Annually, the bustling metropolis of Istanbul receives millions of visitors. They flock to enjoy the vibrant nightlife, active shopping scenes and of course, to explore the historical value of the city steeped in history from the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
From my own experience, one visit is never enough. I have been three times to Istanbul and now plan another visit because new attractions constantly open or I hear about little gems that are not spoken about in the guidebooks. I am fairly confident that I will never be able to strike Istanbul off my bucket list.
Despite my insistence to visit as many places as I can in Istanbul, there are certain landmarks that remain my favourite. They wow me with their architectural brilliance and their preservation should be a top priority for Turkey’s tourism industry.
So now, I present my favourite landmarks of Istanbul and exactly what it is about them, that makes me go wow!
The Blue Mosque
The Wow Factor: The Décor of the Interior Domes
About the Blue Mosque: Built in 1616, by the Ottoman empires most favoured architect Mimar Sinan, the Interior of the Blue Mosque is covered with more than 20,000 hand-made Iznik tiles. Iznik, a town of Western Anatolia, famous during the 15th to 17th century for its production of ceramics and pottery pieces was honoured by the Ottoman sultans. The tiles are complemented by 200 stain glass windows and when electric was introduced, glass chandeliers with tulip shaped bulbs were added.
The Wow Factor: The Harem
About the Topkapi Palace: As the first home of the Ottomans sultans in Constantinople, the Topkapi palace also housed the sultans entourage and of course, his harem. While the rest of the palace has an impressive collection of artefacts including kitchen goods, clothing, jewellery and armoury, the mysterious ambiance of the harem, makes everyone wonder about the lives of the eunuchs and concubines that occupied the lavishly decorated rooms.
The Wow Factor: Christina Frescoes Combined with Islamic Calligraphy
About the Hagia Sophia: Despite its turbulent past as a church, mosque and now an official museum, as soon as I walk in the Hagia Sophia, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of calm and peace. The upper level and ceiling of the dome are a combination of ancient frescoes and large plaques of Islamic calligraphy, that despite their contrast in religious significance blend perfectly together. Immediately upon walking through the entrance, the wow factor hits you but for the best view, climb the stone, circling staircase to the upper level.
The Wow Factor: It’s Hidden Location Underground
About the Basilica Cistern: On one of the busiest streets of the Sultan Ahmet area is a small entrance leading downstairs to the Basilica cistern. As the former water supply for the Ottoman palaces, the hundreds of columns, sitting in water and surrounded by large carp fish, lead to the back where the upside heads of Medusa sit. Wooden walkways around the naturally damp cistern are lighted so visitors can see the fish and marvel at the ancient columns. Don’t ask why the heads of Medusa are upside down because no-one is entirely sure but they suspect it is to prevent people from turning to stone!
All these landmarks and more can be seen on our five-day package tour of Istanbul, which is ideal if you are looking for a city-break getaway.[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="14877614"]
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