St. Sophia or Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya)
Built under the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian the First in 537, this former basilica (St. Sophia or Church of Holy Wisdom) was erected in what is now the Sultanahmet neighbourhood. This building was the world's greatest Christian monument for ten centuries. It was transformed into a mosque after the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Four minarets were then added under the reign of various sultans. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk turned the monument into a museum where guests can admire gold mosaics and the structure's central 40-sided dome, which stands 56m high and has a diameter of 32m.
The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet camii)
The Blue Mosque was designed by architect Mehmet under the orders of Sultan Ahmet I during the 17th century, on a site located across from the splendid Hagia Sophia church. This jewel of Ottoman architecture is adorned with six splendid minarets. Its interior walls are covered with beautiful blue Iznik faience tiles, decorated with stylised roses, carnations and cypress trees. The faience tiles gave the mosque its name and made it one of the most beautiful monuments of Ottoman art.
Topkapi Palace (Topkapı sarayı)
Topkapi Palace stands on a magnificent cape overlooking the area where the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara meet, beside the old city of Istanbul. As the centre of the Ottoman Empire’s administrative power, the Palace also served as a residence and governing office to the sultans and their court. Make sure you visit the palace’s lavishly decorated harem, where the sultans' concubines and children lived. The palace, now a splendid museum, offers romantic paths that weave through the beautifully shaded gardens and a magnificent view of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
The Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent (Süleymaniye camii)
During the 16th century, Suleiman the Magnificent appointed Sinan, a famous Ottoman architect, to the task of erecting a mosque that would be as grandiose as his reign had been. The Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent is located on the third of Istanbul’s seven hills. With its cascading domes, four minarets on which are perched delicately crafted balconies, and 47m-high cupola, it is said to be the most beautiful of Istanbul’s Imperial mosques. The mosque’s gardens house the mausoleum of Suleiman and his wife Roxelana, as well as Sinan’s tomb.
Dolmabahçe Palace (Dolmabahçe sarayı)
This palace was built in 1856, under the reign of Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid. The word Dolmabahçemeans “the filled garden” in English. The palace was built on a former Bosphorus bay which was gradually filled to create an imperial garden. The palace, whose facade looks out onto 600m of the Bosphorus’ European shore, includes three sections: the Mabeyn-i Hümâyûn (the men's quarters), the Muayede Salonu (the ceremonial halls) and the Harem-i Hümâyûn (the apartments of the Sultan’s family). Its reception hall is the palace’s most impressive room, with its enormous chandelier (weighing 4.5 tons), its 56 columns and its trompe-l’oeil paintings. The clock reads 9:05, the time at which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (“Father of the Turks”) died on November 10, 1939.
Grand Bazaar (kapalı çarşı)
The Grand Bazaar, a former Turkish market, is now a picturesque tourist attraction with its labyrinth of more than 4,000 boutiques selling artwork and handicrafts from regions throughout the country.
Galata Tower (Galata kulesi)
The Galata Tower was erected by Justinian in the year 528 and then rebuilt by the Genovese in 1349. From the top of this 62m tower, visitors can enjoy a unique panoramic view of Istanbul. At dusk, the honey-coloured sky lights up the city.
Chora Church (Kariye cami müzesi)
This ancient church, located in the western Erdinekapı district, is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Transformed into a mosque by the Ottomans during the 16th century, it became a museum in 1948.
Visitors can take a boat ride on this winding strait which marks, along with the Dardanelles, the southern limits of Asia and Europe and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. The strait’s naval traffic is one of the world’s most significant. The boat excursion allows guests to admire Dolmabahçe Palace and the Bosphorus Bridge, providing a different view of Istanbul.