Almost every short-stay visitors spend all their time in Sultanahmet area, home of Istanbul’s main sightseeing attractions: the Topkapi Palace, heart of the Ottoman Empire; the Sultanahmet Camii (better known as the Blue Mosque); and the greatest legacy of the Byzantine Empire, the church of AyaSofya. Here also are the ancient Hippodrome, the Museum of Ýslamic Culture , the Yerebatan underground cistern (also known as the Basilica Cistern) and the Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar), the largest covered bazaar in the world. The monumental architecture, attractive parks and gardens, street-side cafes, and the benefits of a relatively traffic-free main road (courtesy of the tramline) combine to make this area pleasant for both sightseeing and staying.
Haghia Sophia – AyaSofya
Almost a thousand years Haghia Sophia , or AyaSofya, was the largest enclosed space in the world, designed to impress the strength and wealth of the Byzantine emperors upon their own subjects and visiting foreign dignitaries alike. Located between the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque on the ancient acropolis, the first hill of Istanbul, the church dominated the city skyline for a millennium, until the domes and minarets of the city’s mosques began to challenge its eminence in the sixteenth century.
The Topkapi Palace was both the symbolic and the political centre of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries, until the removal of the imperial retinue to Dolmabahce Palace, by Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1853. Ýt is a beautiful setting in which to wander and contemplate the majesty of the Ottoman sultanate, and the Imperial Harem (Harem-i Hümayûn) is one of the most visited sights inside the Topkapi palace
The Archeology Museum
The Archeology Museum is centred on the excavarions as Sidon in 1887 of Hamdi Bey, the Director of Ancient Antiquities. These brought to light a group of sarcophagi, together with other monuments of Phoenician origin but of quite disparate styles – evidence of the variety of influences absorbed into Phoenician culture from other neighbouring civilizations.
From either Topkapi Palace or the Haghia Sophia, it's quick stroll across the tram tracks to the Baslica Cistern, the “Sunken Palace” - also known as the Yerebatan Sarnici. It's one of the several underground cisterns, Basilica Cistern buried under the very core of Sultanahmet. Probably built by the emperor Constantine in the fourt century, the cistern was supplied by aqueducts with water from Belgrad Forest.
The Hippodrome, formerly the cultural focus of the Byzantine Empire, is now the site of a long and narrow municipal park known as Square of Horses, or At Meydani . It is over overshadowed by the Palace of Ibrahim Pasa on one side and Blue Mosque on the other, and also other historical monuments such as the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column, Column of Constantine and many more are located there.
The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet Camii is on of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. Its instantly recognizable six minarets, imposing bulk and prominent position on the Istanbul skyline combine to make it one of the most famous and visited monuments in the old city. From the outsside, the building is undeniably impressive, paticularly on the all-important approach from Topkapi Palace.
Little Haghia Sofia
Situated some 500 metres below the Blue Mosque, like its larger namesake on the opposite side of the Hippodrome, it was build as a church between 527 and 536 to service the palace of Hormisdas and is though to precede its namesake.
The Mosaic Museum
The other substantial reminders of the Great Palace are the mosaics displayed in the Mosaic Museum, 500m inland from the Palace of Bucoleon. It can be reached by running the gauntlet of salespeople in the Arasta Bazaar – a renovated street-bazaar selling tourist gifts, whose 17th century shops were originally built to pay for the upkeep of the nearby Blue Mosque.
The Spice Bazaar
The most atmospheric part of the New Mosque complex is Misir Carsisi, “Egyptian Bazaar”, better known as the Spice Bazaar because the main bulk of produce on sale has traditionally been spices. Completed a few years before the New Mosque, the L-shaped bazaar was endowed with customs duties from Cairo (which explains its name); it has 88 vaulted rooms and chambers above the entryways at the ends of the halls.
The Suleymaniye Complex
Through the university grounds, you will emerge in front of a collection of buildings considered to be the finest at all the Ottoman mosque complexes. Built by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan in honour of his most illustrious patron, Suleyman the Magnificent, it is arguably his greatest achievement. In this complex you can visit Suleymaniye Mosque, one of the most admirable mosques in Istanbul. Also monuments like Tiryaki Carsisi (Market of the addicts), Suleymaniye Library, Tomb of Mimar Sinan, Suleymaniye Hamam are located in this beatifull complex.
The Kariye Museum – Chora Church
The Kariye Museum, formerly the Church of St. Saviour in Chora, is decorated with a superbly preserved series of frescoes and mosaics portraying the life and miracles of Jesus Christ. It's among the most evocative of all the city's Byzatine treasures, though to have been built in the early twelfth century on the side of much older church far from the centre: hence “in Chora” , meaning “in the country”.
One of the small group of companion of the Prophet Mohammad, Eyup Ensari was killed during the first Arab siege of Constantinople (674-678); a condition of the peace treaty signed following the siege was that his tomb be preserved. Later, the mosque here, Eyup Camii, hosted the investiture ceremonies of the Ottoman sultans: indeed, mosque and tomb face each other across the courtyard that was used for the ceremony.
The Galata Tower
The Galata Tower was built in 1349 by the Genoese, it sits on the site of a former tower constructed by Jusitinian in 528. Originally known as the Tower of Christ, it stood at the apex of the several sets of fortifications that surrounded the Genoese city-state. It has had a number of functions over the centuries, including a jail, a fire tower and even a springboardfor early adventurers attempting to fly. Nowadays there is restaurant on the top floor.
Along Istiklal Caddesi
The exit from the upper Tunnel Station in Beyoglu is fronted by a small square from which Istiklal Street heads 1.5km north towards Taksim Square. This area is the entertainment and cultural center of Istanbul. In this street you can discover the Galata Mevlevihane, Botter House, Palais de Hollande, Mudo shop, St. Mary Draperis, church of St. Antoine, French Palace, Cicek Pasaj(Flower Passage), Fish Market , Nevizade Street and many more authentic, historical and entertaining places ...
The Military Museum
The Military Museum is about 1.5km north of Taksim Square, along Cumhuriyet Street. It's well worth visiting, not least to hear the marching band (The Mehter Band), which plays outside on summer afternoons between 3pm and 4 pm when the museum is open.
It is the largest and most sumptuous of all the palaces on the Bosphorus, with and impressive 600-metre-long waterside frontage. Built in the 19th century by various members of the Balian family. The palace is divided into selamlik and harem by the throne room, held up by 56 eleborate columns. The four-tonne chandelier in the the throne room, one of the largest ever made, was apresent from Queen Victoria. In the east wing of the palace you can visit the Museum of Fine Arts. Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, died here in his private apartment in 1938.
Along the Bosphorus
One of the world's most eulogized stretches of water, the Boshporus is a source of pride for Istanbul’s residents and of admiration for its visitors. The 30 kilo-metre straight divides Europe and Asia and connects the Marmara and Black Seas. The passenger ferries and sea buses that weave their way up and down from shore to shore provide one of the city's real highlights: along the way are imperial palaces and antcient fortresses inerspersed with small fishing villages and wooden mansions.
The Princes' Islands
The Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara between 15km and 30km southeast of the city, have always been a favourite retreat from the mainland. Four of the nine islands are easily accessible by ferry from Istanbul. No cars are allowed on the islands, so transport is either by foot, phaeton (horse-drawn carriage), by bike or donkey.