Top 10 Must-See Places in Istanbul with a Rich History

must-see place in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia

One of the most significant monuments that have survived in global architecture history, Hagia Sophia is an important symbol and axis both for the Christians and Muslims, as well as a must-see place in Istanbul center for other religions. With its magnificence, size, and functionality, Hagia Sophia occupies an important place in the world of arts. The building was a ruin when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul in 1453, and Fatih the Conqueror fixed it and transformed it into a mosque, where the first Friday prayer in Istanbul took place. It became a museum in 1934 until 2020 when it started to host Muslims as a mosque again. 

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – One of the symbols of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia Mosque is located in Sultanahmet Square in Fatih district. It is quite easy to arrive at Hagia Sophia by public transportation. You can get off the bus at İETT Adliye Station. It is also possible to visit Hagia Sophia Mosque by ferry. Because Sultanahmet Square and the surrounding areas are close to traffic, we don’t recommend you use your private vehicles. 

Hagia Sophia is on the Unesco World Heritage List and served as a church for 916 years, but it is an iconic monument that has been one of the symbols of Istanbul for 1500 years. In 532, its construction started and continued until 537. This long-established religious building is perhaps the most significant must-see place in Istanbul for visitors.

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – The most important innovation in its architecture is its unusually big size and the large and tall dome that dominates the middle areas. The architects used marbles, stones, and bricks during the construction, while for the dome, light and robust bricks that are specially produced from Rodos soil are used for it to be resilient against earthquakes. 

Gülhane Park

Gülhane Park is a historical park in Istanbul’s Eminönü neighborhood. It is established on a quite large area that is approximately 163,000 square meters. The moment you step into Gülhane Park, you are surrounded by colorful flowers, majestic trees, and singing birds. If you want to be close to nature in the city and breathe in the air full of oxygen, this is a must-see place in Istanbul for you.

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – Gülhane Park was the outer garden of the Topkapı Palace during the Ottoman reign and included a grove and rose gardens. In 1912, it became a public park. Additionally, in 2008, in the Has Ahırlar Building located in Gülhane Park, the Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam opened. The Edict of Gülhane, one of the important developments in Ottoman history, was announced for the first time in Gülhane Park. 

The first statue of Atatürk is said to be erected in 1926 in Gülhane Park. Additionally, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk announced the Latin alphabet to the public here in 1928. It is also known that he taught his first lesson and received the Head Teacher title here. 

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – Gülhane Park is open for 24 hours every day and is free to visit. When you visit Gülhane Park, you should also see the Archaeological Museum that is adjacent to the park. Occupying a big area, Gülhane Park also offers beautiful gardens with a fascinating Bosphorus view, trees, ponds, and open-air cafes. 

You can have a great nature walk, drink tea, feed the birds, and visit the museums in and around. After you leave here, you can change your route to Eminönü or Sirkeci to see other historical buildings there. 

Basilica Cistern

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – A cistern is defined as “an underground water reservoir used to gather the rainwater” in dictionaries. Located in Sultanahmet, right next to Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern is one of the unique monuments that is an iconic symbol in Istanbul with its age of 1500 years and the mysterious atmosphere. It was built by Justinianus first, the Byzantine Emperor, in the sixth century to meet the water needs of the palace and the public. 

Upon climbing down stone stairs with 52 steps, you will see 336 columns, which make the architecture of the cistern unique. It is so grandiose that some call it Basilica Palace, which is a must-see place in Istanbul for tourists who want to experience the mesmerizing surroundings.

Grand Bazaar

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – Grand Bazaar is among the oldest and largest malls in the world. It is more than 500 years old, but the crowd of visitors, the exciting atmosphere, and how it lives and breathes life into Istanbul are still the same. This historical place has 22 doors, 61 streets, and 4000 stores in a 47,000-square meter area. Shopping enthusiasts should stop by Grand Bazaar, a must-see place in Istanbul to buy authentic goods.

German Fountain

Located in Sultanahmet Square, the German Fountain was made in Germany in 1901 and brought in Istanbul as a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm the Second to Sultan Abdülhamit. The fountain’s architecture is different from Ottoman and European architecture and worth a visit if you are around. 

Tiled Kiosk

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – The Tiled Kiosk is located in the outer city walls and was built in 1472. It bears traces of the Seljuks and is one of the rare examples of Ottoman civil architecture. İznik tiles and ceramics of Seljuks and Ottomans are displayed in the museum. We have to add it to the list of must-see places in Istanbul to show a tribute to its breathtaking architecture.

Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square is one of the most significant squares in Istanbul. The best way to experience the thousands-year-old history of Istanbul is to visit the historical peninsula and particularly Sultanahmet Square, also known as the Hipodrom Square. Thousands of foreign and local tourists visit the historical peninsula that covers Fatih and Eminönü every day. In the middle of the square, the German Fountain that was built in memory of Kayzer Wilhelm’s visit is situated.

Topkapı Palace

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – Reigning for more than 600 years, the Ottoman Empire was ruled in this palace for approximately 400 years and was open for public in 1924. Topkapı Palace covers an area of 80 square meters today, but in its first years, it was around 700 thousand square meters. It is known that near 4 thousand people were living in the palace in the days when it was full of life in the most majestic way. 

Islamic Sacred Relics Chamber in the Has Oda where the Sultans lived is perhaps the most special place in the palace, displaying numerous artifacts that are considered holy in the Islam religion and geography. Ottoman sultans used to clean them with rose water in person during the Ramadan month. If you want to learn about Ottoman history, Topkapı Palace is a must-see place in Istanbul.

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque)

The Ottoman Sultan Ahmed the First had Sultanahmet Mosque built between 1609 and 1617 in the historical peninsula. Because the mosque is covered with blue, green, and white-colored İznik tiles and the semi-domes and the big domes are adorned with blue-dominated artworks, the Europeans called the mosque “Blue Mosque”. There are 21,043 eye-catching İznik tiles on the walls.

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must-see places in Istanbul – The size of the prayer section is 64×72 meters. The central dome’s height is 43 meters and the caliber is 23.5 meters. When including its Islamic social complex, It is one of the largest complexes in Istanbul. It is regarded as one of the must-see places in Istanbul by all of the tourists who visited here.

Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Top places to see in Istanbul & List of places to visit in Istanbul & Must see places in Istanbul – One of the biggest museums in the world in terms of the number of artifacts displayed, Istanbul Archaeology Museum has over one million artifacts of different cultures. It is the oldest building in Turkey that was built as a museum. It was established as an Imperial Museum and was opened to visitors in 1891. We’ve covered it at the end of the list of must-see places in Istanbul, but it is worth a visit as much as other tourist attractions. 

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