The Most Famous Architectural Wonders in Istanbul
Istanbul has always been a hub of culture, trade, and power. It is the former capital of three empires and a significant city in the twenty-first century. As one might anticipate from a gorgeous city with a history spanning millennia, Istanbul is home to a staggering number of architectural marvels. Here are a few of the city's architectural wonders that everyone should explore.
Dolmabahçe Palace is located in the bustling neighborhood of Beşiktaş just along the Bosphorus. The third largest palace in Istanbul was constructed in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and is a spectacular example of Western design. The beautiful outside of the building, which is now a museum, offers visitors the chance to marvel at the craftsmanship before being mesmerized by the imperial opulence of the interior decor.
Arriving early will provide visitors the opportunity to tour the palace's ceremonial (selamlk) and private quarters (harem).
Ayasofya, positioned atop Istanbul's Historical Peninsula and maybe the most famous of all the magnificent buildings in the city, can be seen in almost every picture of the skyline. This majestic and massive structure defied all reason when it was finished in 537 CE. It was built over the course of five years and is renowned for its central dome, which has a diameter of 32.6 meters and rises above 55 meters, giving the impression that it is floating in the air.
For more than 1,000 years, this magnificent building held the title of largest cathedral in the world. For more than 400 years, it also served as one of the most significant mosques. Since it served as a church under the Eastern Roman Empire, a mosque under the Ottomans, and then a museum during the Turkish Republic, Ayasofya is regarded as the ultimate expression of Istanbul's distinctive cosmopolitan heritage. As of 2020, Ayasofya is once again operating as a mosque that illustrates how the two religions coexist in the same location. Like every other mosque in Istanbul, it is open to visitors when there is no prayer.
Galata Kulesi (Galata Tower), which protrudes over the collection of neighboring high-rise structures, draws visitors to the vibrant neighborhoods of Galata and Taksim. The current building was constructed by the Genoese, despite the fact that the location has claimed a tower since 507 CE.
The tower's observation deck, which is 52 meters high, provides unrivaled views of old Istanbul. According to legend, the Ottoman scientist Hezârfen Ahmed elebi used homemade wings to leap from the top of the tower, span the Bosphorus, and arrive in the neighborhood of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side. On one end of Istanbul's well-known tourist thoroughfare, Stiklal Caddesi (also known as Stiklal Avenue), stands the Galata Tower. An evening spent taking advantage of the area's distinctive retail choices and nightlife is best started with a visit here around sunset.
For 400 years, the Ottoman Empire's capital city of Istanbul served as home to Topkap Saray, also known as Topkap Palace. Located at the most advantageous point of Istanbul's Historical Peninsula and protruding out into the Bosphorus Strait, Topkap offers a variety of activities, including breathtaking vistas.
A few years after Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror's capture of Constantinople in 1459, the Ottoman sultans issued the decrees that would result in the huge complex that is today's museum.
Topkap Saray provides a distinctive window into Ottoman aristocracy and government operations. The complex's successive courtyards each signify a greater level of significance and closeness to the sultan. The opportunity to wander around the Topkap's private living quarters (harem), a luxury granted solely to the sultan's family and most loyal servants, is arguably the most unusual experience. Visitors will also want to ogle the priceless royal collections, which represent palace life. Artifacts from the palace's wardrobe, food, wartime souvenirs, and religious artifacts are on display.
Istanbul underwent another transformation into a thriving metropolis after the Byzantine Empire's decline and the rise and expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Numerous Ottoman monuments were built as the population and economy expanded.
The most productive and well-known architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar (Architect) Sinan, was primarily responsible for these architectural accomplishments. The Süleymaniye Mosque is Sinan's singular masterpiece among all of his constructions in Istanbul.
This imperial mosque, built by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent at the height of the Ottoman Empire's supremacy, serves as a tribute to the Ottoman power of the time. The dome, which has a 26.5-meter diameter and is supported by four enormous monolithic columns to create an almost square interior, is an outstanding example of Mimar (Architect) Sinan's work at the pinnacle of his illustrious and lengthy career.
The surrounding complex, which includes a courtyard with stunning views of the Golden Horn and buildings that serve as soup kitchens, public baths, and religious schools, is worth taking in by visitors.
The former Haydarpaşa Station is located in the trendy Kadköy neighborhood across the Bosphorus. Anyone taking a ferry across to Istanbul's Anatolian side will find it difficult to miss this stunning building, which borders the Bosphorus Strait.
The late 19th-century Haydarpaşa Station rose to prominence as the terminus for railroads linking Istanbul to the Middle Eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The busiest train station in Turkey remained Haydarpaşa until it was closed for renovations. Visitors to the Anatolian side can visit the museum location to view one of Türkiye's best examples of Neoclassical architecture while efforts are still being made to rehabilitate this landmark structure as a working train station.
Unknown to many, the Byzantine Empire managed to manage water with remarkable success by using hundreds of underground cisterns throughout Istanbul. Yerebatan Sarnc, also known as the Basilica Cistern, is the largest and most notable of these cisterns, and it can be found on Istanbul's Historical Peninsula.
The spectacular 9,800 square meter Basilica Cistern, which was constructed in the sixth century BCE, can hold 80,000 cubic meters of water. Today, only a small amount of water is retained in the cistern so that tourists may pass between the magnificent old columns in the gloomy, vast area. A column resting on a base with an upturned Medusa head punctuates the ominous mood, which was also used for the set of a James Bond movie. According to legend, the Medusa was turned on its head in order to negate the effect of her stone-turning gaze. However, visitors to the Basilica Cistern need only worry about their desire to return often in order to experience its allure.