Top 3 Must See Monuments in Istanbul

One of the most fascinating cities in the world, Istanbul is a unique destination located in the very place where East meets West. Featuring countless historical and cultural attractions and monuments, Istanbul has much to offer inquisitive travelers. Among these, below are the top 3 not-to-be-missed monuments this city features.

Aya Sophia – A Church without Denomination

The Aya Sophia, or Haghia Sofyia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, is a beacon of veneration for worshippers of many faiths. Commissioned by the byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century, it was the imperial church and the “holiest of holies” for 900 years, until Mehmet the Conqueror seized the city for the Ottomans. The church became a mosque until in 1934; it was turned into a museum open to all faiths.

The Church was designed as a Grand Temple to bring divine grace upon the ruling empire and to awe its rivals. The largest covered space for 1000 years, the core of the basilica houses a huge dome spanning 30m and standing 56m high at its pinnacle. A mind-boggling feat at the time it was built, it gives the sense that the dome was suspended from heaven.

The carved minbar above the apse with mosaics displaying the Virgin Mary and archangel Gabriel are breathtaking. Passing through the:Gates of Heaven and Hell” above, you reach the galleries which house impressive golden Byzantine mosaics glorifying its rulers – among them, as scene of emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe paying homage to Christ wearing vibrant blue robes.

The Aya Sophia is Turkey’s jewel and one of the world’s greatest architectural accomplishments, and is definitely the first of Istanbul’s not-to-be-missed monuments.

Sultanahmmet (Blue) Mosque – One of the Most Beautiful Buildings in the World

Standing outside Aya Sophia and turning 180 degrees, the Sultanahmmet, or Blue Mosque, looms across the lovely gardens and fountains of Sultanahmmet Square. The picture is stunning – six minarets spread out from the mosque’s base while a central dome is divided by many gold-flecked mini-domes to create a mesmerizing spectacle. The curvaceous masterpiece was one of the last great mosques to be built by the eponymous Sultan Ahmet I, who nearly exhausted the imperial treasury to finance it.

Inside, over twenty thousand tiles in multi-shades of patterned blue decorate the walls, with over 200 windows adorning the structure to create a place of light and an atmosphere of peace. Passing through a succession of arches, you gaze up at a titanic space where the main worship area reveals half-dome above half-dome, reaching 30m above. The mosque is to this day a place of worship and an oasis of spiritual calm among the noise and crowds of Sultanahmmet.

Topkapi Palace – Decadent Home of Ottoman Sultans

No stay in Istanbul is complete without a visit to the Topkapi Palace, home to the Ottoman sultans and caliphs of Islam until 1853. This was the palace of one of the most memorable dynasties in history – a dynasty that over time, forgot its warrior roots and became absolutely decadent – harem girls, eunuchs, grand viziers and the famous “Cage”, where most of the Ottoman sultans were deposed, poisoned or murdered after being imprisoned here.

The Palace is comprised of four courtyards. The “First Courtyard” lies outside its walls and was open to the public. The turrelated “Gate of Salutations” marks the entrance of the palace proper and the “Second Court” – a square lawn dotted with Mulberry trees and fountains. The covered cloisters at the edge lead to kitchens which fed 5000 people and to the “Gate of Felicity”, which leads deeper into the palace, and the furthest anyone was allowed. Beyond this courtyard was the private home of the sultan and his harems.

The displays throughout the palace are magnificent and present the tales of its sultans – paintings, diamonds, daggers and relics collected by the sultans, and perhaps most fascinating – the pristine exhibits of the Imperial Wardrobe Collection, with its sumptuous embroidered silks.

Topkapi Palace represents the glory, majesty and madness of the Ottomans in their prime and offers great insight into a period of absolute rule in the region.

I’m a trip consultant, planner and manager who loves creating unique intercultural adventures for families. I want to impart information,tips and personal experiences especially related to family adventure travel.


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