartments of the sultan – in total over 400 rooms. Other highlights in the Palace are the Spoonmaker’s Diamond (the fourth largest diamond in the world), the Topkapi Dagger, (a gift from Mahmut I), a vast collection of paintings and miniatures, and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle (including a footprint, a tooth and a hair of the Prophet Mohammed).

Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 17.00, winter closed Tuesday.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Built in the reign of Sultan I Abdulmecit during the 19th century, this over-ornate palace lies along the European coast of the Istanbul strait. Dolmabahce Palace was constructed in between 1843 and 1856, mixing different European artistic influences and built by Abdulmecit’s architect, Karabet Balya. It was built over three levels, and symmetrically planned, with 285 chambers and 43 halls. It has a 600m long pier along the river, with two huge monumental gates. The palace is surrounded by well-maintained and immaculate gardens, with an immense 56-columned greeting hall, with 750 lights illuminated from 4.5 tonnes of crystal chandelier. The entrance was used for meeting and greeting Sultans, and opposite the ceremonial hall was the harem. The interior decoration, furniture, silk carpets and curtains all remain with little defect.

The palace has a level of luxury, which has not presented in most other palaces, with walls and ceilings decorated with gold, and European art from the period. Top quality silk and wool carpets, southeast Asian hand-made artifacts, and crystal candlesticks adorn every room. The men’s hamam (public bath) is adorned with alabaster marble, and the harem also contains the Sultan’s bedrooms and the women and servants’ divisions. One of the highlights is the throne room, which stands at an amazing 36-metres high – almost twice the height of the rest of the rooms. The east wing is home to the Museum of Fine Arts.
Opening hours: Daily 09.00 – 16.00, except Monday and Thursday.

Çirağan Palace

The most picturesque spots along the Istanbul strait and Golden Horn were reserved for the palaces and mansions for the Sultans, and other important dignitaries, most of which have now gone. The huge palace was constructed by architect Serkis Balyan in 1871, as appointed by Sultan Abdul Aziz, from the ruins of the old palace.

The interior construction was rebuilt, at a cost of four million gold coins, beginning with covering the ceiling with wood and the walls with marble. The rooms were decorated with rare carpets, furniture, gold and silver. The sides of the building were decorated with coloured marble, and monumental gates connected it to Yildiz Palace, via a bridge, which is how the harem women went between the two, in total privacy.

It briefly housed the Turkish Parliament from 1908, but was destroyed by a fire two years later, and was only rebuilt in 1991. Now, it is Istanbul ’s premier luxury hotel, and has retained something of its former glory.

Beylerbeyi Palace

Beylerbeyi, in which the Asian Tower of Istanbul strait Bridge was constructed, is a beautiful district allotted for palaces since the Byzantium era. Sultan Abdulaziz built the Palace, to replace the older, wooden palace, between 1861 and 1865. Eastern and Turkish motifs are used with Western design elements, on the sides and for internal decoration, and the atmosphere is something resembling that of Dolmabahce Palace.

The building comprises of three floors, and contains 26 rooms and six halls, which includes the harem and men’s greeting rooms. The interior is decorated with Bohemian chandeliers, valuable tiles and ceramic vases. Silver-edged furniture and luxurious carpets add something to the beauty, and even till today the authentic furniture, carpets, curtains and other property have been well preserved.

A big pool, terraces and stables, face at the back of cliff. A road and tunnel, used until 1970, passed under the palace garden and were used by the most distinguished foreign dignitaries when visiting the palace.

Open daily except Monday and Thursday.

Yildiz Palace

This vast park consists of mansions, gardens and lakes, the whole area surrounded by high walls, and all set in a superb hillside location. Popular at weekends and holidays with locals, it offers one of the few green areas within the city centre, and is a great place for walking, relaxing and eating. There is a steep walk up the hill from Ciragan Caddesi up to the first pavilion, but rewards are cooling breezes and sweeping views of the Istanbul strait.

It was in the centre of the Ottoman Empire for 30 years, during the reign of Abdulhamid II, and the second largest palace in Istanbul . The main structure of Yildiz Palace, was built in the old Ottoman style and the pavilions which are dotted around the park were transformed into a power base. The most important remaining building is Sale Koske, where receptions were held, and is the largest and most ornate and reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. The first section was modelled on a Swiss Chalet, the second two completed in the late 19th century.

Some of the mansions are undergoing restoration, but Sale is open for visitors, and two have terraces serving food and drinks. Further along the path is a State museum, the Belediye Sehir Muzesi, and Yildiz Sarayi Theatre.

Park: Open daily 09.00 – 17.30

Aynalikavak Summer Pavilion : Built in the early 18th century and later restored by various sultans, this timber royal pavilion is in the Hasksoy district, on the Karakoy side of the Golden Horn, incongruously placed between a naval dockyard and cemetery. The last surviving structure of a large group of buildings, the pavilion is famous for its mirrors, hence its Mirrored Poplar, which were gifts from the Venetians and installed in 1718. One of the most beautiful examples of traditional Ottoman architecture, the composition room, a private room of Ahmet III where he used to compose music, includes a central brazier and low divans – typical interior of the era.

The pavilion, most recently restored in 2000, also has exhibition of old Turkish musical instruments. The windows facing the sea are decorated with stained glass.

Opening hours: 09.00 – 16.00, closed Mondays and Thursdays.

Çinili Köşk (Tiled Pavilion) : The oldest secular building Istanbul , this was constructed as a mansion in 1472. It was a type of grandstand from which the Sultan would sit and watch wrestling or polo, and its interior is beautifully decorated with Selcuk art. It now houses the Museum of Turkish Ceramics, containing fine example of 16th century tiles from Iznik, as well as other renowned examples of art and pottery from Selcuk and Ottoman times.

Closed Mondays.
Ihlamur Köşkü : The 19th-century Ihlamur Pavilion is named after the linden trees growing in its gardens. Although now in the heart of metropolitan Istanbul , when it was originally constructed, the pavilion lay in the rolling countryside that surrounded the city.
The Merasim Pavilion:This was used for official ceremonies while the Maiyet Pavilion sheltered the sultan’s entourage and, on occasions, his harem on their excursions out of the palace confines.
Closed on Mondays and Thursdays.

Maslak Pavilion : Maslak Pavilions, situated on a shady green hill, were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges. These are particularly noteworthy as superb examples of the late 19th century Ottoman decorative style.
Closed Mondays and Thursdays.

Florya Atatürk Sea Pavilion : The Florya Ataturk Sea Pavilion served as a summer residence for Turkish presidents, beginning with Atatürk. Built in 1935 in a T-shaped design on land jutting out over the Sea of Marmara, it serves as a showcase for some of the finest examples of early-20th century furnishings.

Closed Mondays and Thursdays.


The location of old Istanbul  is marked in a triangular shape by the 6½ km-long city wall, called Theodosius II city walls, which started construction in 413. An earthquake in 447 almost destroyed them, so were rebuilt in a hasty two months. The mammoth effort was thanks to 16,000 citizens who were forced to work to get it completed in time to prevent Attila’s forces who were fast advancing. They completed construction of the original walls, 5m thick and 12m high, plus and outer wall of 2m by 8.5m, and a moat. Since 1990, some areas have been rebuilt, and some unrestored areas collapsed during the 1999 earthquake. It is possible to walk along the entire length, which would take a full day, with highlights including Yedikule, Edirnekapi and Mihrimah Camii.

At the southern point of the walls is Yedikule and the Golden Gate, the most impressive within the walls. The area is an old, attractive quarter with many churches, since this is the centre of Rum Orthodoxy, the last remaining descendants of the Byzantine Greeks. The Gate is flanked by two marble towers, a monumental entrance through which important state visitors and triumphant emperors would pass through. The gold-plated doors were removed after the collapse of the empire and the entrance bricked up, although the three arches are still visible.

The other five towers were added by Mehmet the Conqueror, and together with the 12m wall it forms the enclave which can be seen today. Two of the towers were prisons, and the one in the second tower was also an execution chamber. The wooden gallows and the well into which the heads would roll, are still visible today, as are some instruments of torture. While the entire enclave was used as a treasury, warehouse and ambassadorial jail, now it is a museum, still with the Golden Gate towers and in the summer months, concerts performed here.
Anadoluhisari and Rumelihisari : On the Asian side of the Istanbul strait, Anadolu Hisari is a small castle built during the 1390s by Sultan Beyazit. Together with Rumeli, on the European side built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452, the two fortresses had complete control of passing transport between the Black Sea and the Marmara. Rumeli, an early Ottoman fortress built in only four months, before the Ottoman conquest of the city, to prevent the aides of Byzantine from the north.

Anadolu is always open to explore the walls, and Rumeli has a small open-air theatre showing concerts and plays in summer. There is also a café perched on the top, a popular place in summer evenings for tea, served from great samovars, and light meals. Both fortresses have, of course, a great panoramic view of the Istanbul strait.


Shopping in Istanbul is often a big part of any visit, and the city’s famous historical bazaars offer a wonderful insight into city life. Whether shopping for carpets, spices, vegetables or clothes, the process of making your purchase is likely to be enhanced by the atmosphere of wandering through the crowded stalls – and of course haggling. As usual when bargaining with persuasive shop owners, have an idea of a good price before you start.
Kapali Çarşi (Covered Bazaar) : It is the oldest and biggest closed bazaar in the world, also known as the Grand Bazaar, has around 4000 shops and over 60 alleyway, covering a huge labyrinth in the city centre. The original two structures, covered with a series of domes and remains of the 15th century walls, became a shopping area by covering the surrounding streets and adding to it over the following centuries. In Ottoman times this was the centre of trading, and a vital area of town. The Sandal Bedesten was added during Süleyman’s reign, to cope with the rising trade in fabrics, during the 16th century.

Traditionally the more valuable goods were in the old central area, called Ic Bedesten, because it was more secure. As quite typical of the area, most streets are laid out and devoted to a particular trade, for example gold on Kuyumcular Caddesi, leather on Bodrum Han, and shoes on Kavaflar Sokak. But the trade has also spilled out onto the surrounding streets, and it is very common to see Russian traders buying up huge sacks of leather jackets or shoes outside the main entrance. Even the streets leading to the Golden Horn are lined with outdoor stalls, which have traditionally been controlled by strict trading laws to reduce competition between traders.

Apart from the usual shops selling clothes, textiles, jewellry and carpets, there are small workshops, where craftsmen cast and beat silver or brass, in a skilled trade handed down through the generations. If all that shopping, bargaining and fending off persuasive salesmen is a little too tiring, there are also traditional cafes dotted inside the bazaar in which to relax, eat and sip tea. There are also money-changing booths inside and out. It is slightly less crowded during weekdays, as most locals shop at weekends.
Misir Çarşisi (Egyptian Bazaar) : Also known as the Spice Market, this is Istanbul’s second bazaar, constructed in the same complex as Yeni Camii (or New Mosque). There are six gates, which make it an attractive exterior. The L-shaped market, together with the mosque, were built for the mother of Mehmet IV, a powerful woman who ruled the harem and, some would say, much of the empire.

Although no longer the prime spice trading area of the city, there is still the aroma of ginger, cardamom, pepper and saffron from the piles of spices sold from many stalls. These days it is also popular for great varieties of lokum (turkish delight), small souvenirs, flavoured teas and local delicacies – including the dubious sounding “Turkish Viagra”. Locals come here to shop for bed linen and towels, as well as for fruit and vegetables, coffee, clothes, pots and pans in the surrounding cramped backstreets. Outside the market on the Galata Bridge end, is this is the best place to choose olives from huge barrels, and many varieties of beyaz penir (white cheese).
Bakircilar (Copper Smiths) : Bazaar Lesser known and smaller, but nonetheless just as interesting is this market in Beyazit, under the north and east walls of Istanbul University. Copper is beaten and produced into many shapes, sizes and forms, and shops sell cauldrons, saucepans, buckets, candlesticks and the like.
Bit Pazarlari (Flea Markets) : Away from the classical, historical markets which have always attracted by the tourists, there are many flea and street markets around the city, usually consisting of streets of junk shops. As usual, getting a real quality bargain is often down to luck, but it is still an interesting way to shop.

Çukurcuma Sokak is the central point of streets of shops selling old wooden furniture, antiques, and books, near the Galatasaray Hamam off istiklal Caddesi. üsküdar’s Bit Pazari is on Büyük Hama Sokak, and in Kadiköy, Ozelli Sokak sells mainly furniture. Horhor market, behind Aksaray mosque, is famous for antiques, selling rare Ottoman furniture. The Entel, or Intellectual Market in Ortaköy sells arts, craft and antiques, music cassettes and books, and is open every Sunday and usually very crowded. Beşiktaş Pazar is open every Sunday, a warren of streets near Sair Nedim Caddesi, sells bargain clothes. Terkoz Cikmaz, next to the Paşabahçe glass store off istiklal Caddesi, has bargain designer clothes, factory seconds or overruns from France, England and Germany at rock-bottom prices. Sahaflar Carşisi is near a flea market, and specialises in second hand books.


Kiz Kulesi : Considered to be a symbol of Istanbul, this tiny tower was established on a small island at the entrance of the Bosphorus. In the past, it was used as a watchtower and a lighthouse, until its present purpose of a tourist attraction. Western sources describe this as Leander’s Tower, who was drowned while swimming, to reach his lover Hera. Another story suggests that it was a tower where an emperor’s daughter put her in there for security, having dreamt that she would be bitten by a snake.

Galata Tower :
The tower was built by the Genoese in 1348, during their occupation of the area, primarily to prevent attacks. Originally known as the Tower of Christ, it stood above the fortification surrounding the Genoese city-state. There is a spiral rock staircase which ascends to the top viewing platform, which today offers visitors spectacular 360 degree panorama of the entire city. The tower was restored in 1967, and an elevator was installed to offer a less tiring alternative to the steep climb. There is also a restaurant on the top floor.

Beyazit Tower : Within the grounds of the central building of Istanbul’s University, (formerly the palace of Mehmet the Conqueror) this wooden tower was built for fire watchers, and remains a landmark throughout the city. Mahmud II demolished it in order to construct a better one, and according to the inscription, he ordered a rock-filled tower in 1828 to be built by the Ministry of Defense. The monument is 50m high, and from the upper landing, accessible via wooden staircase, offers a superb overview of the city.

Monuments and Squares

Hippodrome : The ancient Hippodrome, scene of chariot races and the centre of Byzantine civic life, stands in the area that is now in front of the Blue Mosque, and now part of Sultanahmet. Of the ornaments which once decorated it, only three remain: The Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column, and the Column of Constantine. Remains of the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of the three.

Today, the square forms the centre of Istanbul’s historical, cultural and tourist life, and the surrounding wooden houses – especially the 18th century ones on Sogukcesme Sokak – were recently restored giving them a new lease of life as small hotels.
Theodosius Obelisk : Theodosius Obelisk, is originally an Egyptian piece of art erected in 1547 BC and originally 60m tall, but only the upper third of it survived the shipment from Egypt, brought to Istanbul by Emperor Theodosius in 390. Made from pink granite, its pictures and hieroglyphs depict the victories of Thutmos III, and reliefs of members of his family can be seen on the base.
Gotlar Column : This ancient monument remains unchanged since the Roman Period, and lies at the entrance of Gülhane Park, the external garden of Topkapi Palace. Erected in the third or fourth century, it composes of a 15m high marble monolith on a high platform. The column head is adorned with an eagle, typical of Corinthian method. It is also known as Gots Column, due to the inscriptions which mention the victory against the Gots.
Çemberlitaş (Constantine Obelisk) : Also known as Cemberlistas obelisk, this burnt column of masonry was erected by Constantine the Great in 330 AD, in celebration of the dedication of the capital city of the Roman Empire. It was placed in the middle of an oval square on the city’s second hill, in the area now known as Cemberlitas, and was burnt during the great fire of 1779 which destroyed much of the area.
Yilanli Obelisk (Burmali Obelisk) : Also known as Burmanli Obelisk, it was imported from the Apollo Temple in Delphi, to Istanbul during the fourth century and is one of the oldest monuments in the city. The original one was constructed in 409 BC, and made from melting and moulding the guns of the Persian Army, after their defeat to the United Greeks.
Beyazit Square : When constructed in 393 AD during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, it was the biggest square in the city. Originally named as Form Tauri, die to the bronze bull heads in the victory cases in the middle, today only a few marble blocks and columns remain, on which the statue of the Emperor rises. At the north end was the first palace constructed by Fatih, and is now Istanbul University. The monumental gate at the university’s entrance, and the fire tower, date back to the 19th century.

The square which decorates the 15th century Beyazit Mosque (the oldest surviving imperial mosque in the city) lies adjacent to the crowded Kapali Carşi (Covered Market).


Sultanahmet Fountain (III. Ahmet Fountain) : Also known as Ahmet III Fountain, it lies in front of Bab-I Hümayun, the gate of Topkapi Palace. Considered an artistic masterpiece, it is intricately decorated with wooden eaves, masonry and bronze calligraphy. It is altogether different to the period’s more classical, modest style, and became a unique example of an elegant, rich beauty.
Üsküdar III. Ahmet Fountain : Situated in the main square by the pier in üsküdar, it was constructed in 1728. This four sided fountain has a wooden ceiling, and is considered an architectural masterpiece because of its calligraphy, masonry and poetic art.
German Fountain : Contructed in Germany to mark German Emperor Wilhelm II’s second visit to Istanbul, it was imported and officially opened on January 1 1901, lying in Sultanahmet Square. The fountain’s three domes are decorated with gold mosaics.
Tophane Fountain : Located in Tophane Meydani, Mahmut I’s senior architect, Mehmet Aga was appoint to construct this in 1732.
Beykoz Ishak Ağa Fountain : Situated in the Beykoz area of Istanbul, this is one of the most beautiful fountain monuments in Turkey.
Ayazma Fountain : In the Ayazma Camii courtyard in Uskudar, this fountain was commissioned by Mustafa III during the 18th century, and holds architectural characteristics typical of the period.
Azapkapi Saliha Sultan Fountain : Constructed under the orders of Sultan Mahmut I, this was built in the memory of his mother, Saliha Sultan in 1732.
Göksu Fountain : The building of this was commissioned by the wife of Sultan Mustafa III, and the mother of Selim III, Mihrisah Sultan.
Esma Sultan Fountain : The daughter of Ahmet III, Esma Sultan, ordered the building of this in 1799, and is built on a square design.
Mausoleums : Hagia Sophia Mausoleums, III. Murat Mausoleum, III. Mehmet Mausoleum, Mimar Sinan Mausoleum, Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Mausoleum, Sultan II. Mahmut Mausoleum should be visited.